Thursday, December 29, 2011

The magic

I'm not gonna blog about all the barfing (you're welcome), all the lethargy, or even all the presents. Because what I want to remember from this Christmas is the pure magic. I don't know how long the magic will last, but I'm going to hold on to it as long as possible. I will give you one example that a few of us really enjoyed witnessing.

On Christmas Eve, as we left the house to see Christmas lights we had one really anxious little 6 year old boy who was so concerned we would miss Santa. We were even able to assure him that Santa was a safe distance away somewhere over the Atlantic (thanks NORAD), but he was still worried. As we flew under airplanes he at first would get anxious, but then would realize they were just airplanes and Santa was not coming yet. Later, as we drank hot chocolate and prepared to drive home he suddenly shouted "Look!" He ran to show us what was clearly Santa and his sleigh, red flashing light (nose) and all, flying quickly and silently through the sky. We were quiet as we watched it. Well, I should confess that I was watching Tyler. The look on his face was pricless. Tyler knew we had to get home; we ALL knew we had to get home.

What a fun thing Santa is; I love everything about him. I love how he no longer "tops" us in gifts, but leaves the fun stuff. I even love how Tanner pulls a face each time we talk about him. I mostly love that Santa came before all of us got sick.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Gotta be the good life

With all the chaos around me this week, my kids managed to bring me back to the true spirit of Christmas and what it's about. I've been so busy shopping, preparing for parties, YW lessons, nativities, neighbor gifts, class parties, etc. that I haven't spent a lot of time enjoying just thinking about Christmas and spending precious time with my little family.

It's easy to get caught up in the credit card, to buy something online in a matter of seconds with a memorized card number, and move on to the next thing. Last week Emma decided to spend every single dollar she had ($5) on Tyler when she found a gift she knew he would absolutely die to have. She had wanted to spend her money on some cute stuff at a boutique, for herself, but once she saw that thing for Tyler, she didn't even think twice. Better, she didn't ask me to chip in or help at all. She sacrificed her wants for her brother, and did it so happily.

All week Tyler has been asking me to take him shopping to buy Emma's Christmas present. It didn't work out to go at all this week because we just didn't have the chance, but I was free yesterday at 8 a.m. and he jumped at the opportunity. He had a whole $10 and he was determined to spend all of it on her. After choosing two really thoughtful and sweet things for her, he still had $3 left over and kept looking for something else to buy her. When we got home and he showed his dad his gifts for Emma he was absolutely beaming.  It really humbled me. Spencer was in awe at how genuinely happy Tyler was to be giving something to Emma that he had worked hard to save for, for two months. Sacrificing makes it all the more worth it. I can't wait to see their faces on Christmas morning when they open their gifts from each other.

Of course gift giving isn't the real reason for the holiday, but I feel like they brought me back to earth. I love having these selfless, pure children as my own.

However, lest you think it's roses and rainbows here all the time, let me remind you of our reality. Maybe my big kids are pretty darn near perfect children, but Tanner is a good balance and reminds me that no one is perfect. :) He's not a big fan of picture-taking, or anything else really...

But we did manage to get one where he wasn't crying, so it instantly became our Christmas card. A Christmas miracle indeed.

Merry Christmas, friends. May you remember what all the December chaos is really about.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

sugar cookies

I've been telling people for years that my mom's sugar cookie recipe is the best. I've tried several others, including those ones with so much butter they are dense and...just taste like butter. Those ones might keep their shape perfectly, but I'd rather have one that tastes like perfection and maybe doesn't quite look like it. These are fluffy and soft and oh so good. Try them this Christmas! (Like I just did. The YW are decorating them tonight.)

A few months ago my mom asked for the recipe because she doesn't really use a recipe and goes by memory whenever she makes these. I sent it to her and she was clear in her response that the recipe is not hers. I can still vouch for her cookies being GOOD, but these ones are too and now I don't know where the credit goes. I guess it can go to me!

Sugar Cookies
3/4 cups butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 T vanilla
1/2 cup cream cheese
1 spoon-sized dollop sour cream
3 1/4 cups flour
1 t baking soda
1 t salt

Mix butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Mix in cream cheese and sour cream. Add flour, baking soda, and salt, and mix. Chill for several hours or overnight. Roll out in sections, using flour as necessary. Cut out with your favorite cookie cutters. Bake at 350 for 7-8 minutes.

Frost with canned frosting or homemade...up to you! (I do both.) Happy baking!

Sunday, November 27, 2011


We decided to do our very own Thanksgiving this year. Maybe it is a fault of mine that I am selfish and like my little family all to myself. Maybe. We were going to do the whole week in the motorhome but because we tried to plan this little vacation just a month previous, RV parks were totally booked. So we did 2 days/nights in the motorhome and then 3 days/nights at a friend's house. That was perfect if you ask me.

You may remember that we have Spencer's parents' motorhome for the year. One place we have wanted to go for a while is Pinnacles. Very few people have heard of it but the things we have heard caught our interest. We knew it was primitive and in the middle of nowhere but we went for it anyway. This leg of our trip coincided with our 9th anniversary. Thankfully, I'm not an obsessive romantic and was totally fine camping in a motorhome with my family on our anniversary.

(do you like the crooked timer picture?)

On Tuesday morning we were going to pack up the motorhome and drive to the trailhead for a 6 mile hike to some of the caves. Funny - I was worried about the kids being able to walk that far. Well, for some reason the motorhome's battery was completely dead. The extra battery didn't fit. The slow charger was charging it too slow. We tried to make lemonade out of lemons (or maybe it was actually the opposite), and decided to walk from the campground, adding 4 additional miles. A few things saved us and made this crazy insane hike possible: 1) It was rather elevation-neutral - we only climbed about 300 feet so it was more of a walk than a hike. 2) It was perfect weather. 67 degrees made it so completely bearable and not hot. 3) My kids aren't big whiners (ok, Tanner totally is but he doesn't really count since he was in the backpack). It took us almost 3 hours to hike to the caves, but they sure were cool. I guess I was expecting to walk through the caves but it was more like scurrying up cold, wet rocks and through crevices in the pitch black. It was awesome, especially when the cold water dripped down my back and pants. :)

The last two miles were pretty awful - we were all dead on our feet and the kids were dragging. Emma and I were 10 minutes behind the boys because we had to make a bathroom stop and when we dragged our sorry selves into that campground and saw the motorhome actually running I could have cried. We cooked a frozen lasagne, laughed about how far we had walked, and all went to bed early.

The next day we hiked a relatively easy 4 miles to the other set of caves. These caves were longer/bigger and a little more easy to get through. The views were very cool, but we never saw any condors like we expected (but we did see wild turkeys, a wild pig, and 3 deer!). We packed up and started driving for the second half of our vacation.

Spencer works with a nice girl whose parents have a second home in Pismo Beach. I had never been so we decided to take them up on their incredibly generous offer to stay there (while they were in Hawaii!). The house was is the 5th oldest home in the city but they recently bought it and restored most of it. It was a 10 minute walk to the pier and downtown shopping/restaurants and we had brought our bikes so we used them as our main form of transportation. Good thing too, with how we ate! I had the best panini of my life at a little pasta restaurant, and then had the best clam chowder of my life two nights later. We saw the Muppet movie, watched lots of other movies, and relaxed. We invited some friends to come spend the day with us on Friday and hung out at the beach, digging, swimming, and trying to ride these beach bikes. And of course Ticket to Ride was involved.

Our vacations aren't always super fun vacations since most of them end up being "trips" with no relaxation involved whatsoever. I can't decide what my favorite part was, but watching my boys dig in the sand for hours on end and being so tired at the end of our hike (limping in step with Emma) definitely top the list. A real thankful Thanksgiving break.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

why I like it

I know the internet is all abuzz with Pinterest right now...but I'm going to tell you why I like it so much.

I heard about it a year ago and eventually had to request a login since I didn't know anyone who was already on it. After a while my invite arrived and it took me another few weeks to figure it all out. I love the great ideas, how it gets the creativity flowing, seeing what my friends like (and what they make!), etc. Oh, and how I can browse it on my phone when I'm at a red light. That is, perhaps, the best part.

But! My kids are also fascinated by it. Emma desperately wants her own Pinterest account. I have found that if I tell my kids that what we are having for dinner is something I found on Pinterest, they are a lot more likely to be excited about it. Spencer is the same way; he walked past the computer when I had a certain dish pulled up and he commented that it looked really good. Wham - that became his birthday dinner 3 days later!

I made this last night (broccoli chicken braid). I made my own whole wheat dough instead of using crescent rolls as a modification. Anyway, Tyler thought he had died and gone to heaven. And there are two cups of broccoli in it! He asked for more, twice, and then asked me to pack the leftovers in his lunch today (ew). Emma wasn't as in love, but according to her, if something is on Pinterest it must be good. So clearly the problem is hers.

I love that I can easily type in things I'm looking for and suddenly have hundreds of options. I love that it seems to be a mind-reader. Mostly, I love that my kids can now type in things they are looking for (crafts) and get great ideas. So aside from them eating more healthy, and being happy about it, it's just plain fun for all of us.

Monday, November 7, 2011

all inclusive holidays

Yes, I realize we were just here...

But why not celebrate Thanksgiving with Christmas decorations up??  I love Thanksgiving, and I love Christmas. But I have ten times the amount of Christmas decorations than Thanksgiving ones. Our tree is always up before Thanksgiving (our target is November 15). I love eating Thanksgiving dinner in the midst of sparkly holiday decor. As a result, I sure do enjoy my Decembers.

So...I decided to add to my Christmas craft/decor collection! I was walking the kids to school last week and went past a neighbor's JUNK/trash pile. I saw lots of these Christmas lights (harder to find these days) and even though they looked awful I gathered as many as I could fit into the stroller. I spray painted them all silver and then bought 3 colors of glitter to decorate them. This wanna-be apothecary jar I made myself with $3 of materials from the thrift store - a glass bowl and a shot glass glass for the base (Emma asked me if people do bad things with those...).

And, I made a felt rosette Christmas tree and white wreath. The Christmas tree took forever but I really like how it looks. I used about 180 white circles, added some cranberries at the top and bottom, plopped it onto a candlestick and voila. Easy and cute.

And here is how Tanner spends a large part of his day. Even though he only naps for 47 minutes, I sure treasure that time. Man, I love this boy. Maybe he just isn't a sweater vest kind of person?
While I was at it I decided to just take care of something that's been bothering me for about a year. My entryway is really dark, as a result of almost no natural light. When we moved in I decided to paint the wall burgundy. I really liked it but lately it's made the entry seem even darker. So, on a whim (and without telling Spencer, which, believe me, was SMART), I chose the paint and dragged Tanner to the hardware store. While he ooo'd and ahhh'd over the 14 foot inflatable Santa Claus I got the materials and then painted it during his 47 minute nap that afternoon.

Here it was before (missing the mirror)...
And after...

I don't know if this is the exact color I was going for but I'm happy (and there's the white wreath I just made...).

I hope the desire to re-decorate is out of my system for another few months because now I have a bunch of stuff to do around the house... and I'm sick of Spencer calling me Martha.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

the one i know the least

It's been an emotional couple of weeks for me anyway, with some changes for our family. What perfect timing. Today Macie should have turned 3--my one literal angel, who I hardly know at all. I do know she must have a huge spirit and be completely selfless. I do know that she is special and that she quickly and quietly fulfilled all she needed to. I do know that our family is lucky enough to have a cheerleader on the other side. I can't imagine anything more comforting.

It's interesting how that first year after you lose a loved one every single thing is measured in months. The holidays are painful. Once that first year has gone by in its entirety, the load gets a little lighter. It gets slightly easier to go on. But then it's just different. We don't make it to the cemetery as often. I have other things/children to occupy my thoughts. Other people move on as well. Thank goodness for sweet moments of remembrance, especially for birthdays. I am so so thankful to my friends and family who took the time to let us know they were thinking of us. I have some incredible friends, and my house has the flowers/gifts to prove it.

Happy 3rd birthday sweet one. Thanks for joining our family.

(notice Tanner's awesome cupcake face. and his cute hand on my shoulder. and that he's standing on her headstone...)

Friday, October 21, 2011

busy monkey

This kid is at the height of his busyness, at 15 months old. No one really cares about stats, let's be honest, but suffice it to say he is low for weight and high for head size which equals lots of falling on his face. And constant forehead bruises.

He brings me the Baby Bjorn all the time, whining to get in it.

Every circular item is a "ball." Pumpkins, nectarines, rocks, polka dots...

He is obsessed with his dad. Obsessed!

He chased my grandparents' cat around (and dog) until it hissed at him and scared me. Unfortunately he wasn't too friendly to the humans in the house.

Is 22 pounds of cuteness. I still get stopped ALL.THE.TIME by random people who want to get a small piece of him.

Loves books like they are candy. Holy cow, we read a lot.

Likes to talk on the phone. He walks around the house, talking (blabbing) into it.

Says about 12 words at this point, but understands a heck of a lot more. One of his words is "Papa."

I love my little sidekick. Now if I could just get him to sleep through the night and nap more than an hour...

Friday, October 14, 2011


Do you know my Tyler? If not, you should. I adore this boy. I have adored him from the minute he was born, in all his red-hair glory. Our first 18 months together were rough but ever since then he has been easy as pie.

Tyler is incredibly sensitive...but at the same time he is also a leader. He is a rule follower and his greatest fear is disappointing people. I am trying to tweak this a little bit, as I want my kids to know they can make mistakes. Tyler does every single thing I ask him to, and often says "Got it!" when I tell him it's his turn to remove a dirty diaper from the house. It doesn't get better than that, and you would agree with me if you were around to smell the dirty diapers Tanner produces.

He was in his element in Pine Valley. He rode around on an old bike from the shed, got a new walking stick from great Grandpa, and showed us all how to find the best view of the valley while we were on our hike. And, because he's such a rules guy, he is incredibly cautious. I won't complain. Look how far he is from that fire.

Tyler lost his very first tooth this week. And then he lost his second just 3 days later. He wasn't nervous at all once he realized it was super loose...he was just so thrilled with the prospect of a dollar showing up under his pillow. I got to pull both out for him (Spencer doesn't do blood) using floss and he was just so relaxed about the whole thing. So easy. So mellow. I love it.

This boy is an athlete. I'm still not certain about his skills on team sports (t-ball) but he sure can run. Their annual Prowl at school was last week. Last year he ran more than any other kindergartner (9 laps--2 1/4 miles) and this year he was determined to do 10 laps. He ran his heart out, not stopping at all except to swig down some water real fast, but they blew the whistle right as he finished his 9th. I knew how determined he was to get 10 and felt sorry for him for a minute, but then I realized he didn't have quite as long as last year to run. And seriously - a 6 year old running 9 laps in 20 minutes? I don't know if I could even do that right now. I'm definitely taking him running with me. If I can keep up.

Everyone loves him, he is the easiest child to be in charge of, he is Tanner's new favorite chasing/wrestling playmate (when Tanner wants to snuggle or read he goes to me or Emma), and he's seriously a dream child. He doesn't complain, have tantrums or act like a brat. He isn't dramatic. And he loves to sleep! Um...can you imagine a better child? Yes, be jealous. :) I love this guy.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


I sure enjoy this girl. Wasn't her post about Nashville so adorable? I should have her guest-post more often. When I told Spencer I wanted to take her with me he was worried that I wouldn't be getting a "break" from the kids. I assured him that having her would surely be a break, and it was. I have no complaints at all. I love that I can already take my daughter somewhere and feel like I have a friend with me.

We went to Utah for conference last week. She's a couple months shy of being 8 but we cheated and took her to conference anyway. I was thrilled with how excited she was by the thought of seeing the Prophet. While we had to sit up on the balcony (Spencer's first time up there, EVER - haha) she enjoyed taking it all in and experiencing it.

When we were in Provo I had her jump out as we drove past her very first home. Funny how it looks the exact same as it did 8 years ago. We have such fond memories of this basement apartment. Our rent was $360 a month, which made the shock of paying $1600 when we moved to Boston oh so painful. I loved that house; we had very few cares and she and I spent so much time playing, walking, and swimming.
We also made a detour through Pine Valley. Emma's first time there was at 5 months old when Spencer and I were still at BYU. I wanted my kids to go there again, to be with my grandparents in their element and in their favorite place. I loved watching Emma play the exact same games with my grandma that I used to play with her. It was a wonderful 20 hours that we spent there, especially since my grandpa rocks the dutch oven. Yummm.
Emma reads to Tyler every night. Not only does she read to Tyler, but she reads to Tanner. Thank goodness for that, as he has suddenly developed an obsession with books. After reading what seems like 300 books to him during the day, I just can't do it anymore. Emma is always happy to oblige.

I thank my lucky stars every night that I have to make her put her books down and go to sleep at night. Some kids don't want to go to sleep for obnoxious reasons; I think Emma reading too much is a great problem to have. I love that I see that part of myself in her.

She asks me every so often if we can have another baby. Because of the pattern we've had, she's pretty sure it would be a girl, and she would have the opportunity to have a little sister. She's tried different ways to convince me, even trying to figure out a way for me to have a baby "like other people do." But to appease herself, she has taken a liking to dressing Tanner up in one of her t-shirts, tying it with a sash so it looks like a dress, and putting a flower in his hair. I guess I will sacrifice Tanner's future pride if it makes her feel better...

I thank my lucky stars for this girl.

Monday, October 3, 2011


October is a strange month for me. Historically it is really busy. It is Halloween - perhaps the least sentimental holiday out there. But it's also Macie's birthday.

After not thinking about her a whole lot in what seems like WAY too long, I have thought about her a lot during the last week. I guess I attribute that to General Conference (LOVED several of the talks but 2 in particular), the fact that she would be 3 soon, and the fact that I have had several opportunities to talk about her. I'm glad it's fresh in my mind again. I noticed that the first year after she died was so hard because I was always thinking in terms of "This would be her first Christmas/It's been ___ months since she died/etc." Now that we are past that there are other things that make it hard. Hearing people complain about being pregnant stings a little bit, even though everyone does it. Not thinking about Macie as much makes me feel guilty. It's a different struggle now than it was before. But it's still hard.

SO. In honor of Macie and of my other kids, I will do "mom blog" posts all October long. This is going to be for me, to remind me once again of how much I love what I do, and how happy my kids make me - ALL of them. (I'm writing this as Tanner is screaming in his crib and won't sleep.) All about them. You may find it boring - fair warning.

Happy birth-month, Macie. Here we go...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

back to crafting

I'm having a strange time navigating our new normal. And I'm not the only one. Emma just goes with the flow but Tyler is struggling with 6 1/2 hours of school every day. He comes home absolutely exhausted. Tanner's a little sad because his best and most favorite playmates are gone all day.

And then there's me. I rack my brain trying to remember back to when it was just me and Emma all day. What did we do? We read a TON. We sang lots of songs. I played with her all day long. Tanner's attention span isn't quite what Emma's was, and he only lasts for a little bit in doing those activities. But MAN that kid loves books.

Anyway, I decided to update and change some decor in my house and also do some more crafts while Tanner napped. I blame Pinterest for my sudden desire to re-do everything I touch.

Spray paint. Oh my goodness, this stuff! I have lots of dark furniture in my living room and the accent color was red, which was just too dark for me at this point. So I chose a new color scheme and made these pillow covers. (Can you see how indecisive I am? I can't choose a color or two, so I choose FIVE.)

And I went on from there. Most things are blue/turquoise and yellow but I also threw in some green. I like how things are just a little bit brighter and happy. Red is a great color but I was so over it. (That lantern was spray painted from red, as well as the empty vase.) I also spray painted every single thing below. Maybe I went a little overboard. The dishes and plates were plain white, the candlestick holders were absolutely horrendous multi-colored and the star was black. (It's not such a bright's a lot lighter than it looks.)

I found this large utensil holder at the thrift store. It was boring and plain wood. I brought it home, spray painted it, attached some Command hooks at the top, and now I have a much more functional jewelry box. Not bad for $1.99 right? My old wooden (cherry) one (which I loved because Spencer bought it for me years ago) is now fully functional in Emma's room. Win-win. However, I do think I need some more jewelry in there...

This part took me the longest. I had 5 different sized canvases and wanted to do some semi-original artwork. And by semi-original, I mean using a stencil. Martha Stewart has some great ones. This took so long because I could typically only complete half of one every day. You know, because of Tanner, whose goal in life is to be physically touching me every waking second. Anyway, I used the same colors again...but couldn't resist throwing in a tiny bit of red. I'm happy with them and once I get Spencer to part with our awfully ugly painting on the wall I can hang them up. I may do another in the Chevron stripes pattern - I am diggin it.

Not a bad way to burn some creativity juice. Especially when it all cost under $40!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Girl date to Nashville

Hi. I'm Emma.

My mom said to me last week, "I'm going to Nashville." I said, "That's so cool, mom." She told me she was going to take my aunt Carly to the Taylor Swift concert and I was jealous but I told her that would be so much fun. My mom started thinking about it and decided to bring me with her. She told me right after school that I got to go, two days later. I couldn't wait, I just wanted to go so bad.

The day finally came. My brothers and dad dropped us off at the airport. I brought all my fancy outfits to impress Carly. I took lots of pictures on the airplane. It was late when we got there so I got to hold baby Matthew for a minute before I went to bed.

In the morning we went to a place for breakfast called The Pancake Pantry. Some people on the airplane told us to go there, and when we got there we saw them! It was exciting. I ordered chocolate chip pancakes. Instead, they brought me a thousand chocolate chips on top of my pancakes. I just ate the chocolate and it tasted like a Hershey bar. Michael got eggs and ham, which was more healthy than what I got. My mom got french toast and I thought it was gross. Carly got some other pancakes. Matthew just slept.

Later that day we walked around downtown. I went to three different gift shops and I got pictures with cool things. I saw leopard print things and took pictures with my camera. On some of the drives Matthew was making funny faces. One time he looked like he was trying to poop.

The next day we went to the Grand Ole Opry and the Opryland Hotel. I was having the time of my life. That night we went to the Taylor Swift concert. My mom let me get a t-shirt. It had Taylor Swift (in an immodest dress) on it.

Taylor Swift sang a lot of good songs. It was her "Speak Now" tour. My favorite songs were "Mean," "Mine," and "You Belong with Me." It was so much fun. There were fireworks on the stage, which scared my mom.

I also taught Uncle Michael how to play Club Penguin. I even made more penguins, and made one for him.  He read my books with me and played with me. On Saturday afternoon before we went to the airport, I asked Michael if we could go to Wendy's. He ordered for me a Hi-C and it was supposed to be small but it was huge. I also got chicken nuggets.

On the flight I had to go to the bathroom 4 times. The ladies on the airplane talked to me every time I went to the bathroom ("This is your 4th time," etc.). We got home that night and I was happy to see the boys.

Tanner looked huge when we got home. I miss Michael, Carly, and Matthew. I didn't cry when I left them but I was sad. I was about to cry. I want to be Matthew's babysitter.

That was my adventure to Nashville with my mom.