Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Our Charlie Brown Tree

I insist on getting a live Christmas tree. I couldn't imagine Christmas without the smell of real pine wafting through my house. We always had a live tree growing up and I want my kids to have the same experience. So, every year, I make our family bundle up, go to the nearest tree lot and peruse the aisles of trees for the perfect conifer. This year, we knew we'd be spending Christmas in Arizona so we opted for a smaller one. Ava and Jax had the final say on which tree we'd take home.

I had big plans for decorating. However, as soon as I opened the box of decorations, the kids dove in. Soon enough, garland was tangled, Sesame Street character ornaments were headless and Jax, who has the attention span of a fruit fly, ditched the decorating, opting for monster trucks instead. Although, he did let me help him put up ONE ornament.

Andy's not big on decorating either, so it came down to Ava and me. She delegated me the official detangler and hook putter-onner. So, really. The tree is Ava's creation and boy is it PURTY!
This is Ava's favorite ornament! We got it the year she was born (her birthday is St. Patrick's Day)
She definitely preferred one side of the tree to any others and tended to clump all her ornaments on that one side which, by the way, was not the front. It took all my willpower not to go over and evenly distribute the ornaments, but I had to remind myself that it didn't matter, what mattered was that she enjoyed herself. And she did. She was so proud of her creation when all was said and done. A few days later, we watched "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (my favorite) and Ava said to me, "Charlie Brown's tree looks like our Christmas tree." If you've seen the show (and if you haven't, well, then you're un-American!) you know that good ol' Chuck chooses a sad little tree, causing all his friends to call him "Blockhead" and the like. However, in the end, after Linus' retelling of the birth of Christ, the kids get in the spirit and decorate the tree for CB (which always amazed me, I'd like to know how they got it to look so full). THAT'S thre tree Ava was talking about... the one at the end, not the frumpy looking guy.









Anyway, we love our tree. Every morning when Jax and I come downstairs he points to the tree and says, "light... on." So, I turn the tree lights on and that's the way the stay the entire day.

The Results Are In...

We've been waiting for this day for close to two months. In late October Andy took the grueling eight-hour Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. It's a national exam that ALL engineers have to take; it's basically the first major hurdle on the way to becoming a professional engineer and a mandatory requirement for graduation.

To say the least, Andy was nervous about it. He didn't feel great about the test after taking it, despite his countless hours and weeks of preparation. To make things worse, results would take 10-weeks. I, playing the role of supportive wife, had full confidence in my husband. He is incredibly intelligent, disciplined and studious, not to mention he's been blessed with the gift of being an amazing tes-taker. Still, I recognized Andy's concern and felt a few butterflies in my stomach for him.

So, this morning, the e-mail came in. Andy's test results were ready. After a login/password issue, we were finally able to download the letter stating whether he had passed or failed (no percentages, just PASS/FAIL).

HE PASSED!!!!!
The stress that floated out of Andy's body was almost tangible. I'm sure he felt a sense of relief, but pride (the good kind) too. His hard work has paid off and he is one step closer to graduation and beginning work as a civil engineer.
I'm so proud of Andy! He is never satisfied with anything less than his very best. He does not take for granted the opportunity he has been given to go back to school and receive his Masters; as a result, he works incredibly hard to ensure every homework assignment, paper, project, presentation and test reflect not only his passion for engineering, but education in general. He's pretty amazing!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Where Did She Learn That?

Tonight as I answered a few e-mails from customers, Ava (who was supposed to be in bed) played on our desktop computer (which was turned off) and began typing her name. She, of course, typed A-V-A and then asked me what came after the G and R in her middle name. After I helped her with that, I asked if she needed help with our last name. "No, I can do it." And she did. She spelled it out. I had no idea she knew how to spell our last name, I've never taught it to her. I'm sure she's heard me spell it so many times over the phone or in other situations that she memorized it. On a side note, I am shocked by how hard our last name is for people. To me, it's just common sense. Maybe because I speak a little German (our last name is German) or maybe because I'm just anal about spelling. Anyway, back to Ava... she apparently also knows our phone number and address. I'm so impressed by her memorization skills, but this also shows me that she is ALWAYS listening, even when I don't think she is. Better be careful what I say around her... wouldn't want her spilling all my secrets :)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Recital

Ava's dance class performed at her dance studio's Christmas party. She, of course, counted down the days to the performance and could hardly contain herself all day Friday. We think she's pretty darn cute!







Could she be any cuter?!

Ava and her good friend, A.J.

Friday, December 11, 2009

When it Snows it Dumps

Being from Arizona, snow is a novelty. When I was a kid, our family made special trips "up North" to go play in the snow. It was fun, it was exciting, it wasn't permanent. After our romp in the snow, we would just drive back down to Phoenix, put on our short-sleeved shirts and enjoy the sunny winter day.

Here, it's a little different. We got our first big snow of the winter. And more is expected. Here's Snow Day 1:

The view outside our front door


Ava and I played out in the snow for awhile while Jax napped. She is not at all phased by the freezing temperatures. She just wanted to play in the snow and was sorely disappointed when it was time to go in. Thank goodness for hot cocoa, it made coming inside a little more worthwhile.



I got a good workout pulling her around in the sled.


SNOW DAY 2

We got several more inches overnight. Jax seemed to like the snow, however, he HATES the cold. He just kept saying, "Cold, Cold, Cold. Brrrr."


SNOW DAY 3

I've lost track of when it actually snowed. This just happens to be our third day playing out in the snow.

Making her sneaky face, as she attempts to construct a snowball. Lucky for me, the snow was too powdery.


Both the kids loved it, until Jax's gloves came off when he fell in the snow. The freezing sensation on his hand freaked him out, as evidenced in this video.

video

So, inside we went to thaw out.

I just checked our 10-day forecast. More snow is expected through Monday. I just ordered the kids some snowboots online, because it looks like this winter, we'll be needing them.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Jax's Gift to Baby Jesus

The kids have been eating lunch and dinner at makeshift table in the living room these day. Our kitchen table is currently covered in orders I'm in the process of filling, so the living room it is.

Today, while the kids ate their lunch of turkey sandwiches, I walked into the living room to find this:

Some bring frankincense, some bring myrrh, Jax brings turkey slices. I guess since food is Jax's favorite thing, it really is a valuable gift.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Countdown to Arizona

Ava was extra bored this morning. You can only play princesses so many times before you need to move on. Despite all my suggestions for other types of play, she just wasn't having it. It's been one of those mornings. So, I came up with the ingenious idea (okay, I didn't, my friend Jess did) to make a Countdown to Arizona chain. Jessica does it every year with her boys in anticipation for their Christmas trip to California. So, I thought, "let's give it a try." I have A LOT of Christmas scrapbook paper left over from some of the products up in my shop, so Ava got to sort through and choose which she wanted in her chain. It's so funny the way a child's mind works. Had I been in charge of the paper-picking-out, I would have ensured each chain link complimented the others. Ava, on the other hand, cared only if they had sparkles, pink or an identifiable Christmas symbol on them (trees, Santa, etc.).


We cut, assembled and VOILA! our Countdown to Arizona chain.


I can't believe it's just 14 days until we leave! We're so excited to spend the holidays with our families this year because next year we'll be celebrating a Very Merry Mississippi Christmas!

Ava
(she wanted to type her name)


Friday, December 4, 2009

"Helping" Daddy Work

We're supposed to be getting snow all next week. I'll admit, I'm a little excited. But, I'm sure that'll wear off as soon as I a) slip on ice (which is inevitable), b) scrape snow and ice from my windshield, c) have to get my kids bundled just to get them to the car and then unbundle them so I can get them in their carseats and then rebundle them when it's time to get out.

Anyway, in preparation for the pending white stuff, Andy went into the backyard this afternoon, armed with a rake, with the intention of piling up and bagging all the leaves in our backyard. Of course, as soon as he headed for the back door Jax began pleadingly yelling , "Owside, owside?" and Ava joined in with a chorus of, "Can I come, Daddy? I wanna come." So, I pulled their newly cleaned coats out of the dryer, zipped them up and sent them out back with a reluctant Daddy. I had to run an order over to a customer, which only took about 15 minutes. I certainly didn't expect the entire job to be done, but here's what I found when I came home:

Ava under a "leaf blanket"

And Jax driving a dumptruck through the leaves (what else would he be doing?). He had absolutely no interest in jumping in them himself, nope, they just provided a good obstacle for his truck.

Andy had put the rake off to the side and resigned himself to the fact that his mission had been foiled but two little people who, stacked on top of each other, probably aren't as tall as his rake. So, instead, our family spent time outside playing chase and running through the leaves. We had so much fun I don't think Andy really minds having to do all that work again. Okay, maybe he does... but we still had fun!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Temple Lights


Some of my favorite memories from my childhood are going Christmas-light-looking with my family. I have always wanted to share the same tradition with my kids, so this weekend we enjoyed the first of what is sure to be many nights of Christmas lights. What better place to start than the Salt Lake Temple.

The kids got a little antsy as we drove around trying to find a place to park. So, in an attempt to keep them entertained I began snapping up pics of them, here's the result:


The Temple grounds are all aglow with beautiful lights and nativities from all over the world. The kids, of course, were wide-eyed when we stepped foot on the grounds.



Jax, however, quickly became less enamored with the lights and more focused on running from us just so he could find a good place to sit down. I'm not sure if he liked the feeling of the cold ground on his bottom, or what. But, he did this about a dozen times.



Ava, just loved the nativities, looking at each a few times.


But, I wish I could have captured the look on her face when she saw the bright pink lights. She was sure they were put up just for her saying, "The Temple workers must have known my favorite color is pink!"



After over an hour, frozen fingers and runny noses we decided to head home. I planned ahead and brought the kids' jammies, changing them into them before we took off. Good plan. They were both fast asleep within five minutes. I love nights like that.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

One-and-a-Half

It's hard to believe, but our Little Dude is on the downward slope of his ones. He's eighteen months right now, which means before long he'll be two. I know you can do the math, but I need to say it out loud (or type it) because it's still so hard for me to believe!

Right now, Jax LOOOOOVES trucks! He has trucks on the mind... always. He runs everywhere, and when he's not burning tracks in the carpet, he climbing up things only to jump right off of them. He has no fear (except of the vaccuum cleaner) and no inhibitions. He's super goofy and has the most mischievous little grin. Usually, when he knows he's not supposed to do something, he'll look right at me smile and then proceed to do the very thing he shouldn't. For instance, as I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth the other day, the mancub decided to join me. He loves the bathroom. He's definitely Andy's son. Anyway, he has this thing about the toilet paper. He unrolls and unravels it, then uses the big wad to clean the walls or wipe his nose. Normally, I'd say it's no big deal, but we're not just talking a few squares. Before I know it, the entire roll is on the floor and he's using two squares to wipe his boogers. So, as I brushed my teeth I looked at him, he slyly looked at me, grinned, and then slowly, oh so slowly, moved his chubby little hand to the toilet paper roll and then began unrolling like mad. He was trying his very best to get it all on the floor before I had time to spit and rinse my toothbrush off. Fortunately, I foiled his plans. But don't worry, he was back at it the next day!



We love our little man. He is all boy, but still so sweet, tender and cuddly. He's growing so fast! Soon enough he'll be a little man. Let's just hope he'll get over the toilet paper habit before then!

Turtey Day

In honor of Andy's loveable Uncle Dallas, we always say "turkey" as "turtey." Uncle Dalley (as the boys call him) was born with down syndrome. He is such a joy to be around, especially when he dances. One of Andy and his brother's favorite childhood memories of Dallas is him calling them "turteys." He's in his early 40's now (which is amazing for someone with DS) and still says it on occasion. Whenever Andy or I sat it, it makes us think of wonderful Uncle Dalley!

So, this week we celebrated Turtey Day! We had originally planned to go to Arizona, but I had the opportunity to sell my products at a craft boutique the day after Thanksgiving, so we decided to stay here. Uncle Dusty joined us, along with Uncle Eric and Aunt Karly from AZ. How excited were our kids?! Ava woke up every morning for several days asking how many days until Wednesday (when Eric and Karly would arrive). She even got to stay up almost two hours past her bedtime waiting for them. When they finally arrived, it took me another good hour to get her to bed because she was so wired! Jax, who obviously doesn't remember E & K, warmed right up to them. I think he and Eric are kindred spirits. Both are daredevils with a special love of trucks and things for said trucks to jump over.

Thursday morning, Karly and I got to work on dinner. Although, is Thanksgiving ever really dinner? In Andy's family Turtey Day dinner is always at 1 at Grandma's house. In my family, it was usually around 3. Just a thought. Anyway, Karly and I went all out, making EVERYTHING from scratch. Except the turkey, Eric and Karly brought that up from Arizona. They got it from a BBQ place near where they live. The bird was slow-smoked for three days before we ate it. YUM! For sides, we had homemade green bean casserole (which only got better each day after T-Day... mmmmm), mac 'n' cheese from scratch, bacon cheddar mashed potatoes, my special marshmallow yams (which I've been making since I was about seven), rolls, gravy and for dessert... Pumpkin Cheesecake. Holy cow, that was a good dinner. Soooo not healthy and DEFINITELY not gluten-free, but sooo worth the extra time on the treadmill!


During the days leading up to Turtey Day, our family discussed at dinner each night what we were thankful for. Ava looked forward to putting the papers in our thankful box. I look forward to being reminded of all the blessings in our life, great and small. Here's a little sampling: Jax was grateful for trucks and grapes. Ava said she was thankful for Mama hugs and books. Daddy is thankful for Mama and school. Mama is thankful for our family and a heater in our home. I think I'll keep these papers. It's so sweet to watch Ava really think about what she is most grateful for. Jax, on the other hand, seemed to know. I would ask, "Jax, what are you thankful for?" and immediately I'd get an answer. Ava was much more pensive.

Tonight, as both my kids sleep, Andy is downstairs studying, Eric and Karly are in the living room sleeping, I am so thankful for family. In about six months we'll be moving further than we've ever been from family. I am grateful that we have the holidays to share with our loved ones, while we are still close enough to do so without the use of a plane :) We can't wait until Christmas, when we'll be home in Arizona (it will always be home) spending our favorite time of year with our favorite people.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Risky Business

I'm no Tom Cruise fan, but I couldn't help but think of him when I snapped this picture of Jax after church last week.


RISKY BUSINESS, Tom Cruise, 1983

I think Jax is WAAAAAY cuter... and definitely a better dancer!!




Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Family Pictures: A Sneak Peek

We had our family pictures taken a few weeks ago. My good friend Jess at Picture Me Mine Photography found a great spot for us: foliage, a vintage truck and an antique shop. It was a lot of fun and I think she did a great job! We had a tough time choosing which photos to order, but finally narrowed it down. Here are a few...

P.S. I made Ava's dress and I gotta say, I love it!