Monday, February 20, 2017

Feeling a little LOVE

I have chosen to have zero expectations on Valentines Day, and it serves me well! I’ve decided that now is the time in my life to make every holiday a family holiday, besides what’s so fun about finding a baby sitter just to wait for hours to get into a restaurant? I’m also not a big fan of spending money on over priced chocolates or flowers.  I do like going out to lunch, which Josh and I do regularly with or without a holiday.  We do use the holiday as an excuse to hit lunch once or twice, but that’s it.  Without any of that traditional hoopla, I felt like we had an especially fun Valentines this year.  

It is the tradition for the 2nd graders to have a formal Valentines party at the Old Rock Church, across the street from the school.  Andy wanted to crawl in a hole when I walked out of the church to take pictures of him and his friends escorting the girls to the “tea”.  The night before he just kept talking about how he’d have to “go like this” and he’d put his hand on his hip to “squart” the girls to the party.  For not being excited, he sure seemed excited! 



In preparation for Andy’s party we made heart sugar cookies the weekend before Valentines.  My mom has the worlds best sugar cookie recipe.  I knew it would be tons of work, which is why I’ve never made them before, but my mom came over and helped so it wasn’t so bad.  Of course the kids had fun helping too! I totally lack self-control so I had to give them away as quickly as I could. 


When I was a kid we made boxes to gather the valentines from our friends at school, but these days there isn’t time for extra art projects at school so we are required to make them at home.  There is a lot of pressure to make them cute, but I let go of the pressure this year and let me kids mostly make their own.  It was a good call.  They felt proud of their work. I also didn’t make cute valentines for them to pass out this year.  I’ve decided it isn’t worth the work and money.  The kids don’t even care who gave them the treats; they just want to eat the candy as fast as they can! 



Caleb has his first really big crush.  Her name is Talya Newman.  We are headed into boy girl territory.  In fact, last week the two of them planned to go to the Lego Batman movie after school.  It ended up being 6 boys and Talya.  The good news is that Caleb seems happier.  Most of my best friends growing up were boys and Josh’s best friends were girls, so I’m trying to coach him on “just being friends” and that seems to be what he wants. He was so cute trying to decide what to do for her for Valentines Day! He decided to give her, her best friend and the boy that he eats lunch with, all three, a box of candy so it wouldn’t be too weird.  

My favorite tradition for Valentines is our “fancy dinner.”  Every year we have peppered shrimp alfredo and dim the lights for dinner.  We share things we love about each other and try to make it special.  This year we even busted out the china.  My plan is always to have a “family dance” after dinner, but this year the kids asked if we could go to the church and play basketball.  We’ve been doing that on a fairly regular basis this winter and it’s been fun.  On Valentines we ended up at the church with a stage, which was a bonus.  We had a half-time show put on by Cara and Ali.  Ali loves to be the star of every show and Cara strongly prefers directing and working as stage crew.  It is fun to see their personalities. 




Dancing Girls

Cara and Ali wanted to give dance a try this year.  Ali is in a group with three other girls from the ward, which has been so nice for car-pooling.  She is funny because she loves to dance and sing all the time at home.  She is a dancing fool, but she doesn’t love participating in dance classes as much as I’d anticipate.  


Cara has actually participated in two classes.  She mostly loves the hip-hop class, but we could add a ballet/tap class for a discount so she is doing both.  It has been low pressure and fun for both of them.  I’m grateful they aren’t interested in the competitive dance world, but I think it is great for them to enjoy learning dances, performing and being beautiful little girls.  





Thursday, January 5, 2017

16 Cousins ALL Together

On Saturday December 17th we headed out for a two-week Christmas vacation.  We pulled the kids from four days of school to go on a cruise with my family.  All of my siblings were there, my mom, my Aunt Merle and all 16 cousins. It was SO FUN to be altogether! 

When we arrived in Long Beach we enjoyed the sunny weather and chased the waves at the beach. 



We also met up with Connie to enjoy some hot tubing and to kill some time before getting on the ship on Monday. 



DAY ONE

Carnival provided a cruise that we could all afford, and we were really happy with our experience.  It was super family friendly.  The kids couldn’t wait to try out the water slides on the ship, although the water turned out to be freezing cold.  


So they all hit the “kids hot tub”.  Every time I see this picture I think of a joke I heard at one of the comedy shows.  “What do you call a hot tube full of kids? Pea Soup.”  We were all so happy and content. 



Cathie gave all "the girls" matching hoodies.  It's not just fun for kids to be twiners!


Our first night at dinner Josh and I ended up at a table with two four year olds and two six year olds.  Josh made the best of it by giving manner lessons.  The girls were so cute learning how to use their manners in the formal dinning room.


My mom gave each of her grandchildren a book of 25 brand new one dollar bills along with wallets, purses and other cute things.  They loved having the extra spending money (or for some of them money to save.) 


DAY TWO - CATILINA 

Our ports weren’t amazing, but at least I wasn’t temped to spend a lot of money on excursions.  Our first stop was Catalina.   

Cara and Emi enjoyed shopping.  Caleb and Colter went crab hunting with Keith and apperently found some impressive crabs.  Josh went bargen shopping with Connie while the rest of us sat on the beach in the cool air and sunshine.  The kids tested out the water.  It was indeed COLD . . . 


Every group has a show off that will do anything to get everyone to laugh! This group happened to have Johnny!


All you can eat icecream on the ship wasn't enough for Caleb when he had money from Grandma burning a hole in his pocket. 


DAY THREE - ENSANADA, MEXICO

Our second port was Ensanada, Mexico.  Cathie, Christie and our families got of the ship together and we spontaneously rented a bus to go to the blowhole.  Yes, we filled the whole bus! 



Andy was on his own vacation.  He roomed with my Aunt Merle and enjoyed nearly complete freedom.  We’d show up for breakfast, as he was just finishing up.  If we couldn’t find him he was most likely at the buffet or the miniature golf course.  I think he ate all day long!! He was my only child that didn’t want to go to the kids club because he needed to be 9 to check himself in and out.  He didn’t want to go and get stuck there.  He took full advantage of his freedom! He wasn't happy about getting off the ship with us until he got a giant soda. 



I have seen blowhole’s before so it wasn’t that exciting to me, but the kids LOVED shopping between where the bus dropped us off and the blowhole viewing.  It was nice that it was only one street of venders.  The kids were extremely impressive negotiators and came home with more junk than I care to remember. 


Christie spoiled the little girls with cute “Mexican dresses”. 


I’ll admit that piƱata colada’s and churros were amazing! 


The view was fantastic too!


Day three also included formal night.


Our waiters were really fantastic with the kids.  They made the kids little origami gifts and did magic.  And of course did some dancing with them. 


The tweens REALLY got into dinner and loved ordering many dishes.  Cara and Emi loved the strawberry bisque that was poured onto these strawberries. 


I’ve always hesitated planning a cruise for a family vacation because I look for vacations that provide family bonding.  I don’t know if I’d do it with just my children, but it was perfect to do with extended family.  Ali and Johnny loved the kids club and I didn’t feel too guilty when they were there because they were with cousins.  They did adorable crafts and had fun themes.  Johnny and Ali after pirate night at the kids club! 


I was surprised at how much the kids enjoyed the programs and entertainment.  I loved that they could choose to come or not.  It was usually up to them.  This was so much better than going to a cabin or meeting at a home because we could all relax and not worry about cooking and cleaning.  It was the perfect extended family vacation!

DAY FOUR - AT SEA

Our final day was at sea.  We took advantage of the extra time to take cousin pictures.  There are always little ones who don’t want to cooperate, but it is fun to capture the moment in time. 






We kept ourselves busy even having lots of fun on our day at sea.  We won a couple of solid gold trophy’s. Caleb made himself the butt of the comedian’s jokes two nights in a row, giving us all a great laugh.  We were sad to see it come to an end. 



WHALE WATCHING

We had one last day to enjoy being with the Coombs so we took advantage by going whale watching. Josh drove our family and the Coombs in the RV bus to another port to catch our whale watching boat. Unfortunately the weather was cold and a little rainy, but we were glad to not say good-by yet.  We didn’t see any whales, but we did cruise along with a pod of dolphins for a while.  It was really amazing!  We all LOVED seeing the dolphins!!



After a sad good-by we headed to extend our vacation another week by driving to Santee Lake RV Park near San Diego when the Coombs went to the airport.  The motor home has been such a blessing to us because we don’t have to pay for eating out or staying at hotels.  It makes traveling really affordable. 

The Traditional Portion of Christmas

December went so fast!  It feels like we just put up the Christmas decorations, and they are already down. The kids only slept under the tree once! Good thing we jumped on that early in December. We didn’t have a lot of time for our traditions, but we did have an amazing month!

I am always seeking for ways to keep CHRIST in CHRISTmas. This year we went to the First Presidency Christmas devotional the first Sunday in December.  It was fantastic to be in the same room as President Thomas S. Monson and his amazing counselors.  I felt so good about giving my children the opportunity to experience being in the presence of the prophet in the conference center, and the world-class music of the Tabernacle Choir, in a one-hour event.  We loved it!  It is definitely something we will do again!


The kids didn’t really have any school Christmas programs, but Cara did have a NOVA graduation.  We kept busy on Saturday’s with Andy’s basketball games (of which I have zero pictures.) He was on a team with his buddies and they dominated.  There was talk of it being a stacked team, but really it was just the neighborhood kids that want to play together.


And snow fall, but as you can see Johnny was conflicted about what kind of goggles he wanted to wear.


We enjoyed some pre Christmas celebrations with neighbor gifts . . .


Our ward Christmas Party was unique and memorable.  It was a live nativity complete with a camel and donkey.  It was in a huge, heated barn and really something else.  I guess I’d never seen a camel up close.  I was amazed at how tall and big it was.