Saturday, September 19, 2015

Loving Lincoln

Ruth wanted to sit next to Lincoln and "share" the iPad with him...
He sure is a cute little guy!  He's 11 days old and extremely chill.  He rarely cries unless I take too long to feed him.  Or that one night when he cried every hour all night and I got him on reflux meds the very next day...
Today Ben prayed that Lincoln would get faster at eating so I could play more games with the boys.  

Twice today Ruth was going to be apart from me (going downstairs to play and taking a nap in her room) and before she left me she said "will you be ok without me?"

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Christmas & more

Well it has been quite the crazy time!

We of course celebrated Christmas.  This year, we did a 4-gift thing with our kids.  I also had a few "family" or "all kids share" type gifts, like a fort kit and a big lego set.
The gifts go - something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.  I didn't have to spend too much, and it made me really think about what the kids were getting, rather than just buying random, cool looking toys on deals because "they'd probably like it."
For something to wear, Ruth got a coat and some boots.  Ben & Tristan, I made them each a shirt that they had requested, and I also made them panda hats.  Ben wears his to school EVERY DAY.
For something to read, we had plenty of good choices, so they each got a few books.  I get them at thrift store and $1 book orders and save them for holidays/birthdays.
For something you want, the boys got Amiibos.  I can't even explain this, it's basically a figurine that links in to the Wii and unlocks content in different games, or allows you to play them and level them up in Smash Bros.  Ruth got a dollhouse (pictures to follow).
For something you need, that was the tricky part.  There wasn't much they really NEEDED, so I got a little creative.  Ben needed a new lamp, Tristan needed a coat, and Ruth didn't really need anything.  I put Ben's lamp and Tristan's coat with a Lego tray that I made for each of them.  I don't know that it was technically a "need" but I wanted them to have the trays so they could save their creations :)

So, the dollhouse.  When I was 3 or maybe 4, my mom and dad MADE me a dollhouse.  My mom put in carpet and wallpaper.  There was even a section on top with some kind of plastic grass for the "backyard."  At some point, my mom sent it to my house, but I didn't have any girls yet, so it just stayed in storage for a while.  Obviously Ruth is old enough to use it now (and she LOVES it).  But, this is what it was looking like:
I know those aren't very good "before" pictures.  I blame Neil.  But if you enlarge them, you can see I had to pull one section of carpet out, and a lot of wallpaper was gone/peeling.  I wasn't in the mood to do wallpaper, so I pulled all of it out and painted all the walls white.  It was also missing a lot of trim (1st photo) so my dad helped us put new trim on (2nd photo).  And I used some leftover carpet from the office to finish off the last section.  Then I set it all up with furniture/barbies and covered it with a blanket for Ruth :)

It looks really good!  And Ruth plays with it a lot :)

Here are some pictures of the fort kit I found at Savers for $4 (the balls/sticks anyway.  I bought used king size sheets for $4 each as well).  They set this up with Neil as a rocket ship.  They'd get in, "fly" somewhere, and then get out and explore!  So fun!

On Christmas Day, I really felt that I needed to go visit my stepmom's parents.  They are amazing people who have always sent us birthday & Christmas cards (and money), and even Easter cards.  Since my parents were leaving to go build houses in Mexico, we felt like we had the time to spare.  I haven't seen them in many years, because my dad (Daren) and my stepmom (Jennifer) had been separated for 5 years.  I hadn't even seen Jennifer in more than 5 years.  We'd never really had a relationship, when they got married she was trying hard to put her 3 boys from a previous marriage together with Daren and make that family unit work, and I just wanted to keep doing fun things with my dad.  She was there at her parents house when we arrived, and we ended up talking for a long time about what had happened between her and my dad and some of the reasons behind why he has never really been able to have a relationship with anyone.  It was really good, and she was really grateful that this opportunity to reconnect had suddenly come up.  We had plans to get together on New Years Day to play games and get to know each other, but she ended up getting a week in a condo in St. George, 2 bedrooms (not Worldmark).  She invited us for a couple nights, and with gas being CRAZY cheap ($1.75 last time I went to Costco), we agreed.  It was really fun.  She has 2 younger kids, ages 10/11 and 8 I think.  Ruth loved playing with McCall, the older one.  And of course Ben and Tristan loved playing with Chase.  We played games, did puzzles, and just talked a lot.  It was a great experience.
And I won't go to St. George without going to the children's museum.  They had an extra exhibit upstairs, a tribute to Frozen.  They had little booties to put on and "skate" around the wood floor, train tracks, coloring, cutout photos (as below), and stuffed "snow"balls to throw at each other.  I really didn't get many pictures, we were too busy chasing after Ruth.  Er, I mean, "playing" together.
Last little bit of fun, Ruth thinks the treadmill is a great thing.  Like, when you put marbles on it, they make a really cool sound.  But when you put marbles on it, mom will probably try to push you away with her foot.  So I started letting her get on with me during the cooldown section since it's going so slow.  This was my attempt to take a picture while sharing the treadmill and walking. 
Other than this, we've been working hard to get prepped for tax season as well as the 4th quarter payroll taxes, which take more work than normal, so of course they happen in January.  It's not like we weren't already busy making sure we have supplies, appointments set up, organizers sent out.  Oh boy!  I think we mailed ~120 organizers and ~200 appointment letters out to people.  It was a lot, but it's all done and it only took about one full day to get them all printed, enveloped, and mailed.  Now we just have to get all the payroll taxes done in the next week and a half - appointments start on January 31st!  WOW!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Elf on the Shelf & other Christmas fun

Have you heard of Elf on the Shelf?  I think the basic idea is that Santa sends an elf to your house.  This elf does silly (and sometimes naughty) things at your house while you're sleeping, such as toilet-papering your tree or maybe making a "snow" angel in flour/sugar.  The elf also visits Santa at night to tell him if the kids are being good or not.  I just didn't really like that idea for a few reasons.  For one thing, some of the "elf ideas" would make a huge mess that I would just have to clean up later.  Second, I teach my kids not to tattle - but the elf gets to do that every night?  Plus, on top of tattling, the elf gets to be naughty without any consequences.  So, I tried to find a way to combine Santa & Christ with our elf.  Last year, he did a few silly things and we were supposed to help "teach" him to be a good elf.  This year, I thought I would combine our elf (Elvin) with the scripture advent calendar Heidi gave us last year.  Elvin visits Santa each night and Santa sends him back with a scripture and activity for us to do.  This way, we can have some fun but still keep the focus on Christ.  Elvin is always found in a new place and the kids do love looking for him.  I think I've got an even better idea for next year, but you'll just have to wait for that!

The first night when Elvin came back, Santa suggested we go see the lights, so we headed to Thanksgiving Point.  We had a few pairs of holographic glasses from last year, which make the lights look like little snowflakes.

Some activities our elf has suggested: make paper stars (after reading scriptures about the star that appeared with Jesus' birth), watch the First Presidency Christmas devotional, hug everyone in your family, write your testimony of Christ, wrap Christmas presents, donate mop & bucket to the ward for our ward project, and more.  Each activity comes with a related scripture :)

We also had the Andrews family Christmas party.  They played "what's that great-grandkid's name" which most of us failed, and bingo.  The night ended with everyone getting a candy cane from Grandpa & Grandma Ruth.
 Ruth isn't a huge fan of the dark.  As in, she tells me "I can't sleep, I'm scared of the dark..."  She already has a nightlight, but it doesn't cut it for her.  I bought a glass block and a strand of white Christmas lights from Hobby Lobby.  I sprayed the front and back with frosted glass paint and cut out a Minnie head out of vinyl.  Add a bow, and you have a Minnie night light.  Ruth loves it.

This is how my boys usually fall asleep.  Tristan will have a comic book open on his pillow and a lot of the time, he's hanging off the side of his bed.  Ben has gotten better about turning off his lamp and taking off his glasses, but he still forgets sometimes too.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving and more!

It looks like I've missed a week - I better get caught back up with recent happenings!

My sister is in Arizona for master's school and she's all alone... :(  We sent her a box full of sunshine to keep her happy and hopefully tide her over until Christmas break!

I'm not sure what happened, but all of a sudden Ben lost 4 teeth within a couple weeks.  Including his 2 front teeth, just in time for Christmas.  Now I'll have to teach him the song!  He's asleep and I don't have a nice closeup shot, so I guess you'll have to wait until next week for that :)

Tristan is SUPER into regular Monopoly right now.  It's the strangest thing - he really doesn't have to concept of saving some money just in case you land on my high priced property.  He just spends as soon as he can and trades properties to get full sets.  I think I have beat him once in all the times we've played!

Ruth has a big personality as always.  She took the lid for a game and wore it as a hat.  Didn't want to go to the store without it!  Who am I to say no to that? :)

Wednesday before Thanksgiving it was Free Zoo Day at the Hogle Zoo.  We did get to see quite a few animals, but we had to go in the afternoon, and Ruth deteriorated pretty quickly...  My sister Brooklynne was here on Thanksgiving break from Snow College, and my mom & younger siblings were also out of school, so we made a big trip of it.  We even had Bostyn!  She's at that stage where the most interesting thing is the monkey's butt.  LOL.  Brooklynne is the one in the picture.

This year, with my mom doing her student teaching, I put myself in charge of organizing the Thanksgiving feast.  I brined a turkey, but the most frustrating thing happened.  Despite having thawed for 3 days in my fridge plus one day in a cooler of brine, it apparently still had some frozen parts!  We didn't realize it until we went to carve it and found a completely raw section :(  We cut off the outer layer and put the rest back in the oven - which ended up making the rest of the meat tough and dry.  I think part of the problem was getting a 20 lb bird.  I just really wanted some leftovers!  I didn't take any food pictures or even group table pictures.  I don't think anyone did to be honest...

Thursday evening I went to Walmart with my mom and little brother Tanner to try and get a big Lego brick set.  The deal was quite good - about 3x the normal amount of Legos.  We finally made our way around the store to where they had about 20 of the sets and probably more than 20 people in line.  We thought we'd try our chances anyways and got in line.  It was about 5:50 and the deals were supposed to start at 6:00.  Tanner said he'd be right back and went to go look for something else.  Just after he left, an employee starting tearing off the plastic wrap on a pallet of toys next to us, and it was seriously pure chaos after that.  People figured it must be time, and they charged the Legos.  I ran up there and tried to get my hands on a red box of Legos, but as I reached in, the last 2 were grabbed.  They did have a couple of Duplo sets in green boxes but I really wasn't interested in those larger Legos.  I just kinda stood there, a little disappointed, and waited for my brother to come back.  The Lego line disappeared as they (I assume) dashed off to get other deals.  One guy walked down the aisle towards me and my mom with a cart full of 6-8 Lego boxes.  As he walked past, he handed me the red box I wanted.  I am still shocked that he did that!  I thanked him very much and now I've got an awesome set of bricks for the kids to create with!  It's just another one of those tender mercies to remind me that Heavenly Father knows not just what I need, but what I want too :)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Tender Mercies

I'm grateful for some tender mercies this past week.  With Neil being a tax accountant, most of our income happens by May and almost none of it happens in Nov/Dec.  Adding to that the (necessary) purchase of a ground floor office this year, and I was getting worried about this Christmas.  We are switching to the 4 gift system this year, which will definitely help with our budget.  The 4 gift system is: something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.  It seems like I've given my kids too many toys and not spent enough time really thinking about what will be useful or helpful to them.  It's already been amazing this year, really thinking about what gifts to give them in each category.  Ruth for sure will need a new winter coat, so I went to check the thrift store to see what I could find.  She's small enough that I can still get clothes in really good condition from thrift stores.  I found a really cute everyday coat as well as a good winter coat.  On top of that, I found a "construction fort kit" by Discovery Kids for $4 (new is $35) and a Minnie Mouse doll with clip-on clothes/shoes/hats.  It is quite literally the PERFECT gift for Ruth.

I had been stressing about having enough money for the extended family on my list, plus my kids, without having to sacrifice Neil's gifts too.  Gifts is one of his love languages and while we both agree that we'd rather make sure the kids are covered, I didn't want him to end up with nothing.  2 weeks ago, it really did look like he wasn't going to get anything for Christmas, and since his birthday comes in January and tax season doesn't really start until February, I was really upset at the thought that he wouldn't get either gift this year.  I'm a crier, big time.  So I'm crying and I say something like "What if you don't get any gifts for Christmas and I still can't get you anything for your birthday?" right when Ben comes in the room.  He immediately left - to get his wallet, so he could give me all his money so we could get Dad a birthday present.  It was the sweetest thing :)

Early last week, I remembered I had a love seat, a heavy-duty shelving unit, and a foosball table that don't get used anymore that I'd been intending to sell on KSL.  I posted them, and they all sold within 24 hours, which gave us some extra funds for Christmas.  Between that and finding some really great things from the thrift store, I think we'll be in GREAT shape come Christmas :)

At Walmart this week, Ruth and I were in the checkout line and one of those really awesome guys came up behind us in line.  He had a nice round belly and a white beard.  He saw Ruth and said "Oh ho ho ho!  Have you been a good girl?"  I don't think she was totally sure what was going on, but then I told her it was Santa.  The rest of the time in line, she kept saying "Santa, what you doing here?" or "Santa look at Ruthie!"  It was really cute.

Today marks the beginning of tithing settlement, which is usually the day that we try to get in and get it done :)  It also means it's the day of the year that I actually WRITE my tithing check.  It was kind of funny last year, we paid just before going in to sit with the bishop.  He asked if we were full tithe payers, and we said yes.  And he stared, kinda confused, and the tithing statement that he had (which wasn't updated) showing $0 paid.  We set aside our tithing with each and every paycheck that we get, and I have never touched that money during the year, but I choose to pay it annually rather than monthly.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Reading and Fun

One thing that all my children enjoy doing (although at varying degrees of interest) is reading.  Ben is my biggest reader, and constantly causes his glasses to loosen because he falls asleep with a book on his chest and his glasses on.  I caught this cute picture last week when Ruth asked to read a book and Tristan was happy to help :)
For dinner one night, I did roast and potatoes.  My roast comes from bottled roast, and it's super tender and falls apart into little pieces of deliciousness.  I love it :)  Ruth wasn't so excited about it though...  she showed me her fork which had a "snake" on it (or a strand of meat, as you can see below).  I picked it off and ate it, and she said "thanks for eating the snake mom."  She wouldn't eat any more of the roast/potatoes.

On Friday:
Tristan (working on homework, picks up school folder): WHAT?  Who poked holes in this?
Mom: I don't know... you?  Someone at school?
Tristan:  And who poked holes in this paper?  And there's a hole in the couch too.
Mom:  UGH!  Ruth....
Tristan: Well can we go to the school tomorrow and get a new folder?
Mom: No, no one will be there.
Tristan:  (blank face) You mean Mrs. Vander doesn't live there??
Mom:  Uh... no.
Tristan: Well then can you text her and ask her to meet us there so I can get a new folder?
Mom:  No!  (explains how it's like dad going to work at the office - she will be at home on Saturday and won't want to come in - besides I don't even have her number)

Ben has a BIG crush on the cutest little girl at school.  She's in his class but she is a full head shorter than he is.  Some things he's said:

"I don't want to take a sandwich for my lunch because Eve is allergic to peanuts."
"I told Eve a joke and she laughed and I like that."
"When I saw Eve today she smiled and HUGGED ME."
"Can I take 2 treats because I want to share with Eve."
"The shorter the girls are the more I like them."

And last, here a couple pictures from our family session with my aunt.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Happy Halloween!

Every year around Halloween time, my aunt Angie sets up a Halloween scene in her studio and offers free portraits to anyone who wants to come!  We love taking advantage of this :)

We were planning on doing the pictures on Wednesday at 4:00 and then heading to the Traverse Mountain outlets (at the point of the mountain) for stories, a craft, and trick or treating around the stores there.  That meant on Tuesday I was frantically trying to get Neil's costume in a good place.  I should have ordered a good beard for him off of Amazon weeks ago, but I kept thinking I didn't want to pay $10-15 for one small part of his costume if I could make one out of yarn.  At some point, I had to admit that I also just don't have time to make EVERYTHING.  I mean, I made wands for the boys, and Gryffindor patches for their robes, and an owl eyes headband for Ruth...  something had to go.  So I went to Zurchers, which had a decent beard for $10, but it ended up being the same color as Neil's robes and it was just... bleh.  So I returned that beard and went to Halloween City.  I had looked up their beards online and they had a good long white one.  Sadly, the store didn't have that beard, nor any white beard.  They recommended I get a different beard and some of the white hairspray.  You can see in the pictures how well that ended up working.  
I already had the fabric for my robe, and the felt for Ruth's owl feathers.  The boys robes are made of DI men's shirts and Neil's costume was made from $1/yard clearance fabric from Walmart.  I think I probably spent $25 on our costumes.  I feel very blessed that I have the ability to make my own costumes every year and save so much money!

Halloween day, we stopped by Cabelas for a little bit more trick or treats - they had about 8 stations set up through the store.  I probably wouldn't care to go, but since they also have a big fish tank and other (stuffed) animals in the store, it's a more interesting place to go.  Last year, they hid small pumpkins around the store that could win you big prizes.  We didn't find any, and they didn't do it this year.  Oh well.  
Ruth was really getting the hang of the trick or treating deal.  She wasn't even upset that we weren't eating the candy yet.  The only problem we had was that some houses have dogs.  She's not scared of the dogs, she just wants to go into people's houses and pet the dogs.  And not everyone's dogs are the "petting" kind...  so we started having meltdowns when we tried to get her to leave the house.  Eventually, Neil took her back home and I kept going with the boys until they started complaining about wanting a drink and being tired of walking.  They got quite a haul though.  2 houses in my mom's neighborhood were giving out full sized candy bars, and most people in my ward give 3-4 of the small candies.  
Tristan came down with a stomach bug yesterday, and I'm just grateful it happened the day AFTER Halloween so he didn't have to skip trick or treating.