Thursday, July 26, 2012

Four Is Almost Five

Way back at the end of May (the 28th to be precise), our little dude turned four! Up until the day before his birthday he was telling people he was three-and-a-half, and had been anxiously awaiting his fourth birthday as many of his friends hit the milestone before he did.

All Jax wanted to do for his birthday was go camping with his cousins, but he also didn't want his little buddies to miss out, so we had a friend party the week before his birthday and a cousin camping party the week after (his birthday was on Memorial Day this year, so we tried to avoid major celebrations that weekend).

Because we were in the middle of remodeling a house and preparing to move into said house, I'll admit, I kinda threw Jax's friend birthday party together. In the past, I've always done a themed party, sent out cute invitations weeks in advance and made sure every detail was in place. This year, I picked up some monster truck decorations and sent out text invitations. Fortunately, Jax is a boy and could care less about the matchy-matchy and was just excited to have friends over. His two closest buds came over (along with one of Ava's friends) and they had a "major water fight" (Jax's words). They were so happy to attack each other with squirt guns and water balloons. It was serious business. I mean, look at Jax's face:




On Jax's real birthday (in our family, it's more like a birth-month rather than birthday celebration) our little early riser woke up extra early, announcing to the whole house that he was indeed four and that it was probably best that we all get out of bed and celebrate with him... and give him presents. Of course, he got monster trucks, monster truck signs for his new bedroom (from Ava and Eden), his own little digital camera and some other knick-knacky things. He was so grateful and couldn't stop thanking us all for the "best presents ever." Later in the day, cousins Nathan, Bracken, Baby Marco and Uncle Curtis and Aunt Courtney all came over at Jax's request. The water fight was such a hit the week before, I thought the kids could go at it again, this time with sponge bombs. Jax asked for an orange-flavored, orange cobra snake cake for his birthday. I attempted to make one, probably could have been better, but he loved it. Although, I don't know why I waste time making cakes for his birthday, he never eats them. Jax is an ice cream kinda guy all the way. Fortunately, Daddy is a cake guy.


Like I said before, all Jax really wanted for his birthday was to go camping with cousins. So, after months of waiting, the day finally arrived. Our little man was ready to go first thing in the morning but he had to wait for Daddy to get home from work, and unfortunately, on this particular day Andy was two hours late getting home. He had just started his new job at the engineering firm a few days before and was bogged down with some projects. So, we were the last to arrive at the birthday celebration, which was a little disappointing for Jax. But, the good news is, the cousins were already settled in so they got to play while Andy built our tent and we cooked dinner. The kids got filthy, explored the forest, played baseball, got more filthy, wrestled with uncles and just enjoyed each other.

On a few side notes: Ava is wearing a patch because she scratched her cornea the day before. She was up all night, horribly uncomfortable and in terrible pain. I took her to the doctor the morning of the camping trip, hoping it wasn't anything major. Our sweet Ava was so worried that her eye would keep us all from going camping and would ruin Jax's birthday. Fortunately, all was well and Ava got to be a pirate princess for a couple of days.

I have this picture of Jax squatting under a tree. No, he's not doing what one normally does in that position while camping. He's hiding. Why? I wasn't quite sure myself. All of a sudden I saw him go and hide with this weird look on his face. I asked him if everything was okay and he told me it was and asked me to go away. That took me aback. Jax is always so good about talking things out with me, especially if he's upset. I was a little concerned, until I caught sight of Jax's hands. They were covered in brown goo. Again, not what you think. I looked to the table and saw an open Reeses Peanut Butter Cup wrapper and immediately realized he had snuck one and retreated to the tree to indulge before I caught him and foiled his plan. I let him finish the treat, told him he didn't need to be sneaky, cleaned him up then laughed hysterically. My poor candy-deprived child.

What a great way to celebrate Jax's 4th birthday! I sure do love my little four-year-old! He's truly just a big bundle of laughs! I don't think a day goes by that Jax doesn't do or say something that has Andy and I in stitches. He's quite the little clown. He's very thoughtful and very helpful and loves his sisters so, so much! He's the perfect blend of rough and tumble ninja boy and sweet, cuddly little man.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The BIG 3-0

It came. My 30th birthday. I really didn't have an issue with it until a few weeks before. I'd had friends freak out when it came time to say goodbye to their 20's and I never understood why, but then, as I quickly approached that milestone I came to a grim realization -- I'm getting older. All of a sudden, I'm closer to 40. I know, I have 10 years still, but when I think of all that has happened in the last 10 years (got married, graduated college, moved nine times, had three kids) and how quickly it passed it appears 40 will be here in the blink of an eye.

Anyway, my sweet husband listened one day, months before my birthday, when I mentioned how thoughtful it was that a friend's husband threw her a surprise party for her 30th. This wasn't me dropping Andy a subtle hint, it was just an observation. Besides, despite his numerous attempts, in almost 10 years of marriage (and a-year-and-a-half of dating before that) he's never been able to surprise me. Well, never say never, because he pulled off a surprise 30th birthday party with the help of the kids and my mother-in-law.

I picked Andy up from work the day of my birthday and asked if he wanted me to make dinner or if he had something planned. He said he'd take care of it, I wasn't sure if that meant we were going out or if I'd be celebrating the big 3-0 with his famous toast with butter, cinnamon and sugar. But, as we drove home he pulled into a little park and there waiting were several of my friends and family members. I can honestly say I was surprised. And kudos to Ava and Jax for not saying anything. I'd expect that out of Ava, the girl is the best secret keeper. Her lips are like Fort Knox. Jax, on the other hand, is a little more loose-lipped and tends to spill the beans, not for lack of trying though. So, the fact that he kept the surprise is pretty impressive.

It was a truly great night, the kids played with cousins and friends, I got to hang out with some wonderful people and my sweet hubby got the satisfaction of knowing that he pulled off a great surprise at a great time! What a great way to usher in my 30's!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Teacher of the Year... and why we're back in AZ

As many of our friends and family know, we moved back home to Arizona rather abruptly last August. Andy and I had been feeling that we needed to be closer to family. We prayed continually for a chance to move West, not even Arizona, just the other side of the Mississippi River. About three weeks after Eden was born, Andy sent an e-mail to his old colleagues at the high school he taught at in Arizona, announcing the birth of our baby girl. Not long after he got an e-mail from the principal which basically said, "Funny you should e-mail, our math teacher just quit, what do we need to do to get you to come back?" Andy initially thought it a joke. But it wasn't. He really struggled with the idea and even more, telling me. So, he called me from work and asked what I thought. At first, I kinda panicked and just asked for some time to think it over. I was in the parking lot at the car place about to get our car serviced. My first thought was, "There's no way at all." I couldn't imagine going back to a teacher's salary, with no health insurance. But, then as I sat waiting for my car to get worked on, I thought of my husband, how miserable he was at his job in Mississippi. Andy's undergrad degree is in Mathematics, his Masters is in Civil Engineering, oddly enough he wasn't using a whole lot of either working for the Army Corps of Engineers. That killed him. So, as I thought of this, my heart softened and 20 minutes later I called him back and told him to take the job. That was a Friday. He didn't have to give the high school an answer until Monday, so he suggested we pray about it all weekend. We did. He e-mailed the principal back and forth negotiating a contract. On a side note, a few months prior we were online looking at structural engineering firms in Arizona, we happened to find one in our little town and the owner happened to be a BYU graduate. So, as we prayed all weekend and the prospect of moving back home became clearer and clearer to us, we also considered the possible future opportunities with this firm. So, within two weeks our little family (Andy, me, Ava, Jax and our five-week-old Eden) was back in AZ. To say that Heavenly Father provided a way for us is an understatement. We were blessed beyond belief with the opportunities afforded us and the doors that opened for us at just the right time during the whole process. Our gratitude and testimonies were truly magnified.

Andy returned to the high school where he used to work only to find they hadn't had a stable math teacher since he left. He was needed there. And he fell right back into it naturally. He really is an amazing teacher and I don't just say that as his wife, I hear it from his colleagues, students and the Teacher of the Year Committee. My man was a Teacher of the Year finalist. How amazing is that?! He won $250 to use in his classroom this year and we got a special night out when he was honored at a banquet. After the banquet was over, one of the Committee Co-Chairs, a sweet elderly gentleman, came up to ME and said, "Your husband is truly special. I thought you should know that while interviewing a student I asked her about Mr. Kleinman and she said, 'He's the best teacher I've ever had. He makes me like math. I wish I could take him with me next year to college.'" Andy needed to hear that his students really do appreciate him and I needed to hear it so I can remind him. So, Andy is back teaching and making teenagers actually enjoy math. BUT....

 At the Teacher of the Year Banquet

In March the ward boundaries in our stake (church) were realigned. The above-mentioned-engineer just happens to be in our ward. He e-mailed Andy and asked if they could get together to talk. Turns out, he needed Andy AND on a side note, in college Andy received an academic scholarship, the man who provided that scholarship just happened to go to school with this engineer. Small world. Anywho, they worked it out and Andy has been working at the engineering firm full-time all summer and will continue working there part-time during the school year.

The decision to move back was a hard one. It was truly a leap of faith. We are so grateful to have taken that leap and have been blessed beyond words as a result. We're so grateful to be back home, near family. We're grateful Andy has two jobs doing his two favorite things: math and structural engineering. We are so happy.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Slip Sliding Sledding

It's the middle of July and I'm still catching up on March posts. Eek!

We got hit with quite the snowstorm in the middle of the month. We had two days of constant snow, and once it stopped, it made for the perfect playground for kids and cousins. Andy's parents have a great hill, perfect for sledding, so we all met up there with sleds and innertubes for an afternoon of fun!

Ava was a little hesitant at first, but once she went down a couple of times she became more confident actually looked happy, rather than nervous, going down the hill.

 Here's some video. For some reason Blogger isn't letting me download some of my videos, so click on the link and you can see the video.

Jax, on the other hand, ever the daredevil, jumped right on the sled and zoomed down, only to race back up for another shot. He went down headfirst, sideways, innertube, sled, he didn't care. He even convinced Daddy and Uncle Curtis to build a jump so he could get "rare air" -- which he did.

Here's his video:

Uncle Curtis was quite the sledding pro.

You have to know Curtis to know how totally normal a picture like this is. He's hilarious and will do just about anything to make us all laugh, even if it requires him making a total goof of himself. But, that's why we all love him so much! This video is a perfect example. I especially love Andy's laugh!

Andy was such kid. He and his brothers frequented this very hill many times in their youth. It was fun to see the kid in him come out to play!

I even took a shot down the hill a few times, and allowed Andy to take Eden down as well. She didn't seem very impressed.

As I stood at the bottom of the hill playing amateur photographer I couldn't help but feel an overwhelming gratitude for the opportunity our little family had to move back home. Without it, my kids would miss out on fun times like this with their cousins and Andy with his brothers. Ava, Jax, Nathan and Bracken are the greatest of friends and my kids love making memories with them. What a blessing that they get to do it so often!
Jax and Bracky helping each other out.

Little ducks following Curtis

It's summer now but the kids are already (or maybe it's still) talking about sledding. Next time around they'll all be seasoned pros, so who knows what kind of jumps they'll come up with then!

UofA Baby

It's ALIVE! My computer has been raised from the dead. It's truly a miracle! Now, I have a lot of catching up to do.

Way back at the end of March, Andy and I took the kids down to T-town to visit our beloved alma mater. We also happened to score tix to a monster truck event (Jax's favorite part of the trip) which included a monster truck ride for the little dude. Unfortunately, despite my constant reminders to take the camera, Andy left it sitting on the front seat of the car and missed out on spectacular shots of our little man freaking out (in a totally good way) when he realized his surprise was a monster truck rally and overflowing with uncontainable giddiness as he rode in "Boogie Monster." Moms and Dads just have totally different priorities, Andy's was getting a good parking spot and rushing inside to avoid lines, I totally would have gone back for the camera. While the boys rallied it up, the girls and I hung out at the hotel for a good ol'-fashioned girls' night. Eden went to sleep at her normal time (7:00) which meant Ava could do my hair and makeup without interruption.

The following day we met up with our dear friends Rob and Sara and their sweet daughter, Anya to indulge at our very favorite Mexican food restaurant in the world. Seriously, THE WORLD! We went to the location we remembered and went into full-on panic mode when we saw the establishment was now a hooka shop. Panic. I frantically called Sara only to discover it had moved down the road to a much larger building. Phew! Oh, how we've missed Guadalajara Grill and the sweet little ladies who come to your table to make fresh salsa with a mortar and pestle. The kids were pretty excited about the place too, we've been building them up for it for years. We even got to celebrate Ava's birthday (again), the employees sang to her, made her an awesome tinfoil hat and gave her a yummy treat. Guadalajara Grill got an A+ from Ava!

 Tummies full, we headed over to UofA to introduce the kids to their future college. I graduated eight years ago, I swear it doesn't seem that long. It's amazing how much has changed in that time. But, much has stayed the same and we got to show the kids some spots that were really special to us. For me, it was the fountain in front of Old Main where I told my good friend Amerest that I knew I was going to marry Andy. We had only been dating two weeks. Much to my surprise, Andy had never heard the story.
The 1997 NCAA Men's Basketball Trophy. 
 Awesome poses!

To finish off our fun time in Tucson we stopped by Rob and Sara's home to hang out a bit before heading back home.

Thank you Tucson for the memories, old and new!