Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Week - Reader's digest version

Well I made it through the Christmas season, it was busy, fun and tiring all rolled into one.

Saturday - my sister and her family arrived and the cousins were very excited to see each other. We rearranged the loft and had a sea of sleeping bags so they could all sleep together. I don't think there was too much sleeping going on that first night.

Sunday - I was off to my meetings while Jeff helped the kids get ready for church. Luckily I had saved a couple of pews up close because by the time they got to church the chapel was full.

After church we came home to relax and eat. I had the kids make a gingerbread house while I cooked dinner.

After dinner we wanted to hit a living nativity but when we drove out to it, it had closed early that day and we missed it by a ½ hour. We went to the mission Inn instead. We hadn’t seen the lights yet this year so it was fun to see them and then come home and make hot chocolate and hang out together watching funniest videos.

Monday we had planned legoland but since it was supposed to rain all day we chose to go to the Wild Animal Park since it was going to be free to get in. It was quite a wet drive down to San Diego. Since Jeff was at work at least we could all go in one car. Joel hung out in the back with the kids watching Spongebob and I got to sit and talk to Virginia. The park was all but deserted as it was pouring rain but the kids got to see some stuff. They had a pretty good attitude about the whole thing until we sat on the soggy tram (at least it stopped raining by this point) and then they started feeling it. We hiked up to see the elephants, which was fun and saw a bunch of wild deer that were roaming the area and jumping the fence out of the elephant enclosure and walking right by us.

Tuesday Jeff took the day off and we all headed out to Legoland. The rain had stopped even though it was still chilly the drive back down to San Diego was much better. Legoland was fun even though it's pricey, the lines were long and Joel thought the faded, peeling lego creations looked like they were done in the 70’s:), even though they are impressive. The kids had a lot of fun and the tame rollercoasters were just up the younger one's alley. The park closed at 5:00 so we didn’t have a long day there but we did enough of it to get a good taste of Legoland.

After Legoland we met Angela and Robert at the parking lot and went over to Pat and Oscars for dinner. Yum! Then all of us came back to our house. The boys played Jeff’s war game and the girls got to talk some.

Wednesday - was Christmas Eve and the night we planned for our big dinner. We didn’t have any plans to go anywhere so I spend the day wrapping, baking and doing all the last minute things I needed to do for Christmas. Angela and Robert, Joel and Virginia all had a good time just hanging out and talking. We all helped to make things for our big dinner and then we let the kids open their Christmas pj’s and had a little Christmas Eve Family Home evening. I had spent the morning hemming Ashley and Jacob's pajamas and I noticed that I forgot to attach the hem for Ashley's sleeves. Oh well.

Thursday – Christmas morning and the kids were instructed to not wake us up until 7:00. Sure enough at 7:00 we were all up, Angela and Robert had put their bed away and everyone was ready for presents. Christmas morning was bigger and crazier than normal but fun too. The highlight of the year was Rock Band and Guittar Hero World Tour. The adults all had fun playing too.

After lunch we split up. Angela and Robert were going to San Diego to spend the rest of Christmas with Robert's family and Joel and Virginia cam up to Palmdale to celebrate with Jeff's family and us. Palmdale was a wet, windy drive and we worried about getting back down the road before it snowed and they closed the roads. We had a quick Christmas, ate food and visited and was out of there in 3 hours (which is probably a record). It was fun to see all the family even though it was quick. Ashley’s favorite was the dogs and Jacob’s was learning how to skate with his skate shoes. There was snow on the road home but luckily it wasn’t really sticking and the drive home was smooth.

Friday - The day after Christmas and we let the kids hang out and play with their toys until about 3:00 or so when we packed up to head out to Camarillo where Angela and Robert live. Since they were moving into their house that day we stayed in a hotel to spare them more craziness. Robert recommended a great Chinese restaurant that we met them at and then we took the kids back to the hotel room and all the adults (minus Virginia who wanted more sleep) went to see a movie. Very fun.

Saturday - We met up with everyone and we headed up to check out Solvang. It's a quaint looking town that looks European. It's full of shops, windmills and authentic Danish restaurants. We ate lunch in one of them and sampled the Danish pastries called ableskivers which is like a bread like ball covered in rasberry preserves and powdered sugar. Yum. Before we left we stopped into the Hans Christian Anderson museum and bought a book of some of his famous fairy tales. I'm sure the kids will love to hear the story where the Little Mermaid turns into sea foam instead of marrying the prince.

About mid-afternoon we drove to Santa Barbara and checked out the Santa Barbara Mission. This mission orginally built in 1786 was the most modern looking one that I’d visited before, probably because they had renovated it, added on to it, and are still using it. There was a catholic mass going on while we were there and some of us walked in the back to listened to the end of it. The chapel was all decked out for Christmas and smelled strongly of incense. It was pretty cool to experience. There was also a nativity scene outside with live animals that the kids got a kick out of.

Sunday – we went to Angela's church and then came home to eat. In the afternoon we left to go to Hollywood since Joel and the kids had never seen it. When the kids saw Mann's Chinese theater at Legoland they wanted to know what it was, so we decided to go there on our way home. We took pictures with all the wacky people with homemade costumes. They all wanted to charge you a buck for a picture but what cracked us up was the horrible costumes. There was a scary looking homemade Mickey costume that would sit the kid down in front of him on a stool and then lean down for the picture but he looked like he was trying to bite their head off at the same time. There was also Barney with a faded head wearing a skull and cross bones shirt. Cute. This was optimus prime. Yes it was homemade too but he looked better.

Afterwards we drove up to a restaurant that had a great view of the city. It happened to be sunset and it was a nice lookout point. By this point it was getting too late to wait until we got home for dinner so after some debate we ended up going to Roscoe’s chicken and waffles. I have to admit Jeff and I weren’t overly excited about the whole chicken and waffle combo, but guess it’s an LA thing that we had to experience. Our family chickened out and ate our chicken and waffles separately, but I did take a few bites at the end and it wasn’t too bad.

Our favorite was daring the children to eat my collared greens. Ashley actually liked them in small bites, but Jared never did.

This was our last big family dinner. AAAAhhh. Angela and Robert left from there to go home and Joel and Virginia left the next day to go back up to Utah and pack up to return home to Seattle.

Today it's back to life as normal. I can tell the Christmas rush is wearing off. The kids have been fighting, cranky and restless. Ashley is in trouble for hitting the boys and Jacob is in trouble for pouring water all over Ashley's pillow and sheets because he was mad at her. Happy times, Happy times.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Toffee Recipe

OK if your brave enough to try it here is my toffee recipe. Make sure to hold on to your pan tight when pouring it out:)

1 cup of butter
1 cup of Nucoa margarine (it doesn't burn)
2 cup sugar
2 Tbs water (to help the butter and sugar blend better)
3/4 tsp vanilla
Chocolate chips

Start to melt the butter and water over medium heat in a bigger saucepan (it will rise some while boiling). Once it starts melting, add your sugar. You will have to constantly stir the mixture while it's cooking until it's done so it doesn't burn on the bottom of the pan. It'll take about 20 minutes or so to cook.

When it starts cooking it'll look like this...

I don't have a candy thermometer so I'll tell you how I tell when it's done. The mixture will start boiling and for a long time it'll look the same, then all the sudden it will start looking more brown (about the color of the toffee that was on my floor). Keep stirring it and after a couple of minutes or so start checking it to see if it's done.

My friend told me about this and it really works. Get a cup of cold water and drop a little bit of the toffee into the water. Wait a couple of seconds and pick it up. If the toffee is soft after being in the water it's still needs to cook longer. If the toffee is brittle and breaks apart when it's in the water it's done.

Remove it from the heat and then add the vanilla, stirring constantly. Immediately pour the toffee onto a cookie sheet. (Hold on tight:) Once it's poured on the sheet sprinkle chocolate chips over the top and spread them around with a spatula.

You can also sprinkle sliced almonds on the top if you would like, my family is fine without them.

I put the pan into the fridge and it cools faster. After it's cool and hard you can just break it up into peices. I also store mine in a tightly covered container in the fridge.

Good luck. Let me know if you try it and how it works for you.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Things to be grateful for...

OK I've had a week of sick kids, doctor's visits and a lot of changed plans. I've had whiny kids, forgotten homework frantically being done in pj's at the table 15 minutes before school starts, and multiple messes round the clock and I admit a lot of them are my own making. So I decided I will focus on the positive and list 10 things I am grateful for ...

1. Changed plans. Even though I didn't get to do a lot of things that I was supposed to do people have been wonderful in stepping up and helping me. Thank you Lori for covering our visiting teaching appointments when I couldn't make it!

2. Forced time at home. I was able to do things I didn't think I would have time for because...I couldn't go anywhere. It actually was a blessing.

3. Antibiotics. Ashley had strep throat and for days she was laying on the couch not wanting to move. Here she is after 24 hours of antibiotics...

of course the next morning when it was time to go to school she complained and tried to milk being sick for longer. Her fever had been gone for over 24 hours and she was feeling fine the day before. (I have pictures to prove it) Once we got her up and going she was fine.

4. Yesterday everyone was at school so I could finally finish errands that I needed to do! I had my visiting teacher come over, went to a doctor's appointment and hit 5 stores in the pouring rain with an hour to spare before school was out...and no accidents.

5. My wonderful visiting teacher

6. Our first goodie plate drop off of the season from the Krepps family. This is what was left after 24 hours...

You guys can interrupt our family home evening any time :)

7. I'm grateful not waiting until later in the day to clean up the couch pillows since this is what I found under them right after the kids left for school...

8. I'm very, very grateful for a wonderful husband who has had sympathy on me this week and even came home in the middle of the day to an ultra messy house and brought me flowers and a nice card. He gave me a kiss and greeted the kids and was back on his way. Thanks honey it made my day!

9. I am grateful that Taylor is home for school sick today because it would explain his scary display of writhing and moaning on the floor for an hour yesterday afternoon refusing to tell me what was wrong. This morning he says his throat hurts but he doesn't have a fever and he has homework that he didn't finish...hmmm. So I'm deciding to take his word for it and I sent him back to bed. But I'm grateful that it's him home sick because he's old enough to hang out as I do what I need to do for today.

10. The last thing that I'm grateful for is good friends. Thanks for letting me call and vent, for stepping up and helping me when I'm to proud to admit that I can't do it all on my own and for just being there to do fun social things and help me forget other responsibilities! Thanks!

Monday, December 15, 2008

No use crying over spilled toffee...

This Saturday I woke up determined to start having a better attitude. I've been a little stressed and negative and I realized that I needed to work on being more patient. I got my opportunity right away.

I woke up early and made the kids pancakes and got everyone ready and thought I was pretty ahead of the game so I decided to make toffee for our Visiting teaching/ Home teaching people and the neighbors. It's more simple than a variety plate of cookies and it doesn't go stale the next day if it's not delivered.

The recipe is simple pretty much butter and sugar with a little vanilla thrown in at the end. The hard part is the constant stirring for about 20 to 30 minutes. You have to wait for it to be the right consistancy and color. So I got a big pan out and started putting together a big double batch.

Everything went great until it was time to pour it onto the cookie sheet. As I went to pour the pan slipped out of my hands and this is where the toffee ended up....

Right on the floor!

I couldn't believe it! All that work, not to mention ingredients.

I sat there stunned for a minute as Jeff is running to get a towel or something to clean it up. As it's hardening on the floor of course I had to grab my camera to document it for the blog.

I was proud of myself because I stayed calm as I cleaned up the sticky mess, wiped the butter off the floor and started another batch. I was bummed that part of the handle broke off my brand new pan. We finally bought new pans after 15 years of marraige and within a month I end up dropping and breaking the handle. Jacob told me we should've just kept the old ones because I didn't break those. Nice.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sigh of Relief

Yesterday was a great day in that Taylor's huge project that's been weighing on him (and me) is finally done. It was a History Day project that was supposed to be about a person that made a difference in history. We had the great idea to use his pioneer ancestor's journal to tell about his 4th great grandfather who help found Millville, Utah, helped build the Navoo temple, lost a wife and child at Winters Quarters and so on...The problem is there isn't really a lot of sources in the library that Taylor could go check out to tell about his ancestor. There were some stressful times but it's done. I let Taylor completely do it on his own. There is skewed pictures, backwards stamped letters that had to be covered with paper and remnants of blue glue stick all over the board but it's and authentic Taylor project that is finally done. Hooray!

As for Jacob I woke up yesterday thinking of how I could help him get to his goal of reading a million pages and know if he's on track or not. So I got up and made him a thermometer chart. He's a pretty visual kid and so far it seems to help. He actually got up really early in the morning and got ready for school and read and read and read. He went over his quota for yesterday and so I was hoping he'd wake up this morning and get on top of today's reading. No such luck. The rule is no TV, Video games or computer until he's done his reading for the day. We'll see how he does after school.

Ashley also had a bunch of homework that needed to be done yesterday. So we all sat in the kitchen all evening and worked on school work for hours. I was able to get Christmas card kits together for Jacob's class for Monday and start on the things that Ashley needs for the craft for her class party next week.

I also was able to pass off all the stuff for the funeral today, bring cookies to Jeff's secretaries, squeeze another piano lesson in for Taylor to help him for the piece he has to play this Sunday and get my hair done (which it really needed).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Reader's Digest Version of a day in the life...

OK I already feel that I'm at my maxed out point but for some reason things keep getting thrown at me. It's all coming faster than I can handle and I'm wondering how long I can keep it up.

Yesterday for example I got home after spending 3 hours with my presidency making gift bags for the sisters on Sunday to get a message on the machine saying that an inactive member from the ward died and the Bishop wants us to put on a funeral luncheon for 50 people tomorrow. I have a million things to do on Friday and Jeff's work party at the same time so I'm having to arrange everything today. I ended buying everything at Costco because there was no way we could arrange it in one day and expect all the sisters to cook for a funeral when most of the ward is bringing food the very next day for our ward Christmas party.

I raced home from Costco to get my kids home from school. Immediately we started working on Taylor's huge project that's due tomorrow and found out that Jacob has a book report due in 5 days and he has 290 pages left to read. He's been reading his book for the last month so I thought he would be fine but come to find out after a month of reading he is on page 50!

So I take Ashley to dance with instructions to the boys to keep working and as I'm walking out the door Jeff calls to tell me about an office party that was in an hour that he didn't mention to me before. He wasn't planning on going to it but heard that the hostess bought things for the kids (she ended up having 5$ gift cards for Toys R Us for them) and he felt pressure to have them there.

So I race home from dance to boys that had not done any of the work they were supposed to. Jeff meets us with grocery store cookies for our party offering and we all go to this party an hour late. We are starved because nobody has eaten dinner but all they have are snacky things and cookies. So my kids have cookies for dinner.

While we are at the party Jeff has to meet someone at his office to give him a bid for the build out that has to happen within the next couple of weeks (Just in time for Christmas). We hung out at the party until Jeff could get back to pick us up and then we had to go to Jeff's office to print out color pictures for Taylors project board.

Then we race home to get the kids to bed and fold the laundry from Monday, clean the kitchen floor that looks like a landfill and flop into bed with a longer list of things to do than when we woke up.

And so begins another day...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

It's feeling a lot like Christmas since I'm too busy to sit down let alone post anything on my blog. I'm waiting for the rice to cook for dinner so I'm taking a moment to try and post something. Granted it's 7:20 I've already dropped Taylor off at mutual and we still haven't eaten dinner yet. (He got a bowl of dinner/no rice in the car)

So I've spent a lot of the post Thanksgiving season running around in various states of anxiety trying to get everything done and planning for the things that I need to get done in the future. Just when I think I'm doing OK I start thinking of all the things I'm forgetting. I completely forgot an orthodontist appointment on Monday, last Sunday I remembered an important wedding that we completely spaced on the night before and I've just remembered the visiting teaching appointments I promised my companion that I would make and the fliers for the class party that I haven't done yet. The list goes on but I won't type it because I already feel the stress flowing through my veins..so we'll pretend I have nothing better to do right now that post on my blog...

Here's us the day after Thanksgiving putting up our Christmas stuff. Ashley is loving rediscovering all the Christmas decorations. Especially her Santa hat...

The best part was Jacob providing the Christmas music as we decorated, in his pajamas at like 4:00 in the afternoon. Taylor was on a camp out and Jeff was in the other room saying "I'll be in to help you in a minute..." By the time his "minute" was up this is what he found...

It must have been Christmas magic...

or a smart husband...

I haven't figured out which yet.

Taylor came back from his camp out and re-discovered his Santa hat. I think his favorite part of Christmas being able to leave the house all month without combing his hair because he's wearing his Santa hat. Taylor said a couple of kids at school said "It's too early for Christmas". Taylor didn't care. Unlike Jacob who didn't even last 1/2 the day with his Santa hat because nobody else had one on.

After this semi-relaxing weekend December started for reals and the craziness began.

Here is us at the LPA Christmas party that we helped with on Saturday. The kids had fun playing with their LP friends, eating potluck and sitting on Santa's lap.

Ashley wants pet shop toys, a cheer leading outfit and skates...

Jacob wants to get off Santa's lap quick.....

Santa wants Taylor off his lap quick....

So far I have been trying to simplify and I'm starting to not be shy to turn down invitations that I just don't have time for. We cancelled our traditional Relief Society dinner, I'm skipping cookie exchanges, candle parties, and lunch invitations. I sat on my hands and didn't volunteer to host Jeff's family for Christmas (because I'm already hosting my family) and I'm trying really hard to just focus on the family name that we drew in the gift exchange and not feel pressure to provide hand made presents for all the families that we didn't pick. So we'll see how that all goes.

The good thing about Christmas is the opportunity to get together with friends and family. Unfortunately we try and cram it all in in one month. It's impossible to do it all. I'm trying to make the best choices I can with my time and not think about the alternatives that I missed.

One of the opportunities I'm glad we took was the Anderson's invitation for a family Christmas music concert this Sunday. We had kids playing harmonicas and trombones, Dad's playing guitars and horns and of course there was lots of piano. It was very cute and very fun. Thanks Andersons! I'm sure you were glad when we all finally left your house, but it was a great way for us to get in the Christmas spirit.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Family Home Evening Idea

Are there Monday nights that you're too tired to think about Family Home Evening? You've spent the day cleaning up after Sunday indoor playtime, doing wash, getting kids to start homework, paying bills making dinner and all the other things you do in a day. I have found that nights like these are the perfect opportunity to let my kids have an experience in teaching Family Home Evening. So far I have been pleasantly surprised with the results.

A couple of weeks ago Ashley gave our Family Home Evening lesson. She had drawn a string of pro-social and anti-social things and would ask us which was nice and which wasn't. They pretty much all had to do with being nice to friends but she did a great job. So then Jacob decided he wanted to do the next week's lesson. He didn't work on it until about an hour before Family Home Evening. He asked me for a piece of cardboard and went to hide. When we sat down for Family Home Evening Jacob started the lesson with going around and having everyone tell what they were thankful for. Then he pulled out this...

Jacob had made a game.

We all got to pick our Spongebob character and go from earth to Heaven.

You could move forward extra spaces by being Thankful, going to church or becoming the new prophet. For selfishness you went in reverse for your next turn, and if you were prideful or disrespectful you had to go back spaces. If you murdered you went back to start and if you killed you lost 2 turns:). It seemed like all of us ended up killing someone during the game. My favorite had to be "you went to the temple unworthily, go back to church".

After the game Jacob ended the lesson with bearing his testimony. I was so proud of him, he did a great job.

This is what I found before Family Home Evening.

I walked closer and saw this...

Taylor was completely out! There was no waking him up.

For some reason every Monday night Taylor ends up falling asleep or whining about wanting to go to bed throughout the entire Family Home Evening. He lays on the couch and we spend the entire time trying to get him to sit up or at least turn around and open his eyes half way. Well tonight he took his nap before dinner so when we got him up and going he was actually nice and awake for Family Home Evening!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Have a Merry Crosseyed Christmas!

It's Christmas card ordering time. Since this summer I planned to use one of our Hawaii pictures. I thought I had the perfect set to choose from. Our clothes are not dirty, everyone's hair was pretty good and we were all wearing leis. Unfortunately Jacob chose this photo session to be a stinker and mess up all of them by crossing his eyes. There was one good one, but it was blurry soooo should we choose from this one... (click on the picture so you can get an up close view)

or maybe this jewel...

or maybe we could do a cousin reunion Christmas card where Taylor and Jacob were both ruining the picture.

So I thought I might have solved our picture dilemma when we went to Disneyland and had unexpected pictures with Santa. We have the cheapo Southern California passes with all the blackout days. After waiting to finally get a day off of school that coincides with a day we can go with our passes we were excited to go back. I even made the kids clean the house the day before with only a break to go and redeem their gift certificates to In-n-out. (Ashley told Jacob we were going to "Inside and Outside."

The beginning of the day was great and we breezed through rides. While Ashley and I waited for the boys to go on Thunder mountain we went and checked out Santa's village with live reindeer and Santa in his house. When they got off the ride they joined us in line. Jacob started complaining about waiting to get a picture with Santa so we reminded him about all the botched Hawaii pictures that made it necessary to get this one.

Fast forward to the end of the night. We are tired of slogging through the walls of people and more than one of us was feeling a little cranky.

(Come to find out it was the first day of the Christmas stuff and everyone and their dog was there to enjoy it. Lucky us.)

All the sudden I realize that our camera was missing. I dropped off Jeff and the kids at the 2 hour Small World line (thank goodness for disability passes) and tried to run/walk/squeeze my way back to the Astro blaster ride which was the last place I knew for sure I had it. Of course no one saw the camera, the ride operators didn't find it and it wasn't in lost and found. Unfortunately it had all our passes in it as well. Come to find out that there is a non-refundable $20.00 charge for replacing each card. Didn't they get enough money the first time, they want another $100.00! At this point it wasn't feeling like the "happiest place on earth".

With no camera our "back up" Christmas picture was no longer an option. That's OK we went on-line and we all looked horrible in the picture. Our clothes were rumpled, our hair was all messed up (post Splash mountain messed up) and Santa was sitting way back in his chair and didn't even look real.

Maybe I'll look through my brother-in-laws Hawaii pictures otherwise we'll just have to wish everyone a Merry Crosseyed Christmas.