Monday, November 28, 2011

A really HOT Thanksgiving

     This year I was excited to host Thanksgiving but when it got to a couple of days before we were supposed to have everyone I started getting nervous. There was lots of house cleaning, fixing up Ashley’s room, we had the painters come paint the rest of the doors and the banisters (nobody but us probably noticed but it was nice to have everything look clean) I had doctor and dentist appointments, hosted cousins, reunion with friends and more than one trip to the store for last minute things. The day arrived and everything ran smoothly until the fire...but more about that later.

On Tuesday we had piano lessons and then we went out for an early trip to Chuck-E-Cheese to meet up with Sharla who was in town for Thanksgiving. We also had Carol, Penney and Kristen. I haven't seen Sharla in a year and 1/2 and it was nice to catch up some and see how big her kids have gotten and also meet Sharla's newest addition, baby August.

Clark has moved from being a baby to a boy running around and wanting to do big boy stuff like play guitar hero (I was laughing at how he could barely hold the guitar)

The girls hooking up...they flew through tokens like there was no tomorrow :)

We visited, doled out tokens, all ended up buying pizza even thought it was only mid-morning and had a great time catching up while managing kid requests. 

Right after this I raced Taylor over to do the mountain biking trip he's been begging me to go on with friends (Sycamore Canyon) and got home to hang out with neices. Liesl, Jenae and Jolene came over for the day and we had fun visiting with them. 

They came with me to pick up Taylor from his bike ride and all had something to say about him being covered in mud splatters and needing a shower ;)  After the shower they played capture the flag at the park, video games...and then just hung out watching TV.

The next day I cleaned, cleaned the house...and had the kids clean...and still had a list of more things to clean, and to shop for...but I got a call from Steve asking me about Sycamore Canyon that he saw on my blog post. He was wanting to take the kids out to get them out of the house. 

Sooo I decided to give us all a break from cleaning and we met them at the Canyon and I showed them our trial we like to take. I brought the dog and Steve brought all the teens including a neighbor, which made it fun for all of them to be there. 

After hanging out at the stream eating snacks the big kids all climbed the rocks and hung out...I was at the bottom so I'm not really sure what they were doing... :)  then we hiked back to the cars. Its a little over 2 miles and I was so proud of Ashley hiking the whole way without complaining or seeming tired!

On the way home we scrounged just enough quarters that the kids could have Sunday's at McDonalds (I snuck a few bites from them) and then it was back to the house for more cleaning.

Thanksgiving day dawned and Jeff and I were up and getting things ready. We were set to have everyone come over at 2:00 and then be ready to eat at 3:00. 

Everything was going smooth and Jeff and I were working well, on track to get everything done on time when I heard sizzling in the oven. I opened it to see turkey juices running down to the bottom. 

We quickly pulled the turkey out and saw that the twist tie for the bag must have been touching the side of the oven and it burned off, letting the juices run down. Well we fixed it and put it back in.

We were at about an hour before everyone was supposed to be coming when I opened the cupboard to put a dish away and a cup came crashing down breaking one of my new bowls. As I am cleaning up the broken glass the doorbell rings as Jeff is realizing there is smoke coming from the oven.

Ding Dong???? 
Who could that be??

It was cousin Ben and his family an hour early. "It didn't take us as long as I thought it would to get here. You should've seen me we were doing 90 on the freeway..."...he came to talk to us in the kitchen...honestly I was too busy to entertain. 

More smoke...

We open the oven and it's on fire!!

All the sudden things are not going so smoothly. 
It occurred to me that last Sunday all the talks were on adversity....hmmmm I was getting my chance to experience it.

We tried closing the oven door but it kept getting worse. 

"Get the fire extinguisher!"

Luckily I knew exactly where it was. Luckily Ben was there in the kitchen gabbing and we had him pull the turkey out so Jeff could spray the fire down.  Jeff had to spray a bit before Ben reached in the oven so he didn't get singed but luckily the turkey was in a bag.

With enough spraying Jeff was able to get the fire out.

Now the house was filled with smoke! We had one hour before 50 people were going to be at our house, our oven wasn't usable because it was filled with fire extinguisher stuff and the turkey had an hour left to cook! Not to mention 4 family members were expected to use the oven to cook their Thanksgiving offering!

Black, fume filled, putrid smoke filled the upstairs and down and set the fire alarm and the house alarm off repeatedly.  We have a monitored smoke alarm and they came through on the intercom and asked if we needed a fire truck. Luckily no, so she said "How long do you want me to disregard the alarm going off?" I told her an hour. 

I thought that meant that the alarm would stop going it meant that she wouldn't call the fire department during the next hour as the alarm went off.

As I'm trying to open all the windows, get the smoke out and figure out what to do with the turkey that still had an hour to cook the house alarm and the smoke alarm loudly shrilled through the house. (You should've seen how fast those boys got off those video games and went outside to hang out) 

Jeff told me to call the Merrill family up the street and see if we could bake the turkey in their oven for the last hour. I really didn't want to was Thanksgiving Day...I'm sure she was cooking her own dinner.   Well I called. Luckily they were home, they had cooked their dinner the day before and they said   to come down and use the oven as much as we needed to.  

All those years of visiting teaching and home teaching this family that didn't want anything to do with the church and now they were there to help me in my time of need. They were gracious and wonderful and I wondered again if it wasn't the Lord giving us this opportunity to be blessed and be thankful. 

Jeff and I spent the next hour pulling the oven apart and cleaning it to hopefully get it usable. There was powder everywhere!! My carefully cleaned kitchen was very clung to the walls, fridge and everything. Family is arriving and Jeff and I are still cleaning. I noticed later that every table in the house looked like we hadn't dusted in a month because of the smoke. Great!

Anyway after cleaning and putting the oven back together I nervously turned it on fully expecting it not to work anymore and having to use the neighbors oven.

I waited and it was getting worked! It was still a bit fumey but it worked! Another thing to be Thankful for!

People got their food in the oven pretty much on time and I picked up the turkey down the street and it was saved and turned just fine!!

So I started our celebration off ticking off the things to be thankful for...our house was still standing, our oven was working so we could cook the rest of the food, and our turkey wasn't ruined!

Our house was filled to the brim with people. 

It was too cold for anyone to really want to hang out outside but nobody seemed to mind too much. 

Steve orchestrated the games like beanboozled and Maffia which are now family favorites! I was busy in the kitchen but I heard lots of people having fun. Honestly I think some of the family members don't really care too much about the's about the games :)

Heres the quiet(er) room.

Our couches were filled to capacity and more.

Another thing to be thankful for...everyone seemed to be done and going home by about 8:00! 

Liesl was spending the night with us that night because we were going to take her to Universal Studios the next day. Since it wasn't that late she suggested watching a movie. 

The kids have been wanting a “scary” movie forever. We’ve seen some mildly scary ones but nothing that they considered scary enough. So we considered Insidious at redbox. The previews looked scary but Liesl said she saw it and it wasn't scary, in fact she thought it was funny. OK so we tried it. Jacob and Ashley were scared like crazy. At one part Jacob screamed like a girl and then hid in the bathroom with his DS, Ashley kept saying “lets turn it off” I offered to take her to bed but she didn’t want to go to bed alone while we were watching it. Honestly it wasn't thaaaat bad they just hadn't seen a scary movie before. I was hoping it would cure them. Luckily Ashley slept with Liesl that night and then in Jacob’s room the next night and now she seems OK. There was a stupid song on the movie “Tiptoe through the tulips” and of course the boys keep singing it and playing it on their i-pod out loud to bug Ashley and scare her, which is funny because Jacob was just as scared. 

I told them that if they keep scaring her they have to let her sleep with them that night. Finally by Sunday she was laughing about it too. 

Friday...boycotting black Friday we headed to Universal Studios to recover from the week. Liesl hadn't been in a long time so she was excited to go. 

On the backlot tour Taylor kept telling Liesl to lean closer to the side to see and sure enough Jaws popped up right next to her and she let out a loud scream...I guess he wanted to make up for her not being scared the night before :)

Ashley was tall enough to go on the Simpson's ride. So nice to be able to go on more things as a family!

Spongebob trying to give Jacob a kiss...looks freaky if you ask me.

Aaaahhhhh he's eating the kids.

Oh on the backlot tour I noticed some additions to the plane crash scene....

They had these dead bodies strewn around...maybe left overs from Halloween?

Ashley had to wait while the rest of us went on the Mummy and Jurassic Jeff bought her a tri-colored push pop to help pass the time...can you tell which colors she liked the best?

We saw and did everything but one it'll give Liesl something to do next time. 

Our favorite place to eat on the way out of Universal Studios. Wolfgang Pucks! Their best deal is the kids meal, for $6 you get a whole pizza, drink and a homemade cookie ice cream sandwich. Unfortunately the kids are getting to the point where they all can't have kids meals. 

A fun day and we even got home by 9:00! It was nice to hang out with Liesl this week and all the cousins!

Saturday I started pulling out the Christmas decorations. I was tired of putting up my huge tree by myself branch by branch, putting on the lights, it was heavy and bulky and my arms would be all scratched by the end. Jeff saw a nice pre-lit tree at Wallmart and we decided to retire the old one. 

Well it was easy to put up....but it was a lot narrower and smaller looking than our old one. (Ashley was very sad that we got rid of the old one but I have it to a single mom of 3 kids so I was OK with it).

Every time I walk by I look at it and think "Its so small" 

Jacob liked it, he said that when we start putting presents under it, it will look like there are more presents because the tree is small. 

In the middle of decorating we had Angela and Robert over for a visit. They were on their way back home from Robert's families Thanksgiving trip. We got to have them for lunch and hang out that afternoon with them. 

It was fun to watch Ian especially as he laughed and laughed when Maddie licked him. 

So now I'm trying to get into planning for Christmas. Why does it seem so stressful every year?? I think because we're squeezing in so much extra stuff that we normally don't do while still trying to do real life (like the big project Ashley has due in 2 weeks) So while trying to recover from last week I'm gearing up for the next few weeks. 

It seems like every year around this time I think "next year I'll plan ahead" and I never do.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

Tis the season to be grateful so we had our annual "list your things to be grateful for" family home evening lesson last night.

I did it as a game...and gave everyone 2 minutes to list as much as they could...

Jacob is grateful for...."pie, apple, pear, bed, chimi, churro, mini-churro, other babies, light, clothes, bananas, brownies, cookies, vanilla, shakes, strawberries, and church" among other things. 

Ashley is grateful for ..."house, family, God, church, pets, rooms, electronics, Jesus, food, paper, trees, plants, beds, cousins, and blankets" among other things.

Taylor is grateful for ..."girls, cars, running, bikes, dogs, cheetos, doritos, cheeze-its, brownies, fritos, ruffles, phones, chocolate, chocolate cake, ice cream, McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy's, Jack-in-the-Box, Carl's Jr, burritos, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, shakes, fries"...hhmmmmm thats his whole list

(I think both boys were a. hungry and b. trying to win the game....but Jeff won ;)

I told them about a quote I saw that said "What if you woke up in the morning and only had whatever you had thanked God for the night before..."

If that was the case I guess some of my children would be homeless and alone but they would have plenty to eat!

Sometimes I love to list everything I'm grateful for because it gets me in a good mood and makes it easier to see my blessings around me...even when life still brings challenges.

I love having a family! All the craziness, sacrifice, love, frustration and joy rolled up into one makes families wonderful! 

It's pretty much a theme in our family that Jacob ruins family pictures....on purpose. 

This is one that Shawna flew down from Colorado to take, 
we had to get up at 6:00 on a Saturday to drive...
almost an hour to meet to get these pictures...
and this is what we got. 

Luckily there are plenty more to choose from so a regular one will be on our Christmas card.

I'm grateful for our dog...

That got me to get the kids out of the house on Veteran's Day to to hike Sycamore Canyon.

I go all the time with the Elsworths but the kids never get to go... 

There was a little grumbling getting out of the house but once we got there everyone loved climbing on the rocks and exploring. 

The boys liked challenging themselves climbing higher...

We were laughing later when bike riders rode down the same rocks that the boys were so impressed with themselves to have climbed up. 

Ashley liked the stream at the end. 

I am grateful for Doctor's and Dentists and Orthodontists...we've visited all 3 this week. 

Unfortunately my combined dentist appointment for me and all the kids I scheduled 6 months ago has now turned into 4 separate appointments on 4 separate days....

My fault for part of it.

Its was Monday and I was doing my thing...and I get a call "This is Mickey from Dr. Mohn's office, Are you around the corner?"

OH NO!!! I totally forgot all the dentist appointments for the kids that day. 

We live 20 minutes away and if you are 15 minutes late they'll cancel your appointment. Taylor wasn't even home either! She said they could keep 2 of the I load Jacob and AShley up and we got there as quick as possible. First thing they asked "Did Jacob pre-medicate?" he couldn't be seen. (Partly their fault because they hadn't gotten the prescription up-to-date so I hadn't even gotten it)  so they all got 3 separate appointments now :(

I am grateful for Primary Sacrament Programs.

We had ours a couple of weeks ago and they did fabulous! Our primary is big and the kids are cute and everyone did great on their parts. They had us in the audience write our feelings, notes and thoughts to the children as they were doing the Primary program to be read back to them in sharing time. What a great idea! I was able to express what I was feeling at the time ... I admired their excitement for the gospel, their pure testimonies and their sweet spirits. I also loved that they had small groups to sing some of the songs this year so each of the children stood out from the herd.

Ashley did her part great, she sang in a small group and did great and she played a piano solo and did great! We were so proud of her. 

The only thing she struggled at was the final chord of her piano piece. She just quite couldn't get it. Afterward she told me why. "I need to see the dirty key to know where the chord was" 
I guess at home the piano key was dirty and she was using it as a reference!

I am grateful for hobbies...and creating...and service. 

I've been doing jewelry lately and selling it a bit...and buying more stuff after I sell pretty much just supports it as a hobby :)

Anyways my new thing was to experiment with wire wrapping...I saw it on the cover of a book and saw a quick you-tube video and I've been playing around with it. 

On Tuesday I was invited to go and help with my nieces mutual and make jewelry with the girls.  I was told to just come and they would have all the supplies....until the night before when the leaders called and said they wanted me to buy all of back to the store I went (dangerous for me)

The night went good and the girls seemed to like it...even the tom boy girl who everyone was shocked made a bracelet.

I am grateful for friends who inspire me, I have lots of them.

It was a friend who gave me the idea for this cute Thanksgiving craft. It's a gobbling turkey. There is a piece of sponge on the end of a string and you get it wet and slide it down the string and the cup amplifies it and it makes it sound like it's gobbling. 

I went to Ashley's class and made them for art. Fun for even 4th graders...not as fun for the teachers that have to listen to the gobbling :)

I tried buying small cups but the sound wasn't right so I found I had to go with the big ones. 

Right after I had my parent teacher conference with Ashley's teacher. She's doing great this year.

I'm grateful for the temple.

Wednesday Jacob got to go to the temple to do baptisms with the youth. His favorite part is the trip to In-N-Out afterwards.

He told me in his interview for his recommend he was asked at the end "Do you have any questions?" 
"Yes, is there shakes with our burgers?"

Jacob also got to go on a camp out to Joshua Tree on Friday with his scout troop.  I was grateful that he was warm enough, he didn't get lost, and he wasn't interested in the repelling part so I didn't have to worry about him ;)

I am grateful for food (though not quite to the extent that the boys are)

On Wednesday I spent literally aaaallll day making this 15 bean ham soup for the first time. 

It's been colder outside and I wanted to try something new so literally from 6:00 in the morning until 6:30 at night I boiled the ham bone, soaked beans, spent 3 hours simmering the soup, running back to the store again when I realized I didn't have an onion and getting special bread to eat with it. 

Taylor dipped a corner of his bread in it and then looked at it in disdain for the rest of the meal without eating any. "Why do you have to make such weird dinners mom?"

Ashley ate like two bites and then filled up on bread.

Jeff ate about 1/2 his bowl.

Lots went down the disposal that night.

Jacob might have been a little more open to it but he was gone at the temple.

None of them will be eating leftovers.

I have a large amount of soup left..... for myself.

I am grateful for extended family. 

Saturday we went to a farewell party for the Biggs (Jeff's aunt and uncle) who are moving away for a job change. We tried to entice the boys to go...there was an In-N-Out truck there but the catch was we had to go to a wedding reception an hour away first...then drive an hour back and then we got to be at the Bigg's party. 

Taylor said In-N-Out wasn't worth it for an hour wedding reception, Jacob was just getting back from camping so we left them at home. 

Then Taylor heard about who all was there after. What there were cousins there? You didn't tell me there were cousins there! (I did)

I am grateful for senty candles, plugs ins and other such things that are nice to have.

I got a new candle that smells like blueberry cheesecake. 

The first time I put it out Taylor started smelling it

"Mom are you making waffles!?" 

No, it's 9:30 and everyone has already eaten breakfast. 

"Mom can you make waffles??" He kept asking me about waffles.

I agreed to make them the next day but the candle sent really made him want waffles I guess.

I am also grateful for our other pets that are frustrating at time but make us laugh at others. 

We've found out the churro and mini-churro have found out how to get out of their cage. 

They push open this top door and escape. 

Once we realized this I told Taylor to put some twist ties on the door. 

That worked for 10 minutes. 

Then I put this carabeaner on it. 

I woke up the next morning to mini-churro running around the house. This is how big the opening was and he could still squeeze out of it!

Happy Thanksgiving being grateful for whatever your grateful for!

I'm off to clean the house for tomorrow!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Halloween in Huntington

Wow I'm slipping on the blogging...It's 1/2 way through the month and I'm just talking about Halloween! Whats that all about???? 

I could give excuses...but I won't.

Well before Thanksgiving is here (getting ready for that too) I better get this post in.

This year Jeff's New York Life council party was in ......

TA DA....

Hunington Beach!

So exotic!

That's one thing about working for a company thats based in New York, they like a lot of the "reward" trips to be on the west coast...soooo we get to go to places like San Diego, Anaheim, Palm Springs and such. Well the beach in early November didn't sound worthy of pulling the kids out of school so we had Jenise and Sean watch the kids while I went down with Jeff for a couple of days to hang out with him at his convention. 

I have to say that wherever we go with New York Life they always do great with the hotels. The Hyatt was great and right across the street from the beach! (even though it was too cold to put on a suit)

It took up the whole block and we got lots of walking in going back and forth between our room and the convention stuff.

With no kids I got to go with Jeff to some of the early morning meetings....which meant breakfast at 6:30...I was there for moral support but when it was time to break out for workshops I bowed out and did my own thing. 

After I left Jeff I went for a run on the beachfront was foggy most of the day and I kept hearing fog horns the whole time.  (you can't see the water)

Almost every night we came back to find something in the room..the first night we got this cool California basket with snacks and stuff. 

It was fun to find out what we would get next...
we ended up getting a book written by the key-note speaker, nice. 

And, a "how-to" book on visiting Disneyland 
(good for chuckling at none-the-less being the Disney pros we are and all)

This and the convention center rooms were about all of the hotel that Jeff got to enjoy...pretty typical but it was nice to be with him alone for a couple of days. 

Our view from our room....

If you turn sideways on the balcony....

and zoom the camera in as far as it would go.

Couldn't hear the waves over the traffic on the street but we could see them!

Halloween was spent making flyers for Jeff for his AAC campaign and then going to an awards dinner. Yummy food but glad the kids weren't with us, they had much more fun trick or treating with friends and Jenise and their other cousins. 

You might be wondering what is AAC?
 Well its an election that is held every year for 4 agent representatives to go back for a week in the spring to the home office and meet with the heads of the company to discuss issues, concerns and suggestions from the various agents in the field. Jeff served on this committee about 8 years ago and he was asked by one of the vice Presidents of the company to run he did. There is 8 people on the ballot and he campaigned for one of the 4 spots. 

Yummy food.

Happy couple getting ready to eat the yummy food.

Tuesday after Jeff's meetings we were free for the rest of the day to do whatever we wanted. 

While he was in meetings I went to walk along the sand...

It wasn't as foggy as the day before but still pretty cool. 

I loved it! I felt like I had the beach to myself. Nobody was out there and all I could hear was the waves. Even though there were more people up at the street level I only passed by one guy on my walk. 

I saw lots of birds that I don't normally see at the beach (maybe because there wasn't all the people there) and I found this guy. I thought he was dead but I just had to poke him...he was alive :)

I would love to have walks like that every day!

Since we had lots of time to kill we decided to do a session at the Newport temple.

Then walk along the pier....

Our hotel waaay in the background. 

Walking back to the downtown area we visited the street fair/farmers market/craft fair.

There was music, vendors (we bought a great photograph of the beach from a guy there for Ashley's "beach" room) and food. 

But we passed all the food and saved our appetite for this Italian restaurant that the hotel recommended. 

Wow it was worth the walk! It was so good...I noticed a lot of New York Life people there...they must have all been told to come there too from the hotel. 

Thats one thing about these conventions...I spend a week of eating really good food....too much really good food!

Wednesday morning I woke up early and went to the agent's breakfast and heard Jeff and the other candidates give their speeches. We found out later that day that Jeff won one of the spots!!

So now we're going to New York in April!

Mike Schlappy was the key-note speaker of the week. A motivational paraplegic, Olympic gold medal winner with a great story, great attitude and an inspiring way to motivate us. 

Right after his speech I hightailed it home to surprise the kids.

We knew the finale of the week was an evening at Disneyland. We were hoping we could just bring our kids to that part of the convention (they've all been going to the conventions since they were babies) but we were told no by the travel staff. Sooo no problem, we tried, we told the kids no Disneyland.

Then the first night we were invited to sit at the table with the Vice President of the company. Really nice guy and in the course of the conversation when he heard that we weren't going to be able to bring our kids to Disneyland he insisted he would make it happen. We were shocked and weren't trying to pull any favors in fact I changed the subject. But sure enough right after dinner he did whatever it took to make it happen. 

I didn't have Jenise tell the kids I just went around and pulled them out of school about lunch time one by one.  It was hilarious to see the shock on their faces as they saw me. "Mom why are you here???" (Taylor actually thought he was in trouble which made me wonder why he thought that ;)  Then when I told them we're going to Disneyland they were very excited!

This also happened to be the warmest day so I brought their suits so we could check out the pools.   

You can barely see it but there are two waterslides in the background and I was excited for the boys to be able to try them. They said they were not that great and the water was a little cold. So for the rest of the time we stayed in the heated parts of the pool.

Then we got dressed, boarded the bus and got ready to go to Disneyland. 

You can see how excited the boys are...actually they just get sick of me taking pictures all the time. 

We were there about 6:30 and the park closes at 8:00 then we would get Adventure land and Frontier land for just New York life until 10:00.  Well we found out that the park is DEAD on a Wednesday 2 hours before its closing. 

I've probably never been there when it's so empty. 

The highlight of the evening was the fact that Ashley just makes the 40 inch height requirement!!!!  That is when she is standing up her tallest, and puts the sign on the very back of her head...but still

Happy Day!

We discovered this when we were in the line trying out the new Star Tours ride (they added new movies to it that change every time you ride). Right after this we ran over to Space Mountain. 

It was all so fast she didn't even have time to think about if she would be scared or not. 

She wasn't she LOVED IT and said it was her favorite ride of the night!

No more splitting up the family waiting while some get to go on the rides and others don't !!!!

We ran to the Haunted House to do the Nighmare before Christmas version, and then we went on Splash Mountain, Big Thunder mountain and Ashley loved all of them :)

When it was time to eat Disneyland had the buffet for us. 

I have to say I was very impressed and it was way better than I expected. It was gourmet food served country style. Very delicious. 

Taylor's favorite was the Salmon.

Afterwards we went on some more rides and then helped ourselves to the dessert bar again the food was exquisite. 

I drove the kids home that night and we got in about 11:30. It was a great day but it make for a long morning we had to roll out of bed in time for Seminary the next day.

Oh one last highlight of the week. 

Ashley and I went up to Palmdale for a family baby shower for one of Jeff's cousin's wife.  It ended up being a full family affair (helped that it was Jeff's mom's birthday that day)

We had plenty of snacks....

and I did the games including my Candy matching game. 

Roxana is from Panama and Lori (her mother in law) had to explain what some of the baby terms meant because she wasn't familiar with the English terms. 

We are excited to have her and her daughter Maybel as part of the family.

And it made me excited to see the family next week for Thanksgiving!