Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Road Trip!

This summer was decidedly the time to visit Joplin, Missouri where Chad's two brothers (Mike and Jimmy) live. The last time we were there was five years ago, when Bree was Lincoln's age. And since we would now have to buy four airline tickets to get there...we drove! It's only an 18 hour drive. Each direction. Gritty details coming right up.

(*Disclaimer: the lack of photos during the first half of the trip does not in any way indicate that we did nothing fun or photo-worthy. I blame it on the post-18-hour road trip lethargy that had me in its clutches for three days after we arrived in Missouri.)

For more info and photos, see Jenn's post here

  • Drove for ten hours.
  • Stopped in Amarillo, checked into our hotel, and went swimming in the indoor pool before bedtime.
  • Met Sydney and Bob's family at Applebee's in Oklahoma City for lunch. Their kids are getting so big!
  • Arrived at Mike and Jenn's house in time for a delicious homemade pizza dinner.
  • Had breakfast with Mike and Jenn's ward for their Pioneer Day celebration, at a local community building that they rent because their church building was destroyed in last year's tornado.
  • Shopped at the Farmer's Market, ogled all the beautiful tomatoes (at least I did, anyway), and bought some delicious banana bread.
  • The men took the kids swimming at the YMCA while Lincoln napped and Jenn and I watched Food Network.
  • Mike and Jenn drove to the airport late at night to pick up Tucker, who was returning from a service trip to Tonga; they didn't get home until early morning.
  • Said hello to Tucker.
  • Went to church; Bree and Mason enjoyed having several other kids their age in their classes to make friends with.
  • Sat in when Henry received the Aaronic Priesthood.
  • Started the 1,000 piece puzzle that Chad bought me at Walmart.
  • Met Amy for the first time when she and Jimmy came over for a visit.
  • We went to a creek to swim, which the kids loved, even though Mason got a little crash-course in swimming when the creek bottom dropped out from under him. He did pretty well keeping his face out of the water until Mike picked him up. But I was paranoid the rest of the time, and I kept getting freaked out when he'd dunk his head under to "swim" even though the water would only be knee-deep. We mostly just sat in the water while the gentle current ran around us, watching Ilah and Henry jump off the rope swing and from the tree overhanging the creek.
  • For dinner we headed to Jimmy's house for some barbecue and games (I amazed myself at pool with my ability to execute a few shockingly-impressive shots, interspersed among really, really, really bad misses).
  • We all drove to Kansas City to pick up Taysom from the airport; she was just returning from college. While we were in town, we went to Hallmark's Kaleidoscope center, which is a free experience where you get to use lots of leftover art supplies to make neat projects. There is a fun black-light room where the markers and melted wax glow, which also has some neat photo exposure walls so you can "draw" designs with glowing wands. 

  • There was so much to see that I couldn't slow Mason down long enough to actually stop and make anything. Until I mentioned the puzzle-making machine. Mason loves puzzles. He made three puzzles, each with a different alien (his favorite thing to draw). After drawing on his cardboard square, he took it over to the machine, placed it in the slot, then turned the big wheel so the die cut mechanism would make puzzle shapes out of his picture.

  • We had spotted a Legoland sign right next to the Hallmark building, and since Mason and Henry LOVE Legos, we stopped in the store. They had a pretty big selection of Lego sets, including an Avengers Lego set, which Mason had been asking about recently. I had told him I didn't think it existed. That'll teach me.
  • And apparently, you can't go to Kansas City and not eat barbecue. So we made it to Oklahoma Joe's before the dinner rush. That was some good barbecue! Pulled pork sandwiches, ribs, BBQ chicken, beef brisket, and baked beans--everything was delicious. And I loved the sauce. I'm not gonna lie, we were skeptical when we pulled up and saw that the restaurant was inside a gas station. I'm glad we didn't let that scare us away.
  • We finished the evening with a late-night visit to Braum's for some delicious hand-scooped ice cream. I had never heard of the place, but it's a burger joint/ice cream parlor/food market all in one. The ice cream is divine and and amazingly priced.
  • Helped Ilah frost some cakes covered with roses for a youth activity at church that night, inspired by a very cool food blogger, i am baker. They turned out really pretty (maybe not quite as perfect as the blog photo, but still, really pretty!).
  • Met Jimmy and Amy at Cracker Barrel for lunch. We'd never been there before, but the food was good, and the little store was really cute. We bought the most delicious pecan roll, filled with this amazingly light white nougat. I'd go back just for that.

  • After lunch, Jimmy took us to the Neosho Fish Hatchery, where we saw all types of fish of all life stages. The fish food was free, and there was lots to see.
  • After the hatchery, we went back to Jimmy and Amy's place to cool off. I took a nap, and the kids got to visit Amy's parents' farm. Then we enjoyed some pizza before heading out to water Jimmy's cows.
  • I let Bree use my camera for the first time. The results were very nice, especially the close-up of the cows' water trough.
  • Then we ate ice cream at Braum's. Yes, again. This time I got my chocolate toffee ice cream waffle cone dipped in chocolate. Oh. my.
  • We declared Thursday "Girls' Day," and Jenn, Taysom, and I started off with pedicures. The pedicure menu offered us the difficult choice between "The Good" and "The Best."

  • After pedicures, we met up with Ilah and Bree at the mall, and Bree showed off her obsession with shopping. She must have assumed vacationing meant unlimited spending ability, because she would walk into a store, start choosing things she wanted, then act surprised when I reminded her we could just maybe buy a couple of things. I let her get the boots and the sparkly purse, and she got to pick out whatever candy she wanted in the cool shop with all the colorful bins (she picked regular old Starburst and gummy worms). But as we left TJ Max, she said, "Wait! We haven't even bought anything here yet!"
(Bree modeling at Children's Place; from Jenn's blog)
  • For dinner I made my easy spaghetti and meatballs.
  • Since it had been overcast and a little rainy, we thought the weather might be cooler, and make for a nice evening at the neighborhood park. It was not cooler, and the humidity had me sweating buckets. But the kids had a blast.
  • We finished the 1,000 piece puzzle.
  • Mike helped Bree and Mason with an impromptu water balloon fight.
  • We shopped at Connie's Antiques, where they have an interesting assortment of a few actual antiques mixed in with overpriced swap-meet items. Chad is always on the lookout for baseball cards, but didn't find any at the right price.
  • Went swimming at the Pittsburg Aquatic Center in Kansas, which had some great water slides for the kids, a lazy river, and a couple zero entry pools that Lincoln had a blast playing in.
  • We watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. 
  • I made peanut-butter-cup cupcakes (devil's food cake with peanut butter frosting, dipped in chocolate and topped with a peanut butter cup). Everyone proclaimed them amazing.
  • We ate lunch with Jimmy, Amy, Shane, and Heather at a Mexican restaurant named Festival. I had some really delicious chicken and shrimp fajitas, and Chad had a chimichanga (it was a chimichanga in name only, since it was not deep fried).
  • Date night with Mike and Jenn. We went to see the new Batman movie, which was awesome. And I was made fun of for wanting a picture in the theater. Chad jokingly said it was because I couldn't remember the last date we had.
  • Then we ate at Tokyo Steak and Sushi (AKA the Japanese steak house), which serves dinner hibachi-style. Our chef was quite the comedian, even if we couldn't understand him half the time. 
  • We finished off the evening with a visit to the recently opened Cupcakes by Liz. This place was adorable! The cupcakes were pricey but quite large, and though some of the flavors were quite yummy, we decided that mine were better.
Sunday and Monday:
  • Made the drive back home, which was identical to the trip out except we stopped for ice cream both days. You know, for the sake of sanity. We definitely broke in the new minivan, which has fish crackers in places I didn't think possible, and milk stains down the back of Lincoln's seat. Sigh. But it was such a comfortable way to road trip; a vast improvement over the truck. Everyone has more room, there are tons of little convenient storage pockets, and we stowed one seat to make room for a huge cooler of snacks and drinks. The kids were great travelers, and were happy to watch movies the whole time. Even Lincoln made most of the trip without much fuss.
All in all, it was a great vacation, with a nice balance of activity and relaxation. Mike and Jenn were great hosts, and we were comfortable guests in their home. We don't know when we'll be able to go again, but we definitely will.

 July 19-30, 2012

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Goal #1: Paint the exterior of my house (I started this project 3 or 4 years ago)

And for those who have been fooled into thinking that the house has been painted this whole time...well, a quick look at the back of the house would have remedied that delusion.

But no longer! I may not have pictures to prove it, but I have a painting crew (my mom, Adam, and Heather) who can vouch for the fact that all sides and every piece of previously-unreached trim has been painted.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Near Death Experience...Or Something Like That

I'm still recovering from yesterday. Still a little shaky; still having flashbacks. It started when we headed out to my parents' house yesterday afternoon, with our eyesore of a camping trailer in tow (our realtor agreed that moving it would greatly improve our curb appeal). Chad gets stressed when we're pulling the trailer, and I don't like the feeling of the extra bobbing and swaying the trailer causes. It was a long, slow drive to my parents', but we eventually got there. It took a while for Chad to unhook the trailer, and get it all leveled and stabilized. Then we decided to eat dinner before we left. Bree and Mason were going to spend the night there, and I wanted to sit and relax a little rather than just dropping them off and running again. It had started raining, but we figured we had a little time before it got bad.

We were wrong.

It's monsoon season in Arizona. And flash floods are so-called for good reason. We experienced us some flash floods yesterday. I didn't have my camera with me, or I would have some intense video to share. I tried to find some photos on the web so I could paint an accurate picture. But nothing could quite convey the thunder, hail, and massive amounts of water pounding us.

We were driving our big 4-wheel-drive suburban, so Chad drove right through spots where the dirt road was no longer visible, splashing through the rivers that had sprung up. I was already freaking out because it's really hard to tell how deep the water is, and I knew these washes have claimed lives. And my parents' cars. Then we reached something like this:

We decided to wait it out a little. Didn't want to brave the three-foot swells. After about 45 minutes, it had gone down considerably, so we forged through. And Chad kept on going. Water was everywhere. Not just in the washes, where we expected it to be, but also covering the road so at times we were literally driving down the river. And when we'd drive through a wash, where the water was a foot deep, we'd crash down into the water because it had created an eroded drop-off. I'd scream as the water washed over the nose of the suburban, and then grit my teeth, knuckles white on the O.S. handles as we climbed up the other side. Every time we'd come to a deep section, Chad would say, "I'm going." I employed the "vain repetitions" method of prayer, repeating "Please let us live. Please let us get through. Please let us live," over and over, ad nauseam. I went through all the stages of terror: body shaking, sobbing, teeth chattering, etc. Finally we made it to the last running canyon, and Chad, seeing that I was clearly beside myself, stopped. I got out and walked around a little, trying to calm down. We adjusted Lincoln in his car seat; he had been silent the whole time. Seriously, what kind of parents are we? We waited until the water level went down, and Chad found a stick to go poke into the wash to test its depths. He ruined his good pair of shoes, but was able to reassure me that it was passable. I didn't think I could take it any more, but he promised me it was fine. So we went. And that was the last of the worst of it.

Now, when my mom says, "You might want to head out; the clouds are moving in," I'll hightail it out of there before the rain starts, or stay indoors until the whole thing blows over. Those storms and flash floods are no joke, and there is no way I will ever go through that again.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

This Week

This has been one of the busiest, most tiring weeks ever! My body is exhausted, sore, and covered in bruises. My allergies are having a field day. I'm sleep deprived. And Mason has probably logged 30 hours of Lego Star Wars this week. Here are a few of the highlights:
  • We've sorted through belongings, decluttering and making the house look nice to show to potential buyers.
  • I worked only a half day on Monday, but it felt long because my brain seemed to be fried, and just wouldn't work properly
  • My mom arrive Monday afternoon, ready to help with anything and everything that needed to be done around here. 
  • We chose a realtor after holding some interviews, and officially listed our home.
  • Between Chad, my mom, and me, we weeded all around the house, filling about 15 big black garbage bags, which are still sitting on our curb because we had to make a special garbage pickup request, which won't happen until next Tuesday.
  • Tuesday I took Lincoln to get his vaccines, and at 15 months, he was due for 6 different shots. Poor kid. Then he had an eye appointment, where the doc proclaimed his eyes healthy, except for a blocked tear duct in his left eye (no surprise there), so he referred us to a specialist.
  • After getting all the weeds cleared around the fruit trees, we arranged the rocks that my mom had collected with my dad's help, so now it looks like we have some actual landscaping going on.
  • Wednesday Chad and I headed to the Valley with Lincoln. I had my first allergy shots, and brought the rest of the vials home with me to continue the shots with my local doc's office. I sure hope they work. I also called Lincoln's pediatric eye specialist, who was able to squeeze us in that same day. And we scheduled Lincoln's tear duct surgery for next month.
  • That same day, we enjoyed a lunch date with Adam and Heather before hitting the hardware store for more supplies, and heading home.
  • Also that day, while we were gone, our home had its first showing. My mom tidied the place up before getting the kids out of the house.
  • After Adam and Heather joined us in Globe to round out our task force, we tackled more weeds, and started painting the parts of the house that have remained unfinished despite my best intentions.
  • The monsoons threatened several times to completely derail our painting plans. We worked around them, and managed to get almost the entire house painted. Adam and Heather both got sunburns, and I bruised my hip bones and rib cage from rolling around on the roof, leaning over the edge to paint the eaves. 
  • My mom proved successful in getting old stains off of my sinks and my driveway.
  • Lincoln stood up on his own without holding onto anything Thursday night. He can stand there for a good 10 seconds, and he's taking some experimental steps.
  • This morning I held my very first yard sale. We made $300. And Bree made $7 selling her "artwork." No joke.
I am ready for a nap! The next few days will be just as busy. We'll be taking the camping trailer to my parents' house because it's a little bit of an eyesore, and they don't mind if we hide it behind their house. And we need to finish up a few more house projects that will hopefully make our home that much more marketable. But the to-do list is shrinking, and soon I'll be able to sit back, relax...and try to keep the house continuously spotless in case potential buyers decide to drop in.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Lincoln's Walker

Lincoln has a new walker that won't tip easily...to the side anyway.

June 24th, 2012

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

This and That

So what's the news at our house lately?
  • We're moving! Chad has the go-ahead for an in-district transfer, so he'll be working the Fort McDowell/Fountain Hills area. That means we'll be moving to Mesa. So we're putting our house on the market, and as soon as we sell it Chad will start in his new area (the timeline is flexible, which is wonderful).
  • Lincoln's first word is "Yeah," which he says as he claps after we prompt him by saying "Yay!"  He's cruising all around, can stand independently for 4-5 seconds, is starting to imitate facial expressions, will force a little chuckle if people around him are laughing, and will give high-fives.
  • Mason is obsessed with Lego Star wars. He gets dressed before I'm awake in the morning, and the second I come out of my room, he's asking to play Lego Star Wars on the XBox. He is constantly humming the soundtrack songs: the Main Title song, the Imperial March (Darth Vader's music), and the Cantina Band song (which was the one stuck in my head as I tried to sleep last night).
  • Bree cannot stop crafting. She's constantly dipping into the stash of craft supplies (popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, gems, flowers), and combining them together with whatever paper, toilet paper rolls, and adhesive (elmer's glue, tape, even staples) she can get her hands on. The pile of finished projects can get a little out of control.
  • Chad and I scrambling to get the house ready to sell. We've already done some major decluttering inside, and we've got plenty of sprucing up outside to do too (mostly weeding and painting). I've spent hours online, researching realtor possibilities and searching for comparable homes to price ours correctly (which is very difficult in our area). And I'm keeping my eyes on the Mesa housing market, watching as buyers quickly snag the many amazing deals. We are very excited to graduate to a larger home with a fourth bedroom and a garage. We just have to sell ours first!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Bree at the Podium

Yesterday in church, Bree took her turn at the podium to bear her testimony. She's become a "regular." The first time she went up there was about a year ago, and it was a little rough because I had made it clear that if she wanted to do it, she had to be ready to do it all by herself. So I stayed on the pew with Mason and Lincoln, and after she started her testimony successfully, I watched with increasing discomfort as she stood there silently, not sure what else she wanted to say. The bishop knelt beside her and whispered a few things in her ear, but she just kept shaking her head. Finally she looked disappointed, said "Amen," and came back to her seat.  She's come a long way since then.

This is basically what she said yesterday, after marching up there and dragging the step stool into place herself so she could see over the podium:

"I'd like to bury my testimony. I know the church is true. Some of you haven't been here for a while. And you should know that the church is true. And we are all brothers and sisters. And I know my family loves me. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

Then she high-fived the bishop and the first counselor, and skipped back down the aisle to her seat. She's an example of bravery, determination, and is apparently not hesitant to call the congregation to repentance.


Goal #5: Sew a dickie (to make those v-neck shirts more modest)

I've seen those "Cami Secret" dickies for sale at Walmart, and I was drawn to the idea of having extra coverage without having to wear a full extra layer under my low-neck shirts (because that's the last thing I need when it's over 100 degrees outside). I was confident that I could make one myself, and wanted to improve the design to prevent the dickie from bunching up. I used an old stretched-out cami, and just cut out the front part. I attached snaps for it to attach to my bra straps, and elastic to go around back to keep it flat against my chest. I didn't bother hemming the edges, because I'm lazy and it's just knit anyway. The finished product looks totally weird.

But it functions beautifully.

After finishing this project, I discovered that Downeast Basics sells cropped camis specifically for the purpose of making v-necks more modest. I bought one in black and one in white. I'm not sure which option I like better (mine or theirs), but I think the bottom line is, if I hadn't had the sewing supplies on hand in my stash (an old cami to cut into pieces, sew-on snaps, elastic), I probably would have just went to the mall and bought my solution off the shelf!
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