Loving It!

I love Valentine's Day.  I love pink and red.  I love making Valentines for people.  I love decorating the house and making heart shaped food.  I don't love all the people complaining all over facebook about it being a marketing scam.  I refuse to feel guilty for going totally overboard on a totally made up holiday.  Last year I almost skipped out and just couldn't resist.  This year, I started planning in January.

I had agreed to go up and run hills with a girlfriend for a run that morning (in the flat valley of Phoenix, that's a half hour field trip away), so I knew I wouldn't be home when my kids woke up.  Hence why I spent the previous night cutting waffles and strawberries into hearts. My sweet husband sent me picture of the breakfast feast as we were driving back.

Why yes, Sadie is wearing a leotard and Nate has his shirt from the night before on.  Wednesday night was insanely busy and Dustin and I both had to be somewhere at 6:45. I told them all to go to bed at 7 and had Ellie read a book after she put Luke down.  I came home to find Sadie asleep, still in her gymnastic clothes and flip flops and Luke in bed with no pants.  Successful evening of parenting for sure.

Our Christmas Elf brought the Edible arrangement to go with their waffles, which made breakfast even more festive.  What?  Your elf doesn't bring gifts in February?  Either did ours until Sadie was climbing in my laundry cabinets and found him Tuesday night.  I was just sure he had come to visit us for Valentine's day.

Each of our kids gets Valentines from us.  I buy for the boys and Dustin buys for the girls.  Sadie and Ellie got jewelry.

I got Nate a giant box of chocolate and a dinosaur for Luke.

Once they were out of the house, I showered, put on my new Valentine's Day outfit courtesy of my husband (remember how I got him nothing??) and got to baking.
(can you tell I didn't want to pose for this picture?)
I invited over just a few of my girlfriend's whose husbands had been traveling for a GALentine's brunch.  Berries, bran muffins, mini quiches and pain au chcocolat.

After that Luke and I went off to deliver more Valentines to friends, where Luke would announce: Happy Candy Day!  An apt description because when the kids came home from school pretty much every card had candy attached (and I'm no betters -- ours had candy too).  I want the school to institute a no candy policy and maybe we can go back to the days of being happy with cute cards and thoughtful notes.

I also had to reset the table so it was all ready for our fancy family dinner (I'm trying to pound it into their heads that Valentine's Day is more about family than having a boyfriend or a girlfriend) complete with mustaches.
And Valentine floats for dessert -- thank you pinterest.

After dessert we took the kids out to "love bomb" a few people.  Is there anything better than a day with your family?


Valetine's Prep

This years Valentine's Day posts are provided by my very poor iPhone photo skills.

Making Valentines was actually documented by Ellie.  Which means most of the pictures look something like this:
Mine at least have faces! With 3 kids in school, this means I have to provide roughly 90 Valentine's Day cards and candy.  I used to have so much fun making them with Ellie and even Nate until I saw what they did with the homemade Valentines -- ripped off the candy and threw it in the trash.  No appreciating it's adorableness.  No amazement for the time involved in producing it.  No laughing over it's originality.  And so I now buy Valentines for my kids to pass out. They write their name on the bottom of that fun dip pack and we're good to go.

Luke, on the other hand, only had 7 to hand out, so we bought a kit at Target and had lots of fun making robots and aliens.

Valentine's also means -- Girl's Camp Fundraising time.  For two days straight my house was caked in oreo cookie powder and melted chocolate.  My fridge also looked something like this:
Over 550 oreo truffle balls were rolled, dipped, drizzled, packaged and distributed.  Luckily I had nothing to do with the caramels.  And even luckier -- my gifts for the teacher were all ready to go:

And thrown into our crazy week was BOY SCHOOL!  I had been so busy with everything else, that my prep consisted of the hour that morning between dropping the kids off at school and the 3 years olds arriving.  This meant Luke did not get dressed for the day.
When you're the photographer you get to stop taking pictures when just your child is smiling.  We did make some fun crafts and ate lots of candy.

Valentine's Eve, after I taught Boy school, survived half day, did teacher conferences, helped everyone with homework, went to 800 stores because Ellie needed stuff for a project, made dinner, took the Sadies to tumbling, picked up our Edible Arrangement, dropped off orders at the church and then delivered dozens of truffles to friends who had ordered, I stayed up late prepping for the morning.

I made their lunches -- complete with jokes and heart shaped strawberries.  All Dustin had to do was cut their sandwiches into hearts.
Then I cut all of their waffles into hearts for the morning, I'll spare you the pictures of those, and set the table for the next day.
Finally Dustin got home from his church appointments and we  crawled into bed and I uttered, "You didn't get me anything for Valentine's did you?  I don't want anything."  To which Dustin replied, "Is that so you don't feel guilty for not getting me anything, when you did so much for everyone else?"  Exactly.



When we were at the cabin, I introduced our friends to the very fun game: Celebrity. I wouldn't say everyone in our group of friends is competitive, but there are definitely more than a few of us in the bunch.  I might not even be the worst!

To make a long story short -- the boys kept beating us.  The game got heated -- why did the boys care so much if they were beating us so badly.  Is U2 one word or two?  What about hyphenated words? Who the heck is Urban Meyers?  Is Emily Maynard really a celebrity?  Finally the last round I put in "Louisa May Alcott" (author of Little Women, but I know you already knew that).  Which *I* drew and Karen guessed.  The next thing I know, the boys are *challenging* the name.  What is this, Scrabble?  I can't help if they're illiterate.

We threw the name out and continued play.  And then we wasted an entire turn trying to guess J. Golden Kimball.  Who, if you're anything like the girls on our team, you've probably never heard of.  Apparently he was an LDS apostle who swore profusely.  CHALLENGE!  In the end, the boys still won and we left slightly bitter.  A google search will come up with almost 4 million hits for good old Louisa.  Half a million for Elder Kimball.

Fast forward a week or two and I'm out shopping for old books to use in an art project for the 5th grade art class at school, when what should appear. . .  A copy of Little Women.  Karen was with me, so I asked her if we should buy a copy for the boys and we laughed.  And then I saw *another* copy.  And then *another* copy.  So I bought them and we came up with a terribly clever plan, relying on the fact that we would be able to find 2 more copies.  We went to 3 more thrift stores and came home with a few games and even a 10 Plagues passover kit (similar to this), but no books.  We lucked out when Karen hit the Friends of the Library sale and found 2 more copies.

I set up a rematch.  We made up rules.  I had "prizes."  We made pizookies.  I am sad to say we lost.  Again.  I am not sad about the priceless reactions as the boys opened up the bag full of their winnings.  Mike Bryner picked it up so gleefully, "It's heavy you guys!"  And then he pulled out one copy of Little Women after another.


Fun Run

Our school decided to get rid of the cookie dough and pretzels this year and opt for a fundraiser that involved less junk and more action.  I was in love with our fun run.  Except for the part where the people came in and told the kids they could win an iPad mini if they managed to talk their family members into sponsoring them to the tune of $1,500.  But I digress. . .

Once I convinced the kids they weren't going to get the iPad, they settled their sights on a much more attainable goal -- the flying monkey -- which meant they each had to find 3 people to sponsor them for $1 a lap.

Sadie tried to earn her money without giving the full information.  Fundraising went something like this:

Sadie: Grandpa, would you like to sponsor me in my fun run?  You can pledge $1, $5 or $10 per lap.
Grandpa: How many laps do you think you will run?
Sadie: I don't know, maybe 3??
Me (shouting in the background): 26 to 36 laps!

Sadie: Aunt Lola, would you like to sponsor me in my fun run?  You can pledge $1, $5, $10 or $20.
Me (shouting in the background): PER LAP!!

I have seen my kids at running club.  There was no way they were going to run the maximum amount of laps, so I felt pretty confident committing to $1 a lap per kid. I failed to account for the fact that my kids inherited my uber-competitive gene.

Sadie's race was first.  She was very very serious.  I had actually not signed up to help because I had planned to run with her, but no other parents looked like they were going to run, so I ended up marking off laps on their backs.  This involved a large amount of bending and squatting and also sweeping aside large amounts of long hair every 2 seconds.  The laps were 1/16 of a mile with a water station and a huge blow up tunnel, so the kids felt very accomplished every little lap they ran.
The kindergarteners ran their little hearts out.  Just look at those faces!  Sadie ran 31 laps, so just under 2 miles.  I think we were all shocked, but that girl was determined.

Nate's race was next and once again I marked laps off on their back.  Nate actually ran more than the 36 laps and I doubt he even stopped for water.  He was on a mission!

I had so much fun with the kids -- the Fun Run company may have offered me a job because I was so enthusiastic.  Please notice how great I am at the YMCA:
I am sure those kids are looking at me like I'm crazy.

Ellie's was in the afternoon and the sun was out by this point.  They had also widened and lengthened the course in order to fit the giants that now pass for upper elementary kids (seriously, some of those kids are taller than me).  Their size was actually nice, since it made for less bending over to mark off backs, but there were twice as many of them and they ran twice as fast. Remember when you were a kid and you played too much Dr. Mario or Tetris and all you could see when you went to bed was a never ending game of rotating shapes? When I closed my eyes to go to bed that night, I envisioned making check marks in circles on kids' backs until I finally fell asleep.

The 4th-6th graders were intense.  They had class chants and some even had banners. I think I even saw pacers out there.  Kids literally sprint the lap and cut someone slower off to get ahead in line to get their backs marked.  A couple of times I had to chase them down because they didn't stop long enough for me to get the check mark on there.

Ellie ran over 36 laps as well and had a beet red face to prove it. And in typical tween girl fashion -- they saw a picture being taken and had to squish into it.

All said and done, my kids earned $309 for their school.  One of the best parts of the fundraiser were the class incentives. Between my kids, they earned a free dress day, a read-a-thon, dodge ball, no shoe day, electronic day, lunch with teacher, no homework passes (all 3 woo hoo). . .  I would highly recommend this fund raiser if you're looking to switch over.

Yellow Belt

I have a love/hate relationship with Karate.

Love that Nate takes it with his best friend, Travis.
Love the teacher (Sensei Bernie).
Love the discipline, self defense and focus it teaches.

Hate that it's on Friday nights.
Hate the location (Junior High Cafeteria).
Hate that the sessions never seem to end -- plus you have to make up missed sessions.

At the belt ceremony, Nate earned his yellow belt. He was over the moon proud of himself.
And so we got suckered right back in for another round of Friday night commitments. For all the "hate" on the list, I love Nate more.


Cabin Fever -- epic post, too many pictures, riddled with typos

Back in the fall, some friends of ours started planning a trip up to the snow and invited us along.  Yes, it's true.  If you live in Arizona, you pay money and drive 4 hours to the middle of nowhere for the sole purpose of repeatedly putting your kids in and pulling them out of snow clothes and yelling, "SHUT THE DOORS."  But hey, we hadn't worn socks in awhile, so why not. Only in Arizona we don't actually *own* snow clothes, so we spent 2 weeks borrowing odds and ends from everyone we know.

 How fitting that Nate and Daven had snow coats in their team colors.

We ended up in a friend's family's cabin.  It was built for their even larger family reunions so it managed to fit our army of children.  I was amazed at how many we managed to fit in there and how quiet it seemed to be most of the time, but then I realized the Duggar's do it every day and they only have one mother to feed everyone.

The cabin was perfect except for one thing: it was in the middle of nowhere.  Literally.  We drove to the middle of nowhere, turned North and drove some more. The benefit to that was we never needed to "just run to the store."  And the husbands never needed to go see a movie one night.  We spent all of our time unshowered (not just me, people!!) and relaxing.
A few of us finally decided to shower. . . the day we were going home

You would have thought I would lose some weight with the great arm work out that is putting on snow boots and bibs (seriously -- you people do this every day??), but I still managed to gain 5 pounds.  Hmmm, I wonder why?

The snack closet actually stayed in tact pretty well for the first 12 hours or so -- until the children discovered its existence.  I once opened a package of cookies, ran upstairs to get something and came back down to find only one left in the entire package.  We blew through 3 Costco bags of M&Ms.  Let's just say we were well fed.

As soon as breakfast was over Saturday morning, While the adults were still eating breakfast Saturday morning, the children started moseying outside in just their PJs.  When we finally got them appropriately dressed and outside, the big kids headed straight for the hill behind the house while the little kids tried to make snow angels and a snowman or have a snowball fight.


None of those worked out well.  The snow was really dry and hard, but some were just happy to *eat* the snow. 
 Or roll down the hill.
We ended up going over to sled with all the other kids.  It was a little bit of a climb to get up the snowdrifts -- sometimes it's was thigh high on my legs, but the kids made it up (ok, maybe I dragged a few of them up).

And were rewarded.

It was kind of fun to be on vacation where most of my kids are self-sufficient!  I did spend a lot of time with someone special (if you can't tell from the pictures):

Luckily the big boys are all such amazing kids(that seems crazy to call them since they aren't really kids, but "young men" seems a little Mrs. Robinson to me) and took great care of the littlest ones.  Cheese ball moment: I am so grateful my kids have such great role models around them.
And I mean, who wouldn't want to play with Luke?  He is pretty fun!  And he really really loves sledding.  Even if he's too scared to open his eyes.

After lunch we headed out to an even bigger hill about 20 minutes away.  Our main goal was to wear the children out so much that they would manage to sleep in past their 6:20 wake up call that morning.

The kids trudged up and down that hill for hours.  Well, except the big girls, who all managed to get hurt someway or the other during the first hour and went with Brenna to get gas.
I was actually surprised that it was Luke and Sadie who made the most trips up and down the hill.  Luke bummed a ride down with anyone he could find.
Sadie and Logan ended up going down the hill together, grabbing their sled and going right back down together.  If only Logan loved Sadie as much as Sadie loves him.  But don't worry readers -- Sadie has a crush on just about any boy over the age of 6 and she has many admirers.

Luke finally was worn out, and pushed the boys down the hill.  With his head.

Finally the kids were exhausted and we bummed around for the rest of the evening.

Sunday we *really* bummed around.  Our kids even managed to sleep in until 7!!  The dads took all the boys out shooting.  I have never touched a gun, so naturally I gave Nate a nice long lecture about being safe.  Nate looks at me with a worried expression and asks, "What are we shooting?"  I couldn't resist so I said, "Each other."  Oh his face!!

While the little boys were off shooting, the Hyamonds ended up with the middles outside, while I kicked everyone's trash in spoons and almost won all the M&Ms (that were left) in Texas Hold 'Em.

When I finally trekked over to the playground, I found out that Sadie was checking off her birthday wish list one thing at a time.  Snowball fight with "Mr Haymond"!

 And the big girls built a snow family.

Then the dads came back and Sadie's last birthday wish came true -- her very own snowman.
 And one for Luke too.
 There was some swinging

And then MORE snowball fights.  Why is Luke terrorizing his future wife?
We taught the kids how to play The Name Game and played that for a few hours too.  It gets a bit confusing when you're trying to remember 20 names.

Sunday night we played Hide N Go seek in the dark.  I love that game.  I managed not to be found 2 out of the 4 rounds, and one of the rounds I was found was at the very end (and I think Karen peed her pants when I grabbed her), so I managed to not have to seek very much.  The last round, I was found 2nd, I set out to hunt everyone down. As I hunted around in the dark, I realized I had no clue the layout of anyone's room but my own.  I ended up running into the wall a few times.  My hand ended up in the toilet. . . excellent fun.

Then the kids all settled down for a sleep over and the parents played the most heated game of Celebrity I have ever played.  So loud that our *children* told us to quiet down.  There were challenges and accusations of cheating.  Apparently the boys though J. Golden Kimball was legit but not Louisa May Alcott.  I submit google as a reference to which one is obviously more popular.  In the end, the boys won -- BOO!!  And not just one game.  TWO games!

 the mittens are my mom's high school ski gloves
But that's ok, because they all know they're lucky to have us.  Rematch is already scheduled.

Monday we played some games, ate some food, packed up and headed home promising to do it again next year.  In fact, we missed them all so much already we met up with the Christensen's for lunch on our way home.