Always Crazy, Always Fun, Always Love

Ray Romano once compared life with twins to living in a frat house. As he put it, "no one sleeps, there is a lot of noise and a lot of throwing up." I find this very true with 4 young children, including twins. However, though things are always crazy, we always try to have fun and, most certainly, always love each other.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Most Fun Crazy Friends Ever and a Year-End Review

I, without a doubt, have one of the most fun, creative group of friends ever.  The things they come up with are things I never would have thought of.  I sometimes feel I don't quite fit in because I do not have the same creative bug they all do, but I am grateful they always include me- they are so much fun and I do things with them that I probably never would have done otherwise.  And of course, they are genuinely really good friends- they have been there for me and seen me through some tough times.  I am so blessed and lucky to have them!  I love them all!

This Thursday night, we had a special girls night that was as fun and creative as always!  Our friend, Tracie was turning 30.  Since turning 30 is a big milestone in a woman's life, they tend to bring in their 30's with a flare!  I am the "old" one of the group- one of the first to turn 30 (4+ yeas ago....) and it never occurred to me to do anything special, so I am so glad I get to celebrate their big day with them!    For Tracie's 30th, she rented a private Karaoke room and we rocked it out 80s style!  I am not much of a dress up kind of person, but I did put together a basic costume- a side pony-tail with crimped hair (or I tried anyway- the crimps fell by the time we got there), pegged pants and then an off the shoulder torn sweat shirt, courtesy of Abbey.  It was crazy awesome how much some of these ladies got into it!  We rocked it out to many of the 80's most popular songs.  Here are some pictures!  (again, stolen from Facebook- from Abbey's page)

This is Katie and Tracie (birthday girl)

Me and Katie- singing "Total Eclipse of the Heart"

Me and Autumn- can't remember what we were singing, but I remember it was cracking us up (obviously!)

Autumn and Abbey

Autumn and Katie in a perfect "Thriller" Pose- Love it!!

Breezi- isn't she adorable?  She was upset over not finding what she was looking for for her costume in the thrift stores, so she "improvised" and I think her costume is just perfect!!! I wish I could "improvise" and come up with something like that!

And here is our whole group! Front- Katie;  2nd Row- Kelli and Me; 3rd Row, Jane and Andrea (I had never met them before, but they were hilarious- so much fun!); Back-  Tracie, Breezi, Autumn and Abbey.  The girls who took the picture was Alicia- another of Tracie's friends I had not met.  She volunteered to take the picture because she did not dress up.  I told her not to feel bad- normally I am the one who doesn't dress up, like I mentioned before- not exactly my thing.  In September, when Katie turned 30, she did a 1920's style party that was so much fun, and I did not dress up.  I think she has forgiven me.  ha ha. 

A Year- End Review-

Okay, so this is kind of two posts in one- but I since it is New Years Eve, I want to wrap things up so I can have the blog posts from this year printed.  This section will be brief though.

What a year 2011 has been!  It had its ups and downs, but overall, was not our best year.  It has certainly been a year of trials and challenges.  Some of our trials included:

-a difficult pregnancy that ended in a painful miscarriage
-trouble at Aaron's work that caused many of his co-workers to leave- he tried to leave too but was unable to due to office politics.  He watched as his team disintegrated as people jumped ship, leaving him with a pathetic supervisor and with Aaron doing work several pay grades above his pay (and frustration from years without a good raise)
-illnesses and trials in our extended family
-Jacob's constipation issues causing continuous frustration and doctors appointments, trying to resolve this issue that has been going on for 4 years with no real sign of ending.
- Kenny's ADHD causing a few trials for him- including a really rough start to his 5th grade year- leaving him and me in frequent tears.
-weight gain. Again.  
-financial strain- these last few months have been very difficult. Starting in September when some big expenses hit and we just could never quite rise above it- every penny gone before we get it.  We felt like we were treading water using all of our energy just to keep our mouths above water.
-car troubles with our own cars- needing repairs we just didn't really have money for but had to find.
-client trouble for Aaron in his car work- he had a couple of customers that, though Aaron did nothing wrong, decided they didn't want to pay him.  I guess that is one dis-advantage of working on your own at home on the side- people like to try to take advantage of you.

This isn't necessarily a comprehensive list, but the big things anyway.  So, I am not disappointed to see 2011 leave.  I am optimistic and hopeful as we go into 2012.  Things are already looking up.  Here are some of the blessings as we enter the new year:
-We paid off both of our vehicles so we are entering the new year with NO car payment- this has not happened in our entire marriage.
- Just last week, Aaron finally got the notification that he is receiving a very large raise and promotion, effective January 1.  He is still working for the same idiot supervisor doing the same work, but finally getting paid more as deserved.  Between this and the cars paid off, I am hoping will can actually breathe a little and get more things paid off.
-Kenny is doing much better as we settle into a routine with school- his first report card was actually very good despite the beginning of the year struggles.  I also feel I have been able to get some of the help I need in helping him succeed.  I have actually started the process of getting a 504-plan to help with some things he needs.  He has a doctor that cares about him and 3 really good teachers.  We still have a lot of unanswered questions, but I don't feel quite as lost as I did a few months ago.
-Our family is healthy and strong.  I have 4 children that are healthy and well, active and happy.  Aaron and I are also very healthy.  Despite two pulmonary embolisms over the years, Aaron's health is stable.
-We have such a loving family and (as mentioned above) the best friends ever. In fact, we get to ring in the new year with many of these women pictured above! We have a support group that continually lifts us up.
-I complain of financial trials, yet we have a warm home, plenty of food, clothes to wear, cars to drive.  I think we are okay.

Sure, we have faced trials, but we have also been so deeply blessed. I am sure there will be more trials either in our near or distant future, but I know we will be given the strength to face whatever comes.  I am a very happy person and feel very thankful.

Happy 2012 Everyone!!!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Temporary Hermit- and Loving It!

I find myself in a very odd place this week.  Where might that be? Home!  At home with no where I HAVE to go!  Feels very strange, indeed!

Not only do my children not have school for winter break, but almost everything we are involved in has stopped for break too.  My days of run run run have come to a- temporary- screeching halt and it feels so odd but nice all the same.  Here is a sampling of all the places we go every week:

Take boys to school every day and pick them up
Preschool on Tuesdays and Thursdays (home preschool that I teach at my home sometimes)
Karate for boys
Piano lessons for Jacob
Babysit for a community choir
Rec center classes for the girls
Band practice for me
Cub scouts for the boys

And that doesn't include other meetings that come up, grocery shopping and doctors appointments that fall throughout our weeks.

Last week was still so crazy, even when many of our other commitments stopped for break because once that was done, I frantically had to finish shopping, clean my house and many other errands that had been put off due to lack of time.  Then of course, we had the holiday weekend- which was wonderful (see previous post!)- full of lots of good family time.

And this week.....NOTHING!!!!  In the last 3 days, I have run the dishwasher a few times, did at least 18 loads of laundry (I lost track....), and took down all Christmas decorations.  Since Monday, I only left the house once.  Thankfully, the kids are still enjoying their new toys and video games (not to mention doing HOMEWORK....  I mean, really- why do they need HOMEWORK on Christmas break?!?!) so they haven't gotten too bored yet.  They have also had plenty of playmates- I have been babysitting extra kids all week so for that reason as well, I have not been able to go anywhere because I didn't have enough seats in my van for everyone.  It made for a nice excuse- but I didn't really want to go anywhere anyway.  For a stay-at-home mom, I am not home very much so it is a nice change of pace.

Tomorrow, I only have one extra kid to watch and with time running out on break, we will probably venture out and do something fun.

As of next Wednesday, the kids go back to school and the rat race speeds back up, but for now, I am a hermit- and loving it! 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas 2011

I find it a little surreal to be looking back on another Christmas already.  The season really snuck up on me this year.  Seriously, we were well into December and yet it didn't feel like it was really so close to Christmas.  The weather didn't help either- cool, but not cold- and rainy and drizzly for pretty much the entire month. 

Despite the fact that it never really felt like Christmas to me, the holiday itself was just wonderful- all I could ask for and more.  We had happy healthy children, lots of family, good food and many smiles.  There are so many pictures I want to post so I will try to let the pictures do most of the talking.  Some pictures aren't as good because I seem to have lost my own camera (MAJOR bummer) so some were taken with my small cell camera (no fancy smart phone for me).  The better ones were taken by others and I stole the pictures off of Facebook.

I thought Christmas morning was awesome when I was a kid.  It is 10X better as a mom.  I LOVE Christmas morning with my kiddos.

Here they are, awake and excited to see what Santa left!

  They must have been very good kids this year!  The girls each got a "Happy Napper"- which I thought was kind of a waste of money but they kept BEGGING for it, so Santa decided they deserved it.  Kenny got a bucket of 1600 basic lego blocks (to go with the many sets he has collected) and Jacob got the Harry Potter years 5-7 Wii game he had been asking for!  There were many more fun things as well!

Santa even brought them each a brand new pair of PJs!  I would like to say I am one of those cool parents that let them open it Christmas Eve so they could wear them right away, but I did not.  So, this was taken before bed on Christmas night.

After they opened presents and had a bunch of junk food  breakfast, we went to church.  I was looking forward to it because, due to the holiday, it was sacrament service only and was sure to have lots of beautiful music.  Well, it went a little longer than expected and I was really tired so I was having trouble staying awake.  After that, we relaxed at home for a while and then went to my parents house.

 It was baby Claire's first Christmas!  Here she is with my Grandma.

It is a newer tradition to decorate Christmas cookies with the kids.  One of the reason is to take the focus off of gifts since many in my family can't really afford to buy a lot of gifts this year (including us!), especially for such a large family- not to mention that it really isn't what Christmas is about anyway. We agreed no gifts at all but would spend time together and make cookies.  My parents ended up getting them all a little something anyway and the kids had a wonderful time!

This is Meghan, Kenny and my niece Kaylee- working hard on those cookies!

 My beautiful nieces- Kaylee, Kristen and Savanna- they all made beautiful cookies!

Of course, the kids got bored after a cookie or two and went on to other things (like playing with the fun stuff Grandma and Grandpa bought...) and there were so many cookies left to be decorated- so I did a rush job and got them done so they could all be enjoyed...

A baker I am, a decorator I am not.  Simple, but yummy!

Monday, we had an annual brunch at my house with Aaron's family.  We were extra fortunate to have Aaron's mom and step-dad, Bob in town from Florida for Christmas!  With 9 adults and 7 kids, my house was cramped (no one else's house is any bigger than mine- and our house is central to everyone) but we all still had a great time!

This is a very rare shot of Aaron together with his mom and dad.  A very good picture, even if candid.  I wish it would have occurred to me to take a picture of the three of them looking at the camera. (Thanks for snapping this one, Bob!)

Aaron's sister, Sarah with their dad, Chuck

Aaron's sister, Rachael with their dad (Sarah's husband- Jeff in the back ground)

Aaron's step-mom, Debbie and Jeff

Aaron's step-dad, Bob with Mom, Janet and Aaron (who is apparently telling an important story!)

I meant to gather all of the kids together to take a group shot of them before they all left, but in the chaos, I forgot- but here are a few random shots:

I love watching my children actually playing happily together- a rare occurrence indeed!  They are playing with the hexbug nano-bots Kenny got for Christmas from Santa.

I found this scene quite interesting and humorous.  The girls got some Barbie dolls for Christmas.  Last week, sadly, Aaron's grandfather passed away (see previous post).  It was the girls' first funeral experience.  It must have been on her mind.  Ellie was playing funeral.  The Barbie in the box died and the other Barbies (sitting on top of the other box, as a bench) are attending the funeral!

I love this- this is classic Meghan- all dressed up!  She is opening a build-a-bear gift card from Grandma Janet for her birthday!  Monday was my nephew Joey's 5th birthday (you can sort of see him to the left of Meghan and his big brother Kurtis to the right) and the girls birthday is coming up on January 4th, so we also had a mini birthday party.  The original plan was to take the 3 birthday kids to build-a-bear but then decided it probably wasn't the best plan for the day after Christmas, so she gave gift cards instead. 

Ellen and Meghan are both all dressed up in the new dress up dresses from Aunt Rachael and playing happily with the toys that Aunt Sarah gave them!

Bob took 3 different pictures of Jacob assembling his new lego set and Jacob was so focused he had no idea his pictures was being taken!  When I showed him this picture, he was surprised- he really didn't know his picture was taken!

Kenny is holding an AMAZING blanket that Aaron's mom, Janet, crocheted for us and also one for Sarah's family just like it.  A few months ago, when she knew they were coming to visit, she asked all of us our favorite colors but didn't tell us why.  She incorporated our favorite colors into the blanket.  Aaron's favorite is blue and Jeff's is yellow.  So, she made the top and bottom blue and yellow since Jeff and Aaron are the heads that "hold the family together"   You can see the light purple binding all around the edge- that symbolized Christ surrounding us and protecting us.  Then, in between are the colors representing each person.  It is just absolutely beautiful- so very touching and I love the story behind it.  Definitely something we will treasure forever! 

So, this is a small glimpse on what it looks like to have 16 people in one small room, though you can't quite see everyone.  I LOVE this picture.  Only a family that really loves each other could be this cramped and still be happy!  My children are incredibly blessed to have 6 grandparents that love them dearly.  They are also incredibly lucky to get to spend time with ALL 6 of them this Christmas.   

In closing, I had to include one last picture.  We have 1 dog and 2 cats.  How do they handle all of this chaos? 

I love the look on poor Pebbles face here.  It is like she is saying "Help me!" 

It was truly a wonderful Christmas with lots of family and lots of fun!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

In Loving Memory

 Aaron's Grandfather, Elver Jay, (referred to as "Papa" by Aaron and siblings) passed away Tuesday.  He is a great man and is very loved and will be very missed.  Here is a portion of the obituary.  I left out the areas with locations and names mentioned for privacy's sake.

"Elver "Jay"

Elver "Jay",  83, went home to be with his Lord and Savior on Tuesday afternoon, December 13, 2011 at his residence in Pensacola. He was born on November 12, 1928 and raised in Columbus, OH.

Jay retired from Rockwell Intl. and was a veteran of the Air Force and an avid singer. He was a member of the Masons. Jay was also a member of the Scottish Rite, and a member of the Aladdin Shrine Temple where he was an active member of the Chanters and the Jesters units.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Joann."   

Aaron's grandmother passed away in 1991.  Aaron and I did not meet until 2 years later so I never got a chance to know her but the family always speaks of her with such love and wonderful memories.  I know she was an amazing woman and that "Papa" loved her dearly.

Papa was also a very good man and loved by everyone.  I am thankful I got to know him, if even just a little bit.  He welcomed me into the family from the very beginning and was kind to everyone. In these last few years, Papa's health steadily declined to where he was recently constantly in pain and very frail.  While I know we will miss him and it is sad, I am also grateful that he is free from his pain.  I know he is in heaven right now dancing and free- enjoying a joyous reunion with his sweet wife that he has missed for so long.

Unfortunately, since he lives in Florida, my children have only gotten a few opportunities to meet him.  I think the last time they saw him was in June 2007:

This is Papa, Chuck- Aaron's dad, Aaron, Kenny (age 6), Jacob (Age 4) and Ellen and Meghan (5 mos).  Kenny remembers him but I don't think Jacob really does and the girls were obviously just babies.   I just wish that our children could have known him better because I know they would have loved him!  Aaron and his dad have been able to get down there a couple of times in the last year or so to see him and I know Aaron is so grateful for the opportunity that he had to spend a little time with him. 

Good-bye, Papa- till we meet again, because I know we will!!

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Big Scare

  This weekend, a very scary event occurred in the life of Amy, one of my best friends, that shook us all a little and means that life for her will likely never be quite the same.    This is Amy's 5 year old daughter, Sophia:

Isn't this the sweetest picture?  She is a beautiful little girl who has had to deal with a lot in her 5 1/2 years.  She has quite a few allergies (food and environmental), asthma and more recently, seizures. 

She had one in May of 2010.  It was very unexpected- she had never had anything like it before and it came out of nowhere.  It lasted 40 minutes until it was under control.  She spent a week in the hospital as they ran tests trying to find a cause.  The doctors didn't really find anything except the presence of a virus. They said it was possible this was a cause and said that everyone gets one "freebie" seizure where it is always a possibility of it being a fluke.  This is what her family was hoping. 

Unfortunately, it happened again last Friday, December 2nd.    Sophia had a mild cold and was over tired from not having slept enough during the week, but otherwise was her normal self.  Amy went to pick her up from school.  Normally, she would have picked up her 10 year old son first, but she was running late and asked a friend to pick him up so she went straight to the girls school.  She parked on the street and walked up to get Sophia and her twin sister, Amelia.  She thought Sophia looked a bit dazed, but was otherwise okay.  The grandmother of another student stopped to talk to Amy so the girls played on the sidewalk while they talked.  Suddenly, Sophia just stopped and stood very still and her eyes went all the way to the left.  Amy put her arms around her and kept asking if she was okay, but got no response.  After a minute or two of this, Sophia collapsed right into her arms and the seizure continued.  Amy yelled for help and carried her into the school and into the nurses office.  At first when they laid her on the cot, she was still and they hoped it had passed, but then her left arm started shaking and that continued down through her body all the way to her feet- all on the left side. 

The ambulance came and she was taken to the hospital- Amy riding along with her.  Poor Amelia was completely terrified seeing her twin sister go through this and her mom having to leave with her. Amelia is a very shy child anyway and this was a lot for her to take.  The school nurse, Mrs. B was just amazing and ended up taking Amelia to Amy's in-laws house where she would stay for the night. 

As scary as this was, it was easy to see how God arranged things to be sure Amy was there for her when this happened.  This is all way more than coincidence:

1)  If she had picked up her older son first, they wouldn't have gotten to the school before the seizure started.
2)  If the grandmother hadn't stopped to talk, Amy would have quickly loaded the girls in the car and taken off to pick up her son- so this would have happened on the road, with her by herself.
3)  She parked on the street and walked up- whereas sometimes she pulls into the lot and loads the girls there.  Had she pulled into the lot as usual, her car would have been in the way of other cars when this happened- right during school pick up time.

It is amazing how, even in the face of tough trials, our Father in Heaven looks out for us.

So, she was taken by ambulance to the hospital.  It took "only" about 25 minutes for the seizure to get under control this time because they gave Sophia medicine in the ambulance this time but they had not before.

I went to see her and the receptionist asked if I was family to Sophia.  I didn't even hesitate to say I was her aunt.  It really isn't dishonest-  I love her mom as a sister and I love Sophia as much as I do my nieces and nephews.  I have watched her grow up for 4 years now and care for her well being.  I figure the only thing that makes me different from her "real" aunts are:

1) I am not blood related, but then not all aunts are!
2) I have not known her since she was born- though I have known her since she was 1 1/2 years!
3) I don't get to come to family gatherings.

Otherwise, not much difference!

She was very sleepy for a long time due to being exhausted from the seizure as well as the drugs they gave her to control it.  Later, she started waking up as they were admitting her and she started asking for her special stuffed kitty. Unfortunately, it was in the back packs with her mother-in-law, so no way of getting it.  I felt for her- the poor thing needed something to hug on after all of that. So, I went down to the gift shop and found a kitty that was nothing like her own, but hoped it would do. 

I am so happy to say it was a hit! She loved it and it was her special companion in the hospital.  Check these out:

She even named him snowflake!  Here, the "art cart" had come with fun activities to do- she chose to paint a magic wand!

Here she is telling snowflake all about how she is going to paint the wand.

And, this is the wand in progress!

Fortunately, she quickly returned to her normal self- seemingly unscathed from such a long seizure.  The doctors are saying that is the biggest worry- is the length of the seizure and that this is not the first time.  Any time she has one like that, she is risking brain damage.  For this reason, she needs medication to assure another one like this will not happen.  She was released from the hospital and will follow up with the neurologist in the coming weeks for more testing as they try to find the answer.

Understandably, they are all scared and very overwhelmed.  Please keep them in your prayers as they navigate this unexpected road and search for answers.  Amy is such an amazing person and a great mother- Sophia is lucky to have such a loving and caring family looking out for her!