Ben’s 7th birthday!

Ben turned seven at the end of the month, and I told him I would host a small home party to celebrate. He invited four friends, and two attended, which was perfect because we still had Gavin and Logan and FIVE boys is plenty. We ate homemade pizza, played Legos, ate a yummy cake that Megan made, and watched a movie of Ben’s choice, Big Hero 6. We celebrated the Saturday night before his birthday. On Monday morning there was no school so we made a special birthday breakfast (sausage and crepes) and opened family gifts. Tuesday was his actual birthday, and Logan and I joined him in the cafeteria for lunch, and later took a bag of mandarin oranges to his classroom as a birthday treat. In addition, he got frozen yogurt after his seven-year check-up (54 pounds, 50 inches) and a trip to shoot laser guns with his dad. Our Ben was well celebrated! At seven, Ben is still incredibly energetic, but thankfully he has learned to channel his exuberance into (mostly) productive endeavors. He’s reading like a champ, loves to play outside, and is very helpful–the more challenging the task, the more enthusiastic he is. We love Ben!

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January

January was a rough month, but I can’t believe it’s over so quickly.

On January 2, after all the excitement of Christmas, the wedding, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day, I got sick with a bad cold. A bunch of us (like Megan) were sick and we took a week or so to get over it.

By the next weekend, we were feeling better. I spoke in church and everyone seemed healthy and happy.

Over the course of the next week, I started to feel bad again. I couldn’t believe I was getting sick, and at preschool pickup on Friday I commented to my friend Laura, “I’m sick.” She said, “Again?!”

Friday afternoon I crawled in bed and was there for about a week. Sunday early morning I woke up with chest pain and crackles, and knew it couldn’t be good. Sunday morning I was diagnosed with pneumonia. Thankfully, Monday was a holiday so the kids didn’t need to go anywhere. Christopher did his best to work from home and watch the kids so I could rest. My visiting teachers brought us dinner for two nights, which was a huge help. The rest of the week Christopher was busy at work, so we ate leftovers and I rested as much as possible.

The antibiotics worked quickly, and although I’m still tired, I doubt it’s because of pneumonia anymore. The last week of January Christopher flew his team in from Moscow, Tel Aviv, and Atlanta, and they are working non-stop to organize, strategize, and execute the company’s short-term and long-term goals. I’m happy to report they are making progress and we are excited for the future!

One interesting note. Mid-month (while I was still feeling pretty sick), I took Logan back to the ophthalmologist. I didn’t want to reschedule because the doctor books 3-4 months out. It was a short appointment, though. A quick check of Logan’s eyes told them we are going to patch, 2 hours a day, 7 days a week for the next three months. Recheck in April. Logan is not a fan, but we’ve tried multiple brands of patches and finally found ones he can tolerate. He’s super sensitive to touch. At the moment, he won’t wear socks, and doesn’t much like shirts and pants, either. If he had a choice, he would go around in fleece pajamas and bare feet.

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Giant sized version of Logan’s favorite stuffed animal, Pink Fluffy Unicorn. Unfortunately he had to leave Giant Pinky at the store.

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New Year’s 2016

Megan and I flew home on the 30th, and the boys were happy to see us. On New Year’s Eve my band played a gig in Kirkland, which was a lot of fun, although four hours was exhausting. I definitely won’t wear heels for a gig again.

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On New Year’s Day we made barbecue (pulled pork), collards and black eyed peas and visited Holly and Jansen and their family in Seattle. Ben loved their hyper new puppy, Cocoa. After we ate, we went to Discovery Park and walked around. It was surprisingly beautiful outside for January 1 in Seattle!

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Ethan’s Wedding

*Where did January go? It was the first month since 2006 that I didn’t publish a new blog post!

The day after our peaceful Christmas, Megan and I flew to Washington, D.C. for Ethan’s wedding. After a long day of traveling, my parents picked us up and we headed to the hotel in Maryland. Megan was sick and getting worse and we needed to eat, so I found us, of all things, some decent pho in a random strip mall in suburban Maryland. My dad was nice enough to drive us and they were nice enough to serve us at 10 p.m.

The next day we slept in and spent a gorgeous, warm, sunny day walking around D.C. The rest of the trip included lots of family time, a rehearsal dinner in beautiful Annapolis, the wedding at the Washington D.C. Temple, and a reception in Bel Air, MD. It was a whirlwind of busyness but so much fun. Poor Megan managed to be sick most of the time. We got her an antibiotic, inhaler, and lots of drugs, and bless her heart, she rallied the best she could. On the plane home, I gave her Advil PM and propped her against the window, where she slept most of both flights. I was happy to finally get her home and in her own bed.

The wedding was lovely. We love the Lunt family, and the Tresnaks (Hillary’s family) were there as well. The day after the wedding, Catherine’s twin sister, Cristin, got engaged to Ethan’s best friend Nathan, who is also from Maryland. We are happy and excited for all of them.

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December and Christmas

This year December was as fun-filled as ever. Between church and school activities, we stayed busy and opted out of just about everything else. Our church Christmas party was the first week of December. Crystal Fisher took Santa pictures again. Logan was not happy, which started when I wanted him to wear jeans to match the other kids.

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The second week in December we celebrated Megan’s 13th birthday! We woke up very early for presents and a special breakfast since Megan leaves to catch the bus before 7:10. She got to celebrate that night with mom, Laura and Katelyn Roper. We got sushi and Ben & Jerry’s.

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We visited the Bellevue Nativity, which is a stunning display. The whole building is transformed, with nativities and decorations and artwork. Logan and I dressed up as Mary and Joseph.
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We spent the first few days of Christmas Break relaxing, with nothing more than a trip to the dentist. Gavin lost his second-to-last baby tooth during his cleaning. No cavities, but everyone needs to floss.

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Finally, Christmas Eve morning we surprised the kids (minus Logan) with a trip to Star Wars. We saw it in a newly refurbished theater pre-grand opening. The tickets were only $5 but the seats were the most incredible I had ever seen–fully reclining! We had so much fun.

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When we got home we realized the new neighborhood playground was just open. The HOA saved money by installing it in the winter, and having the neighborhood do most of the work. Christopher worked on it for eight hours one Saturday.

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Christmas Eve we went to the Carls for soup and hot chocolate. The Ropers joined us. We attempted a nativity play. The kids were loud and hyper and Logan and Ben fell asleep quickly after we got home.

Christmas morning came at 6:54 after a restless night for all. We tried to go smaller this year, with a heavy emphasis on warm clothes and books, but between the consignment shop and the local “buy nothing” group, it felt like another big Christmas. They were really excited about the Costco-sized jars on Nutella in their stockings.

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November and Thanksgiving

We had another whirlwind month and a fun, relaxing holiday.

Megan performed in her fall orchestra concert and did a great job. I love that she’s learning to play violin so beautifully. She will performing in a holiday concert at the mall in a few weeks, and is already excited about her Disneyland trip in May. She earned every bit of the $800 the trip will cost. I’m so proud of her. She continues to excel in her classes and loves her teachers. She has struggled with fitting into a group of peers, but I am impressed at the way she stands up for herself and others. She is looking forward to her 13th birthday! In this orchestra picture, she is directly behind the conductor. Of course I managed to sit in that exact spot.

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Gavin, after dealing with both boredom and anxiety at school, is starting homeschooling again tomorrow. I am comfortable with the curriculum I’ve organized for him and hope he will be able to work mostly independently. He can be a homebody, and loves to be at home reading, building with Legos, and working/playing on the computer. He loves to program computer games in Scratch, build in Minecraft, and learn about rocket launches in Kerbal Space Program. I’m hopeful I can use these programs to get him proficient in computer languages and code.

Ben is loving first grade and is reading! He can still be mischievous but can also be independent, helpful, and highly motivated. He loves to play with his friends and I enjoy seeing him play with kids from so many different countries. Recently, he begged to play with a new friend David, who lives in our neighborhood. We tracked him down and discovered his family had just moved here from Korea. We managed to invite David over despite the family’s limited English, and it was fun to hear David copying Ben’s language, including inflections and colloquialisms. Later, we went to the park with their family, and David’s mom said to me: “Ben David first friend.” It made me so happy, and also want to move out of the country for a little while so my kids can experience another culture and learn another language!

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Logan is a piece of work, as we tell him. It’s safe to say the sweet baby is gone, but we are loving the big boy. Totally potty-trained and sporting his new glasses, Logan’s favorite past times, if I’m honest, are falling off cliffs in Minecraft and watching Octonauts. However, he loves preschool, books, and board games, especially Whoowasit?, which I think has been played more than any board game in our house, ever. He still shares a bedroom with his brothers, which I love more than I ever thought I would and will continue indefinitely. Here are a few pictures from his Thanksgiving feast at preschool.

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The weather has been crazy cold. We enjoyed a day at the trampoline place to get out our energy, but we’ve been hunkering down and eating lots of soup. I even bought Logan a ski jacket from the consignment shop; that’s how cold it is.

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My band played two shows in November and had a blast. We played a bar near UW and made $200 and all the warm beer we wanted (which was none, if you’re confused). They didn’t believe us when we said we weren’t drinking and brought us a pitcher anyway. We also played a Mormon event and got paid in all the leftover food we could carry, which actually ended up being a great deal because there were catered street tacos and about 50 pounds of leftover carnitas. You should have seen me, Rachelle, Rachel, and Nina carrying styrofoam containers of food to our cars. I started with a few, but when Rachelle said, “This freezes, you know” and Nina, who is from Brazil, said, “We don’t waste food where I come from”, I loaded up even more. In addition to the band, I’m busy editing college admissions essays, social media marketing for a non-profit, and applying to grad school. Never a dull moment. Christopher has been working hard to establish his company and has assembled a multi-national team that we are hoping will find success. Cross your fingers.

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In the blink of an eye, Thanksgiving arrived and it was delicious. The Carls invited us over, and Shay and Christopher managed to split up all the food jobs so I ended up doing NO COOKING. It was magical. Christopher dry brined and roasted two turkeys. He made stock and gravy with the giblets and necks. He roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon and pecans. He baked three pumpkin pies with homemade crust and meringue folded into the pumpkin so they were nice and fluffy. Megan asked to make cranberry jelly. Oh my goodness, it was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted, with hints of orange, vanilla, and coriander. Shay went all out, too, making green bean casserole from scratch, mashed potatoes, and all kinds of good stuff. I made cranberry jalapeno dip and Carl and I pretty much ate the whole thing. I normally would have been sad without cornbread dressing and sweet potato souffle, but no one really wanted it besides me and it saved me doing any cooking, so I was fine without it. In the aftermath, I enjoyed many turkey, mayo, and cranberry jelly sandwiches, and a big pot of turkey soup.

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Just like that, it’s Christmas season, and I am so thankful for this crew of mine. Thanksgiving night I spent the night at the foster care sanctuary, where we had two toddlers in care. They were just precious, and even slept well enough that as the volunteer, I was able to sleep all night. Friday morning I headed home, where Megan was all ready to get out the Christmas box and decorate. As with Halloween, I just let the kids do it. They love it, I was able to finish up the dishes from Thanksgiving, and some day, maybe, I’ll make things look really gorgeous. In the meantime, I’ve realized how things look is overrated, and I’m just focusing on how things feel. And they feel pretty good.

Halloween 2015

Halloween was about as relaxed as you can get around here. I took out the Halloween box the first day of October. Logan played dress-up and the other kids took out the few meager decorations I have and hung them on the walls with thumb tacks. And I didn’t even move them.

Logan had a preschool trip to the pumpkin patch. A cold fog had settled in and it was frigid. The highlight (for Logan) was digging for worms. I’m sorry, but I miss Virginia, when we picked pumpkins in shorts and t-shirts.

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A week before Halloween I picked up two pumpkins from Trader Joe’s. For family night the Monday before Halloween we carved them. Or should I say, the kids carved them. Christopher cut the tops off and all four kids did every bit of scooping, carving, and separating the pumpkin seeds. And Christopher roasted them. I can’t tell you how nice it was to sit back and watch everyone having fun. Older kids are the best.

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Logan had a school Halloween party. I made him wear the vampire costume so he could go to the bathroom without difficulty. He was sporting his new glasses, which were ordered too big (he since has gotten a smaller pair). Poor guy has amblyopia, just like his Aunt Allison. Hopefully we caught it early enough to help him strengthen his weak eye.

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We had our church Halloween party, which was a carnival, chili cook-off, and trunk or treat. Christopher made the chili, but there were some more creative entries (sweet pork chili, for example) that beat his traditional recipe. The kids were cute. I resolved to spend no almost no money on Halloween this year, so we were fortunate to receive a load of hand-me-down costumes. Megan and I attempted last-minute costumes for the party. She pulled off her mime better than my Jane Goodall. Poor Gavin had been sick with a new cold (chills, aches), so he stayed home all day Thursday and Friday, in bed or watching TV.

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We had a relaxed Saturday. I think most of us were in our pajamas until it was time to go to a neighborhood potluck at 5 p.m. We ate and played, and by six it was dark and time for trick or treating. After I made him stop and let me take one picture of him, Gavin went off with his buddies, Megan took Ben, and Christopher, Logan, and I headed home. Christopher stayed home to hand out candy and I took Logan to about 10 houses before he was ready to call it a night. Gavin even beat us home and was in a hot shower before we arrived. Megan and Ben were not far behind. Since we are kind of mean parents, we only let our kids keep as many pieces of candy as their age, and the rest disappeared. Megan chopped up a bunch of candy bars and put them in the freezer. She says she’s going to use them in place of chocolate chips in cookies.

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By Monday, November 2, I had washed the Halloween costumes, packed everything back up, and put the Halloween box away for next year.

End of Summer

Our August was a lot of fun. We played at the lake(s), went hiking, went to a bonfire/s’mores party at Golden Gardens with Holly and Jansen’s ward, went to our ward salmon bake. Christopher and the big kids hiked up Crystal Mountain and took the gondola down. Megan went to camp and the boys missed her. Ben lost both his front teeth. The kids went constantly back and forth between our house and the Carl’s, to the point where the kids were asking what was for dinner at both houses and eating whatever sounded better to them. Shay and I let them until school started.

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Logan’s 4th Birthday

Logan turned four in the middle of August, if that tells you about how busy we’ve been around here. He had fun opening his presents and having a little party at the park. I’m happy to report the cupcakes tasted delicious, but they looked awful. We swirled peanut butter and chocolate frosting, and it looked like poop. The kids ate them with no complaints. The adults politely declined.

At four years old, Logan is starting to become one of the big kids. He loves books and Special Agent Oso and Minecraft. He enjoys playing outside, but has no stamina for long walks. He eats everything, but especially loves oatmeal, pita bread sandwiches (pita, hummus, and cucumber), and spaghetti. His favorite color is red. He likes sharing a room with his brothers, and still sleeps on the bottom bunk. He still wakes up if he’s cold or wet or has a bad dream. A few nights ago he had a night terror. I ran in his room where he was screaming, “There’s a squirrel in my bed!” I calmed him down and tucked him back in. The brothers barely stirred.

He absolutely loves his preschool, and has trouble playing independently because he loves being with friends. Brookie is his best cousin. Ben is his best brother. He’s starting to enjoy playing Legos with the big boys, which is awesome! He can’t keep up with them on the trampoline yet. He still gets left behind when Dad or Mom takes the big kids on adventures, but when he can hike a mountain or sit through a movie, he’ll be right there with them. With Logan’s 4th birthday, it’s safe to say we are officially out of the baby stage!

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Ben convinced Logan to share his birthday money from Gigi, and they each chose a “Beanie Boo”. Logan picked the “pink fluffy unicorn”.

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Desmond, Margot, Brooklyn, Isaac, and Logan

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Gift from Grandma and Grandpa

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Birthday song at church