Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Rockin' Halloween

Ava and Jax are still bouncing off the walls. They've been on a perma-sugar high since Friday afternoon and I don't foresee them coming down from it anytime soon.

Our Halloween festivities kicked off Friday with the ward Trunk-or-Treat. Our kids were a HUGE hit. First of all, they are absolutely adorable, costumes or not. But secondly, this is the South. Not just the South, but Mississippi, home of Elvis. Oh, how the ladies swooned over our hip-shakin boy.

 Making his best Elvis face

Since Halloween was on a Sunday, or town of church-goers declared Saturday to be Trick-or-Treat night, even setting a time-frame to knock doors (4-8 pm). We joined our good friends for pizza than a little door-knockin'. The night was pretty chilly, but the kids stayed warm running like wild banshees to each door. Ava stumbled and fell a few times along the way, losing about half her candy each time. The good news is, she's fine and she has a lot less candy. It's a win-win.

Now, we have a giant bowl sitting on our counter, full of candy and calling my name. I'm resisting the best I can. Jax and Ava however, have had their hands in the candy bowl since they woke up this morning. Ava's been great about waiting until after meals to have a piece, Jax on the other hand, walked into the living room today with a Dum-Dum in his mouth and one stuck to his tail side. After that, I made a deal with the kids: they can each choose 10-15 pieces of candy to keep, then after that, they can trade in their candy for books. One book for every 100 pieces. Fair, right? Fortunately, I have about 60 children's books in my closet (thank you Scholastic book orders) for occasions such as this (and Christmas). My children get books and they get to keep their teeth for a few more years. Hooray!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Five Generations

My family is unusual. Well, yes, unusual in THAT way. But unusual in that we have FIVE living generations. My mom, grandma and great-grandma all live in the Phoenix-area. So, when the kids and I were in town my mom and I thought it important to capture those five generations in photo.

I will cherish this picture my whole life, and hope my children will one day understand and appreciate just how special this moment is.
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Hi Ho Hopi!

I'm finally getting back to blogging about our vacation. We've been home a month now, but that month has been a busy one.

A trip home to Arizona wouldn't be complete without a ride on Hopi. Ava has been in love with this horse since she first saddled up more than two years ago. The family who owns Hopi is amazing! The girls are always more than willing to take Ava for a ride, or show her around the farm. This time around, Jax even got to hop on Hopi, and he loved it just as much as his sister!

Since Ava's an old pro when it comes to this horse-riding business, she got to try a new trick:

Cousins Nathan and Bracken joined us for the farm fun, along with Grandma and Grandpa. Here they all are. Those are some good-lookin' kids!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Broken Heart

It's never easy to hear bad news. Never. It's even harder to share that bad news with your children. Especially a child as sweet and tender as Ava.

Ava has this adorable little friend, her name is Katie. These girls were meant for each other. They're both girly girls, both a little sassy, both a lotta sweet and when you get them laughing together... it's hilarious! Katie is a foster child. Our wonderful friends and their four children welcomed her into their home almost a year ago. They've loved her, taught her the Gospel and changed this little girl's life. I know she's changed theirs. But today, we got the heartbreaking news that Katie was being sent back to her biological mother. Trust me, it's a shock. I obviously won't go into details about the situation, only to say that I question the judge's ruling.

So, tears in my eyes, I had to tell my little girl that her little friend won't be at Church Sunday. That they can't play together anymore. That Katie is going to be living somewhere else. In the simplest terms I could, I explained the situation to her. My heart ached seeing the sad look in her eyes as tears began pouring out of them. "Can you ask her real mom if we can visit her?" she asked. I had to explain to her that we couldn't. Right now, she's sitting on the couch holding tightly to the Barbie doll Katie accidentally left at our house just two days ago.

We are so sad. Words can't express our sadness. So, I can't even imagine what our friends and their sweet children are feeling right now. I can't imagine the pain of their loss. What I can say is this, today I lost faith in the justice system. But even worse, our friends lost a daughter. And my daughter lost a friend.

We love you, Katie!

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Mother's Confession

I have a friend who hates blogs. Actually, she hates personal/family blogs. She thinks they're fake and don't present a true picture of a person/family's life. I can see her point. Who wants to air all their dirty laundry out in Blogland for all to read? It's much easier (and nicer) to paint a picture that includes the best parts of a day and omits the worst. But on the other hand, I want this blog to serve as a journal (kind of) of our life. What do I want that to include? Should it be more "raw?"I want to be able to look back and remember certain times/phases/events in our lives. But most of all, I want Ava & Jax to be able to have a record of our life as a family. That life, as wonderful as it is, of course isn't always fun outings and giggles. It's real life. My kids fight sometimes. Every once in a while, I go to the bathroom, book in hand, lock the door and just sit on the side of the tub and read for a 10 minutes. This used to be my guilty secret. I wouldn't dare admit it to other moms for fear I'd be viewed as a bad mom for needing a "break,"  and I certainly wouldn't have dared admit it on my blog. But then I read a talk by Elder M. Russell Ballard in which he encouraged mothers to find time for themselves, to "cultivate your gifts and interests... Water cannot be drawn from an empty well, and if you are not setting aside a little time for what replenishes you, you will have less and less to give to others, even to your children."

I love that. Not only because now my little "bathroom trips" are justified. But, because it helped me to realize how important it is to make time for myself. Even if it's just 10 minutes in the bathroom, or a craft night with the girls. Maybe one day I'll tell my kids what it is I'm actually doing in there. Maybe when Ava's a mom I'll pass my little secret on to her... maybe.

I recently happened across a post on another blog that discussed a question written in to an advice columnist. The question-asker said she felt like her friend, a stay-at-home mom, used her busy life as an excuse not to hang out with the question asker. She then stated basically that she always hears about how busy SAHMs are, but can't figure out what it is they actually do all day. You can imagine the response that got from SAHMs. I gotta say though, before I became one, I often wondered what stay-at-home moms did all day too. When Ava came along and I shocked even myself by abandoning my career to stay home, I became humbled by the responsibilities that came with being a mom, and being a mom who stays home. Even still, four-and-a-half years later, I am still humbled and sometimes overwhelmed by all I am required to do, and all that I choose to do.

This you must know: I love my kids. Oh, how I love them. I can't remember what life was like before Andy and I were blessed with these sweet spirits. But, I gotta tell you, they're exhausting. By the end of the day, I usually realize I forgot to eat lunch, I'm stepping on monster trucks and finding Barbie shoes in every crack and crevice of my house, the sink is full, one or both of my children are coming out of their room insisting they can't sleep, there are e-mails to answer, orders to fill, and a husband who I desperately want to just sit on the couch and talk to. That's one list, but then there's the other. The one that every mom can tell you is longer and much more memorable than the first. At the end of the day, I can chuckle to myself when I think of Jax hopping down the hallway like a frog, his cute little bum in the air. I can smile when I remember the excitement in Ava's voice when she sounded out a diffiult word all on her own. We've read books together, played cars, played dolls, created with chalk, cleaned together, sung together, learned the importance of an apology, learned about bugs, baked, played with Daddy, read scriptures together and said prayers together. My days, while busy and sometimes stressful, are also full of lots of hugs, lots of "I love you"s, Ava telling me atleast twice a day I'm her best friend, and Jax telling me I'm his "best partner." My list is no different than most moms'.  I guess, I could be more "real" on my blog and complain about all the things that go wrong or are frustrating in my day. But, do they really matter? The joy of motherhood comes in moments. It's those moments spent enjoying our children, savoring our time together that are most important. And those are the moments I (and many moms) choose to make immortal, to last forever in writing and in our memories.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Chugging Along

I don't think I ever appreciated Phoenix very much when I lived there. Maybe I was blinded by the sweltering heat, or maybe I just thought I was too cool (big emphasis on thought). Now that I'm a grown-up with kids of my own, I'm getting to experience so many of the things I missed out on, or just didn't appreciate. Case in point: McCormick Railroad Park in Scottsdale. Jax, like most little boys loves trains so this outing seemed only obvious during our vacation.

The park is huge and surrounded by a miniature railroad track. I think in all, we took four trips around the park on the train. Both kids loved the wind through their hair, waving to all the passerbys and especially screaming "CHOO CHOO!" as we went through the tunnel. While Jax was all about the train, Ava just couldn't get enough of the carousel. She told me she feels like a "princess upon my steed" when she rides. I gotta admit, she does look pretty regal. Jax wouldn't step foot on the thing, much preferring to stand off to the side with whomever wasn't accompanying Ava.

Ava's view from the carousel

Please excuse how terrible I look in this photo, but doesn't my mom look pretty?

After all the riding, we enjoyed a picnic and time in the Old West-themed playground. Phoenix even surprised us with cooler temps and a light breeze. Perfect day!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ooey Gooey Good Time

There's this chocolate factory in downtown Glendale, Az. that I love. I can remember my dad taking me Cerreta's when I was a kid. It's nothing like Willie Wonka's chocolate factory, but what is? It's a plain building, with copper awnings. But the inside, ahhh, the inside. As soon as you open the doors, you're pelted with a thick layer of cool, chocolatey air. You take bigger breaths when you're in there, as if trying to suck in as much of the delicious air as possible, as if it will satisfy the inevitable grumbling of your tummy. It's awesome! So, it was only natural that when the kids and I visited my parents we made a special trip to Cerreta's. Ava, who loves the book "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" couldn't believe she was in an actual chocolate factory. We happened to go on a Saturday and Ava got to take part in a fun kids' activity. Armed with melted white chocolate and loads of toppings she went to work decorating a milk chocolate bear, sneaking several tastes during the process. Unfortunately, Jax was tuckered out from all the traveling and was asleep in my arms the entire time, so G-Ma decorated a bear for him.

Check out the giant Santa in the back

Of course, we left Cerreta's with a bagful of filled chocolate candies (YUM!), and my new fave: chocolate cayenne bars.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Our Little Soccer Playa

When we moved to our little town, we gave Ava the choice: soccer or dance. I would love her to do both, but money and time simply don't permit right now. To my surprise, she chose soccer. To be hoenst, I couldn't be happier. Not only because I was a soccer player myself and get great joy out of passing on the tradition to my daughter, but because dance is a little different here in the South. Basically, most dance studios are preparing girls for the pageant circuit. Not all, but many. And as beautiful and talented as my daughter is, I don't think the pageant circuit is the best place to share that.

So, soccer it is. For the second season in a row, I'm coaching Ava's team. We're sponsored by a local business called Falco. The kids couldn't agree on our mascot, so we're the Falco Falcon-sharks. Pretty dangerous. I am loving coaching, and more importantly, Ava is loving playing. Our team is 4-0, which has nothing to do with my coaching ability and everything to do with the talent on our team. Seriously, I'm impressed. Ava has improved greatly this season. She's much more aggressive, and handles the ball quite well, although on game days she tends to be easily distracted by what is going on on other fields. She's working on it though.

Right before soccer pictures. Don't worry, her Belle doll didn't make a cameo.

While we were in Phoenix Ava had the chance to take part in a kids soccer clinic at the indoor soccer field I used to play out. I tell you, the girl was on fire! She was the only girl on the field (seven boys) and she scored all of her team's four goals. While many of the boys gave up, or complained of being too tired, our little soccer player ran up and down the miniature field, scoring at one end then defending her goal at the other. All went smoothly until she and a boheameth of a boy collided and he stepped on her arm. It happened near the end of the clinic, so she called it in and rested until snack time. Injury and all, it was such a joy to watch my little girl enjoying soccer so much. It was even better watching the looks on my parents' faces as they cheered her on, as they did for me for so many years. A little part of me can't help but be proud she's carrying on the soccer torch.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Phun in Phoenix

Two weeks seems like a long time for a vacation. But, to be honest, we could have spent another two in Phoenix and still not accomplished all the things we wanted to. However, the things we did and the places we went kept our days full and busy, so busy as a matter of fact, that by the time nighttime rolled around Jax was begging me to go to sleep. That never happens. Ever. As I right this, he is in his room reminding me that it's not time to sleep, or so he thinks.

Our first full day in Phx., the kids, G-Pa and I took a trip to the Phoenix Children's Museum. Awesome! Where was this place when I was a kid? Seriously. I could go on and on about the activities the kids (and I) enjoyed, but I wouldn't do it justice. I'll let the pictures do the talking.

We call this the "Dr. Seuss Tree"

painting the castle

taking a ride on the race track (there are several types of vehicles for the kids to use)

Jax's favorite part: the giant race track. He didn't want to leave.

Ava's favorite part: the grocery store

A few days later, we hopped on the freeway and headed out to Arizona Mills to check out the new Sea Life Aquarium. To be honest, I wasn't expecting much. I mean, it's Arizona. Not a whole lotta sea life there. But, I was wrong. Oh, so very wrong. The place was amazing! Of course the animals in the tank were super cool, but I was almost more impressed by the aestetics of the aquarium. Ava's favorite part were these little bubbles/helmets that you stuck your head in, giving the illusion you were actually IN the tank with the fishies. Jax was a little hesitant at first, but after I talked him into going in (and by that I mean, I carried him in with me, kicking and screaming) he loved it!

This is the view of a guitar stingray from underneath. So ugly! This guy was swimming in the ceiling above us.

G-Ma, G-Pa and the kids walking through the aquarium tunnel

Inside the bubble

Look closely. Do you see Ava inside the stingray bubble?


If you have kids, and you live in AZ, you must check these places out. You won't be disappointed. At least you shouldn't be. If you are, well then, your standards are too high. Or I'm just easily amused. Or both. But, it's all about the kids, right?

Stay tuned for more from our super fun vacation...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Highlight of Jax's Vacation

The kids and I spent two weeks in Arizona in September. There's really too much to blog. That's why I've neglected it for a week, I have no clue where to start. I was sure two weeks was plenty of time to accomplish all I wanted to, surprisingly it wasn't. My biggest regret is that we didn't make it down to Tucson to visit our friends there. But, there simply wasn't time. On the other hand, it was nice to have a busy two weeks, and to enjoy time with mine and Andy's families.

As all my readers know, Jax is monster truck-obsessed. So, you can imagine his overwhelming excitement when G-Pa told him we were going to see a real monster truck.

This truck just hangs out in front of the office where it's owner works. He was kind enough to let my kids climb all over it. And, I'm pretty sure Jax drooled on it. The kid was in love and asked if he could drive it. Then, if he could earn it. He still talks about it and how he's going to "jump Red Inc when he's bigger." I believe it.