Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Jolly Old St. Nick

If you don't look super close, it almost looks like Ben is really enjoying himself on Santa's knee and just laughing it up, right? Wrong-o! As soon as I placed Ben on Santa's lap, Ben instantly burst into tears. Initially, I tried to distract him with a game of "peek-a-boo" but he quickly launched into full on blue-in-the-face meltdown mode, so I knew there was no hope of getting a photo of three smiling boys. I had the photographer take the picture quickly, and then rescued poor Ben. Two out of three--close enough:)

"She's a beaut, Clark!"

I'm just going to go ahead and say it. It's a sad, sad little Christmas tree...if you can call it that. Sorry, Mom, but it's the truth. When we told the boys on Sunday that we were going to decorate the Christmas tree, I think they were a little confused when, instead of heading to the farm, tromping through the forrest, and chopping down our beautiful twelve-foot live noble, Aaron brought down a small dusty box from the storage room and proceeded to pull out a crumpled, artificial "tree." Looking at the boys' puzzled expressions while Aaron "built" our tree, and then exclaimed, "She's a beaut, Clark!" (name that movie), I literally burst into hysterical laughter. But, you know what? For the first time ever, I think the boys really did have a great time decorating the tree! Since I couldn't care less about styling the tree just right or making it look just so, we just let the boys go to town with it and decorate it as they please. Put a third ornament on that same branch? Sure! Go ahead. Now I'm not saying I'm going to convert to the artificial tree and let the boys go willy-nilly with tinsel any time again soon, but maybe next year I won't get quite so caught up in making the tree just so, and let the boys join in on the decorating fun, too.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Christmas may be my very most favorite time of the year...the much anticipated trip to the tree farm to cut down our tree followed by a family tree-trimming party, decking our house with Christmas decorations inside and sparkling lights outside, and all the cozy nights enjoying family time, creating memories and enjoying traditions. Well...being that we're entirely homeless this month (visiting our Nana and Papa before we make our way to Utah), all of our possessions are currently being stored in a trailer 1000 miles away, Aaron spent the past three weeks out of town (leaving the boys and I to make our own fun), and the flu bug has already circulated once...this hasn't been the most traditional of Christmases. Bound and determined to make this Christmas-time special, despite our unique circumstances, the boys and I have been busy all month long with Christmas festivities:

What would Christmas be without baking? The boys got to help their Nana Grover make Christmas sugar cookies--good practice for our day 'o baking soon to come!

Our family was visited this year by one of Santa's elves, whom we named Donald. Donald has the special job of watching the happenings around the house all day long, and then reporting back to the North Pole at night to help Santa determine whether or not the boys make it on the "Nice List." Each morning, we find that Donald has been up to some little antics while we've been sleeping: snacking on milk and cookies, reading Christmas books, or riding the kids' train.

Here is one of the many little Christmas craft projects the boys and I have been working on together: handprint-reindeer that we mailed to my grandparents for Christmas cards. I'm going to turn those boys into crafters whether they like it or not! Right now, its looking like not.

We cap off most nights with a little treat (brownie sundaes are the favorite) and a family game of Uno or Bingo.

We are soooo happy to have Daddy back home!
A few other fun things we've been up to:
  • Carroling - Hank and Max LOVED going carroling!
  • Christmas parties
  • Polar Express Party with our best buddies....miss you guys already!
  • Making snowflakes and painting homemade ornaments
  • Service Project
  • Reading Christmas stories every night before bed
  • Watching Christmas movies - makes me laugh to hear the boys quote "Home Alone"
Ironically, I anticipated that I was going to have to work extra hard to make this Christmas special and create that magical Christmas spirit since we are without our home, our tree, and our belongings...but, it turns out, maybe Christmas isn't about any of those things after all! The perfect Christmas means simply being with the ones you love most, and that is what makes this my most favorite time of the year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hank's First School Pictures - Kindergarten 2011

And so it begins....the annual school pictures. Boy, I can think of some school pictures of my own that I wouldn't mind accidentally burning....say, like years 9 through 13. I cringe to think of some of my hairstyles (bangs?! really??) and outfits. But, nonetheless, those photos are priceless--humiliating, but priceless--as they capture my progression from childhood to adolescence. So, it is now Hank's turn to mark his journey with the annual school picture:

What a cutie! Hankie, I promise you, I will always do my best to send you to school on picture day in a clean outfit, with combed hair, and hopefully your school pictures will be more kind to you than they were to me:)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Moving Day

I question why I even bother buying the boys nice toys to play with, because they have been endlessly entertained by the mountain of boxes that have taken over our house.

*Note Max burrowing into a box in the background.

Up until this point, the idea of moving to Utah seems like care-free fun! In my mind, I thought we'd just throw our things into a few boxes, march those boxes into the moving truck, and then blink ourselves to Utah. Well moving isn't all its cracked up to be, and I think I'm having second thoughts: its like camping (and you know how I feel about that!), but inside! We're sleeping in our sleeping bags (the beds are all taken apart and I don't want to re-dirty the clean sheets) and dinner requires a hammer and flat-head screw driver (where on earth is the can opener?). At least we have electricity and running water:) Its all going to be worth it. Right???

Day Of Thanks

With our kitchen packed in boxes and our house a total disaster, we decided to eat Thanksgiving Dinner out this year at Salty's. Unconventional? Maybe. Delicious? Absolutely. So the pumpkin pie wasn't quite like Mom's....but, the chocolate fountain and dessert buffet (Aaron would include the prime rib carving station, shrimp, salmon, and dungess crab, too) was incredible. The boys were surprisingly well-behaved; several restaurant guests commented about how cute, charming, and well-behaved the boys were. I love it when they make me look good! And I'm not complaining about the no-fuss, no-dishes part, either!

Forget the turkey, Aaron took one bite to satisfy tradition, and then ate his weight in prime rib!

I didn't waste any time and went straight for the dessert buffet--hey, I'm eating for two!

Hank didn't eat much of anything besides a couple marshmallows, and a few peices of cheese, but he was very amused to be seated on the water and was entirely entertained watching the tide.

Max sampled a bit of everything.

Ben's Thanksgiving feast consisted of Cheerios, Cheerios, and more Cheerios.
Thanksgiving is always an opportunity to reflect upon and give thanks for our many blessings. This year, spending the holiday with my favorite people in the whole world, amid all of the change and chaos going on in our family right now, my greatest blessing was brought into focus: my family. We don't need a fancy decorated table, we don't need a gourmet feast, we don't need a houseful of things (...of course we're grateful for these comforts...), we just need each other. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

New Adventures

I think the best word to describe our lives these days is, "whirlwind." Yep, I think crazy, unpredictable, chaos, swirling out of control sounds about right. Quitting a job, buying businesses, moving out of our house, buying a new house, moving to a new state...life is out of control over here!
Well, to back up a bit, all this mayhem actually began quite awhile back. With the economic downturn hitting the construction industry especially hard, Aaron and I both felt concern about the longevity of his position with the company that he had enjoyed working for over the past six years. Out of prudence, we began brainstorming alternative employment options, but most of the ideas we came up with didn't seem very viable at the time. Fast forward to about a year ago....Aaron wakes up in the morning, swings his feet over the side of the bed, and announces that he has had a dream (Aaron never has any dreams and rarely puts much stock into any of mine, for that matter). He further declares that he learned in his dream that 1. we were moving to Utah, and 2. we were going to have another baby! Well, ok then! Its settled! NOT! At the time, both of things he predicted in his dream seemed about as likely as pigs flying. So, we both laughed a little, and didn't think much more of it. As the months passed, little by  little, we felt as though our course was in fact being directed towards making some big changes for our family and, with lots of prayer, decided to act on those impressions. Once the ball of action starting rolling, it started an avalanche effect, and we found ourselves making major decisions very quickly--and feeling really good about them. In the period of just a few weeks, Aaron quit his job, started school to prepare for his licensing exams, passed his exams and became licensed to sell insurance, purchased two Allstate agencies in Utah, and bought a new house! And so we find ourselves here...

The moving truck arrived this afternoon and our house is in shambles, its contents scattered among heaps and piles of boxes. We've got a couple days left to finish packing and then we're off! To our new adventure! We're feeling bittersweet right now: already beginning to miss our home in Washington, our sweet ward and precious friendships, and everything known and familiar to us, but, at the same time, we're excited for the journey that lies ahead. One beautiful chapter ending, another exciting chapter beginning...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why Mess With a Good Thing?

We were thrilled to learn this morning that baby number four is a BOY! Another rowdy rascal to chase around the house, another rugrat to throw on the dogpile, another buddy to tag along beside me, another sweetie to hug and kiss, another missionary to send out! Bring it on!

Still just so tiny, but already such a handsome little guy! I just love my precious little baby boy.

Grandma Zollinger

Francis Evelyn Abbott Zollinger
November 12, 1924 - November 10, 2011

My Grandma Zollinger passed away last week, two days before her 87th birthday. Although she will be greatly missed, I am happy that my Gramma was released from the limitations of the disease that claimed her body in her final years--free to hum her favorite '40s tunes like the bubbly, cheerful, sweet Grandmother that I remember fondly from my childhood.

I couldn't have captured the essence of my Gramma any better than the words shared by my sister:

She was a great storyteller and I loved hearing stories about when she was younger, and the ones she made up. I loved trying on all of her little avon mini-lipsticks and costume jewelry. She was a horrible cook, but I loved making things with her because she wasn't afraid to experiment or let us 'help.' My favorite things to make were 'honey balls' and 'cheese straws' and my least favorite things to eat included anything out of 'american cheese' and anyone of her experimental salads, including and most especially one that I believe was named 'Ronald Reagan salad' and paired vegetables with mayo. yuck. She never ever pronounced 'Kmart' correctly, instead pronouncing it 'Kmark.' This irritated me endlessly and I corrected her constantly. She wore polyester pants with seams down the front and silky blouses. This was her uniform for as long as I knew her and I never knew her to deviate from it. She had partial dentures and would occasionally take them out in her bedtime routine to my shrieking amusement. She had endless patience for games of go-fish as well as for all of the half-broken weird off-brand games she would pick up from garage sales. She really disliked shopping, but would take me shopping each time I visited. She wasn't much of a t.v. watcher (or maybe she just didn't have the time whenever we were visiting) with the weekly exception of the Lawrence Welk show, which I remember her and grandpa watching religiously.

My Gramma created an impressive legacy, including a sweetheart of 66 years (!), two children, ten grandchildren, and forty great-grandchildren.

Friday, November 4, 2011

18 Weeks!

Shame on me. This poor little baby isn't even born yet and its already so very neglected. 99% of the time, I completely forget I'm even pregnant and then I'll glance at myself in the mirror, or someone will comment on my baby bump, and that flood of panic rushes back all at once, "Oh my gosh! I AM pregnant!" Baby doesn't have a name (haven't even begun that conversation), we haven't bought so much as a diaper (we have plenty of diapers, but none in the newby size), and here I am, nearly half-way through what is more than likely my very last pregnancy. I feel so guilty for not slowing down, processing this special time, and savoring this sweet experience--but my plate already feels so FULL! Keeping up with three boys and a crazy house, taking our family on a giant adventure and beginning the moving process, etc. Thank you sweet baby for staying put and not giving me any trouble. I'm really not sure how this whole four-kids thing is going to work out...but I'm just banking on figuring it out as I go. Hang in there baby, Mama will figure it out.

Since it seems like I live in my pajamas and never get around to doing anything with my hair, I haven't been in the mood to document my baby bump for our family history. So today I finally got dressed and did my hair and everything (and it wasn't even a special occasion!) and didn't want to miss this rare window of opportunity, so I had Hank take the picture for me. When you have a five-year old take your picture, you get what you get.

My Little Turkeys

Having Hank in Kindergarten has made me appreciate the special mornings (Hank's Kindergarten is full-day, every other day) that I get to play with my boys at home. No therapy, no playdates, no errands...just good old mom-and-boys time. So this morning we decided to get our craft on and the boys and I made these cute little turkeys. I'm just surprised at how well they can pay attention, follow directions, and concentrate--when they want to, that is. I have to say, I'm pretty proud of the final products (they made the turkeys all by themselves...cutting, glueing, drawing, and everything).

Hank embellished his project by drawing a castle around his turkey.

Max though his turkey needed hands and feet.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bragging About Hank

At any given time, if you look at the camera roll on my phone, you may find 20-30 random pictures of Aaron's feet, the remote control, or the underside of the kitchen table. My little budding photographers love clicking away at the camera...but sometimes the subject can be interesting. So, it made me smile when I found this cute little self-snap shot of my Hankie.

The other night Aaron and I got to visit with Hank's kindergarten teacher for parent/teacher conferences. Although his teacher did report that Hank is all boy, and likes to wrestle with his friends, and push his way in line, she confirmed what I already knew to be true: Hank is a smarty-pants! I don't know if all of our future parent/teacher conferences will be this enjoyable, but it was a treat to listen to someone else tell me how awesome my kid is. Tell me something I don't know! I love this little boy and I'm so proud of the awesome little kid that he is turning into. Smart. Intuitive. Sweet. Helpful. I love you, Hank!

Happy Halloween!

Hank and Max decided to be firemen for Halloween this year (again!) and Ben of course was made a fireman by default (and likely will be for the next five years since I now own fireman costumes in every size). The boys have been playing dress-up (or whatever manly version it is that boys do when they were costumes) all month long. By the time Halloween finally rolled around, the costumes were looking a little bedraggled with stains from two church trunk-or-treat parties, one preschool party, and Hank's kindergarten party. At least I got my moneys' worth on our costumes this year.

The boys could barely stand to wait until it got dark outside to head out trick-or-treating....I'm not going to lie, we were definately the first trick-or-treaters on our block. Ok, I confess, I was excited, too!
Ben barely made it around the block before he was ready to go back inside, but Hank and Max couldn't get enough. Greedy! By the time the night was over, our noses were cold, our feet were sore, and our pumpkin baskets were HEAVY!

A few funnies from Max:
- Even with the repetition every single time we rang a doorbell, I couldn't get Max to say, "trick or treat." Instead, he'd tip his hat and say, "howdy!" To be honest, his greeting probably earned him more candy than the traditional phrase, anyways.
- One friendly neighbor told Max that he wished he could be a fireman when he grew up, to which Max wisely responded that he should eat his begtables (vegtables).
- My brave fireman retreated from every doorstep where he heard a dog inside the house...imagine how afraid he was of some of the neighbors' gory decorations.
Not bad, right? This much candy will probably last....like, at least a couple weeks:)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


When I have to physically break up the boys' wrestling, yell at them for burping at the dinner table, and hose them off after covering themselves from head to toe with sand from the sandbox, I am convinced I live with the most unrefined, rough-and-tough group of boys. But times like last night, when they refuse to help scrape out the pumpkins because they are "too icky," I wonder if my rough-and-tough boys are just a bunch of softies. So of course, the boys watched from the sidelines as Aaron scraped out and carved the pumpkins.

Don't be deceived, I literally had to bribe the boys with an M&M cookie to get them to just put their hand inside the pumpkin.

Check out Max's incredulous expression when Aaron pretended to eat a spoonful of the pumpkin guts.

Of all the pumpkins, my favorite is the cute one in the middle.

Pumpkin Masterpeices!


Look at my big boy with his big boy haircut....a-dor-able.

Hotel Getaway

Who doesn't love a good surprise? We pulled off a huge surprise last weekend when we packed up a change of clothes, grabbed a couple Happy Meals to-go, and spent the night eating junkfood, splashing in the pool, watching movies, and staying up way past bedtime at the downtown Marriott (thanks for the free night, Marriott!)

Not the best photo, but you get the idea: we partied, we snuggled, and we vegged out.

My boys usually aren't big risk-takers, so I was surprised that they were so fearless in the water. We had to tear them out of the pool, pruny fingers and everything.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Visit to the Pumpkin Patch (wink, wink)

I'm glad the boys love the rubber ducky races, the bouncy rides, and the petting zoo so much because otherwise they'd see right through our trip to the pumpkin patch for what it really is: an excuse to sneak in a family photo-op! Oh, and pick out a couple pumpkins. This year, we visited the pumpkin patch a little early because 1) we decided to capitalize on a brief window of sunshine, 2) Nana and Papa Z came to visit and who doesn't love the pumpkin patch? and, 3) we're just crazy like that.