Friday, February 17, 2017

Valentines Day fun

We had some fun Valentine's Day parties at the kids schools. At HWS (Alec and Charlie's school) Valentines is one of the two parties allowed all year. The school also issued a mandatory time frame for the parties (after 2:00 pm). This meant I had to split time between Alec's and Charlie's and then get them out of school a bit early. Gwen's party was the Friday before Vday and her teacher, Ms. Walker planed fun centers for the kids. Freddy really enjoys going to visit the kids in school. I always come away with more sympathy for I see first hand what kind of behavior/environment/rules they're around for the bulk of their days. They all have great teachers, but still...its hard to keep yourself in line in a strict environment with some kids acting so tough and angry a lot of the time.

Our Relief Society put on our branch Valentines Dance again.. complete with a photo booth. They had balloons on the floor and it was a big hit with the kids running around playing with them. 

 With our remodel ongoing and having just gone to Disneyland, Chris and I had too much going on to focus on doing something big and special for each other. But I couldn't let the day pass without SOME kind of gesture of love, so the kids and I decided to surprise him at work with a candy bar from a gas station. Freddy (b/c of the class parties) didn't get a nap and fell asleep in the car after school. I was able to unbuckle him and carry him up to Chris without waking him up..he even stayed asleep as Chris held him for a while to give me a break and carried him back down to the car and buckled him up again. Ha! We got a babysitter and went out to eat at the Indian Restaurant on Friday - Indian food around Valentines has sort of become a tradition for us.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Kitchen / Front porch Renovation!

We wanted to have an entire year where we didn't do a major project on our house since we bought it almost 4 years ago. So this past year, we decided we would just focus on settling in, and allow us a year of 'normal' finances so we could be more accurate with our budgeting. It was a really good thing to do although I had to remind myself every now to stop thinking about the next project.  So with the start of 2017, we knew we were hoping to tackle another major house project and after getting taxes done ridiculously and super uncharacteristically fast this year (go Chris!) we were collecting contractor names in January and trying to completely flesh out our ideas/plans. We felt we couldn't really get started on anything official until after Disneyland, so our first week back my major focus was calling contractors and getting quotes.   I had a big long list and picked 3 to start with. They were all available to meet and look at the project within a few days. One guy graciously bowed out saying the job was too big for him now that he no longer has a crew working for him. We had a lot of our neighbors give REALLY good recommendations for one of the contractors. Everyone we talked to who has worked with him sang his praises and said he would get the job done fast, do it right, build it exactly how we want, do the work himself (with his brother in law, dad and a few friends/firefighters and be totally honest (not overcharge, or cut corners to try and increase his take). They said he probably wouldn't be the absolute cheapest guy (he bills hourly per guy, and takes 10%  on top everything and he might not offer any aesthetic design suggestions, but the quality and integrity of his work ethic was worth it.

So after we confirmed the sale of the rest of the stock Chris was given by his grandpa in his egg farm we called our contractor up to get started! He told us he'd be ready in about a week and a half. Perfect. We needed time to move out of the craft room (although I had pretty much got that room packed up on Saturday), kitchen and family room and we had hoped to save some money by doing most of the demo work by ourselves.  Our contractor called after the weekend and said he'd be ready to bring a dumpster by in preparation for the demo and said his current project and wrapped up unexpectedly and they could start the next day! He said they would be happy to help us pack stuff up and move it wherever we wanted. Ah!  So after dinner, and after Chris helped the boys put together their pinewood derby cars for their race the next afternoon, we got to work. We worked hard until the 1 or 2 in the morning but we did it. We had emptied it all. We even moved the fridge down to our storage room and dispersed the sectional couch in the kids rooms upstairs.  We are using the laundry room as a kitchen with the microwave, the attached small halfbath's itty bitty sink as a kitchen sink and the storage room as the pantry/fridge/freezer area. Then we moved the table and chairs and couch and TV into the playroom next door to serve as our living space for the foreseeable future.  We have the piano upstairs in the landing area (thanks to the YSA guys for helping us do that the Sunday before after we hosted their FHE).

Now the fun begins!

The workers came the next day and by 10:00am had pretty much knocked out whatever Chris or I could've done over a couple weekends!  Wow. They were fast and good.

Goodbye Kitchen:

Hello Demo:

Pinewood Derby

This year, the Cub Scout Leader (who is also our RS president, and homeschooler mother of 6) and I tried to simplify things for us both and have the Pinewood Derby NOT be an entire branch activity and keep the entrants just to the cubscouts. We held it on their weekly meeting and invited their families to attend.  The boys and Chris had big plans this year to really do all the suggested extra steps to make their cars fast. They watched Youtube videos and everything. But again, with the remodel and Disneyland, it was hard to find the time to actually work on them besides cutting them out of the blocks of wood. So the night before the Pinewood Derby they found themselves, putting the wheels on, greasing, tilting the anxels, weighing, lifting up one wheel...whatever-else-ing them. It was very generous of Chris to take this time to do it since we had just gotten the surprising news that our Contractor was ready to start in the morning and we needed to move out entirely from the kitchen, family and craft rooms.  They boys were pleased with their cars and excited for the race the next day after school.

Wednesdays are crazy anyway because we get our friend Dash from school and keep him for a few hours until his mom (and my good friend) is done with work, and we also have piano lessons from 3:30-5:00 and Cubscouts in the middle of that from 4:30-5:30.

The Derby was successful from the standpoint that the boys got to race their cars lots of times and be more involved. It was a little chaotic in between official runs as the track wasn't protected and so scouts and siblings would sometimes disrupt or crash runs. As a result, the cars got pretty hammered and Charlie's car was pretty fragile and the wheels kept falling off.  The winning car was actually a repeat car (without any changes) that also won last year. We might have to change the rules for next year or something. Malina and I tried to think of good rewards for everyone and gave them out in order of fastest to slowest, letting the boys choose a candy bar in the same order.

Turns out, Alec and Charlie's cars were the slowest, most break-able ones and to say they were disappointed is a big understatement.  Charlie was in tears a lot, inconsolable and slightly angry.  Alec was sullen and SO mad AT Chris. He almost refused to come into the gym to participate in the official races. He quietly yelled at and hit/kicked Chris telling him something along the lines of 'you must hate me because you purposefully made a bad car so that I would lose..because you wanted me to lose.'  Poor Chris! He felt bad and a little embarrassed that his attempts to make really fast cars didn't turn out well and mostly stayed out in the foyer during the races....but then he had to deal with the kids backlashes towards him too. He stayed patient and quiet the whole time but I could see it was draining.  We usually only have a 20 minute window to eat dinner together on Wednesdays between Cubscouts and Chris needing to leave to go to Young Mens. Without a kitchen or any dinner plans, neither of us was looking forward to dinner at home with the kids.... but with the kids crazy bad behavior I didn't feel we could just go out to eat at a restaurant either. So I gave Chris a hug and told him to go eat out by himself and have a few quiet moments before Young Mens and I would take the kids home and figure out dinner on my own. Chris was really touched by my offer and the fact that he took me up on it is a testament to how much he needed it.  I gave the boys a good talking to in the car on the way home and it was then that Alec was able to verbalize his feelings (albeit still very angrily) and I tried to help them put the afternoons events into perspective.   Life lessons like losing are hard to learn, but also such good practice and experiences for the soul. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Part 4 of 4 Last Days - Courageous Carter

Wednesday night late, my dad and brother-in-law flew in to join the party. So Thursday was our first day ALL being together (well - all except my sister-in-law, Radene and her son, Carter since he couldn't come because of his Leukemia treatment). We decided to all wear our Courageous Carter t-shirts and try and take some group pictures so we can send them to Carter and let him know how much we were thinking about him all week.  We went back to California Adventure park and got there early again to get fast passes for Radiator Springs but then headed out to the pier to ride some of the rides that had no lines... like the swings and the ferris wheel etc.  We saw Woody walking to his picture spot and followed him to be one of the first groups to get a picture with him. The workers noticed our matching green shirts and asked about them. (a group of 31 people in the same bright shirt is pretty noticeable) We told them a little about Carter and they were so touched by his story and our efforts to 'bring Disneyland' back to him.  One worker wanted to get a little surprise together for us and Carter so after talking with people on his phone he told us he could get us a private meeting with some of Carter's favorite Disney characters.  Then he walked us across the park to meet Lightning McQueen and Mater. Then he told us he had one more surprise for us and to meet him by the pier at 3:00.

So we rode some more rides: Radiator Springs, did some rides in Bugs Land, the Jellyfish, the Zepher, and watched a Chinese New Year Parade.  Then met back up at the pier at 3:00. The worker guy met us and had a big bag of gifts for Carter that he presented to Justin: a tshirt COVERED in signatures from disney/california adventure characters, a mickey ear hat with Carter's name embroidered, a signed Captain America shield and free access to the pictures they've taken of our group earlier that morning. It was so kind and thoughtful and brought Mom and I to tears (remember the crazy emotions I'm dealing with). The rest of the day we rode some more rides (the boys rode Screamin' with me a couple of times in a row thanks to extra fast passes) and went shopping and again came home early.  It was a very nice without any stress or rush of getting in certain rides since we've mostly ridden everything we wanted to plenty of times.

Our last day was back in Disneyland. Whew.  It was forecasted to rain and be overcast and a little chilly. We happily thought this meant fewer crowds. Wrong.  Our plan was to go straight to Peter Pan since we hadn't ridden that one yet and it has the longest line. Even though it said 20 min when we entered the line we ended up waiting over an hour for it since it had to temporarily shut down twice while we were in line.  Plus it was raining. But it was first thing in the morning so the kids were still fresh and it wasn't too bad.

Then we went rode some more rides and watched a show at the fantasy land theatre, Mickey's Magical Map. We had great seats and it was really good.  We had to say goodbye to Mom, Dad and Hailey since they're flight left that afternoon. Then we visited Toontown and rode the rides there. Freddy fell asleep and I walked him around in the stroller. When he woke up, everyone was on a ride so I decided to take him to Mickey's house since he still wanted to meet Mickey.  The line was super short and Freddy didn't cry or run away (like he did with Minnie). So cute. Then we rode Star Tours again and got dinner and treats at the nice restaurant at the end of Main Street.  The rain had gotten worse and kids were tired and cranky so most families split up after dinner to head home (they were going to Harry Potter World the next day and wanted to get good rest).

The kids each got one treat a day and then could spend their own money on more treats or souvenirs. They each had $50 plus whatever smiley-face money they've saved up over the past year. Gwen had quite a lot and hardly spent any. Charlie had a decent amount and most of it (mostly on snacks). Alec had a decent amount too and spent most of it too.

We stuck around with Jordan and Estefi and Sarah and German. We rode Splash Mountain some more, and did the Jungle Cruise. Then we waited at the front of Main Street to try and catch a glimpse of the Electrical Parade... but it was canceled because of the wet conditions. So we booked it to our car (we had parked that day to help us get home fast). We got to the house around 9:30pm. and then loaded up the car (we had packed all our bags in the morning) and by 10:30pm after 5 full days at Disneyland we started our 31 hour drive home to Mississippi. 

The drive home was..... terrible. Chris took the first shift driving and made it to Arizona by 2:00am and we stopped to sleep for a few hours. I woke up just after 4:00 and decided we'd better get going and drove until lunch or thereabouts. Then we switched back and forth driving till we couldn't and trying to sleep when we weren't driving. The kids were tired and cranky too and when I wasn't driving I felt like a MONSTER.  I had no patience for whining or fighting and didn't parent very well. :( We pulled into Dallas, TX around 2:00am Sunday. Then crashed at Thom and Brittany's until 7 or so. We wanted to stay and play but needed to get going. We wanted to stop by a sacrament meeting somewhere and found a chapel outside of Dallas at the right time on our route. We drove the rest of the day and got home around 7:00pm Sunday night. And got up at 6:30 for school and work the next morning. UGH. It was so brutal. But totally worth it. At least, I can say that as I'm typing this a month later!

It really was worth it to be able to be a part of such fun memories with their cousins. Our kids don't get a lot of cousin time, and to feel like they belong to a part of an extended family is SO important.  It was a sacrifice of time and money and sanity but it was totally worth it and full of fun, sweet, family moments.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Part 3 Disneyland

On Tuesday we used our Magic Morning that came with out 5 day passes to get into the park an hour early. We were about 2nd in line in one of the park entrances, and then waited near the front of the rope drop again at the end of main street.   Our first objective was to sign the kids up for Jedi training so we booked it to Tomorrow land and were able to sign all the kids up for the first session at 11:00 or something. Then we really wanted to make the most of our magic hour and got Fast Passes for Space Mountain and most everyone got inline at Star Tours. But it was still a 30-45 min line. (and Freddy couldn't go on it) Chris was frustrated to have to wait so long. He wanted to maximize the number of rides we could go on and wanted to choose some smaller rides to just walk on and ride lots of times or something.  The thing was there were NO short lines anywhere. SO many people were there for Magic Morning that the lines filled up. We choose to do Finding Nemo because the Disneyland App said it was only 15 min. .... and  it must have filled up fast because we had to wait 25 minutes.  I was a little upset because we had broken off from the family and were STILL having to wait in line.  After we talked about it and Chris realized that I didn't care about maximizing rides, I cared about maximizing time with family...we got on the same page.  The Nemo ride was sorta interesting and long. Gwen and Freddy didn't really enjoy the dark parts or being stuck under the water and they were anxious for the ride to end.

 After that it was time to meet up again with everyone to go on Space Mountain and then get the kids ready for Jedi Training. First I watched the babies with Sarah so everyone else could go on Space Mountain. Even Grandma, Hailey and Gwen went. Mom somehow didn't realize it was a fast roller coaster until she was nearly on it and in charge of Gwen so she bravely continued!  Gwen didn't really like it, and Alec was nervous about it being in the dark but ended up thinking it wasn't too scary. I was able to go on Space Mountain twice in a row because we had extra fast passes and the line was super short. That ride is one of my favorites! The kids LOVED Jedi Training. Alec almost didn't sign up because he's so nervous about new things and being infront of people. Gwen and Freddy didn't do it.  The kids learned a series of moves to do with a light saber and used the force to unearth a temple. Then they each got a turn to fight a bad guy and then used the force to banish the bad guy and lower the temple. Super fun. Alec, Charlie and Freddy each bought a light saber and were doing the moves they learned all week long.

After that we had fast passes for the lazer shooting ride. Freddy loves Buzz Lightyear and enjoyed seeing some big, moving, talking versions of him.  So many of the rides require anyone younger than 7 to sit with someone older than 14. So it was tricky to somehow match all the kids up right. Luckily most of them are over 7 (even though they don't all look it!) but Gwen isn't and she liked to sit with Lynae a lot, so I often sat with them on rides. 

After that we were all ready to branch out of tomorrow land and headed over to Adventure land to do Splash Mountain and Pirates and Haunted Mansion.  Tiffany's toddler, Henry, was pretty challenging and fussy but LOVED meeting Tigger. He just started laughing and petting Tigger and Pooh. It was so cute. Gwen was starting to really throw some fits. She didn't really enjoy going on Splash Mountain and was really wanting to buy something with her money but she was having a hard time deciding.  I took her shopping while Chris and the boys did Splash Mountain over and over again. As it was getting late the line was super short.

Once Gwen decided to buy the bubble wand that her cousin had gotten the day before she was like an entirely different person. She happily skipped and walked all the way home. The boys loved to try and pop her bubbles with their light sabers.  Another day but not quite so long. We left early enough to try and get dinner at the house. It was fun to have so many days ahead of us still that we didn't feel pressured to stay every minute in the park and try to get to all the rides (although we rode a LOT of them after just 1 day in each park).

We went the Disneyland again the next day.  Having been a little disappointed with the lines in the morning, we decided to take it easy on Wednesday and not get to the park an hour before it opens. We had a nice breakfast at home, (Chris even went for a run!!.. crazy guy) and then packed up lunches (a yummy sausage/spinach/pasta salad) got to the park 30 minutes or so after it opened. It was really nice, actually. We saw Minnie and Mickey at the front of the park and Freddy wanted to see Mickey but they had closed his line, so we got in line to see Minnie.

Then we sorta waited around main street for the rest of the families to arrive and sent Chris off with the fast passes to get some for Star Tours. When the rest of the people came, they didn't feel like doing Star Tours and went to Adventure/Frontier land.  We storta broke off into different groups and ended up doing almost the same rides just in different orders: Big Thunder, Matterhorn, Star Tours, Autopia, Monorail, etc.  It was hard to meet back up. I felt a little sad about all this.  I mean the large group is difficult to organize and make decisions and takes so long to go from place to place but at least I don't have to deal with my FOMO feelings when we're all together. I often worry about 'missing out' on whatever the other group is doing. I was just emotional this day because of other stuff too. I found out that morning that I was slated to ovulate that day which meant, we wouldn't be able to be in Birmingham, Alabama the next day for an IUI... so we'd have another month to wait on before we could even hope to get pregnant.

We met up for a late lunch/early dinner at the Mexican food restaurant by Big Thunder.  Sarah was my pregnant/not-pregnant tracker buddy and she shared an extra dessert with me to try and eat through my crazy emotions.  Somehow in the shuffle of fast pass getting, we lost Gwen's park ticket and Chris had to take her to main street to get a new ticket.  Then the boys went on Splash Mountain again while some took the little girls to see a princess show.  It was really funny and well done.

We planned to do a bunch of Fantasy land rides as it got late, thinking the lines would be shorter as people with younger kids headed to watch the Electrical Parade and go to bed.  They were still about 10-15 min long but it was fun to be together again. We did Dumbo, the carousel, and some others. Then Chris took the kids home and let me stay out till the park closed with Tiff, Sarah, Estefi, Hailey and Mary. We rode the tea cups and ALMOST rode Indiana Jones again but then it was closed temporarily so we walked fast to ride Pirates again before the park closed... planning to shop at the nearby shops after 8:00.  We were wrong to think the shops stayed open after 8:00. I guess only the shops on Main Street.  We had fun walking through the mainstreet stores without strollers or kids and called Chris to come pick us up at the end of downtown disney around 9:30 or so.

I'm pretty sure I went to bed as soon as I got home. The other nights we sorta sat around on the couches/chairs talking about the day and planning the next day but I was so tired. Mostly the kids would fall asleep pretty fast. Just the 'big boys' - Cameron, Dylan, Tyler, Andrew, Alec, Ethan, Charlie, and William - who all shared a bunkbed room - sometimes stayed up too late laughing and talking.