Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Wrap-Up

The Christmas season has drawn to a close. What a great time it was! We got to spend time with family and friends and really celebrate the birth of our Savior! Although we haven't gotten to do everything we wanted to do, we've had a lot of fun.

We decorated the house for Christmas the weekend after Thanksgiving. Although I could really use some help in the decorating department, I love having the Christmas decor out. The favorite decoration by far is our singing Christmas tree. The boys just adore this thing!

The first weekend in December North Phoenix Baptist Church hosts the judging of the floats for the APS light parade. They turn it into a party and we always try to go. It's great because we get to see all of the parade floats, but don't have to try to keep the kids still since the floats are stationary and we just walk around to see them all.

Another family favorite of the holiday season is my dad's train set that he sets up every year. Both of the boys are train fanatics, so they just can't get enough of Granddad's train. He seems to have new bells and whistles (pun intended) for it every year. This year it included a helicopter launcher and a complete set of Thomas trains, which Benny just loved!

The weekend before Christmas we got together with my best friend, Gabrielle and her kids to decorate Christmas cookies. With 6 kids between us, 5 of which are under 5 years old, it was complete mayhem! Activities such as these always seem to go better in our heads than their actual execution, but despite the chaos, we had a great time making a big mess. The boys have so much fun together, no matter what they're doing.

That same night was Andrew's office Christmas party at the Arizona Science Center. As usual, the food was good and the people at his office are really nice. The venue was an interesting choice, but it was kind of cool to have something else to do at the party since we are definitely NOT dancers, even after a glass of wine or two. So we spent a little while checking out the exhibits at the Science Center. I even got to lay on a bed of nails, which was odd to say the least!

When the big day finally came, we definitely filled the time with many Christmas festivities! Andrew had to work on Christmas Eve morning, but I had the whole day off, so I took the boys to visit with my grandma, who they haven't seen since last Christmas (for no good reason other than we haven't gotten out there). They enjoyed playing with the toy motorcycles great-grandma gave them, and also playing with great-grandma's dog Pepper. Later that day we got all gussied up and went to church.

We had a beautiful service with lots of Christmas music and a wonderful sermon. Although I can't really say they thoroughly enjoyed it, the boys tolerated attending "big church" very well, which was a great Christmas present for us!

After church we went out to Avondale to celebrate Christmas with Andrew's mom's family. We all had a great time. It was great to watch the boys playing with their cousins. These are the years that we all talked about looking forward too when the kids were younger. Now they are all great friends and run around in a big gang. It's awesome and exactly what we always wanted for our boys. Cousins to grow up with and be friends with. That's something Andrew and I both kind of missed out on since his cousins lived half way across the country and mine were all so much older than me.

The boys got to bed late, which meant they actually slept until 7:00 a.m. on Christmas morning! Since Joshua was really understanding Christmas and Santa Claus this year, we thought we might get the 4 am wake up call, but thankfully the night at Grandma's sufficiently wore them out! We woke up that morning to find out that Santa had left a train table for the boys, which was exactly what they wanted!

After opening the rest of our presents, Grandpa Maple, Mabel and Andrea came over for breakfast. I tried out a new recipe this year... baked french toast. It was SO good!

Because they had had such a late night the night before, the boys seemed to be a little cranky for part of Christmas morning. But after getting our Christmas Meltdown out of the way, we had nothing but good attitudes and sweet little boys the rest of the day. After Grandpa Maple's clan's visit, we got to just hang out and relax the rest of the day, and of course try out our new toys and games. Joshua gave me a good old fashioned whoopin' in Sorry...

and Ben officially partied himself out.

That night we grilled up some steaks, roasted some red potatoes and after dinner went out to see some Christmas lights as we do every year. I love our traditions that we have built as a family!

On Saturday we got together with my family at my parent's house.

We even got to spend some time with my aunt, uncle and cousin and his family. We don't get to see them often, so that was an extra special treat! Joshua just adores his cousin, Jacob, so he had the best time playing with him. Ben and Gracie are only 3 months apart and are now to the age where they will start to play together, so it was a lot of fun.

My mom made a delicious dinner of prime rib, homemade au gratin potatoes, baked beans, veggies and garlic bread, and some awesome homemade pies for dessert. She really outdid herself! After leaving my parents house, we stopped off at a house not too far from their house that has always decorated to the nines, including the inside of the house which you can walk through. I remember going there every year as a kid, so it was fun to be able to share that with my boys.

So now we look forward to what 2010 will bring. We hope it is filled with much joy and blessing for you! Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Our Buddy Santa Claus!

Tonight we took the boys to go see Santa Claus. Josh has been looking forward to this all week, and had been rehearsing what he was going to tell Santa he wanted for Christmas. We know better than to try to go see Santa on the weekends. A 4 year old, a 2 year old and long lines just do not make for a fun trip to the mall! Since we don't have the option of going on a weekday afternoon anymore, we thought we would try a weekday evening. We knew that Joshua would do great with Santa, and were pretty sure he would even talk to him this year. Ben on the other hand, was a wild card at best, but our money was on him not wanting anything to do with the idea of sitting on Santa's lap. But despite our doubts, we went for it. Thankfully, there was absolutely NO line for Santa. Whoo hoo! We walked right up to Santa and got as much time with him as we wanted. Although Josh was a little apprehensive about going up to Santa by himself, he mustered up his courage and walked right up to him and showed him the 2 headed dragon he had brought with him. =) Much to our surprise, Ben was right behind Josh. He walked right up to Santa and asked him to pick him up. Santa pulled both boys up on his lap and Mommy got her coveted Santa picture! I think it's the best one we've ever gotten! Just for fun, here are our Santa pictures through the last five Christmases.






Merry Christmas and Ho Ho Ho!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Big Boy!!!

I can pretty much say that Ben is totally potty trained!!! Whoo hoo!!!

Because he did so well over the long weekend, I really wanted him to get a shot in underpants at school for at least part of the day. So yesterday morning I called and talked to his teacher, Ms. Victoria, and told her my plan. I told her how great he did over the weekend, and suggested that maybe he go diaperless in the afternoon. Although she sounded skeptical that he was ready for that, she agreed. Knowing the dilemma they have about little boys with skinny butts sitting on the potty (i.e., issues with aiming), I suggested that they sit him on the potty backwards, since they are unable to assist him with his aim. That seemed to do the trick. That afternoon after nap he used the potty twice, and didn't have any accidents. He even wore his underpants home.

This morning we simply didn't put a diaper on him after he woke up. His teachers followed our lead, and at the end of the day he came home in the same pants and underpants he went to school in! His teachers even "acted on faith" and didn't even put him in a diaper for his nap. So he wore his underpants for 13 hours today with no accidents!

We're pretty sure that we could even do away with his overnight diapers, since he has woken up dry everyday for over a week, and even woke up last night at about 11:00 because he needed to go. It's so exciting to know that very soon we'll be able to officially hang up the Huggies!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

We're Getting There

Because we had a long 4 day weekend, we saw it as an opportunity take Ben's potty training up a notch. Even though we were going to be very busy, and wouldn't even be home all day on Thursday, we wanted to keep him in underpants as much as possible over the weekend. We hauled his little potty over to Grandma and Grandpa B's on Thursday, and he wore his underpants all day long, minus the 45 minute rides in the car to and from their house. He had one accident (about 30 seconds before I was going to take him to the bathroom), but he wore his little underpants all day and did such a great job. Friday was another banner day for him. He again had one accident, but when you think that he was wearing underpants from about 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., that's pretty darn good! He's still a little weird about going poop, but he's getting there. He HATES to poop in his diaper. We knew most of the afternoon that he needed to poop because he kept saying he needed to go potty and then wouldn't do anything when he sat down. When I took my parents home, I took both of the boys with me, and was feeling brave, so I let Ben go in his underpants. He did great, but about 4 miles from home started crying that he needed to go potty. I got home as fast as I could, and found that he had been successful in holding it until we got home. Yay!!! (on SO many levels!). When he was all ready for bed with his diaper on, he just couldn't hold it any longer and pooped in his diaper. Oh my was he upset. As much as I tried to tell him it's okay to poop in his diaper and praise him that he didn't go in his underpants, he was just devastated, poor little guy. Continued throughout the rest of the weekend, except for part of Sunday, where he decided to turn into a stubborn little turkey. He didn't want to wear a diaper, but would balk at the idea of sitting on the potty. He had 2 accidents, and wore a diaper for church, but he didn't wet his diaper.... he actually didn't wet a diaper all weekend long! So we're definitely getting somewhere. If only we could get him going on any other potty than his little potty, I think we'd be in business. We hope to get him out of diapers for at least part of his school day, maybe starting this week, so we'll see how he does. Right now we are ecstatic with the progress he's made. We'll take whatever we can get!

Thanksgiving Weekend Fun!

What a wonderful start to the Holiday season we had this weekend! I love Thanksgiving. It's such a fun time to get together with family and eat lots of yummy food. It just doesn't get better than that. This year we spent Thanksgiving day at Andrew's mom's house. Auntie Kerri, Uncle Jonathon and baby Adria got to come down from Vegas to spend the holiday with us, which was such an extra special treat! Baby Adria is such a doll, and just couldn't be any cuter!

Josh and Ben had a blast playing with their cousin, Stevin, and painting Christmas ornaments with Grandma B.

The kids all played hard all day long, and by the end of the night, everyone was so tired! Baby Adria even fell asleep on me... I could just eat her up!

Because we were elsewhere on Thanksgiving day, I decided to make my own Thanksgiving meal on Friday. I'm not much for Black Friday shopping, and I love having tons of leftovers, so I just couldn't resist the opportunity! I was up at 5:00 a.m. making pie and preparing the stuffing for the turkey. I made all of my Thanksgiving staples, including an herb roasted turkey, homemade apple sausage stuffing (with homemade croutons), fruited sweet potatoes with a streusel topping, mashed potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce and cheddar corn bread muffins.

For dessert I made a pecan pie (actually made 2 because I burned the first one... the lesson learned was don't try to bake with a massive headache!), and a completely from scratch pumpkin pie. I had never roasted a pumpkin before, but after having done it this year, I don't think I'll ever buy a can of pumpkin again! The pie was so light and just plain tasty.

We were so blessed to be able to spend the day, and the meal, not only with my parents, but with my best friend, Gabrielle, and her family. Gabrielle just had her 4th child on November 3rd. Baby Jameson is so cute, and so sweet. I just loved holding him.

Josh and Aaron, Gabrielle's oldest son, are best friends themselves. They play together so well, and are always sad to go home. It is pure joy to watch them playing together. Kayleigh is Gabrielle's oldest, and she is just a gem. Ben and Jack are also just about the same age and, although they are a little young to really play together, we hope that they will bond as Josh and Aaron have. Here are some photos of the kiddos having a great time together:

What a fun day it was!

On Saturday we started to get the house ready for Christmas. Although we didn't get as far as we would have liked (thanks to my beginning to come down with a cold), we did get the Christmas tree up and decorated.

What a great Thanksgiving weekend. I can't wait for the rest of the holiday fun we have planned over the next month!

Monday, November 23, 2009

30th Birthday Bash!

Last Wednesday was my 30th birthday. I've never been one of these people that frets over age (I know I'm just thirty, but I know people who have freaked over 25!) so I wasn't scared of it, or dreading it or anything like that. It just sounds a bit strange to not be a "20-something" anymore. Over the last few years my birthday has kind of fallen into the background, behind the plethora of November birthdays in our family. It seems as though we're going to this or that birthday party every single weekend in November, leaving virtually no time to really celebrate my birthday. As I've gotten older, I have begun to care about my birthday less and less, so it's never really bothered me too much. But because of the milestone I reached this year, we decided to do my birthday up in style!

First, was my extra-special gift from Andrew and my parents... a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer! This thing is incredible! It weighs probably 20 lbs and is so fun to use! I can't wait to break it out for the thanksgiving feast later this week! =)The boys also got me a Snuggie (the blanket with sleeves!). Joshua was so excited to give it to me, I'm still amazed that he was able to keep the lip zipped until I opened my presents!

The real celebration was this past weekend. Because we weren't able to go to Sea World when we were in San Diego last month, we planned to go back to San Diego for my birthday. All week leading up to the trip, Andrew and I were living in this constant state of mild paranoia over one of the boys getting sick and putting the kibosh on our trip. We were pumping them full of vitamins and orange juice, and thankfully everyone had a clean bill of health for our fun weekend! We headed out early on Friday morning, and had another enjoyable time in the car, rolling into San Diego about 1:00.

Ben didn't make it too far into his book!

Our first stop was Imperial Beach, south of San Diego, about 3 miles from Mexico, as we had heard it was a good place to find sand dollars and starfish. We walked along the beach for a bit... well, everyone but Ben, who had apparently gotten his fill of the beach on our last trip. He refused to walk and turned into the biggest cuddle bug and just wanted to "hide in Mommy's hair."

Josh had a blast finding more seashells, which were much bigger on this beach. The best find of the day went to Daddy... a giant sand dollar! When we stopped for lunch at a little local cafe, even a local was impressed with our find!

After lunch we went back up to San Diego and walked around Seaport Village, and over to the USS Midway. We didn't take the tour of the Midway, as the boys are still a little young for that, but they did like seeing the big ship with airplanes and helicopters on it.

That evening we went to check into our hotel, which was the same hotel we stayed at last month. When Andrew went inside to check in, he learned that we were the "Guest of the Day" which means we got a free upgrade to a 2 bedroom/2 bath suite! There was even a sign being displayed in the lobby with my name on it (which Andrew snagged for me). It was so cool!

Joshua was super excited to have his very own bedroom instead of sleeping on the fold out couch like he normally does. It was a $200 per night room that we got for $129 per night. Happy birthday to me!

The following morning was Sea World Day! Unfortunately, because of the time change (CA is 1 hour behind us right now) and the fact that the boys aren't used to sharing a room, Ben decided to wake Joshua up at about 5:00 a.m. Thanks a lot! Because of the awakening he wasn't quite ready for, he was a little, shall we say, grumpy in the morning. But we finally got him to snap out of it and had a fantastic day at Sea World! We got there just as the park opened, and were probably about the 3rd family through the gate. We got to see dolphins up close, feed some sea lions, and watch the Shamu show, the Pets Rule show and the Clyde and Seymour show. We even got to see Elmo, Burt, Ernie, Zoe and Cookie Monster sing and dance for us, which I think Ben could have watched all day!

Riding the flying Elmo fish ride in the Sesame Street Bay of Play

We had informed Joshua ahead of time that the Sesame Street characters would be there and that he could meet them. As soon as he learned this, he informed me that he was going to bring Cookie Monster some cookies that we had made (with my mixer, of course!). The night before we left he had painstakingly, and completley on his own, selected two cookies for Cookie Monster and put them in a Ziploc sandwich bag. I was told to make sure we remembered to put them in a safe place, and he even made sure we had them before we left the house Friday morning! Anyway, when his chance finally came to give Cookie Monster his cookies, he mustered up all of his courage and gave Cookie Monster his baggie of cookies. Cookie Monster was SO happy to have cookies! He started blowing Joshua kisses and then grabbed him and gave him a huge hug.

Joshua is in there somewhere!

Joshua was so beside himself excited that he could make Cookie Monster so happy. What a sweet little spirit he has! I think this was my favorite part of our day!

We stayed at Sea World for pretty much the whole time the park was open. We did it without naps (except that Ben pooped out right before Clyde and Seymour started)...

and without a stroller, which proved to be the best thing to do (and I think that if we can Sea World without a stroller, it is definitely time for the strollers to go and give us back our closet space!).

In all the excitement, we were concerned that our trip would send Ben on a detour away from his potty training. How wrong we were! He actually did SO good while we were gone. We brought his potty chair with us, and were unashamed to lug it into the stalls in public restrooms, or even park him on the passenger seat of the car along our way.

At one point he actually asked us to take off his diaper so he could poop in the potty! Hooray! But because he no longer wants to USE his diaper, the trip home got a little interesting. When we stopped in Yuma (our first stop after leaving San Diego) I checked Ben's diaper and he was dry, which I saw as a huge victory! We took his potty chair into the bathroom and he went potty no problem. Then after having lunch and getting back on the road, he started crying that he needed to go potty. We were in the middle of absolutely no where, without even a random exit to pull off into. We tried to tell him to just use his diaper (how's that for sending mixed messages!) but he really didn't want to do that. We ended up stopping three times between Yuma and home to try to get him to use the potty (the last time being off of some random off ramp next to the train tracks. I didn't have my camera, so I'll have to paint you a mental picture... Ben sitting on his little potty chair in the gravel in the middle of nowhere, with a train zooming by about 100 feet away from us. Would have made a great photo for a punk album cover or something!). One of our stops was in Dateland, which gave Andrew a chance to try a "world famous" Date Shake.

Although the drive home was a little hectic and frustrating at times, we made it in one piece and were so happy to be home!

So my 30th birthday was pretty awesome! Thank you, Andrew, Josh and Ben for making it a special time for me, and thanks to everyone for your birthday wishes! Now, off to 31!