29 December 2018

Lost Dutchman Hike

Monday evening we went Christmas caroling to our neighbors, handing out some cheer, a song, and a plate of cookies. In my mind the experience would be full of laughter, loving words, camaraderie, and Christmas joy. My mind was wrong. I assembled over 46 plates of goodies to hand out. We met up with some of the Godards this year. Quite a number of folks were either not home, not willing to answer their door (the TV was too exciting), or plain lazy. One lady cracked open her door and slammed it with a polite "Thank you!". Another lady opened the door then complained that folks now days always want something for nothing?! What? We're handing out free treats to YOU, not the other way around. One guy streaked past his door quite indecent. On the other hand a few people were home and enjoyed our treats, some evening treating the kids to candy canes. Seems like neighborly friendships are going out the window, more and more everyone just keeps to themselves. I was quite proud of my pretty treats. The kids enjoyed the first 5 minutes, whined the rest of the time or fought over who would ring the doorbells.

Tuesday morning Josie and I headed to Sonoma Ranch for Evelyn's kindergarten performance. I was thinking the kids would sing 2-3 songs and be done. I was overly impressed the kids sang about 10 songs, all memorized and accompanied with hand movements. The looks Evelyn gave me about melted my heart. She can be so shy sometimes, I forget how sweet she is in public. Her sass came out when the kids sang "I'm Gettin' Nuttin' for Christmas." Her expressions spoke volumes! "Mom! You better not believe this song!" I recorded all the songs on my phone, since then I catch her watching and singing along to all those cute songs. Josie rushed up to give Evelyn a quick hug and then snatch her tinsel props to have a go at waving them about. I did not watch Gabi this week. I was not feeling well on Monday and Tuesday. I was trying to catch a sinus infection so had a miserable stuffed nose and headache. At pack meeting the leaders threw a large bonfire party at the Knight's home. We made delicious woofums for a treat. The treat is made by baking dough on an oiled wood round, removing the dough cup and filling it with pie filling and whipped cream! All the kids left with about 1/2 cup sand in their shoes from the large sand mountain surrounding the fire pit. Phillip earned another badge.

Wednesday Josie and I headed to the park for a diversion. It was chilly out so we enjoyed wearing coats for a while. The amusement park was open, Josie was chattering on and on about riding the boats. I grabbed a handful of change for her to choose two carnival rides to enjoy. Oh her sweet happy face just made my day. We chased ducks and wandered about the park for a good 3 hours. We enjoyed lunch with Justin on Thursday up in Scottsdale. I went to the Target there for a couple last moment items since Reagan and Mason would be visiting over Christmas. Justin had another job interview for a local company. He is getting quite fed up with all the drama at his current employment. I am fed up with the long commute and lack of a companion at home. After school on Thursday we had an extra 6 kids come after school for a Christmas play date. Amelia organized a gift exchange with her group of friends (Zoey, Chloe, Brooklyn, Abby). She spent a chunk of time making slime kits complete with charms, glitter, and various types of slime (clear, butter, fluffy), and cute colors. I loved her thoughtful gifts. Phillip and Everett invited over Ryan and Owen as well. Evelyn went over to Isla's home for a long play date! I made tacos for dinner. Mostly the kids all stayed outside to play.

The kids got out of school early on Friday. They came home to a warm lunch waiting on the table, sometimes I can be a good mom. We spent the afternoon making 7 dozen cookies for a cookie exchange the next morning. This time I made my favorite cherry shortbread (again) and soft gingerbread with white chocolate. We watched White Christmas while the cookie production was in full force.

I got up at 6 am for a sunrise bridal session at Lost Dutchman. The bride and groom met me at my place then we drove out the state park. It is so expensive to use these places, $50 per hour! We had a marvelous time in the lovely pre-dawn light. The plateau blocked the strong morning light and created a gorgeous open shade light effect. Course a lovely bride and handsome groom helps! I was back home by 8:45 am. The girls and I went to the cookie exchange, we came home with a variety of 7 dozen cookies. My favorite were the pretty pizzelle cookies. I might "need" a pizzelle press. Since I had a day pass for the state park we rounded up the whining kids and made them hike up the trail. Josie made the trek on our shoulders. Evelyn insisted on taking her doll Shaylee. I warned her before we left the van that I would NOT hold her doll. Towards the end of the hike she wanted me to carry her, but since she was holding her doll I could not carry her doll she was carrying. Ha ha. We made it up and down the trail in fine form. The boys were racing up and down the trail intent on beating the other brother. I slipped with Josie on my shoulders, earned a nice rash on my palm and nearly ripped a nail off. Amelia was grouchy until I let her carry and use my camera. She took a slew of pretty amazing photos. Half the photos above are the ones she took! Evelyn barely made it down the hike, her doll was too heavy, I stuck her doll down her shirt which she thought was pretty silly. It was a nice day to hike. We enjoyed some Greek gyros for lunch since it was well after 2 pm by the time we finished hiking. After hiking the kids willingly helped clean the house. Amelia is terrible when it comes time to clean. Amelia and Justin butt heads to the point of shouting matches and slammed doors. My new approach is to give her an assignment then a time limit, if the job is not done she earns a consequence. She is left alone to do her chore(s). The boys need and want more supervision so we have them working separately for our cranky pre-teen. We pulled names for a family gift exchange. (Dad:Everett, Mom:Phillip, Mia:Josie, Phillip:Amelia, Everett:Evelyn, Evelyn:Mom, Josie:Dad). We headed to Walmart so we could choose gifts for one another. The kids love this little tradition.

Sunday we had a lovely meeting with several musical numbers by the choir, men's chorus, women's chorus, piano performance, and violin performance. Amelia and I sang with the choir. This year we sang a new song, One More Voice. It is a very pretty song. Justin barely had a chance to focus and enjoy the meeting with both Amelia and I sitting in the stands. Ha ha ha. We had a lovely family dinner at the Chandler Call's new home. Kenny, Charity, Mason, and Reagan made the LONG trek from Bountiful to Chandler. So much noise! Such a lovely chaos of family and friends. Mason is now in his senior year of HS, Reagan is in 8th grade. Both cousins are now big, serious teenagers. Evelyn is quite taken with Reagan, she decided Reagan is her newest best friend. Aunt Chi-Chi is always the favorite.

21 December 2018

Santa Bass Pro Style

What a fun week! We filled our week with a performance, Christmas mini sessions, doctor/dental visits, and topped it off with a visit to Bass Pro. I love the busy season this time of year provides. I seem to perform better under pressure.

We enjoyed a fun visit to Christmas on Comstock St, a street all decorated up with lights and a radio station with coordinated light shows. Josie quite enjoyed sitting on my lap while we drove down that street. For the next two days she cried every time we got in the car, wanting Mommy's lap. We parked the van after driving the street and took a turn walking down the same street. Santa was handing out high fives and candy canes! Josie was quite keen to give Santa five, Evelyn stayed 10 feet away. We headed back home because Phillip had to use the restroom. We arrived home to find several police cars lighting up our quiet street. A very young man was being arrested as we pulled in, sad day for him. Turns out he assaulted his mother after she would not let him leave with her car.

Everett had a fun unit last week on recycling. He is intent on making a compost pile for us. Each morning he takes the egg shells from breakfast and buries them in the garden! I think he would be delighted if we brought home a composting box with worms. Everett also lost another tooth after several days of dedicated wiggling. His teeth are quite endearing right now with one front took fully grown and the other barely peeking out of his gums. He rocks the snaggle tooth look!

This week I picked up my new c-pap machine. Trying on masks in front of the medical supply worker was one of the more uncomfortable experiences of my life. I'd rather give birth than have an elephant nose mask on my face in front of a stranger. I rip off the dang mask most nights in my sleep. Opening your mouth while running the machine is a very strange experience. I often imagine the scene from "The Mummy" when the dead pharaoh opens his mouth and spews a torrent of insects out of his mouth. Gaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! As imagined getting up and down with kids and a mask is also not fun. I wake up feeling starved for a normal breath. I suppose it gets better. I went to an ENT just to ensure my nose is not a problem. Looks like my nose is not deviated, my stuffed right nostril issues is probably due to ongoing allergies and sinus problems. I took Phillip to the ENT since his left ear tube needed extraction. It's possible he will need tubes again, the ear drum that gave him all those issues over the summer had lots of pressure built up behind the ear drum.

Wednesday I had a root canal on my top right molar. Two hours of keeping my mouth open felt like torture. If you can imagine the impossible, I actually fell asleep while the dentist was filing away at my canals. It was boring so I fell asleep, not the best cat nap I've ever nabbed, but hey I was without kids for a couple hours. The worst was getting the x-rays. I have the worst gag reflex after so many bad pregnancies with morning sickness. I cannot tolerate stuff in my mouth for more than a few seconds. I go back on Monday for a second root canal on my bottom left molar and to get a new crown on the top. I left with a raging headache. I thought my face would be sore for days but the next morning I felt right as rain, just a little muscle soreness in my jaw.

Amelia and Chloe had a fun Activity Days celebration. Each girl had a poster with several things about themselves and a photo. The theme was "I am like a star." Amelia has a fun group of friends right now at church. I am happy she is sharing her beliefs with Chloe. I'm not sure what Chloe thinks about it all but we'll include her as long as she desires. The girls spent their time after school making loads of slime to give as Christmas gifts for their friends. I finally got the garage cleaned up after three days of taking studio photos in the garage. I quite enjoyed the Christmas sets this year.

Everett gave quite the amazing performance with his 2nd grade mates on Thursday. He is so animated and gregarious. My favorite was how loud and off-key he sang all the songs! He practiced for weeks at home singing the songs (quite off-tune with all the hand signs) and working on his speaking part. At one point he turned around to boss around his classmates who were not paying attention. Love that kid! Josie insisted she wear her pink tutu and Elsa dress to the event. Somehow in the chaos of leaving I forgot her shoes. At least I remembered the kid and forgot the shoes, not the other way around. I left from the school and attended a fun RS progressive dinner. I missed the appetizer house at the Barlows but arrived in time for the main meal at the Smiths and dessert at the Paynes. It was all quite fancy and well done! I loved the messages shared that evening. We enjoyed fancy hot chocolate and desserts outside around several fire pits! I convinced Sarah Burton to come with her little son. He ended up the only little one in attendance. Ah well, we'd rather have her and the baby than no Sarah.

 Friday was spent up to my elbows in flour, sugar, butter, eggs, chocolate and almond extract. Christmas cookies for the WIN! This year Debbie Goddard and I teamed up to hand out Christmas cookie plates instead of doughnuts. We wanted to spread some cheer with Christmas caroling and treats. I made several dozens each of chocolate crinkles, cherry shortbread, and spritz cookies. Debbie made cake balls, pumpkin rolls, and rice crispy treats. I always get nervous making the cherry shortbread because the dough is quite dry, only butter and drained cherries to moisten the flour. The amount of gentle kneading makes me nervous about a resultant tough cookie. Somehow, yes, somehow I forgot to add sugar to the flour at the beginning so had to knead in sugar as the last step. I'm happy the cookies even turned out, those cherry cookies are by far Santa's favorite.

Justin manned up and left to secure tickets for Santa's workshop at Bass Pro around 8:45 am. The line was ridiculous even at 9:20 am. He scored us tickets for 11 am, he stayed in the store while we packed up and drove up to meet him. I spent the couple hours at home coaxing the children to help clean up clutter. I think Justin had the easier job. Everett and Evelyn begged to stay home since watching a spot of TV was more in their favor. Evelyn refused to wear her cute Christmas dress, I brought it along and made her wear it over her clothes while we were in the store. All in all we had an enjoyable time. The store has a lovely area for kids to play with pop guns, kinetic sand, blocks, a pretend camp spot, and other activities. Amelia followed Josie around until our turn was up. Josie was quite taken with the ATVs. The kids all posed for a single and a group photo. I'm grateful to the silly Elf who got the kids laughing with a cute hedgehog toy. I had Justin buy a digital copy of the group photo. He went to check out while we went to look for fudge samples. I did not realize he had my phone so we spent a good 20 minutes searching all about for him. Once we were reunited our inattentive Everett was left behind at the entrance. We noticed he was missing several minutes later. Took us about 20 minutes to find him. He was bawling and red-eyed right where we got lost at the entrance. I passed the entrance about 6 times, how I missed seeing him I'll never know. He saw me page Justin so once the store employees noticed him he told them our names so we could be paged. I'm happy he stayed put and waited for us to find him. Poor kid was quite traumatized the rest of that day. Lots of extra hugs for him and reassurances of love. We enjoyed a lunch at Chik-fil-a. The Christmas cows made an appearance much to the children's amusement! Evelyn was scared but little Josie handed out several high fives. The Christensen's hosted their annual Posada towards evening. I brought a massive batch of refried beans. Amelia earned points by watching little Payson, keeping him happy for quite some time. She is earning status as a babysitter.   

Phillip came down with croup Sunday morning. He thought sticking his face in the freezer was amusing. He was impressed the treatment worked! He was pleased to stay home alone while we attended sacrament meeting. I was able to quickly get my temple recommend renewed. Somehow I managed to snag the Stake President at a moment's notice and get that interview without waiting more than 3 minutes. Justin had a very late meeting Sunday until well after 10:30 pm. We postponed our caroling trip to Monday for FHE.

09 December 2018

Recitals, Ward Christmas Party, Grouchy Neighbor

Tis the season for recitals, concerts, parties, and celebration. We officially entered the party season this week. We started our 25 days of Christ on December 2nd. It's a fun little tradition that includes cute ornaments depicting events in the life of Christ, each night you read a set of scriptures, watch a bible video, and talk about His life as a family. The kids love to string the ornaments on the twine I have nailed to the wall. We got to wish Uncle Jared a Merry Happy Birthday!

Monday was mostly spent shopping for food and forgetting another dental appointment. It was even in my calendar, I should plan to check my calendar more often. I promised Evelyn a Happy Meal if she took more photos on Sunday. So we had an easy dinner at McDonalds much to everyone's enjoyment. Hooray for FHE spent out and about.  Amelia was quite the little stinker on Monday evening as we worked to clean up toy clutter. She refused and was sent to her room in a rage. She lost texting privileges and got to deep clean the bathroom for her poopy behavior.Tuesday I cleaned up the house to level expert clean, it was sparkly and so nice. Once the kids came home I put them (and their friends) to work cleaning the yard and washing windows. Once it was clean we left so the kids would not mess it up. Phillip had scouts so I was busy driving here and there with the kids. Amelia and Chloe took a walk over to the park and back.

Our piano recital went well! The kids practiced so diligently and knew their songs to perfection. We talked extensively about performance behavior, how to act after a misplayed note, etc. I accompanied most of the kids since 5 of the 7 are beginner level. I moved the furniture around to accommodate around 50 people in attendance. The kids all sat on the floor and the adults perched in available spots. It was crowded!! Phillip and Everett are two of my students! They loved practicing with me at their leisure. Phillip played Book of Mormon Stories and Jingle Bells. Everett played Chimes and Away in a Manger. After the recital we enjoyed doughnuts and chocolate milk! I'm sad I did not get a photo of the night.

Wednesday after Amelia's piano lesson we headed to the park for a couple hours to play. The weather is brilliant right now. My new lens is driving me crazy, it is front focusing (meaning focusing 1-2 inches away from where my focus point is). All my photos are not crisp where I WANT them to be crisp. I even spent the hour+ to drive all the way to Tempe Camera, I was ready to drop it off but the tech changed one camera setting and convinced me all my troubles were solved. Made me upset that the problem was not solved and I wasted a precious 90 minutes for nothing. Now I have to go back next week.

Thursday Chloe came over with Mia again after school (third time this week!) since the girls had a strings concert at 6 pm. They were outside walking around our block just acting like 11 year old girls. A younger neighbor was fetching her mail and walked over to the girls accusing them of knocking on her door and running away. She was quite determined to scare both girls. This lady said, "I caught you little witches! I caught you ringing my doorbell. Just so you know I have you on video so don't even try to lie about it." Both girls ran in and told me about the confrontation. They were scared and crying. I ran out and caught up with our neighbor to figure out the situation. She accused the girls of destroying her property on Wednesday around 5 pm and that she had them recorded on video. Funny thing, I was at the park with all my kids until well after 5:30 pm. She refused to believe me and continued to be belligerent. I felt so upset that #1 she accused the girls without basis #2 that she did not talk with me first (she has my phone number and address) and #3 that she was so rude about the entire situation. I'm fine a few days later, it's not a big deal anymore, we can still be friends...BUT seriously?! Let's just be kind. Kind and give folks the benefit of the doubt.

Amelia dolled herself up as a unicorn for the recital. When Justin saw her he immediately thought, "Always be yourself, unless you can be a unicorn, then always be a unicorn." She is a magical creature. The 5th grade performed first. Amelia announced the second piece, Russian Music Box. The kids sounded quite screechy but not as bad as the first year! Ha ha ha. Josie enjoyed spinning to the strange music. Everett wondered why he was not allowed to spin like Josie. Phillip sat quietly and drew silly pictures of farts and animals farting. We treated the kids to ice cream for all their hard work perfecting their music skills.

I had another series of doctor appointments this week, doctor, sleep center, dentist, then doctor. Getting my fatigue diagnosed is well, fatiguing. Josie and Gabriella were good sports at most of the appointments. After one appointment we went to Target for some Christmas stuff. Josie saw a Skye Paw Patrol hooded blanket. She patted her head and squealed! Skye! On my HEAD! That went into the cart. Then she saw a Shimmer baby doll which also went into the cart as her Christmas gift. During her nap I hid those two items. She spent a good while searching high and low for her baby and Skye head. Guess she is getting too old to take shopping and pull the wool over her eyes.

The girls and I enjoyed a night out at San Tan mall on Friday. Amelia had a burning desire to shop for her Christmas gifts at Claire's. Evelyn wanted some fancy earrings for her new ear piercings. We had quite a lovely time browsing Claire's, The Disney Store, Build a Bear, and Bath and Body Works. The girls even got to play for a bit at the play structures. The boys stayed home and watched Star Wars. Boring!

Saturday morning our ward hosted a Christmas breakfast. We woke up to fog, yes! FOG! Breakfast was biscuits and gravy, pancakes, eggs, fruit, and milk! Every table was filled up with families and friends. It was quite well-attended this year. The kids had a chance to visit with Santa. Amelia skipped out for the first time ever. Evelyn was near terrified to be more than 5 feet away from Santa. Josie skipped up parroting, "I want LOL" over and over. Phillip decided he wanted a bag of bagels (?) from Santa. That kid! Everett asked for a Q-ba marble maze set. Evelyn wrote her request of eye shadow and an LOL. I've had a silly photo in my head for a while of the kids "taped" to the wall with duct tape and the culprit holding the tape. All the kids were game for silly photos! My compositing skills are terrible but the shoddy work turned out alright! Amelia had the idea to be the culprit instead of Evelyn (as I imagined it). The rest of our day was quite boring. Justin and I went to Hobby Lobby and Walmart after dinner and kid baths. He wanted to take me Christmas shopping. Yes, yes Please. I now have to wait for January to redecorate with my new Christmas gifts.

 Amelia, Justin, and I attended a youth meeting during church addressing future activities involving temple work! The Bishop has plans to rent a bus once or twice and take the youth to various temples around the state and maybe to Vegas or California next year. Amelia will get to participate after her birthday in April. Our ward is putting a strong emphasis on family history and temple work this coming year. Blink...we almost have a Beehive. 

03 December 2018

Cotton Candy

Time went by too fast last week and I did not get a chance to write until a week past. Thus, my brain forgot most of what I wanted to write about. So, I'll have to rely on the photos to tell the story.

Josie had her cute little book club from Monday to Thursday. She's quite attached to her baby Aurora, totes her around everywhere in the car seat we found at Goodwill. She calls her Rora-Gabi. The little kiddos learned about brownies and musical instruments. She adores her time with Sister Russo. I am sad the last book club is in January. She has also taken to wearing her pink ballet around over her clothes most of the time. I think it's pretty darn cute. Might be time to find a dance studio again for the little girls.

Evelyn requested a side-curl down her face, hanging over her eye. I complied and gave her a curl. She adores the new hairstyle and calls it her "tiny teenager" look. She is also quite excited to have hair long enough for two ballet buns right by her ears.

Last week I was swamped with numerous doctor/dentist appointments. I am finally taking action to search out options for sleep apnea. It appears I do have a problem and need intervention. I wanted to check out dental appliances first so went to a nearby dentist to price out options. I also had my teeth cleaned at the same time. That flippin' appointment took over two hours. The clinic was very thorough and ritzy. I suspected that my back fillings were failing and causing me grief. Turns out I might need more than one root canal and to have my fillings reworked. I got a fancy folder containing a ridiculous estimate of $5,500 for all the dental work. Guess the paraffin hand treatment and free chapstick cost more than the free they offered. At least my dental cleaning was completely covered. I went to another dentist office this week and for a second opinion and got a new estimate of $1500. Still pricey but more affordable. They were also willing to split up the work between this year and next. Since my mouth needs work dental appliances are not an option right now. If you mention nose pillows to me right now I might just punch your face. Not quite ready to face the fact that I need a sleep machine. How can a body change so much in a year to go from normal sleeping to needing a machine. Getting old stinks, and I'm not even old yet.

Friday morning I had a lady apply some makeup on my face for family photos. I left with quite a natural face, the only unnatural thing was my new eyelashes brushing against my glasses. That felt really strange, to have lashes that long and fake. I got the kids out of school at 2:50 to get them dressed and ready before 4 pm. We were still late arriving for family photos. It is no easy task to get 6 people ready in less than an hour. I had mounds of hair to style, outfits to adjust, and coax a certain 5-year old to participate in family photos. So stressful. I asked Sarah Burton to take our family photos, we traded services! She did a great job in the time we had. The kids behaved thanks to a couple rolls of smarties. In all the chaos Amelia, Phillip, and a photo of just the kids were missed. I had to dress the kids back up in the same outfits, curl hair, etc and try again on Sunday afternoon. The light was completely different so the ones I took have a different feeling. Oh well, getting group photos as a family was my main focus. Score! My new lens is not calibrated correctly, it front focuses terribly, missing focus by a inch or more at 1.5 meters. It's driving me nuts. I even calibrated it with the new Sigma dock but could not solve the issues. Justin and I had Mia babysit right after photos so we could catch some dinner and see the new Fantastic Beasts movie. Brekklyn came over around 8:30 to help Mia with bedtime. Justin and I headed back to downtown Gilbert for dinner at a cute and delicious Pizza place. We had a blast shopping at the candy store which was stocked with candy I've not seen in ages. Fantastic Beasts was amazing. Go watch it.

We had a fun time at Brother Brinton's home for his annual cotton candy event. The kids left sticky with pink cotton candy stuck to hands and faces. Josie would not touch her treat. She gagged when I made her taste a piece! Still she would not relinquish her treat for over an hour afterward. Amelia got to spend the afternoon and evening with her friend Abby making cookies and shopping at the mall. The rest of us enjoyed a boat ride around Windrift lake for the first time. A kind neighbor invited us to come celebrate with them and enjoy a spin about the lake. All the kids were so excited! Halfway through the ride Amelia came home to an empty house. We had her meet us near the entrance where she hopped onto the boat for the rest of the ride. What a fun treat!