We drove to Utah this year to have Christmas with our families.  We had to drive the truck to fit all our stuff in it.  We had 4 kid's entire Christmas, plus the gifts for our families, and everything we needed for a week (including a stuffed animal or two for each kid to sleep with, our pillows, all our snow gear, and the 'essential' kid and allergen free food we would need since I didn't know when/if I'd make it to a health food store.  We also pretty much have to pack a medicine cabinet with us whenever we go anywhere overnight.  A-man is on 4 daily meds to help with his allergies/asthma and we always have to bring extra antihistamines, epi pen, hydrocortisone in case of an allergic reaction).  But the drive was pretty pleasant, and it was good to be home.  I love Utah in the winter; the snow covered mountains are breath-taking.  It makes me feel at home. 

I love the tradition of new Christmas matching church clothes.  I had to use my flash and apparently Ella didn't want to smile but I love this picture anyway.  I really love how Ella and Austin have their arms around each other and Isaac is snuggling into Landon.  How can I say this without being cheesy? I can't. My heart beats in this picture ;)  I love these four little people, more than they can ever know.   

Oh, Uncle Jared, how we love you.  Between Jared, Steph, and Alina the kids were entertained pretty effortlessly.  I love this picture - it's blurry but I don't care.  Jared is the funnest, from the dog-piles to the burping contests, he knows how to make my boys happy.

So, the Rudolph nose suckers at Grandma Meier's house looked more like tongues in the pictures, BUT it was an awesome party anyway! :)  It's tradition to go there on Christmas Eve.  The kids LOVED it.  They were thrilled with all the treasures they got.  Isaac thinks his $5 gift card is a credit card that he can use whenever he wants.  I can't convince him it's a one time deal.  The big boys have been entertained by their extreme dot to dot books for hours and Ella loves her polly pocket - she calls it her little girl.  

Christmas morning was so fun.  Grandma, Grandpa, Alina, and Jared and Steph made it feel like a magical party, not just present time.

I was surprised to wake up at 7:30 and see that the kids were still asleep.  I thought I must be blessed by heaven - turns out Austin and Landon had woken up at 3:00 and sat and stared and shook and laughed at all the presents.  They said they finally looked at the clock at 4:30 or so and went back to bed. I thought they must be exaggerating about the time but the story was confirmed by Steph and Jared, who had to listen to their delighted squeals.  (sorry guys)

Before we left for Utah we let the kids open their BIG present from us.  They each got a Mickey shirt, an autograph book, and a countdown to a trip to DISNEYLAND!!  It was so exciting.  Landon was speechless with a HUGE grin on his face.  But when Austin said, "What?! You said it wasn't going to be pajamas!" Landon shook him and said, "We're GOING TO DISNEY LAND!!!!"  They hugged each other and danced around.  Isaac hadn't quite got his open yet, but once he did he was dancing around too - and then asking a million and one questions.  "are the power rangers going to be there?" "so we're going in 3 weeks?  how long is 3 weeks?" "what about this, what about that..... and on and on and on...." :)  {that's my Isaac boy - very detail oriented!}  Ella was just happy to have a princess pen and drawing book.

Christmas morning this girl was hilarious.  She opened slow and careful.  She inspected each gift.  When she saw that it didn't walk like her new Barbie horse, she tossed it to the side and opened the next.

Grandma Smedley gave her the favorite gift of the year.  (As I type this) That thing is on it's third set of batteries.  She loves it.

Landon got a very very VERY long awaited gift - Ipod Touch.  Oh, how we have had mixed feelings with this.  We don't want him "plugged in".  We don't want him making electronics a bigger priority than, say, talking to people, homework, family time.  There's so many years to have a phone on your hip, why start so young?  But we caved - and then added a password.  And Landon has followed every rule we've given him.  He's a good boy.  He's learning young that everything has a place and proper order.  He's learning to balance.

Isaac-Boy got exactly what he asked Santa for.  I love how excited he is for everything.  He stacked up his loot and found a corner and dug right in. He played and played and we didn't hear a sound from him for quite a while.

Austin had to mourn for the Ipod that he wanted and didn't receive.  That was a small rough patch in our morning.  BUT the air hog helicopter that he did get was pretty awesome.  He and Landon played with it all morning.  I think it took some time, but {I HOPE}, he understands why we feel like he's just a little too young still.  He needs to be a little boy as long as he can.  We want the most important things in his life to be playing and running and being with his family and finding entertainment in things that don't require electricity (or batteries).  I feel like too much technology really robs kids of finding joy in the little things, like riding bikes, and, I don't know - digging a hole just to see what's there.  I got a kindle fire from Cameron (which I LOVE); putting Mine Craft on it to "share" with him really helped smooth his sad feelings.  Landon shares his Ipod too. [ Don't worry Austin  - you'll get one.  I just need to see you have a little more experience with the Internet and know I can trust you to get the important things done before you turn to your game...]

See - he's having fun with his helicopter - which, by the way, came with a tank that can shoot it down... just sayin'

The day after Christmas was spent with the PERIGO clan.  It's always fun when everyone is together.  I love that Marcene videos our Christmas parties from year to year.  I can't believe how much the kids have changed in a year (or FOUR! I saw a clip of Austin at 4 snuggled up with me - a tear came to my eye).  We ate Sharlene's traditional pork roast, always great.  Ella got a pair of  "princess barbie" dress up shoes that she wears daily.  She also got a "magical" (wand that lights up) from her cousin, Kinley that she LOVES.  One of Isaac's favorite Christmas presents is the little remote car he got from his cousin Tolkien.  He plays with that thing all the time and I can't believe it's not broken yet.  He loves it.

I snapped the above picture of all the boys huddled together.  I kind of love this picture.  They way they all look up to each other makes me grateful to be close to family, even if it's only a few times a year.



Happy Birthday, Cameron

It was a birthday party squeezed into a little section of time between work and the boys' piano recital but we managed to celebrate. Happy Birthday to the best partner, cheer captain, pep-talk-giver, dish washer, little kid bath giver, kid tickler, date night planner, friend, comedian, shower singer, back scratcher, teacher, homework helper


Prebirthday date:: shooting range - it was the funnest! I wanted to plan something a little different from dinner and a movie.  Also, I really wanted to see the target to zoom back and forth like on the movies :) What a great date.  I think we'll do it again. 


Christmas Prep at OUR house

This year my goal has been to have a Christ-centered Christmas Season.  I wanted to help my kids focus on the true meaning of this holiday.  I wanted to teach them service and gratitude.  We started the month off with this advent I found online:

The last two years, I've done something similar - I wrap 12 pictures of Christ and we open one a night for the 12 days of Christmas and read a scripture about each one - but this year when I saw this advent I decided a whole month of the stories of Jesus would help us remember.

Cameron's mom gave us a nativity to paint together.  Our first family night of the month we painted it together.  After we talked about acts of service we could do through the month and came up with a list.  Our list changed over the month as things came up.  I'm amazed at how many opportunities there are for service when we are looking for it.  We came up with simple things and harder things.  It's been fun to talk to the kids about things they've done.  Even Isaac has said things like, "I made her happy because I opened the door for her!  I did an act of kindness!!"  Even our 2 year old Ella's joined in the fun, "I'll be a peace maker." she says.

Austin decided one thing he could do was to make duct tape ninja stars and hand them out to his friends and people that "sit by themselves at lunch".

When scouts was cancelled because his leader was sick, Austin and I delivered this little get well kit.  Austin opted for the ring and run method of delivery.

Our family provided part of Christmas for a six year old girl.  The kids couldn't believe that a kid would put SHAMPOO on her wish list.  "What? Her family doesn't have enough money for soap?!"

The boys played Christmas music at a nursing home.  Then they gave a resident from our ward there a hug - which is kind of major for them.  It's hard to hug strangers (especially when you're 8 or 10 and they're 93 and you don't know them!)

We've also found other ways to incorporate a more Christ-like attitude in our celebrations.  We read this talk that ties the Grinch story in with the nativity.  Then we had a "who feast" with 'Mean Grinch Green Brocolli', Roast Beast, Who-Pudding, and Who-Hash.  After, of course, we watched the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.  Actually, we TRIED to watch it but Isaac accidentally deleted it instead of pressing play on the DVR.  He was pretty devastated but Landon cheered him up and we watched something else instead.

Our service acts included delivering a lot of cookies to a lot of different people and places.  Isaac loves to help in the kitchen.

 Kids are kids and they still fight and get a little greedy for Christmas presents but I have noticed them trying. Isaac won this Reindeer in one of those 'claw machine' games.  Ella was sad she didn't win.  He said he'd share it with her because, "that's what Jesus wants me to do."

This night we went on a Christmas light scavenger hunt.  It was good quality family time.  I highly recommend this idea.  The kids loved it.  See if you can beat our record for the most snowmen - we found 68!!  (we also found 4 santas on motorcycles but that might just be a Mtn Home thing! ;)  )

The smiles on these faces are proof positive that GIVING can be better than receiving.


christmas is coming...

...and this family's first present is... NO MORE DIAPERS!! yay!


a year in review :: the first 6 months

This year has been one for the record books!  I haven't done the best documenting.  So with no further ado, here are some highlights : a year in review {2012 - the first 6 months} 

We spent the first 6 weeks of the year in TLF on base - I spent 75% of that time in the car; I'm sure of it  Cameron was nominated for Company Grade Officer of the Year - When I saw the prize I really wanted him to win :)  And of course, I thought he deserved it!  He really did.  Ella turned 2 in January.

We moved back into our house.  ALL the kids loved laying on our new carpet in the big empty rooms before we got our furniture put back in.  Cameron and I took a trip to Denver to see a neurosurgeon - surgery is scheduled for 3 weeks later.  We spent every Saturday that month watching the big boys play a little b ball

 Brain Surgery took over the next 6 weeks of our lives.  We couldn't have done it without all the help of our friends and family.  I am BLESSED beyond anything I deserve to feel 100% better.  I am grateful everyday for my new health.  I have learned and grown and become better.  Looking back, this month was TOUGH - tougher than I ever could have imagined - but my load was made light by all the support I had from family and friends.  It was all worth it for me and I wish there was some tiny possible way I could repay you.

My best Colorado friends visited me - I may not remember much (and I know I did some "drunk texting") but I still think about how much it meant to me to have you come see me - especially you girls that drove SO far to see me.  Love you.  I got to take a ride on an electric wheel chair :)  I was on walking restrictions but still had to get out!  2 weeks post op : getting the staples out was possibly more traumatic then my surgery - good thing I'm good at pretending to be tough.  My med regimen was intense for a while.  Flowers from Aunt Camille were a weekly highlight.  Cute jammies and slippers from friends make lounging around so much funner (thank you everyone - my lounge time wardrobe is a million times better!).  While I was in the hospital I spent DAYS throwing up.  This sandwich was my first meal I enjoyed - and believe me it tasted better than anything I've ever had!

In April I blow dried my hair for the first time in 6 weeks.  I came home to see my kiddos after missing them like crazy for the past 6 weeks.  Sharlene helped me take the kids to Isaac's art show and my mom came to help me take the kids to the zoo.  I took the kids to the park solo.  I thought they'd play and I could sit.  They begged me to push them in the swings - thankfully Landon saved the day.  The pinewood derby - my first "public" outing - I didn't last through the whole time.  Isaac rocked the house on his soccer team

In May Isaac got his first REAL haircut.  He cried because he said he, "looked like a man".  Austin played baseball like a pro.  We had plans to do a big 1-0 birthday party and I just couldn't pull it together to do it.  Sorry Landon.  We made the day special, starting with breakfast.  Landon loved his birthday cake pancakes.  That night we created a birthday tradition (that didn't last because we were afraid of fire danger during our late summer birthdays...).  Landon wrote a birthday wish on a paper lantern and we let it go.  We jumped in the car and followed it until it disappeared.  We were all laughing and giggling and saying, "there it is!"  "I see it!"  "Oh wait that's not it!"  I think his wish came true.  Landon also played on the All Star baseball team this year.  Austin was a proud supporter.  (I still need to go through the baseball pictures....)

In June the Grandmas had to get back to their own lives.  I was sad to see them go.  I was grateful, though, that I had packed the freezer with meals before my surgery.  I was still struggling with fatigue and surgical pain.  I went back to Denver for a checkup.  Things looked fantastic.  My MRI picture was the most beautiful brain I've ever seen :)  I couldn't believe how much better I was feeling, even though I was still struggling.  I was thanking God everyday for how well I felt.  We started Austin's allergy treatments with a new doc.  That meant retesting.  I was disappointed to find out he had developed more allergies.  Boo.  Cameron had a little accident of his own this month.  He crashed on his motorcycle.  His knee and wrist  broke.  He tore his ACL and MCL and fractured tibula, fibula, femur and he lost 33% of his meniscus.  Knee surgery was scheduled for July.  We called on family again to help us.  Thanks, again, Sharlene for dropping everything to come help us.  We spent some warm days in the sun.  There wasn't a lot we could do between my recovery and Cameron's injuries.  Sharlene hadn't seen the Falls of Twin Falls so we stopped to take a look.