Friday, June 26, 2015

Kid Playlists



When asked to name their top 3 favorite songs right now ("Only three, Mom?"), here is what my kids said...

Little X:
Shake It Off (T-Swift)
Boots and Cats
Jesus Wants Us For A Sun-Bean

Little O:
Scripture Power
Happy (Pharell Williams)
Everything is Awesome (The Lego Movie)

Curly:
Good Time (Owl City)
anything by Piano Guys
Seize The Day (Newsies)

Hubba:
anything by Owl City, but especially Fireflies
Final Countdown
Separate Ways (Journey)

Princess:
L (They Might Be Giants)
Apologize (One Republic)
When Can I See You Again? (Owl City)

Cowgirl:
Happy (Pharell Williams)
Some Nights (fun.)
Fight Song (Rachel Platten)

All-a-Boy:
Everything is Awesome (Lego Movie)
Emmett's Morning (Lego Movie)
What Does The Fox Say? (Ylvis)

Julia:
Everything Is Awesome (Lego Movie)
Separate Ways (Journey)
The Scientist (Coldplay)

Elle (still on her mission in Louisiana):
Power of a Prayer (Matthew West)
It's Alright (Brandon Heath)
Arms That Hold the Universe (33Miles)

Allen TY:
Blank Space (Taylor Swift)
Time For Me to Fly (REO Speedwagon)
I Don't Want to Miss a Thing (Aerosmith)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Oh, Happy Day!

This was my birthday ice-cream-cake. Total awesomeness! 

Allen the Younger seemed to have something of a curse on him for a while there. Every time he would bring a girl to our house she would stop answering his calls and texts. We're not sure if we scared those girls off or what. But let me tell you - good... no, AWESOMELY FANTASTIC things come to those who wait! Because once Allen t.y started bringing this beauty around, we all fell in love with her. And when I say beauty I'm not just talking about looks. This girl has beauty coursing through every ounce of her and a light in her eyes that speaks volumes.

Meet Kia! Allen the Elder and I were ready for these two to be engaged before they were and I was really proud of us for not saying anything about it. But once Allen the Younger asked us what we thought, we were ready for him! A THOUSAND TIMES YES! Every time she comes over we love her more.

They were officially engaged the first week of June and will be married at the end of the summer. And to say that I'm happy about it would be putting it lightly.


This is all so crazy-happy to think about. I am excited beyond description and can not wait for Kia to officially be our daughter!

At Kia's brother's wedding
 
 



Monday, June 22, 2015

California

 

Back in April I was able to take a quick weekend trip to California to see Newsies again! (That show never gets old, you guys.) And since I was going to be in California anyway, I made plans to spend the time there with my almost-a-sister/friend Julie and her/pretty-much-my mom and her two cute girls. When I left the airport in Utah, we were in the middle of a snowstorm. 


This created a one-hour delay while they de-iced the planes and waited for the chance to get a spot on the runway.

I sat next to two really fun and interesting women on the flight there, which made the delay insignificant. When we landed in Los Angeles the skies were (mostly, please ignore the haze) clear and the weather was BEAUTIFUL.


I was able to get in a couple of trips to the ocean while I was there. Oh, man - I forget how much I love those salty breezes and the sound of crashing waves!

 
 
 

 
 

Newsies, as always, did not disappoint. In fact, I had no idea that the traveling production has an EXTRA SCENE AND SONG which helps tie in Crutchie's time at the refuge. I LOVED IT!!
   
Newsies is a real kick in the head. See what I did there? Ha!
 



There is no such thing as too many pictures when you go to see Newsies.


I was also excited to visit a couple of Little Free Libraries while I was in California. I found one on the map that was close to Julie's house in Orange County and another that was close to Julie's mom's house. I brought books from our Z Library to share and brought home a couple of books from the libraries I visited.

 

 
And since we were right by Redondo Beach, the beach where I pretty much lived every summer when I lived in California, I had to stop off there to watch the sunset.
 
 

As they say, time flies when you're having fun. So I had to say goodbye to these cuties and head home to my own.

 
I need to get to California more often. There are so many things about that place that speak to my heart in ways that nowhere else can.

However, despite its lack of ocean breezes, there is no place better than home with my family.


 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Remembering Dad


This afternoon I came home from church with a million thoughts about my dad. I pulled out my photo albums and enjoyed reminiscing about his life. 

Dad played basketball and football, ran on the track team and even did cheerleading when he was at the Iowa School for the Deaf. He performed on the stages of more Deaf Clubs than I can count and was the president of numerous clubs and groups. He was a member of many competition bowling teams. He went on a tour back east when he was a young adult and has an amazing postcard collection from his trip. He lived in Australia for a year and then moved back to the states and built himself a house. He helped lead a strike when things were unfair at work. He swam across the Mississippi River when I was young as we, his family, watched from a nearby lighthouse. I remember my mom being scared that he might now make it but my own thoughts were more along the lines of, "Of course he'll make it! My dad can do ANYthing!" Despite his deafness, he supported and encouraged the love of music and singing that my little brother Chip and I were born with, often blaring the radio or MTV and dancing around the living room with us. When Dad would come visit his grandchildren he always had a treasure in his pocket for them, whether it was a quarter or a piece of candy or some little trinket he'd picked up somewhere, he was always the bearer of gifts for the kids. He worked hard his entire life to make sure that our family was well cared for and loved.

Seven of my ten kids don't remember him at all, and that is hard. But I like to think that he hand-picked the six who were born after he died, that he made sure we were sent the best of the best.

Man, do I love and miss my Pop.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Dirty Laundry

Yesterday as I was doing the laundry it took me at least a half hour to try to salvage a few of Allen's white shirts by scrubbing at various stains. And I'll admit, I wasn't exactly being cheerful about it. I kept thinking things like, "why can't he change into work clothes?" and "who gets their white shirts this dirty?"

Then it hit me.  Allen's white shirts are stained because he loves to serve people. As he walks home from church and runs into someone who needs help with something in their yard or on their car or in their house, he doesn't hesitate or worry about what he's wearing - he just jumps right in and helps where it's needed. When he's visiting someone in their home and they need help with a messy problem, he's happy for the opportunity to serve.

With that change of perspective my thoughts did a 180 degree turn and I was feeling teary and thankful to have the husband that I do. Suddenly I was grateful for the chance I had to do for him what he does for so many others. He is the living, breathing example of the saying: Service is love in action.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Smiles As Big As Texas


Yesterday I was purchasing some graduation gifts at a church book store. As I stood at the register I noticed a missionary couple that looked familiar. It only took me half a second to realize that it was President and Sister Ames, one of Allen the Younger's mission presidents and his wife! For those of you who don't know, the mission president and his wife are like the missionaries' parents while they are out serving. Allen t.y. had two mission presidents, each for a year of his mission. I felt like I got to know President and Sister Ames pretty well because I followed Sister Ames' blog where she would post pictures and talk about their experiences in the mission.       

I went over and introduced myself as Allen t.y.'s mom and got to chat with them for a few minutes and update them a little on what he is up to. It meant so much to me to be able to meet them and thank them for their love and support of my son for that year. They were in town for a training at the Missionary Training Center and were heading back out to Texas in a couple of hours so it was a huge blessing for me to be able to run into them when I did.

I still haven't stopped smiling about it.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Julia's Mission Call


Right after Julia returned home from college for the summer she told me she wanted to get her mission papers submitted so she could receive her mission call as soon as possible. Her plan was to get the call before Mother's Day, one of the two days in the year when Elle would be allowed to call home and talk with the family. She also wanted it to be a surprise for Elle, meaning I was not supposed to talk to anyone about it until after it happened. (Torture.)

Julia got all of her doctor visits and paperwork and picture and interviews finished by the last week of April and we found out that her call was issued on April 30th. That meant we had 9 days of anxiously stalking the mailman to see if the large, white envelope had arrived in the mail. It came on Saturday, the day before Mother's Day. Julia had to leave the house for the entire day because she was dying to just rip it open and see where she would be called to serve for 18 months.

On Mother's Day we went to church and then eagerly anticipated Elle's call the rest of the day. She told us in her weekly email that she would be calling some time between 3 and 6 pm so we were practically glued to the phones. I even tried calling our home phone from my cell phone to be sure it was working. That turned out to be a bad idea because Allen the Younger kept calling the home phone from his cell phone to see how we would react. Elle finally called us at about 5:45.
Once we had skype all set up Julia told Elle, "Hey! I got a letter from a friend that I want to read to you!" Elle asked, "What's your friend's name?" Julia responded, "Thomas S. Monson!" and pulled the white envelope from behind her back. (Thomas S. Monson is the current leader of our church.) It went perfectly - Elle was surprised and kept saying, "Julia! You're so sneaky!" and then...
video

My sweet Julia is going to be serving the people of the New Hampshire Manchester area, which includes five states in the New England area: New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, New York and Massachusetts. She leaves exactly 2 months after Elle returns home from her mission in Louisiana.

This was seriously the best Mother's Day I can remember.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Para Mis Hijas Misioneras

Hey there! So yes, you're right, it has been way too long since I have posted anything on the ol' blog. I tend to get to a point where I am so behind that I don't know where to start anymore. So, how about the here and now? 

I tried to think abut what to say. And while I was thinking, I took pictures of everyone. So, playing on the idea that a picture says a thousand words, here are a few thousand words for you...
 
  
 Julia! She's home from college and getting ready to leave on her mission sometime this fall, probably. She still hasn't gotten a call, so you haven't missed anything there, but we're excited for whatever's ahead! It has been awesome to have her home.  
 

All-a-Boy! He's the scoutiest scout you ever will meet. He's on about a zillion committees and going on more campouts than I can count this summer, including a Philmont trek and a stint as a staff member at Timberline. Hopefully he'll be an Eagle scout this summer as well. (fingers crossed!)
 

Cowgirl! She starts high school next year. What the heck? She loves to sing and be in plays and write really abstract poetry and read books and draw pictures of random things that don't really exist. The imagination is strong with this one.
 


Princess! She gets to be in charge of pushing a button to start the Star Spangled Banner before morning announcements at school every other week. She's a friend to everyone and the best kind of big sister. She gets frustrated that no one ever calls her to babysit.
 

Hubba! He gets more and more precocious as time goes by. But behind that mask is the most sweet, tender-hearted little boy. He asks to play on the computer about every other minute and tells me what he wants for his birthday or Christmas in the minutes in-between. Boy scouts is his favorite thing!
 
Curly! This girl is becoming more crazy by the day. She started out as this shy, quiet little person and now she's always seeking the crazy-cakes spotlight. Curly is a good friend to everyone in her class at school as well as a teacher's aide in every classroom she enters. She still loves creating numerous pieces of art and being an over-all smarty pants.
 
Little O! Not much has changed with this kid. He's still quite the ladies man with a new story every day about who was chasing who on the playground. He went from not caring one bit about the letters of the alphabet to reading like a champ this year!
 
    
Little X! Even with a smoothie moustache he's a cutie pie. This boy is my best buddy. We do everything together, including getting ourselves a donut or ice cream every time we go to the grocery store. He says funny things that keep me smiling ALL.THE.TIME.
 
More posts coming soon! 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Quick Quips

 

Me: Little X, you need to do your jobs.
X: Hey, Mom?
Me: Yeah?
X: Zip it, lock it, put it in your pocket.
Me: (surprised) What is that supposed to mean?
X: Dat's what peoples say when you need to stop talking. Like about jobs.

I often tell Little X that he needs to get ready to go run errands. One day he came up from his room dressed like this:
And told me, "Dis is my SPY GUY clothes. I will be super sneaky and look at peoples wif the binawkillers."

And another time he was sporting this lion costume:
He said he needed to wear it so he could eat the bad guys at the store. A man at the bank said, "Cool lion costume!" and he responded, "I am not a lion. I am a boy wearing lion clothes. So please don't take me to the zoo."

Hubba: Mom, do you happen to have any dry ice?
Me: Not normally. Why?
Hubba: I have an idea that involves dry ice. That's all I'm saying.

One morning Little O noticed a gorgeous sunrise and got everyone to come look at it. Then, realizing that some of the family were already gone to school (or not living at home) he said, "I wish our whole family could be here to share this beautiful moment! Doesn't this sunrise just make your heart feel happy?"

Hubba: Mom, do you happen to have any liquid nitrogen?
Me: No. I never have liquid nitrogen.
Hubba: Well, that's boring.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Truth to Live By



Some of the best memories Allen and I share are of the time when we were poor, recently married college students. Out of necessity we discovered creative ways to make our finances work for us. We learned so many things together this way! Was it always easy? Heck no. But so much of what we do now is a result of what we learned from the times we had to scrimp and save.

I taught myself how to sew on a sewing machine that was gifted to me by Allen's grandparents. I made my own maternity clothes when I was pregnant. I made quilts from inexpensive fabrics I found in clearance bins for baby and wedding gifts. Allen fixed our cars and kept our home in repair thanks to things his father taught him in their home. I learned to shop and plan menus according to what was on sale at the store each week. I learned to be creative with what I made for dinner based on what we had in the refrigerator and pantry. Allen built some of our furniture and fixed up our little apartments to make them more comfortable. We bought our clothes and other things we needed at thrift stores and yard sales. I sold things we no longer needed at yard sales and consignment stores. We drove used cars that made so much noise we could barely hear each other as we traveled from place to place. Instead of spending money on dates we would invite friends over for potluck dinners and game nights. These are all memories that I would never change and experiences I would not trade for anything. As we worked and learned and struggled together it helped to shape us into the people we are now.

Allen has been working at a wonderful job with the best company, ever (!) for almost 15 years now but our habits have not changed. We still do most of these things that we learned when times were hard. Not out of necessity, but because they make sense and bring us happiness.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

More Flavor!

 

Every once in a while I am lucky enough to get a phone call from my brother Chip, announcing that he is in town and what are we doing for lunch? Most of the time we hang out at my house and eat and laugh and visit, but today we met up somewhere. We couldn't decide on where we were going to eat, but we knew that there needed to be donuts involved. Maple frosted ones, to be exact. So Chip stopped by our one of our favorite local bakeries and acquired not one, not two, but a WHOLE DOZEN of their amazing donuts along with some baklava to supplement our lunch.

Don't worry, we shared a salad and some sweet potato fries, too. But... DONUTS! They're what's for lunch!

I had Little X with me and was kind of worried about keeping him occupied in a dining establishment, but it was worth the gamble to spend some time with my baby brother. It turned out that I had no reason to worry because Little X found the perfect pastime: adding flavor to his root beer. 

At first he was just dipping the sweet potato fries in his drink before eating them. Then he was submerging them. No biggie, I thought. It's no worse than my mom putting peanuts in her Pepsi back in the day.

And then, well...

It got to the point where there were more fries than liquid. And when I told him that was probably enough he loudly stated, "IT NEEDS MORE FLAVOR!" and shoved a couple more fries into the glass.
 
I kind of thought the whole thing was just a game to occupy his time until he actually STARTED TO DRINK IT!

After which he proclaimed, "Ahhhhh! Perfect flavor."

Salty sweet potato root beer? Maybe it's going to be the next big thing. (But probably not.)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Cub Scout Cupcakes


Every year that we've had one of our boys in cub scouts we've had to decorate a cake for the Blue and Gold banquet. Way back when Allen the Younger was 8 years old we had our first Blue and Gold experience and were told that every scout needed to bring a cake for the Cake Contest. At first I took this "contest" seriously because I am a competitive person. The theme was Scouting and I asked Allen the Younger what he'd like to make. He wanted an Eagle cake. So I spent the better part of the day baking, cutting, shaping, frosting and decorating a cake that would make professionals proud. The main thing I remember about this Eagle Cake was that it had feathers crafted from carefully laid out sliced almonds, which took us hours to do. Then we went to the banquet, ready to take home the prize for best cake, and found out there was really no contest. Everyone got a pre-written certificate and we took our entire cake home because even though it looked fancy no kid wants to eat a bunch of sliced almonds.

Since then I have learned that SIMPLE is the key. I ask what they want, and I always figure out a way to incorporate it into cupcakes (because kids LIKE cupcakes and we don't bring any home!). Hubba initially wanted a Plants versus Zombies theme, which we reminded him had nothing to do with cub scouts. So after searching the internet for pictures of zombies in scout uniforms and finding none he decided that pictures of scouts doing "camping stuff" like archery and building fires would be cool.

So we printed out pictures of "scout stuff" and he glued them onto toothpicks, stuck them in the cupcakes and VOILA! He got the "Best Blue and Gold Themed Award".

The story is actually even a little better than that. I was asked to bake a frozen lasagna for the banquet but forgot to put it in the oven until it was time to bake the cupcakes. As in, one hour before the festivities were starting. So I called all of my neighbors to see if I could come bake cupcakes in their oven, but no one answers their phones anymore, so I loaded my cupcake pans filled with batter on to a cookie sheet and went knocking door to door, trying to find someone at home. Our favorite across-the-street neighbors were home and had me leave the cupcakes there to bake. But I let them go a little too long and so the tops ended up kind of crispy. No problem. I advertised them as "cookie cupcakes: cookie on the top, cupcake on the bottom" and they were a hit.

Take that, Pinterest.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Kid-Friendly Valentine Dinner

 
I mostly needed to document this day for my benefit. Allen and I decided to spend Valentines Day with the kids rather than fighting the crowds at the restaurants and movie theaters. Initially we thought of having a nice dinner with a variety of fun courses to make it special. But then I decided to make it a kid-friendly special sort of dinner instead.
 
I took a lot of pictures with my tablet computer thingy (I'm never sure what to call it) but they didn't turn out the greatest. It was a good lesson in why taking the time to use my actual camera is usually worth it.
 
Two of the kids' favorite foods are pizza and hot dogs so I wanted to incorporate those. I made English muffin pizzas with pepperoni that I cut into heart shapes with a small cookie cutter:
 
(before cooking)
 
 (after cooking)
 
I cut Little Smokies at an angle then rotated them to make the heart shape. Here's what they looked like before cooking. After cooking they looked more like angel wings but the kids didn't seem to notice. So if you ever want to make these I would suggest cooking them first, then cutting them and putting them together.


 
I had to have something healthy in there so I made a heart-shaped salad, too. The cucumbers could be cut out with the cookie cutter. The carrot had to be shaped before slicing. The grape tomatoes I cut the same way I made the little hot dogs.
 
No special meal around here is complete without Jell-O so I made these individual parfaits topped with whipped cream and some candy hearts.
 
For dessert I made chocolate covered strawberries
 
And each person got a little cup filled with Valentiney candy at their plate.


 


 Combine that with the candy hearts scattered all over the table and my kids were in candy heaven. They couldn't believe that they could just eat the candy whenever they wanted to during the meal! Needless to say, our table decorations did not stick around for long.

We drank cherry 7-up with maraschino cherries from fancy glasses but used paper plates and napkins.
 

 

The candles weren't out yet, but you can kind of see them in the picture at the top of this post. The kids always think it is such a treat to eat by candlelight with the lights dimmed. Here was our full spread:
Which was made complete with this awesome table that Allen is building for us. It's not quite finished yet, so we've been using it with a tablecloth to cover the unfinished structure. But what a treat to all sit at the same table and enjoy a meal and a fun evening together!

I also found Pictionary at our local thrift store for $2 so we had a great game night after dinner and laughed like crazy.