I LOVE my {family}

I think I have the BEST family ever! From my little family of 5 to all our parents, grandparents, siblings, and in-laws. Whenever we go to Utah we have so much fun. Things just pick up where they left off the last time we were there. Everytime I come back I sink into a lonely funk for a few days because I just miss them all. Christmas was great this year.
The kids spent lots of time with their cousins...
...and aunts! (it's weird that Alina and Landon are Auntie and Nephew - they are best freinds, mostly)
A game of Uno with the Perigo cousins
Jantz and Landon are inseprable when they're together too. Landon often waits to "see what Jantz is going to do" before he decides what he wants to do. I love how mellow Jantz is - he's always so so nice to my kids and a great example to Landon.
These kids are the youngest grandkids and the great-grandkids of Grandma Meier. When I was their age I was one of the oldest kids and the only girl. Until Kelcee came along. Look at her now - the oldest of the "youngest grandkids". They all get along so well. They just play and play - which is why this picture is the way it is - I took it just after they opened their presents. It was like pulling teeth to get them all together and they let me take only one picture before they jumped down back to their presents. But aren't they cute in their matching jammies Grandma Meier made for them? Where she got all those Santa shirts, I don't know but my kids, at least, love their Christmas jammies.
This is the kids listening to the Christmas story Grandma Meier read to us.
This is what happens when Cameron and Cordell get together - at least once a trip to Utah there is a wrestling match. The kids like to get in on it too. No one keeps score though - that's a good thing!
Sadly, I forgot my camera when we went to Cameron's family's Christmas party. If anyone wants to email me some pictures from that day, I'll take 'em! We had a lot of fun with them. A yummy Sharlene Special - Roasted Pork Tenderloin, opening presents, reminising with stories and home movies, and putting together gingerbread houses and of course a Perigo clan inside joke, but none the less funny, a rendetion of "Shuddapa you face" sung by the Perigo Sibling Chior.

On Christmas Eve we spent the evening at Grandma's house. With Grandpa Joe there and my cousin Jason and my kids there was 5 generations celebrating. It was quite the night! Including Auntie Kim's made-up song called "family tradition" Seriously funny and seriously true. Kim I need the words to that song! (I guess Cam and I come from families that like to sing!)

Christmas Day brought more tradition. First off presents, of course! The kids loved everything they got except for "Bee Movie" I threw in for Austin. He opened it and tossed it on the floor saying, "this is for Landon." (I really bought it for them to watch on the way home and Austin liked it in the car so, not so bad after all.) Then on to breakfast featuring "Omelets in a bag" - the best Christmas morning breakfast, ever. So easy and little cleanup:
Put up to three eggs in a freezer grade ziploc bag. Add cheese, salt, pepper and whatever else you like in your omlet (mushrooms, peppers...) and zip up bag. Place in boiling water for about ten minutes mushing the bag occasionly to mix and check for doneness.
After we play for a while we all get ready and head off to the Mess Hall at Hill AF Base for
more food. All you can eat. It was fabulous this year.
And lastly, the Christmas day traditions end with a movie (at home this year, while the kids napped) and you guessed it, more food - we cook crab legs and baked potatoes and yum yum yum (this is why I gain 5 pounds every year!)
In the midst of all our partying we made a lot of time for relaxing too. Jared and Steph hung out a lot, which I loved. They are fun to be around and we just laugh all the time.
We also made time for "Benjamin Button" and Sandys Resteraunt with Jared, Steph my parents and Cameron's parents. Good times.

This little one finds entertainment no matter where he is.

The kids went from playing dress-up to playing in the 18 inches of snow Utah got while we were there to playing the Wii and back out to the snow and then running around chasing each other.

And just to prove that the drives not so bad here's a picture I took while we were driving. The mountains are beautiful. It seems as if they open up for while you drive along. Okay, Wyoming is not the prettiest state but once you get back into Colorado it's pretty views again.

And if your still skeptical about how we can make a drive just take a look at this cutie! The kids are world-class travelers. They watched movies and sang songs, read books, and ate an ENTIRE package of Oreos - that's what happens when Mom falls asleep and doesn't regulate! But who cares, they were happy and we brushed their teeth REALLY well when we got home!


Gift Giving

I saw an Ellen episode (kids napping+folding clothes=whatever's on TV at the moment) in which Ellen joked about how when your young you only give gifts to your parents and maybe your siblings and then as you get older you have to give more and more gifts. She joked about how she pays people to buy presents for everyone in her life and then should she pay other people to buy presents for them? Like, the article I read in Parents magazine about what to give to your mail carrier and garbage man - um, have you ever met your garbage man?! Anyway, this week I have finished getting all the presents together and ready to give out. It has been one busy week, that's for sure. I completely understand what Ellen was talking about.
First things first I got all our Christmas cards out. That was a big task right there. But I have loved getting cards from friends. Christmas cards are really one of my favorite Christmas traditions.
I made cookies three times this week for fun activities we went to: The church Christmas party, a work Christmas party, and a cookie exchange with friends... plus I made extra for some neighbors I didn't have enough jars of Russian Tea for. I made these cute trees plus Candy Cane Pinwheels and Almond Butter cookies (my new favorite)
Speaking of Russian Tea, a lot asked for the recipe:
2 C Tang (powdered orange-flavored drink mix)
3 ounces powdered lemonade mix
1/3 C sugar
1 heaping tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
Mix together and store in an airtight container. Add 3 heaping tsp. of mix to one cup of hot water for one serving.
I made these cute candle holders for the kids' teachers and the people I visit teach These are all the presents for our families. Cousins, Grandparents, Parents, Siblings - none of the presents under the tree are for anyone that actually lives in this house! And speaking of presents... Here's some for Cameron because HE TURNED 30!
Wednesday was Cam's birthday and this was waiting for him when he got home from work. A stress ball (just for fun) from Isaac, a battery-free flashlight for the car from Austin, two shirts from Landon, and a sweater he wanted from me.
We celebrated by going to dinner, sans kids, at Olive Garden. After we picked up the kids we came home to open the presents and eat Cameron's favorite Double Layer Key Lime Pie (Kasey, I am forever indebted to you for that recipe because it is by far Cameron's favorite dessert!)
Happy Happy Birthday, Cameron. We love ya!
Don't let Ellen fool you. Giving really is more fun than receiving. It has been so fun thinking about the people in our lives and trying to find just the right thing that will make them smile. And here's wishing you a Merry and Bright Christmas!


Family Togetherness

The last few weeks have been busy, but checking off our to-do list has been a little easier this year. This holiday season is the first in four years Cameron hasn't been in the middle of finals at Dental School. His job now, of course, is as stressful as any but not having homework and test-cramming sessions at the end of the day makes for a lot more time to be together as a family. We are enjoying things like our Christmas Tree hunt last week -that will become a new tradition for us- just as much as we are enjoying things like hanging out and doing mundane chores.
Today, we spent the morning catching up on jobs around the house and running a few errands. Landon and I made some cookies. Earlier this weekend Austin and I put neighbor gifts together. I've noticed how happy the boys are when we are doing something together. Wether it's reading a book or making cookies or working on homework. It doesn't matter what we are doing just as long as we are doing something together.

Tomorrow will be another day of togetherness. After church we are planning on delivering these little gems to our friends and neighbors.
Russian "Tea" - A yummy warm winter drink that I love in the mornings. My favorite breakfast lately is either a mug of Hazelnut Hot Chocolate or Russian Tea and a piece of toast.


The Hunt for the Perfect Tree and Other Adventures

To find the perfect Christmas tree you need to gather a bunch of great friends. Then caravan up to the mountains at 9300 ft. Next you need to buy a permit to cut down a tree. Then you will drive along the curvy roads, find the perfect spot on the mountain, pull on your snow gear and get hiking.

After a good hike and a few good prospects (the kids wanted every tree they saw, practically) the kids will jump in the back of a truck (a friend's highly coveted - by Cameron - Ford F350) and eat another friends "top secret" (*wink wink*) banana bread recipe - so yummy. The parents will have to hoof it to another area of the mountain while the kids enjoy a fun truck ride.
You will have to hike a little more but soon you will find it! It may look a little like "Charlie Brown's" tree but it does fit perfectly in our family room. And lets face it really no home grown tree from the mountain is going to look like it came from a Christmas tree farm. But that's the whole point, right?

You will have to take a picture of it in its natural habitat before cutting it down. But don't worry, the Forest Rangers said by cutting down the smaller trees we are actually helping them out by thinning out the forest a little so the bigger trees can grow stronger.
After you hike your tree back to the truck you will definitely need some hot chocolate. It will taste so good and warm you right up. You will be so happy a friend thought to bring a BIG pot of it and a camp stove to warm it up on.
You may think your trip through the mountains is over but you will be delighted when the Dad's start a snowball fight with the kids. Dad's will loose of course! They are incredibly outnumbered, in our case 3 Dads to 9 kids (2 one year olds didn't participate much in the snowball fight!)Landon liked it a little more than Austin, but Austin did have a blast running around through the snow. You will have to cuddle your littlest guy and then you will be off onto the next leg of your mountain journey.
This is the way Isaac did it. Sitting right on his bum and scooting down the hill - such concentration!

Austin and his friend Heber.
Cameron is such a great Dad!And this is Landon zooming past laying sideways on the tube. Seriously, pure happiness. Is it the brillance of his idea to lay sidewaysand go down head first or the thrill of the hill? Who knows but you can see just how much fun he was having.
And the last thing you will have to do after your long day is fall asleep in the car on the way home unless you are the driver - then you will have to CONCENTRATE because you will take a road with a sign at the top saying, "Road not maintained. Travel not advised." You will assure your wife that you would never put your family in danger. 4 miles down the road, when turning around is a bit impossible you will wonder out loud if you made the right choice. You will make it safely to the bottom but at the end you will say, "I will never do that again."
We had such a BLAST picking out our Christmas tree. We love being outside and it was great hiking around looking for the best tree on the mountain.


Dear Barbara Whats-yer-name,

For the past six months we have been taking your collections calls. I don't think the debt collectors believe me that I don't know who you are or where I can find you. They keep calling; early in the morning and late at night. I keep telling them you must have changed your number to get away from them. Except for the robotic recorded messages that I can not get away from. I spent 15 minutes on hold waiting for a "real" person only to find that I needed a reference number to take my phone number off their list. Barbara, these are your bills not mine. I don't have any reference numbers.

Today I spent 20 minutes on the phone with a lawyers office trying to explain that I am in no way related to you. The person on the other end thought I was covering for you - trying to get them to stop calling you.

My next call was to Qwest. The kind operator changed my phone number (for free!). Thankfully, I will not be taking any more messages for you. So here it is one last time - Your credit card company, hospital, lawyer, and who knows who else wants their money; oh and the job service you're listed on has positions available for you...

*I'll be sending an email out with my new number - for those of you who aren't Barbara or her debt collectors!


All Good Things Must Come to an End...

... But not without a fight! Thanks to this snow storm my WONDERFUL, AWESOME, GREAT family got to stay an extra day on their trip to visit us. My parents and sisters came and spent Thanksgiving with us. Our first Thanksgiving together in 4 years! The only thing that could have been better was if the rest of my family were here. We really missed "Jay-ed" (Austin's pronunciation of Jared). It was awesome and I'm glad we got a bonus day.

{not sure if you can tell but the snow flakes are HUGE} My family spent an hour driving two miles so they turned around and came back. Seeing them come back was almost as good as it was to see them the first night they got here.
While they were here we spent a lot of time doing this... Relaxation!! Thursday we spent the day - what else? Cooking and eating - Yum. Nothing makes me feel at home as much as my families "famous" (at least to us!) Carrot and Sage Stuffing. We spent the afternoon watching movies and playing games. Actually, every night my family was here we played games - Cranium, Would You Rather, Buzz Word and Rooke. Seriously, I forgot how fun it is to hang out and play games together.
Friday was another movie day: Disney's BOLT. The digital 3D is actually really cool. The kids loved it and spent the next few days playing "spy" with their 3D glasses.
Saturday we spent some time at Garden of the Gods. The rock formations there are just awesome and it's so fun for the kids to explore and climb and jump. It really wasn't even that cold once you got moving.
Landon and Alina are pretty inseprable when they're together. Alina is so good at making up games for them to play. I don't think they were bored once.

Sasha is a great helper! She is SO good at taking care of the kids. From feeding and entertaining Isaac to playing catch with Austin - this girl is awesome to have around!
"Kissing Camels" Rock is what's most famous at Garden of the Gods. When I was little and my family would go there I used to love looking at it. It's the one rock formation I remembered when I saw Garden of the Gods again. I'm glad my kids get to see it. It's so fun doing with them something I used to love to do when I was a kid.

Waking up to a huge snow storm is thrilling in itself. But then watching the snow come down ALL DAY is just neat, because you can cuddle in the warm house and put up the Christmas tree (which became my arch nemisis... another story)-which is what I did or you can bundle up and have a blast outside - which is what the kids and Cameron did.

These pictures make it look like the kids were out there at midnight. But really it was between 4:00 and 5:00 (I'm not sure why it got so dark so early). They had so fun building a snow fort and playing in the snow. Austin only lasted about a half hour and Isaac less time than that but Landon and Alina were out for two hours or more; cold or no cold they were determined to get that fort finished.

Cameron helped with the fort and then shoveled driveways. Isaac banged on the window begging to go out with the kids. It took me 15 minutes to get him all bundled up. He did seem happy to be outside but that white powdery stuff made him a little nervous. Once the sun went down he was ready to come in. This snow is so different than Iowa snow. You can actually play in it. We all loved it. And, like I said before, best of all it kept my family here an extra day.

Thank you for coming, my wonderful family. And thank you for spending Thanksgiving with us. I have missed you every year we were in Iowa but this "white" Thanksgiving made up for it!