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I've been catching up on old posts, so make sure you scroll down.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Washington (State, not D.C)

I haven't been "home" to Washington in nine years. That is a long time to be away from the place I spent my first 18 years of life. My parents own a second home there (or is it officially their first home?), and Bree and Mason have both gone there with my mom, and I died with jealousy both times. And last year my best friend Jaime moved there! I informed Chad that our big vacation this year would be to Washington.

By the way... because I grew up in Washington, I never realized how, when the majority of Americans hear "Washington," they immediately think of Washington D.C. It still really irks me that whenever I say I'm from Washington, I get asked, "State, or D.C.?" Um, if I meant D.C., I would have said D.C.! So annoying. If you're going to shorten Washington D.C., could you please just say D.C.? Because Washington only has "Washington." And I refuse to say "Washington State." No one has to say "Arizona State." It's not fair. I'm sure I will never get over this.

Aaaanyways...

The trip fulfilled all my expectations of awesomeness. Nay, exceeded. Warning: this post's a long one.

Day One:

1, 2, and 3: We spent our first morning on a hike to Twin Falls near North Bend. It was green and cool and glorious. The smells of the moss and fir trees and the sounds of nearby running water were overwhelmingly beautiful and nostalgic. I can't believe this is where I grew up.
4, 5, and 6: After our hike we stopped at the Green Valley Meat Market, where they sell delicious (if not overpriced) jerky of all flavors, along with tons of other miscellaneous meat products. Bree is a little obsessed with beef jerky, and she had fun sampling the flavors.
7 and 8: The kids spent a lot of time in my parents' yard, which has actual green grass, wild flowers, and an evergreen tree. At our house in Arizona, the only thing to play with in the yard is gravel.
9: My mom organized a treasure hunt, and the kids followed clues to find their cash and candy waiting at the end. We quickly headed off to Walmart to spend the loot.
10 and 11: We ate lunch at the Mexican Restaurant (that is literally what it says on the sign...it's actually called Rio Blanco). This was one of our family's regular favorites, where my brother always ordered a cheeseburger.
12, 13, and 14: My mom mentioned a local donut place she had seen on the news, Legendary Doughnuts, and suggested we try it. Best. Decision. Ever. I can honestly say these are the best donuts I've ever had in my life. We may have gone there three times during our short Washington visit. Chad says he got sick of donuts (please, Chad, like that's even possible).
15: I don't know who this grown-up girl is. But she loves to read.

Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium:

A delicious breakfast at the Sunbreak Cafe, just a short walk downtown. Here we are that morning, strolling through the train station where my dad catches his ride to work in Seattle:

Mason and Bree were thrilled with the massive whipped-cream topped hot chocolates.
(And I was thrilled with my enormous strawberry cream cheese French toast sandwich. The house-made egg bread slices were 10 inches wide)

Enchanted Village. Okay, so it's called Wild Waves now, but it will always be Enchanted Village to me. Besides, this family could not handle any kind of waves in Washington's June weather, thank you.



Les Gove Park in downtown Auburn:

Mom and Dad treated Chad and me to a date night at the Mariner's game. Beforehand we stopped at Ivar's on the Seattle Pier for dinner, and Top Pot donuts (because we had to do further research to verify that Legendary was, indeed, superior). We miraculously got away with two downtown Seattle stops without paying for parking. Sweet. Plus, I got to wear my Mariners cap for the first time in...years.

After a few days of being in Washington, we drove across the Narrows Bridge (while Chad uncomfortably asked "Why are you in the far-right lane?") to the peninsula to visit Jaime, who was excitedly awaiting our arrival. It had been 1 1/2 years since we last saw her family in Vegas. It was surreal to see her in her new home, surrounded by scenery that I used to call home. We settled in to the guest room for a few days, and I eagerly took in the sights of their little town.

We visited the local farmers' market, and snacked on delicious cherries, strawberries, carrots, and sugar peas. We also visited the free downtown aquarium. There was also an event going that day where the kids got to "fish" for trout. That was pretty exciting. It was my kind of fishing: where you can't even count to ten before you get a bite on your line.

We visited the much-talked-of Indianola Beach, where the tide pools did not disappoint. Crabs, hermit crabs, giant sea snails, tiny fish, and sea stars (not starfish Meg, you sound like a tourist). The sky, which had pelted our van with rain on the drive to the beach, decided to have pity on us. It must have sensed the importance of our visit. It was gorgeous.


More random pictures from our visit with Jaime:
1: Chad always tells me I'm lame for taking selfies. I took this particular lame selfie so I could always remember this gloriously drizzly Sunday when I got to use the umbrella I won at a white elephant gift exchange when I was a teenager. It drizzled all day. I was in heaven.
2: Bree and Lincoln could not get over this giant teddy bear.
3: Lincoln and Scarlett were just the same size during this visit. Lincoln was happy to have someone to follow around all day, play with, and share lotion apparently.
4, and 5: Jaime and I always cook and bake when we get together. We work seamlessly together in the kitchen, and have produced some pretty spectacular food. Because we spent Father's Day with them, we treated the men to ribs, homemade rolls, corn on the cob, and salad with homemade Caesar dressing. Rob and Chad are lucky men. We didn't bake during this visit, which is SO out of character for us, but Jaime made some delicious strawberry ice cream.
6: Back home, bedtime is like a race to the finish line for me. Jaime and Rob are really good about taking time to read stories, which our kids absolutely loved.
7: It wouldn't be a visit with Rob and Jaime without playing Canasta and Settlers of Catan. The boys got served some serious humble pie as Jaime and I trounced them at Canasta. It was the first time the score had been so overwhelmingly in our favor.
8, 9, and 10: Rob and Chad offered to watch the kids while Jaime and I went out. Just the two of us. It was heavenly. Jaime suggested we catch the ferry and have dinner in Seattle. After I realized she was serious, I was totally on board. The sky and clouds were breathtaking as we ferried across the sound. I was a little bit freezing, and I clearly cannot take a decent photo in direct sunlight, but it was so much fun. We took advantage of our quiet time to really talk. Jaime is a great listener, and always has advice that I need to hear. Dinner at Cheesecake Factory was delicious (even though we have one near us in Arizona, the last time I'd eaten there was with Jaime and Rob in Vegas). After eating, we did a little shopping to savor every last kid-free minute we could. By the time we got back to the house at 11pm, Chad and Rob had long since put the kids to bed. Best night ever.
11 and 12: Jaime drove back to Auburn with us, to see where I grew up. Chad watched all the kids while Jaime, my mom, and I drove down Green Valley Road to see our old house, which was depressingly run-down. The lower lawn sported an R.V. and a goat pen. We tried to describe its glory days to Jaime, and I promised to show her a good picture later. After we got back to my parents' cottage, Jaime got to meet my dad (for the first time) as he arrived home from work. He and Chad had some work to do in the backyard, cutting down an old tree that was threatening to fall into the neighbor's yard. The kids watched from the window as the chainsaw roared, and Bree and Zackary helped clean up branches and leaves. Too soon it was time for Jaime's family to leave. I made sure that Jaime promised to visit me in Arizona before another 1 1/2 years goes by.

We knocked out a few more things on my wish list before our trip was over. We took a picnic lunch to Flaming Geyser State Park, which was 5 minutes away from my house growing up. So many good memories of family events, church picnics, and rafting trips:
I can't believe how green it is. It's unreal.

On our way back from the park we stopped at Mosby's road-side stand, where I remember getting produce as a teenager. We couldn't resist the Rainier cherries, and we picked up some multi-colored baby potatoes to go with our dinner. I breathed in the fragrance of the tiny candy-sweet strawberries. And they had mangoes from Mexico on sale for 50-cents each. I did not expect the most delicious mango I'd ever tasted to be in Washington, but it was. Go figure.

A few days before we left, I noticed that my childhood friend Tina had posted on Facebook about being at her sister's graduation. In Auburn? But she lives in Florida! I texted her, and had a very strange text conversation with a person who, after far too many texts had been exchanged, turned out not to be Tina. After finally getting a hold of her through her parents' home phone (a number found in an old church directory my parents still had), we connected and met up at the park with all of our kids. It's not always easy to keep up with old friends, but even though Tina and I go years between seeing each other, it's like no time has passed. She is still as sweet as ever, and I love her dearly.

And some random photos from our trip:
1: I frequently shopped at Goodwill when I was a teenager. Thankfully, it was totally cool to attend our high school sporting funky vintage thrift store finds. Chad and I went there on a mini-date, and I scored some serious deals on denim.
2: After Lincoln spent hours with this "Leaptop" at Jaime's house, she generously told us he could keep it. He loved showing off his skills with letters and sounds.
3: A salmon berry. My dad taught me all about edible native wild berries when I was a kid. I remember supplementing hiking trip food with berries from the trail. Bree is a little obsessed with eating food found in the wild. We tasted these tart little babies at Flaming Geyser.
4: Papa Murphy's pizza. Better than I remember.
5: When Chad and I were at the ball game, the Mariner Moose wore a "Vote for Pedro" shirt and did the Napoleon Dynamite dance. I have that same shirt.
6: Chad hurt his back while we were there, so I used my dad's back massager on him. Lincoln insisted on a turn.
7 and 8: After going to the park with Tina, she joined us at the Teriyaki Wok for old time's sake. The food was exactly the same as I remember it. My family was unimpressed. I make homemade teriyaki sauce that is much tastier; they are spoiled. And the waitress was bizarre. She kept trying to "help" with the kids; she picked celery out of Mason's soup because he said he didn't like it, and he lifted up Tina's little boy to put him back in his chair...among other things. So weird.
9: My parents took us to China House one day, which was my sister Jessica's favorite place to eat. We used to eat there for special occasions. I remember Jessica opening birthday presents there once. It was delicious.
10: I did a makeover for my mom, using my favorite Mary Kay products and techniques. Her blue eyes are stunning.
11: One day my dad was coloring with my kids, and I told him I remember him doing that with me when I was little. I especially used to love paint by numbers. That got us going on a paint by numbers hunt. We found a cheap little kit at Walmart that required us to scan, enlarge, and print the picture so we could actually see the tiny numbers, then we had to mix our own colors. I spent hours completing this one (my old allergies were flaring up, so I was content to relax inside). So fun.
12: I almost didn't include this picture of Chad and me eating fish and chips at Ivar's. It's an awkward picture, which didn't capture as much of the water as I'd hoped it would. But this was our second meal at Ivar's while we were in Washington (we knew there was nothing like it back home), so I decided I'd post it in all its awkward glory.

Lincoln learned to "snap" along to the music on his Leaptop, after copying my dad:

We had two full weeks of sights and tastes, family and friends. It was wonderful. It would have been perfect had it not been for my intermittent allergies, and that looooong drive. Driving away from western Washington was a little bit of a let-down. I would miss the waterfront, and the rivers and streams. And you can't see trees like that just anywhere.  Oh, and don't even get me started on the moss and ferns. I was sad to leave.

Back to the dry southwest for us. Home.

But not before stopping at the Glen Canyon Dam near Page. Arizona and it's dams. Water is a big deal around here.

Despite my several inquiries as to why we don't live in Washington (Me: "We could move here, right?" Chad: "NO."), it was good to be back in Arizona (it wasn't awesome to be back in 110-degree weather, but I'm working on focusing on the other 8 envy-inducing months of our year). We got to see so much beauty on our trip. And I am so grateful to my parents and to Jaime's family for letting us stay with them and live in their world for a bit. It may not officially be my world anymore, but I feel like now, more then ever, I can still call Washington "home."

Sunday, June 1, 2014

May Days

May was a pretty sweet month around here. Here are just a few photos from my phone as proof.
 
1: Leadership Day at ALA. Mason's class sang a song for the audience of visitors. I don't remember much about the day, except that Chad and I wondered why we had come. Most other parents snuck out early after their kids had performed. It was also a significant day because I forgot to pick up Lincoln after preschool. I knew it would happen at least once during the school year. I'm impressed that I made it all the way to May!
2 & 3: We hiked to the top of a trail at the nearby San Tan Mountain Regional Park. The view from the top was amazing! And I got to check goal #1, "Go hiking with the family," off my list.
4: Chad always pampers me for Mother's Day. This year we were on a tight budget, so he cooked and cleaned for me in lieu of gifts or flowers, which is awesome. But my mom generously gave me some Mom's Day cash, which I used to splurge on these gorgeous hydrangeas. They were so perfect, and looked beautiful in my kitchen.
5: Lincoln seems to always be tired. We stopped letting him take naps because he would wake up WAY too early in the morning. He falls asleep in random places around the house during the quiet afternoon hours.
6 & 7: I got my first custom cookie order from Mason's teacher, for a baby shower she was throwing for a friend. It took me forever, and I learned a lot. They turned out so cute!
8 & 9: Chad's sergeant had baseball tickets he couldn't use. So when we landed a cheap babysitter at a ward Young Women fundraiser, we jumped at the free tickets! It had been a long time since Chad and I had been to a ball game together, sans children. And I was excited to try the brand-new, much-talked-of "D-Bat". An 18-inch corn dog stuffed with bacon, jalapenos, and cheese. Uh-mazing.
10: We bought another inflatable pool for the summer, after getting our money's worth out of ours last year. Lincoln is hesitant to go in the pool when Bree and Mason are being crazy. So I invited Reyna and her son over for a pool play date. Lincoln thought it was way cool. And I crossed #7, "Organize a play date just for Lincoln," off my list.
11: My freezer is filled with brown bananas, waiting to be used in a recipe. Banana Cream Pie cupcakes it is.
12: I started a Mary Kay Facebook page, where I can post selfies sporting my latest favorites. This one shows off my newest lipstick: Citrus Flirt.
13 & 14: Kindergarten graduation. Outrageously cheesy and unnecessary. But you have to go and take pictures, to prove you love your kid. 
15: More evidence that Lincoln can fall asleep anywhere.
16: Our family got free tickets to a sneak preview of How To Train Your Dragon 2. It was exciting to see the film before the official release, and we all loved the movie. Even though I still am not into the whole 3-D movie thing.


Saturday, May 31, 2014

Finishing up the school year.

This has been a huge year for our family. Enrolling Bree and Mason in a charter school was a great decision for us. There were a few bumps along the way, but all in all they did really well. We are so proud of them.

Bree performed in her second concert of the year. I really enjoyed this one. Mainly because it was shorter. Also because I could actually see Bree this time. (She's wearing the white dress and red necklace; and she forgot to wear her glasses)


Then we attended Mason's Kindergarten Graduation.


They played "Pomp and Circumstance," and there was a slide show accompanied by Green Day's "Time of Your Life." Seriously. It was ridiculous and superfluous. But I wouldn't have missed it. All the kindergarteners recited the 7 Habits Pledge, and sang "We've Got the Whole World in Our Hands."


Most of it was unintelligible. I edited the video quite generously.


But we really loved Miss Carpenter. Anyone who can handle Mason and 19 other kids for that many hours is amazing.

And I'm glad I happened to walk past this display. Video Game Maker. Classic Mason.

Here's to the end of a great year. And hooray for summer!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sometimes Awesome

Stress-paralyzed.

That's a thing, right?


"Mom, Lincoln bit me!"

"Mom, I feel like I'm going to throw up."

"Why are Lincoln's eyes so goopy?...Is it pink eye?"

"Hello, Mrs. Wallace? Your daughter is in the principal's office."

"Mom, Lincoln spilled the crackers/cereal/popcorn?"

"No!" (insert hideous three-year-old screeching)

"Mom, my leg is bleeding..."

"Mom, Lincoln is pooping on the couch!"

...

I have taken a lot of deep breaths this week. When people ask how things are going, I want to say what Kelly Kapoor from "The Office" said:

“Awesome. I mean…awful, but…sometimes awesome.”

Why am I blogging at 9:00 on a Sunday morning when I should be in church? No, really, why? Mason wants to know. He just said to me, "Mom, that's not important." He wants me to play video games with him, and Lincoln is yelling through the baby gate that acts as a barrier to the den. I really wish there were an actual door there...

This morning I woke up at 6am, showered, said goodbye to Chad as he left for work, got the kids ready for church, and made myself gorgeous. Because, by golly, I was at least going to LOOK like I had it together. So the kids and I made it to church on time, and I was looking good in my heels and red lipstick. Awesome.

And then Lincoln did what he always does to me at church. He squeals, tries to escape, drops cheerios on the floor, breaks my necklace (seriously, why do I still wear necklaces to church?), smears my lipstick, and grabs/pinches anything within reach. Awful.

Then Bree pulls my bag towards her and leans over it, clutching her stomach. "Um...Bree are you about to throw up in my bag?" "My tummy doesn't feel good." I send her running to the bathroom, while I try to glean what spiritual replenishment I can from the Sacrament. As soon as it's over, I herd the kids back out of the church, drive them home, and get there just in time for Bree to vomit in the toilet.

...so, I'm chalking this morning up as a success because I didn't have to scrub puke out of the carpet between church pews this morning. Awesome.

...

Yesterday I got to go out by myself to meet Heather and my mom for lunch and a movie. Awesome. We saw "Moms' Night Out." I laughed a lot, which I expected. I did not expect to cry. I felt like I was watching my life play out on the screen. And I felt like that mom who is stress-paralyzed because she can't handle her kids, even though she loves them to pieces, even though being a mom has always been her life's dream. I constantly feel that I am not good enough, that I have moments that I'm not proud of far too often. But the movie reminded me of something important:

"Jesus will always be loving you with His arms open wide, just for being you...I doubt the good Lord made a mistake giving your kiddos the mama he did. So you just be you...He'll take care of the rest."

I needed to hear that as much as I needed that Moms' Day Out with my mother and sister-in-law. And even though I return home to sticky floors and hungry kids, I can rely on that God-given strength to make up the difference.

So no, today did not play out the way I thought it would. But I love my family fiercely. When I take the time amid the craziness to really look at them, they are so beautiful. And being a mom is still my dream job.

Awesome.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Goodbye 'Burban

We've made a lot of memories in this Suburban. It pulled our camping trailer to Tombstone and Big Lake. It transported a fishing boat and our family to the Wallace reunion in Colorado. It splashed through roaring washes on the way home from my parents' house. It has held tremendous amounts of camping gear, luggage, and Christmas presents. It has needed some very pricey repairs.

But we don't need a huge vehicle anymore. It's impossible to find parts for. And we need to cut back on gas and insurance. So we decided to sell it.
Listed on Friday, sold on Saturday. It was much quicker and easier than I expected.

We are a one-vehicle family again, for now. Thank goodness Chad has a work car.

And our half-empty garage suddenly seems gargantuan.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Fathers and Sons, & Girls' Night

Chad's new schedule (day shift with Thursday-Saturday off) brings with it so many blessings. We love having him home in the evenings. And we are much more able to have a social life when he has Friday's and Saturdays off!

This was the first time he has been able to go to a ward Fathers and Sons campout. Mason was pretty excited to have one-on-one time with his dad. The campground was pretty full, so Chad and Mason weren't even near the rest of the men from the ward, but that didn't bother them any. The weather was great, and Mason was more than happy to eat mini donuts for breakfast.





Bree and I had a girls' night while the boys were away. We did our nails, watched "Enchanted," and made some necklaces with the bead kit Bree bought with her birthday money.



Lincoln felt a little left out, but we took him along with us to breakfast at Starbucks (we had a gift card left over from Christmas). Again, we were unimpressed with their hot chocolate and smoothies. But the lemon pound cake and chocolate-filled croissants were pretty good.

Bree is already asking when our next "Girl Time" will be.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

April Awesomeness


1: The second week in April was testing week at Bree and Mason's school. Since the other grades needed extra classrooms for testing, the kindergarteners had full-day field trips Tuesday through Friday! This was a big deal to our half-day kindergartener. And a big deal for me too, since it meant that during the 2-1/2 hours Lincoln was in preschool, I was all by myself! Totally alone! It was strange and wonderful. I am proud to say that I wasted away my hours of solitude being totally unproductive.
2: Chad and I had made plans to go to the temple together one Friday (Chad hasn't been to the Gilbert Temple since the open house), and we had a babysitter for Lincoln all lined up. Chad had an MRI for his wrist that morning (he messed it up punching our heavy bag in our backyard), and the procedure was running a little long. But I was pretty sure we could still make it to the temple. I was really excited because I had found a bunch of family names that morning, and was ready to do some baptisms and sealings. Then he called me to say that the wheel fell off the Suburban...."Huh?" I replied intelligently. The actual wheel fell off. Not just the tire. The wheel. Luckily he was in a school zone at the time--things could have been really ugly if he had been going fast when it happened. Needless to say, we didn't make it to the temple that day. After getting a tow he got a ride home with our Home Teacher (who was "coincidentally" passing by at the time). Then we did the only logical thing. Drowned our sorrows with greasy Smashburgers.
3: This was really a banner week for us. Our air conditioning stopped working. My cousin, who deals with A/C for a living, literally saved us. He rearranged his entire schedule so we wouldn't have to suffer another 90+ degree day without cooling. We thanked him profusely as the blessedly cold air was again coming out of our vents. We tried not to dwell on the thousands of dollars that our catastrophic week was costing us.
4: A high point amid the stress was our semi-annual community carnival. I entered my favorite pie in the pie contest, which turned out to be just me and one other guy. I totally won.
5: Lincoln turned three! I totally dropped the ball and didn't even make cupcakes for his preschool class (gasp!). But he didn't seem to mind.
6: We try to keep the pantry door closed most of the time...because if we don't, this happens. Lincoln knows exactly where we keep the candy. And if we don't have actual candy, he knows that chocolate chips will do in a pinch.
7 and 8: We don't go to too many of ALA's family activities, because we are usually busy. But when it was "Frozen" pajama-party-movie night, I couldn't say no. We took our own snacks, but Mason cannot resist blowing his hard-earned allowance anytime he sees something he wants. He had to have a tattoo. And Bree totally ditched us for her friends. That's the way it should be, right?
9: I made the most adorable and delicious cupcakes the day before our family Easter celebration. That night three of us started throwing up. So not only did we not get to go to the Easter party, I was stuck with 5 dozen cupcakes that no one else could eat without risking getting sick. They are still in the freezer. I figure it's probably safe if I eat them. But I'm not sure I'll be able to think about eating them any time soon.
10 and 11: It was totally time for Lincoln to graduate his crib. We were just enjoying the fact that he was not able to climb out of it, and we dreaded making the transition to a big bed. He and Mason share a room, and we knew he would just keep getting out of bed to play. So Chad took the side off the crib and put it on the bottom bunk. Problem solved. It's a...big boy crib. Not a baby jail, despite appearances.
12: Chad's parents stayed with us the weekend of Bree's baptism. Fran bought some beautiful flowers to put on the table, and they were barely open on the big day. Still beautiful though. I took this picture a few days later to send to her, proving how lovely they were. We hardly ever have real flowers in the house, and I enjoyed their cheeriness while it lasted.
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