Thursday, April 25, 2013

Mostly Moved In

I thought about waiting until I had my house all clean and decorated to take pictures. But, let's be honest, that day is a long way off. Our new home is almost twice as big as our old one, we have a long list of things that we need in order to completely furnish it, and the decorating is sure to take a while. We're just kind of staying afloat around here. If I get the homeschooling and the dishes done on the same day, we're doing awesome. And cleaning a house this size is a heck of a lot more work! But I wanted to get a few pictures of the house posted, and I figure that these will serve as "before" photos. Plus, it's kind of fun to look at each picture and see if you can spot what is missing (furniture, decorations, feng shui). Sort of a Where's Waldo thing.

Here's the living room (the two-story ceiling is my favorite):

The view from the upstairs balcony. Incidentally, that ball on the rug soon found its way onto a second-story windowsill. It's still there.

The kitchen/dining (I LOVE the island. How did I function without one before?):

I do NOT love the appliances. I thought our appliances in Globe were cheap. I had no idea. The fridge has broken drawers, the oven cooks things way too fast, and the dishwasher is not tall enough for any of our big pans

Pantry/laundry room (so much room for food on those shelves; it's awesome):

Office (the one room where we desperately need a ceiling fan, but there's no wiring for it):
The office no longer looks like this. We have since unpacked all of our "crap" from the camping trailer. Much of it fell into the crafts/sewing category, and many boxes found a new home in this room.
Downstairs bathroom:

Proof that we own a home with stairs! (the kids' favorite thing):


Clearly this room needs help. But I don't mind that it's usually a mess. Because it's totally out of the way and out of sight.

The doors to the boys' room and the kids' bathroom.

The balcony by Bree's room.

The view from the balcony, and the windows that bless our lives with delicious natural light.
Kids' Bathroom:

What, no blue toothpaste smeared on the counter? Whose house is this?

Bree's Bedroom:
This room is half-way through its makeover. Bree picked out new bedding, a rug, and a very bright shade of green paint!

Boys' Bedroom:
Yes, poor Mason is still sleeping on a toddler bed.

Master Bedroom:

Master Bathroom (2 sinks!) and HUGE Closet:

Every time I walk into my closet, I still sigh with contentment.
I would also like to take this opportunity to pen a letter of concern to the previous two owners of this home. *Ahem*

Dear Clueless Homeowners,

I can't for the life of me figure out how you survived in this house without a few of what I consider "necessities." 

Hand towel racks. Seriously? No hand towel racks in two out of three bathrooms? And I don't know who decided to put the master bath towel racks in the toilet room. How many times did you have to get out of  the tub, walk across the floor and through the toilet room door, dripping water all the way, to retrieve your towel? Plus, bath towels hanging over the toilet? Gross.

Ceiling fans. I realize that not everyone uses them. But if you live in the desert you should. Your cooling bill would have thanked you. However, barring that, it's inconceivable that none of the living spaces in this house had overhead lighting. I don't know how you survived with only small lamps in the corners of your bedrooms. Um, in case you didn't notice, there were little round plastic plates on your ceilings. Those are for liiiights.

Finally, I cannot close my letter without expressing concern for your level of cleanliness. The amount of cat hair that I have vacuumed up is astounding. No, actually, disgusting. When I moved the fridge to clean, I thought I had discovered a pet that you had left behind. But it was just a kitten-sized ball of cat fur. Also, the perfumy smell of the carpet powder you used was nauseating. This was remedied once I'd had a chance to vacuum all corners of the house. However, we soon came to realize WHY you used the carpet powder in the first place, especially in the loft. When the perfume smell dissipated, a urine smell took its place. Wonderful. There is such a thing as housebreaking your dog, you know. Taking care of pets is a big responsibility, one that I don't feel you're ready for.

Having gotten those few things off my chest, I would like to say that, despite the above, we do love the house, and we are happy to take ownership. We will undoubtedly do a much better job as its stewards than you did.

Megan Wallace

Another blog I plan on following...

I recently discovered a blog, Everything and Nothing from Essex, written by a mother with two kids: a daughter who is 3 and a son who's 2. Her daughter also has Down Syndrome. She has a sarcastic, self-deprecating humor which I enjoy.

After reading several of her posts, I downloaded both of her ebooks onto my Kindle, and flew through them. She writes the raw, honest truth. I connected with her first book as she expressed the wide gamut of feelings associated with welcoming a baby with Downs into the world.

Her more recent book (Diapers, Onesies, Stretch-Marks--Oh My!) is more of a commentary on motherhood in general, its challenges, and how we can't be comparing ourselves to other "supermoms" whose lives seem perfectly put-together and Pinterest-documented. It's always encouraging to read about another mom who is struggling with the challenges of motherhood. It makes me feel better! No one is perfect. My favorite passage in her book involves a Trip-to-Costco-from-Hell! And though the author is a mother to a child with special needs, this peek into her life lets the world know that a "special" mom is first and foremost just a mom. And all moms are special.

Here's the section from her book that made me want to read the whole thing:


Sometimes I just want to be a normal mom. I pretend that I am. I post blithely as though my two children are more normal than the normalist of normal (say that ten times really fast). I declare that I’m just like any other mother. I chime in on conversations as though my story is no different.
And yet, no one really takes me seriously unless I wear the hat “special” mom. I write long posts on being a new mother. A few people nod and smile. I scribble together a post on Down syndrome, and thousands of people salute and declare me to be some sort of expert.
Um, no. I am not an expert. I am just a mother. A normal mother...
They call me special because of the specific special needs of my daughter. And even though I dislike my title, I wouldn’t trade my daughter for anything, so I hold my head high under the hat of “special” mom. But in my heart I know the truth. I’m as normal as that setting on the dryer. I didn’t sweep down in my cape and face mask to motherhood, nor am I being punished for crimes in a past life.
I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating what it means to be a special mom. And honestly to each special mom this title will mean something different because all of our children are different...
Will there be moments when it’s hard? Yes, yes there will. But the truth is, I have moments like that with my son as well as my daughter. Having special needs doesn’t hold the claim on hard. It’s simply a part of life which means it is subjected to all the components of it- good and bad.
Is it so different in the journey of motherhood to be down the “special” path? Deep down we’re all the same. We want the same basic goals for our children. We beat ourselves up over silly mistakes and project a dim future because of them. We worry about safety and preach about being careful. We fret over the small and forget about the big. We remember what our dreams promised us and feel resentful that reality wasn’t as generous. We love and protect our children fiercely. We sacrifice whatever we have to give them a good life. We fight for them. We fight with them. We fight within ourselves for how we mother them.
I think that every mother has that certain something in her life that makes her “special”. That thing that sets her apart from all other mothers and that at times seems so difficult that she wonders why she has it worse than everyone else. It’s something different for all of us. Money, jobs, family, health, achievements, a child with delays, a child who is incredibly advanced, a child with health problems, a child with allergies, a child with behavioral problems, a child who makes bad choices, a child who doesn’t sleep, a child who- you name it.
So to me, saying “special” mother is like saying “mother” mother which really is ridiculously redundant. All of us are dealing with something because no matter which angle you look at that triangle of balancing life, there are sharp edges and hard surfaces.
We’re all normal, imperfect women trying to mother the best we can. We fight, and we struggle on different things, but we all relish that extra depth of flavor in the good when motherhood throws it our way.
As a special mother, I don’t want to be considered a saint or pitied because of unusual things that might be in my path. I want you to see me in the trenches right beside you, doing my very best with what I’ve been given in the gift of my children.
Motherhood isn’t easy for any of us. But at the end of the day, fighting through issues- both mundane and emergent alike- there’s a fundamental good that comes from the hard work of being a mother that makes it all unquestionably worth it no matter the specific details of our story...
Call me a special mom if you must. I understand how that word might obviously belong to our family. But before you use that word as permission to set me up on a pedestal or throw me to the wolves, I ask you to remember that underneath that construction hardhat that declares SPECIAL is a uniquely normal mother, taking it one day at a time, raising little people to be kind, loving, thoughtful adults. Just like any other mother.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Thanks for the memories.

We are loving our new home! But, due to homeowners' association rules, we had to say goodbye to our "second" home: our camping trailer. We acquired it in 2009 (it had been abandoned for years), and it was in sorry shape. But with some reupholstering, some new flooring, and lots and LOTS of scrubbing and disinfecting, it became a comfy place to camp.

Despite the fact that it mostly served as a storage trailer for everything we couldn't fit in our tiny house, we also made some great camping memories and in it, namely Tombstone and Big Lake. It also served as an impromptu Santa's Workshop, where his elves took care of last-minute projects and wrapping.

As I cleaned our trailer for the last time, and looked around at its empty rooms, I felt a little sad. I hadn't thought I'd have a sentimental attachment for a trailer, of all things. But I experienced a little wistfulness, and a tiny bit of regret that we didn't take more trips with the trailer.

In the end, we had to sell the trailer, but we'll have the memories forever.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


I'm not exactly sure why I've never taken advantage of Walmart's price-matching before. I didn't really know how it worked, and it seemed like it would be a big hassle at check-out. And I HATED our grocery section at the Walmart in Globe (mostly because after they added it, the selection in the rest of the store suffered greatly). I tried not to shop there on principle.

Here, in our new neighborhood, there is a gorgeous Super Walmart less than a mile away (a real Super Walmart, not a regular one pretending to be "super"). There are also two Fry's grocery stores within 2 1/2 miles of our house. There is not too much else unless I go "into town," which is about 15-20 minutes away (Target, Kohl's, Joann's, Home Depot, etc, etc).

Anyway, last week, I was walking away from the egg section at Walmart, having just put a dozen in my cart, when a man said, "Basha's has 18-count for $1.88; you can price-match." I smiled and said, "Thanks!" then kept walking. It didn't really dawn on me what he was saying until I was nearing the produce section. I should have swapped my $2.00 dozen of eggs for an 18-count, and gotten the $1.88 price-match at checkout. That man probably thought I was an idiot. Well then, the woman in front of me in line at the register told the cashier she had several price-matches on produce. Then she proceeded to tell the cashier the best price she had found in another store for each item.

Cashier: "Eggs?"
Customer: "$1.88."
Cashier: "Bananas?"
Customer: "37 cents a pound."

My jaw dropped. She didn't have an ad to prove where she'd found her prices! She didn't even have a shopping list or notes to reference! The cashier just trusted her (and seemed familiar with some of the best competitor prices already), and the process went quickly and smoothly. "I could so do that!" I thought.

So this week, armed with ads from Albertson's, Basha's, Fry's, Sprouts, and Safeway, I sat down and made my list. I also use to help me find coupons from my newspaper or online to combine with stores' sales. I read over Walmart's price-matching and coupon policies, so there would be no surprises at checkout. And this morning I went shopping! I was able to stock our fridge and pantry with a ton of food for under $100. And this is real food I'm talking about. Not just fruit snacks and toothpaste like you see on those extreme couponing shows. I was not able to take an awesome picture of my purchases to prove my awesomeness (Bree and Mason were unloading the shopping bags right onto the pantry shelves like good little helpers). But here's a breakdown:

Walmart's already low prices:
10 boxes of Ronzoni Smart Taste pasta: $1.17 each
2 boxes instant brown rice: $1.72 each
1 box cheese crackers: $1.28
1 bottle pancake syrup: $2.50
1 gigantic bottle canola oil: $7.28
1 gallon milk: $2.56
3 lbs bananas: $1.78
1 loaf bread: $1.98
1 lb Jennie-O turkey breakfast sausage: $2.88

Price-matched items:
2 12-roll packages Quilted Northern toilet paper: $4.99 each
5 lbs potatoes: $1.50
1.25 lbs Jennie-O ground turkey: $2.99 (minus 50 cent coupon)
2 Freschetta frozen pizzas: $3.99 each
1/2 gallon Blue Bunny ice cream: $2.88
7 boxes Fiber One/Nature Valley Protein granola bars: $1.99 each (minus $1.50 in coupons)
1 cucumber: 50 cents
1 lb strawberries: 99 cents
3 oranges: 36 cents
1 head romaine lettuce: 88 cents
4 zucchinis: $1.50
4 1/2 lbs apples: $3.94
2 lbs red grapes: $2.01
4 Hunts ketchup: 88 cents each
1 jar Best Foods mayo: $2.99 (minus 50 cent coupon)
3 vine tomatoes: 83 cents
1 package Sargento sliced cheddar: $1.99 (minus 50 cent coupon)
18-count large eggs: $1.77

Grand total: $93.71
(bonus: this Walmart doesn't charge tax on food!)

I think I'm sold; this is my new way to shop. Can I feed my family of five on $100 a week? Heck yes!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Lincoln Turned Two!

Lincoln is amazing. He completes our family. He is mostly calm, with bursts of feisty. Sweet, unless you're Mason and you're "loving" on him, in which case he will bite you. He often gets overlooked with so much going on in our house, but he is usually perfectly content.

He never gets tired of being read to. He brings me books whenever he catches me sitting down, and slaps them down in my lap (or sometimes into the side of my head if he can reach), demanding to be read to. He knows when I'm "fake" reading, and if my attention is not 100% trained to those pages, he lets me know that he's noticed. He can be very vocal when he's not happy.

He is so stinking cute! I don't remember my other kids having such an adorable pouty face, reserved for when he has hurt feelings or is in trouble. And he dances whenever he hears a tune of any kind. Usually with a head-bob that throws him off balance. And his smile! When he is full-on smiling, his happiness overwhelms his entire body, to where he has to lean forward and hug his chest because there is too much happy to be expressed merely on his lips. No one can resist a smile like that.

We are in love with him.

During the past few months, he has made great progress communicating. It is so nice to know what he's wanting or thinking. Here's where he's at:

Spoken words:
bye or buhbye
nana (banana)
baba (bottle)
ock (book)

The words he only whispers, for whatever reason:
saaah (soft)
cuhkuh (cracker)

 all done
pig (accompanied by a snorting sound)

He learns quickly, and his signing vocabulary is only limited by his fine motor skills. But we can usually understand his meaning (for example, his "bunny" and "sandwich" look almost identical, but context clues usually tell us which one he means).

Aaah! I love it!

Anyway, we postponed celebrating Lincoln's birthday until Chad's parents were here. They got him an awesome tricycle that he can actually move around on with his short chubby legs!

He clearly loves it!

And though he had no clue what to do with those birthday candles...

...he was obviously ready to dig in, and kept signing "food" and "cake!"

Happy Birthday Lincoln!

Playing Tourist with Grandma and Papa

We started out Thursday with a delicious dinner at Baci Italian Bistro. It was definitely a little grown up for the kids, and the leisurely pace of dinner was almost the death of us (thank goodness for Fran's iPhone!). But my Sausage Boscaiola was amazing (the Basil Pomodoro sauce was so flavorful!), so there were no regrets there!

Friday we visited the Queen Creek Olive Mill, the only place in Arizona where you can find on-site milled olive oil. Extra Virgin, thank you. There was an adorable cafe area, which I will most definitely be visiting again on another day, to sample their freshly made olive oil creations, and delicious-looking sandwiches. The shop boasted shelves and shelves of olive oil, vinegar, wine, and olive-oil-based bath and beauty products.

Then we all went outside to take the short tour, and learn about the olive oil making process.

We stood under the olive blossoms as our tour guide began explaining the varieties of olive trees on the farm. As I looked up at those pollen-filled flowers I thought, "My allergies are going to love me for this!" Good thing I pre-medicated.

This place really does it right, from harvesting at the right time, to processing the olives within a day of picking them. After the tour guide showed us the machine that mills and "presses" the oil, she asked if there were any questions. Bree raised her hand. I held my breath as the tour guide called on her, because honestly, I never know what's going to come out of that girl's mouth. But she asked the very appropriate question, "Can we see the machines grind up the olives?" And we were all informed that we'd have to come back around October to see the freshly harvested olives being processed.

Then we sampled different types and flavors of olives, and I was very proud of myself for trying some. Seeing as how I hate olives. I actually enjoyed the mesquite-almond olive, and the garlic flavored one. But then I was left with the olive after-taste, which stuck with me through the remainder of the day. I think I'll just stick to good ol' olive oil. Which we also got to taste!

They had different blends and flavors of olive oil, including chocolate and blood orange, as well as some dressings, and a to-die-for strawberry balsamic vinaigrette, which Fran splurged on. I bought myself a bottle of their Extra Virgin blend, and vowed to never buy "Light Flavor" olive oil again. Because it is apparently crap. No really, it's literally made out of the crap that's leftover after making extra virgin olive oil. It was, all in all, a fun, enlightening experience.

Friday night Chad made us some of his delicious homemade chili, and Fran and Jim dined on chili dogs with us. Then we walked to the park at the end of our street, and showed them how we spend many an evening. The weather was cool. The kids were zany.

The sunset was gorgeous (as per usual!).

Saturday we braved the traffic (the roads out here in farm-country have not expanded as quickly as the neighborhoods have!) and drove to Joe's Farm Grill for a late lunch. I saw this place on Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives years ago, but it was far off our beaten path, and we never made the trip. Now we only live 20 minutes away, and it was worth the drive. The ribs and burgers were amazing, and my salad had been freshly-picked from the on-site garden.

Bree loves her some ribs.

After eating, we roamed the neighboring gardens.

Or sat in the shade.

We ended our excursion at San Tan Village, our closest "mall," which is an outdoor shopping center. We popped into the Disney Store to buy t-shirts and autograph books to prep for our upcoming trip to Disneyland.

We also spent a lot of time at home relaxing, and introduced Jim to the selection of old movies that can be watched on the XBox 360's Amazon Prime app. He was in heaven.

It was awesome to have Fran and Jim here in our new home. We hope they enjoyed it as much as we did!

April 4th-6th, 2013

She's Seven!

Since Bree does school at home, it's been easier for me to forget she's growing up. But it's pretty hard to deny that she's quite the young lady now. At seven years, Bree is a smart, beautiful, curious, active, independent, dramatic, and precocious girl.

One of her favorite things to say on a daily basis is, "I don't really like school." But she can't disguise her natural curiosity and thirst for knowledge. She grasps most concepts quickly without the need for further explanation. Her reading is coming along really well, especially since we've switched to reading out of the actual scriptures (we've done really well with the kids' story books, but she is ready to move on). Her vocabulary is astounding. Her knack for remembering facts, especially when it comes to History and Science, is amazing.

When we go to the library, she makes a beeline for the nonfiction section, and asks me to help her find books on a subject she wants to learn more about. Her most recent selections included a book of stories from the Ramayana (it was not easy to find a juvenile nonfiction book on Hinduism, but she was quite insistent), a book on ancient Egypt, and a bird guide book. After bringing them home, she brought me her books to show me the pictures of Rama and Sita (if you've ever seen the movie the Little Princess, Rama is the blue prince Sarah tells stories about), to name several Egyptian gods and goddesses, and to show me that she had identified the type of birds that are constantly flying around our house (they're called a house sparrows). She also can't get enough of educational shows like The Magic Schoolbus, and is always spouting facts.

She loves animals, so she chose a zoo animal theme for this year's birthday party (last year it was jungle animals). She shopped online with me for all her supplies, and we sent out invitations to a simple party at Pioneer Park, which is just across the street from the Mesa Temple. The animal cupcake toppers looked very cute on the "grassy" cupcakes.

Just the right amount of friends came (not too many, since I had totally forgotten it was General Conference weekend; I was preoccupied with moving or something).

The gifts were thoughtful and perfect: nail stuff, art supplies, a journal. And she was gracious and thankful.

We played the new lawn game we had bought for the occasion.

And the kids made animal masks, which were very cute (it would have been cuter if the glue had held better, but oh well!)

The kids had a great time, and I accomplished my goal: to make sure Bree had a nice birthday party even though we had just moved into our new house the week before!
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