Saturday, February 14, 2015


Even though I could not have been more ready to sail away for a week of alone time with my sweetheart, my mommy heart still heart a little bit thinking about being apart from my littles for an entire week. Just before we left, I snuck away with Joey for some quick one-on-one time. After running a few errands together we shared a dessert at Kneaders. I just adore this little boy. He is as adorable as they come, ridiculously smart, very loyal, and a little mischievous. What a combination! Joey is a one in a million and I love him to bits.


So, I am a winter weenie and didn't want to actually physically go outside in the snow myself, but I'm still an awesome mom and wanted my kids to be able to go I supervised from the warmth of my car. So fun! Our neighborhood park turned into a sledding hotspot and all the kids' friends raced down the slopes together.

Christmas Day!

I don't even know what time it was when Hank and Max woke up. I just know that when I got out of bed at 7:00, they had all of the gifts sorted, stacked, and ready to go! I felt like our gift-opening experience this year was actually very laid back; the kids were very patient about waiting their turn, so I got to enjoy watching the kids' faces as they opened their gifts. The favorites this year were: an Adidas jacket and Legos for Hank, a pitching machine and Legos for Max, more Legos for Ben (there should be a discount for buying so many!), playdoh for Joey, and a kiddie piano for Rocky. 

I replaced Aaron's circa 1988 snow gear with new snow pants and coat, and he surprised me with a big girl purse that I've fallen in love with. 

Aaron put his new snow suit to good use and took the boys out to play in the snow in what has been our first and only real snow of the winter!

I can't feel sad about Christmas being over because I am really feeling so lucky and blessed everyday. It is a very special treat to get to give and receive gifts, but truly I feel that same spirit of happiness and joy that is so tangible during Christmas, every time our family is together. The presents are just a really fun bonus;)

Christmas Part V: Activities

Looking back on these pictures (and I only documented a portion), I really can't believe that we managed to squeeze this many activities into 25 days! I will feel like all of the planning, pack-muling, and fun-facilitating was worth it if, when the boys are grown, they are filled with magical memories of Christmastime. 

Elf on the Shelf:
Donald visited our house again this year, reporting back to the North Pole each night on our behavior. I really don't like to play up the Santa aspect of Christmas too much, but I do love the feeling of magic and excitement that Donald brings with him as he appears in crazy locations in our house each morning.

One of our favorite family Christmas activities is seeing Christmas lights. This year we checked out a couple different displays, including this amazing "tree of life."

I think the kids all left our visit to Santa's reindeer feeling a little perplexed. If the idea of eight flying reindeer pulling a sleigh around the world was hard to swallow before, seeing these two small, tired, pretty lifeless reindeer didn't make the story any more plausible. 

Temple Square:
We lucked out and chose a night to visit Temple Square that wasn't completely frigid. Aside from the lights, which are spectacular, the kids think it's fun to visit the city at nighttime. On the way home we stopped for donuts.

I think this is a first: no screamers! We were able to walk right up, give Santa our Christmas lists, snap a quick picture, and be on our way. It was funny to watch Ben and Joey interact with Santa. They didn't even question who this bearded stranger was; they just inherently understood that if they wanted to get presents, they had to tell the man in the red suit. So they did!

Bouncy Place:
Not all of our December activities have something to do with Christmas--sometimes we just need to burn off some of that Christmas break energy. By the time we left the bouncy place, after meeting up with our cousins, the boys were hot and sweaty...and happy!

Happy Birthday to Me!

My boys sure do know how to make a girl feel special. Without any help or coaching whatsoever, Hank and Max treated me to this fancy breakfast in bed:

My special day was actually just an ordinary Sunday, but it will probably stand out as an all time favorite. I felt lavished by love and affection from my boys (in the form of singing, homemade cards, and lots of hugs and kisses) and so many birthday wishes from friends near and far. It was so sweet to reflect on the great friendships I've cultivated over 33 years of life. I felt like I smiled all day long.

You want to know something? I feel better--physically, emotionally, spiritually--at 33 than I did at 23! Maybe this getting older stuff isn't so bad! That self-awareness and self-acceptance that eluded me at 23, now just seems beautifully natural at 33. While I feel consumed with my role as a mother, it's through motherhood that I've come to fully understand my identity. I'm not just living life, I'm breathing it in and inhaling it. I'm in a good place. 

Ferris Wheel

I'm always on the lookout for easy, cheap ways to entertain the kids so when the kids were getting restless towards the end of Christmas break, we met Aaron at Scheels to take a ride on the Ferris wheel. I didn't expect the ride to be so thrilling, but when Ben squealed with excitement and rocked our cart every time he spied Aaron down below, I felt a tiny bit squeamish. 

Happy New Year!

I genuinely thought that this might be the year that we made it to midnight...but we didn't come anywhere close. There is an unfortunate paradox wherein we feed our kids an abundance of junk (in this case a variety of junk dipped in chocolate fondue) in celebration of special occasions, thinking that they will enjoy and appreciate the splurge, but we end up NOT enjoying the celebration at all because their sugar-overload results in such poor behavior that we end up just counting the minutes until bedtime. New Year's Eve was a classic case and point. We had all the best intentions of celebrating all night long with movies and snacks, but it turns out that the boys are chocolate-dipped Oreo lightweights--it was wrestle mania 2014 after just a few rounds. We skipped to the good part--the sparkling cider toast--and called it a night. 

Our movie and treat night didn't pan out the way we planned, but I couldn't ask for a better way to ring in my New Year than beside my best friend.

Stealth Mode

Our anniversary fell on a Sunday, so we celebrated with dinner and a movie the night before. On our actual anniversary, we decided to do something really lovey-dovey and shoot each other with guns. The boys joined us in an intense all out nerf gun war. I felt like Angelina Jolie in an action movie leaping into the air to hit my target and stealthily rolling across the floor to find cover. You know what they say, a family that plays together stays together. Happy Anniversary, babe! 

12 Year Anniversary

He is the peanut butter to my jelly, the milk to my cookie, the cherry to my sundae, the rootbeer to my float...the love of my life. Happy 12 year Anniversary!

Christmas Eve

Sometimes I reflect back on a special occasion and think about how we could have made it more special or note how we could make it better the following year. That is not the case with Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve is perfection. It is all of my favorite things all wrapped up into one magical day. I love the tradition: the food, the games, the movies, the Christmas pjs, the cookies left out for Santa. I love both the eager anticipation of gifts soon to come, and, the feeling of contentment that we have everything in the world that we could ever need. I love the celebration in honor of that perfect babe born in a manger so long ago whose life and death gives MY life purpose, meaning, hope, and peace. 

We literally hold money back from every paycheck to be able to go on a once a year, hog wild spending trip for our Christmas Eve feast. Even with the help from Nana and Papa Grover and Tim and Maria's family we hardly made a dent in this decadent spread: 

After gorging ourselves, we played a few kiddie games like Christmas Bingo and pin the carrot on the snowman. 

Nana read a special Christmas story:

We acted out a very simplified nativity:

Then the kids ran happily to bed to wait for Santa Claus to arrive!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Christmas Part IV: Partying!

If I posted a picture of our family calendar for the month of December, it'd show every square filled in with parties. Church parties, class parties, birthday parties, soup parties, neighborhood parties, slumber parties, company get the idea. I love getting together with all of the people that we love--feeling the energy of "goodwill towards men" and the building anticipation of Christmas to come--and celebrating this special time of year. 

Ward Party:

Nana Grover's Birthday Party:

Neighborhood Party:
I proposed the concept of throwing a neighborhood nativity party to two of my dear friends and they took the idea and ran with it. We served a three course progressive dinner while our children performed a live nativity complete with caroling, costumes, and a straw-floor Bethlehem scene! It was as spiritual as a program involving 30+ kids could be;)

Family Slumber Party:
The boys look forward to our annual slumber party every year. We begin with a pizza dinner and games and then throw in a Christmas movie while we pile on top of the air mattress and eat treats.

Minute to Win It:
I thought it'd be fun for the boys to invite their own friends over for a Christmas party, but I think they were more interested in scarfing down the Oreos and dog piling on each other than they were my minute to win it games.

Company Party:
One of Aaron's policy holder's invited us to a private showing of a kid's movie with an open concession stand. We asked several times if they knew we had five kids...five loud, wiggly, junk-food-loving kids...and they assured us that it would be a very family friendly event. We didn't all make it through the entire show--when Ben's popcorn ran out he was done and Rocky thought the staircase made a perfect playground--but everyone had a great time!