Monday, January 25, 2016

Auf Wiedersehen Amanda!

This past week, we went to Utah for my little sister's farewell and to see her off to her mission to Frankfurt, Germany.  It was amazing and sad and I became an emotional wreck at the end, but it was so, so good.

This time when we drove out, we stopped a little more than halfway and stayed the night at the Marriott in Elko.  It was nice to not drive the whole way in one sitting and the promise of getting to go swimming really helped the girls.  We've never stayed in a hotel, all four of us, and it was actually super fun!  The girls loved swimming and thought it was so cool that they got their own bed and that the hotel gave us toothbrushes since I left theirs at home on accident.  Hannah was bouncing of the walls,  she was so excited (or at least the bed) and all Hazel wanted was to cuddle up with a pillow and blanky.  The girls went right to sleep (thank you swimming pool!) and so Aaron and I stayed up and watched a movie.  Thankfully, we all slept well until Hazel fell off the bed at about 6 a.m., poor thing.  It was a little snowy on the rest of our drive, but luckily we made it to Utah safe and sound.  We were all very happy to be out of the car and I was very excited to not hear "Mom..." literally every five seconds.

We spent Saturday afternoon helping my family get ready for the farewell.  We made cookies and Hannah was a good helper and helped Grandpa Kevon clean.  It was fun to just hang out and talk and catch up.  That night, we had dinner with the Bytheways.  We went to Zupa's (man, I miss that place) and I was in Nuts About Berries Heaven.

The next day was Amanda's farewell.  She gave a great talk and also played a song on the cello, which was gorgeous. #showoff  Jk, Amanda, I love you.  I loved hearing her testimony and excitement about sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Afterward, we had lots of family and friends over, ate way too much food, played Octopus 8 and Mafia with the cousins, and talked and talked.  I love big family gatherings like that.  It's one of the things I miss most about Utah - everyone getting together and not really doing anything, but just having fun.

That night, we stole over to the Bytheways for a bit.  It was Trish's birthday a few weeks ago, so we got to participate in our tradition of saying something we love about whoever's birthday it is.  I just love Trish!  She is the world's best mother-in-law and I'm so grateful for her.  Here's a picture of her that shows exactly who she is - an amazing grandma making all of the kids feel special by letting them help her with everything.

Some time after this, we went back to my parents and randomly made fried pickles with our favorite love birds, Steven and Emma.  We even made our own Cajun seasoning for the dipping sauce.  I'm going to go ahead and call us fried pick pros.  I feel like whenever we're in Utah, we stay up way too late but its always worth it.

Monday morning we were able to go to the Provo Temple Open House.  I've been dreaming of going to this since this temple was announced - I went to stake conference in the tabernacle before it caught fire, I watched it burn on my way to work in 2010, and I lived just blocks away from it while it was being rebuilt - so it was a real treat to be able to see the gorgeous finished product.  It was also so neat to be there with my family and to be able to share what the inside of a temple looks like with Hannah.  She was especially excited about the sealing rooms where people get married.  :)  Her other favorite part was the umbrellas that they let us use.

On our way back from Provo, we stopped to see Brooke and Scott, their new apartment, and their new puppy Maslow!  Hannah and Hazel loved eating all of their food.  :)  Thanks to Brooke, I now know how to train my children.  Whenever I want them to listen to me, I've been having them pretend that they're Maslow and they're much more obedient that normal...

Monday was also the day of selfies where we came up with this gem.... (and some cute ones)...

Monday night we celebrated Trish's birthday with pizza benders from Italian village.  Again, it was just a laid back night of hanging out and being together.  Somehow I didn't even get a picture of Trish blowing out the candles though.

Tuesday was a low key day, which was nice.  Aaron went snowboarding with his dad and Allie, Brooke, and Scott. So Hannah went to preschool with my mom and Hazel and I helped Amanda pack and ran some errands.  It was good to get a little sister time in before saying goodbye.  

In the afternoon, we went up to Siegfried's for some Deutsch essen.  We tried bratwurst, weisswurst, spaetzel, saurkraut, fried potatoes, etc.  The best part was definitely the German Chocolate cake. Yum. Here's our girl with her German food:

Amanda's setting apart was amazing and it was my favorite part of our trip.  Her stake president invited all of us to say something if we wanted to so it kind of just turned into a family testimony meeting.  I'm convinced there is nothing better than being with your family and hearing their faith in and testimony of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.  I just wish Heidi and Dave could have been there.  Before Amanda's setting apart, I had been worrying about a lot of things - our house that still hasn't rented, upcoming Turnaround at Aaron's work, saying goodbye to Amanda for 18 months, etc, but while she was being set apart I could not feel anything but peace.  The doubt and fears and worries were cast out and the Spirit was so strong. It was a beautiful experience I will never forget.  There was a lot of ugly crying.  :)

I'm so grateful that we were able to go out to Utah and be there this week.  This was one of my favorite trips back to Utah.  Aaron and I are so blessed to have such wonderful families.  I'm especially grateful for Amanda.  She's always been my buddy and its going to be hard to not be with her for the next year and a half.  But I know what she is doing will bless our family, will bless her own life, and will bless the many lives that she will touch as she teaches the gospel in Germany.

I know the gospel of Jesus Christ brings us real joy.  I am grateful for His Atonement that allows me to change and grow and become more like Him.  And I know that any sacrifice we make for Him and His church will never compare to all that He's done for us.  I feel pretty lucky right now.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Happy New Year!

Wow, 2016 really snuck up on me!  As in, I think I only blogged twice in 2015.  Oops.  Good thing I am setting a goal to blog more this year.  I'm hoping it can become an every Sunday afternoon kind of thing.  

For New Years this year, we celebrated with a little party.  I almost let it go by as no big deal, but I remember being a kid and our neighbors always threw a FABULOUS New Years Eve party and wishing that my family could be like that.  So I decided we needed to be that family.  Not to say that our party was fabulous, but at least we had one.  I came up with a few last minute games (a picture scavenger hunt, picking up marshmallows with straws, saran wrap ball, and the flour game), we had our friends over for chocolate fondue (or "ondue" as Hannah kept calling it), and finished off our late night at 7:30 p.m. with a balloon drop.  And then Aaron and I fell asleep on the couch watching a movie during actual New Years because we're really exciting like that.  It was fun and simple and I'm glad we did it.  Hopefully next year, I can make it a little more fabulous.

Something we did though that I really liked was writing down some of our favorite parts of 2015 and what we're looking forward to in 2016.  Here's what we came up with:

Favorite Parts of 2015
  • Getting presents in Utah (Hannah)
  • Eating gelato (Hazel)
  • Getting a raise (Aaron)
  • Our cruise to the Bahamas
  • Utah trips
  • Visits from family and friends
  • Moving to our new house
  • Chuck-E-Cheese runs
  • Our first full year in California
  • The beach
  • Baby Wren and Baby Sammi being born

What We're Looking Forward to in 2016
  • The balloons! (Hannah)
  • The beach
  • Camping
  • Amanda serving a mission
  • Our new nephew Milo to be born
  • Steven and Emma getting married
  • BBQs
  • Turn Around being over for another year....maybe.
I am excited for 2016!  I am grateful we are in our new house, that my sweet little family is happy and relatively healthy, and that we already have so many good things to look forward to this year! Happy New Year!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Thoughts on Same-Sex Marriage

Honestly, I am really afraid to post this.  I don't often express my opinions publicly because I worry about what people think.  I love and know many people on both sides of this issue.  My intent is not to be controversial and I definitely don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.  However, I have felt the need to express my stance on same-sex marriage and why I feel the way I do.   Not because I have anything new or interesting to bring to the conversation, but because I think it's important for all of us to take advantage of our right to free speech and I'm not sure "liking" or "sharing" someone else's opinion fully does that.

First of all, if you are one of my gay friends or a supporter of gay marriage, please know that I love you and that I know this issue is very important to you.  I understand why it is so important to you and I would never want to trivialize your feelings.  I know that you seek the same thing that all of us seek - a happy life and to feel loved and accepted.  I understand that you have probably felt hurt, misunderstood, and judged at some point in your life and I am so sorry for that.  I sincerely hope it was not by me.  I won't pretend to know how you feel or everything you've had to go through, but I want you to know that I am trying to be understanding of your situation and want the very best for you.

I have a testimony that God loves ALL of His children whether they are male or female, gay or straight.  I believe that because He loves us, He has given us laws to live by so that we can be the recipients of His blessings. Each of us is given specific tests and trials to face while we are here on earth.  Some of those tests are much harder than others, but each of us is subject to sin and sorrow. I believe that God requires us to obey all of His commandments, even the ones that are hard, and even the ones that we don't agree with, if we want to become like Him and inherit all that He has.  We do not get to choose our tests, tendencies, appetites, or passions, but we do get to choose how we react to them.  

In 1995, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints put out a statement called The Family:  A Proclamation to the World.  I have prayed about these words and I know that they are true:

WE, THE FIRST PRESIDENCY and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.
ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.
I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and through His Atonement, we are able to overcome all temptation, adversity, or pain.  He will bear our burdens with us.  His Atonement will ultimately make all wrongs right and will make up for all of the unfairness we experience in this life.

Whether you are in favor of same-sex marriage or against it, let's all remember our Savior's words in John 13:34 - "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you."  No matter our position, we can still be loving and compassionate, inclusive and understanding.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Happy Birthday Hazel!

Dear Hazel,

Happy birthday Squishy!  I can't believe that you've been here a whole year, and yet, part of me thinks you should be turning at least five because I simply cannot imagine my life, our family, or this world without you.

Hazel, I love everything about you!  I love your easy-going, good-natured personality.  I love that as sweet as you are, you have a stubborn streak that emerges at times.  I love your sparkly eyes, round cheeks, and big, open-mouthed grin.  I love that you still love to snuggle with me.  I love that you are such a ham and that you give big, cheesy smiles to everyone.  I love that you have to wave to every dog, cat, or squirrel we pass.  I love that you love your sister, your dad, and me so much and that we are your whole world, because you certainly are ours.

Happy birthday Hazel Mae!  I thank Heavenly Father every day for letting me be your mom.  I love you sweet girl!

Love,  Mama

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Turn Around and Tender Mercies

My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions....He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh......And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me.
- 2 Nephi 4:20-23
For the past five weeks, Aaron has been working turn around.  Turn around is where the refinery needs to shut certain units down for cleaning, maintenance, etc.  Since the refinery doesn't make as much when units are down, everyone works like crazy to get it done as fast as possible, which means Aaron has had to work 12-13 hour night shifts, 13 days on/1 day off.  It has been really hard.  Aaron is exhausted, I am burnt out, Hannah has had a hard time with Aaron working so much and has been acting up a lot, and Hazel has been sick (and has not been sleeping).  Needless to say, I think we're all very done with this turn around thing.  

That being said, I'm not sure if it's because I can see the light at the end of the tunnel (hopefully only one more week!) or because Aaron has been able to take a few days off this week, but I am feeling a lot of gratitude tonight.  So many things have happened that that remind me that god is very aware of my circumstances and that He cares about my problems, however first-worldish they may be.  He has sent "angels" to help me in the form of a visit from a friend or a phone call or a text from a family member.  I'm recording a few of the tender mercies I've received this past month so that I won't forget.
  • Several days before turn around started, my friend gave me a "survival kit" full of everything from chocolate and crafts for me to activities and snacks for my kids.  Not only has it gotten me through some very long days (and nights), but it made me feel so loved.
  • My parents have called and done a lot of FaceTime to check in on me and my girls.  They're always so good to help me remember that I can do hard things.
  • Another friend brought me flowers, soup, cinnamon rolls, and herbal tea because I was sick.  A few weeks later, she brought me chicken tacos from Chipotle because she remembered they were my favorite.
  • Several wonderful people have had me over for dinner/play dates.  It helped so much to get out of the house and be with another adult.
  • With Aaron working so much (sometimes up to 95 hours per week), it was an absolute miracle that he was home and saw Hazel crawl for the first time.
  • Someone anonymously left balloons tied to my door on Valentine's Day.
  • My sweet friend dropped off dinner, cookies, and a huge box of other goodies for my kids.  
  • My sweet mother-in-law has sent so many encouraging texts and is always checking in to make sure we're doing ok.  
  • My friend from Utah (who I miss so much!) FaceTimed with me for over an hour one morning.  Just seeing her face really lifted my spirits.
  • Within a 24 hour period, I got packages from my parents, in-laws, and my sister.  Each one made Hannah so happy and I am definitely a happier mom when my kids are happy.
  • My sister has let me call her whenever I felt like I was going to have a meltdown, even at 11:00 pm her time.  She always knows just what to say and helps me stay positive.
  • My sweet visiting teachers brought me dinner and stayed the whole evening so I wouldn't have to be alone.
  • On one of his nights off, Aaron cleaned up the whole house, fixed the vacuum, etc, etc, etc, while I was sleeping.  And he's the one who has been working his tail off!
I know there are so many more that I'm forgetting.  Thank you to anyone to has helped me or my family these past few weeks.  I hope you know how much it means to us.  This has been a hard way to find out how lucky we are to have so many thoughtful and caring people in our lives.  Thank you!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Hazel Mae - 8 Months

Wow, I cannot believe how fast time is flying!  8 months already and you get more fun every single day!

One of my favorite things that you just started doing is reaching your arms out to me when you want me to pick you up.  You never cry or even whine when you do it; just reach out your arms and give me a big smile.  It is the most adorable thing and it is pretty much impossible to resist.   Thanks for making me feel so loved!

You are such a water baby!  You splash so much in the tub that usually Daddy and I are just as wet as you and Hannah.  You like to scoot all over the tub to get your toys and of course, play with your big sister.  I think you're going to love the pool this summer.

Your favorite toy is a little bunny stuffed animal.  It's actually Hannah's but she's not really interested in it unless you want it.  I sneak it to you whenever Hannah isn't looking.  :)

You're not crawling yet, but you are so close.  You can go backwards but when you go forwards, you give up after one or two crawl to lay on your tummy and kick your legs as hard as you can.  You can go between being on your back to tummy to crawling position to sitting really well and like I said in the last post, even without crawling, you get wherever you want.  You are super flexible and sit in the "splits" position all the time.

You are 26.5 inches long and weigh just over 18 pounds.

You are such a snuggler and I think you would live in the Ergo if I let you.  Lately, I've been wearing you on my back and you love being able to see forward but still be with me.  You love going for walks and being outside.

You're kind of hit and miss with solids.  At the beginning of the month, you loved eating table food cut up really small.and would eat just about anything I gave you - carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, black beans, bananas, etc. but you haven't been so excited about them lately.  You're good at self feeding - picking up, chewing, and swallowing, though, so maybe this is just a little phase.

You've been sleeping so much better.  (Thank you!)  You're still up once or twice to nurse, but I can handle that.

You have definitely found your voice!  You love to squeal, screech, and yell, and you love it when Hannah will do it back to you.  You're constantly babbling - bah-bah, ma-ma-ma, da-da, etc.

You have so much fun with your sister and you're so good to go along with all of her plans - from sitting in a manger to playing princesses or having tea parties.  You're always a great participant.  :)

We love you, Hazel Mae!  Thanks for bringing so much sweetness into our lives!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Hannah Shenanigans

This kid.  She seriously cracks me up and keeps me on my toes.  Every day she is learning so many new things that it really is hard for me to keep up with her.  Here are a few of her recent shenanigans.

A couple of weeks ago, we got rid of Hannah's binkies.  I never thought I'd ever let any of my kids have a binky after they turned one, but Hannah could not sleep without it and parenting is basically doing all the things you said you'd never do.  Any way, since disposing of the binkies, Hannah has been a pill when it comes to bed time.  She comes up with every excuse in the book not to go to bed.  "I'm too hungry."  "I'm too sick."  "I need to go to potty."  "I'm too cold."  "I need you to snuggle with me for a minute."  A lot of times her excuse statements are contradictory - i.e. "I can't go to sweep because I'm too hungry and cold and full."

Hannah loves Disney princesses.  Ariel and Cinderella are her favorites right now.  She goes around the house singing "Aaaaahhh, aaaahhhh!" like Ariel or she waves her pretend wand around shouting "bibbity bobbity boo!"  She even pretends that her shirt is long hair like Ariel's.

Lately, Hannah has really been into telling on people, and I don't mean just kids.  A lot of times she tells on me or Aaron to the other.  Yesterday she told me that Daddy pushed her (which was completely untrue, of course) and told me he needed to go to time out for five minutes (which is funny because I never attach a time limit to time out).  We're trying to work with her on telling the truth, but I'm not quite sure how to get her to do it.

Her prayers are so sincere and I love the insight they give me into her little mind.  The whole month of December, her prayers consisted of "Thank you for presents and Santa and Grandma and Grandpa and Minnie Mouse and Grey and Tanner and Kate and Emma."

Hannah got a wiggle car for Christmas from her Grandma and Grandpa Bytheway, but she insists on calling it her "bike."  She wants to ride it all the time, especially when we go out to the playground in our apartment complex or to go get the mail.  She does NOT want anyone to ride it with her or help her.

Yesterday, Hannah bit a piece of bread into a triangular-ish shape and said, "It's a Christmas tree!"  I thought it was pretty clever.

She mimics almost everything I do.  Sometimes this makes me feel like an awesome parent, like when she wakes me up saying, "Hi sweetie!  How ARE you?  Did you have a good sweep?"  Or when she offers to kiss my owies when I get hurt.  Other times, it's just an insight into the annoying things I do.  But, I do love how she tries to imitate me so meticulously.  The other day, I found her carrying one of her chairs into her room so she could feed her Rapunzel doll just like I feed Hazel baby food.  I even overheard her saying, "Just three more bites.  Come on, take a daddy bite!"

This morning, she came up to me and said, "Mom, come see my new findings!"  I don't know where she gets this stuff.

I sure love this crazy, curly haired little girl!