Birthday Bash

Today was Donny’s birthday party.  We were supposed to just do something simple, but ended up with a full on bash.  It was spy themed, and I threw it together in about a week!  But thanks to the interwebs and the pinterest, I came up with a fun party that I think the kids enjoyed!

For my party people, here is the link to all the pictures:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/d9Esox2OQsdqyoqr1

The party really started before the party even began… the invitations had a code the kids had to break to RSVP for their spot on Donny’s spy team.  This was brilliant on my part, if I do say so myself.  I knew exactly how many people would be here and exactly what to expect, where usually most people don’t actually RSVP.  So I know it’s my own horn, but *TOOT TOOT*!

The kids thought they were just going through typical spy training (code names, fingerprinting, obstacle course, disguise skills,  target practice, laser beams)… and earned stars on their badges once each area was completed.  When they finished, they went to go get their prizes but someone had stolen all the candy.  They then found spy tools in the spy vault (punch wall) and used them to solve the mystery. Turned out that Nigel had stolen it, and once they caught him they chased him around the yard as they played “human pinata” (Donny’s favorite game! Nigel’s least favorite game) where the candy was returned to the kids and they loaded up their bags.

Their name badges had a QR code that linked to the pictures from the party.  I messed this up, however, so I had to send them here to get their pictures, but had it worked it would have been awesome. 🙂

It was a good time, I think.

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Caramel Apples

Okay, so I’ve had a few people ask for my caramel apple recipe.  I will say that I started with Robert Irvine’s recipe and tweaked it to what I like, so I’m not the mastermind behind these, but I do think its a delicious caramel apple! So, enjoy!

  • 1 pound brown sugar*
  • 1 cup salted butter, room temperature
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup “pancake” syrup (maple flavored)
  • 2 teaspoons mild molasses*
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12-14 granny smith apples, depending on size, room temperature
  • wooden sticks

First, fill your sink with hot tap water and a few squirts of dish soap.  Put all your apples in the water and one by one wash the apples off with a clean scrubby.  I use a stainless steel scrubby from the dollar store, but any scrubber will work. This is to remove the wax that the store puts on the apples to make them look nice. If you leave it on, the caramel will not stick to the apple.  Rinse with water and dry with a paper towel.  Place apple stem side down on a tray and stick a wooden skewer into each apple (yes, upside down). Place in the fridge while making your caramel.

Combine all the remaining ingredients together in a large saucepan, and stir with a wooden spoon over a medium heat until all the sugar has dissolved and is not gritty.

Clip a candy thermometer on to the side of the pan and bring the sugar mixture to a rolling boil over medium heat, and cook until the thermometer reads 236 degrees F. Pour into a stainless steel bowl and allow it to cool to 200 degrees F.

Line a cookie sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Dip each apple into the 200 degrees F caramel, watching carefully, so as not to dip your fingers into the caramel. Remove the excess caramel by shaking the apples in a downward movement over the caramel bowl, scrape the bottom of the apples off on the bowl and then transfer to the cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining apples. Trust me when I say that the bottom of the apples should not have caramel on them.  You’ll fix this later!

Once all the apples are done, place the tray back in the fridge until the caramel is set up.  I prefer overnight, but even just an hour or two would be good enough.  Take the caramel that has pooled at the bottom of the apple and gently push it under the apple where you scraped off the caramel before.  Push it back down on the mat/parchment to smooth it out.

At this point, you can be done OR you can dip them in chocolate and toppings.  (My favorite is white chocolate with cinnamon sugar!) Add a little oil to your chocolate to thin it out so that it goes on well.  Do the same shaking and scraping process as you did with the caramel and let them set up before bagging them or eating them.  If the apples are cold it should set up pretty quickly.

Caramel apples do not need to be stored in the fridge, but I like to use the fridge to set up the caramel and chocolate.

*Different brown sugars will result in different flavors of caramel.  Dark brown sugar makes a very rich, deep flavor of caramel.  Light brown sugar is obviously a much lighter flavor.  My favorite is probably golden brown sugar, and then I add an extra tsp. of molasses.  You can also use dark molasses if you want an even deeper flavor of caramel.

You can also use real maple syrup rather than “pancake syrup.”  I don’t want maple overtones so I prefer to use the pancake syrup that just has some maple flavoring in it.  Also, caramel apples are already very expensive to make, I don’t want to add to my cost!

Well, that’s it.  I hope that wasn’t too crazy.  It is easier to demonstrate it than to type it out, so if you have any questions, feel free to ask me.  I’m definitely not an expert, but I have made them quite a few times, and this is by far my favorite recipe. Good luck!

Magic Cupcakes

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I made these a few weeks ago for my YW President’s surprise birthday party activity. They were DELICIOUS! They are a dark chocolate cupcake with a peanut butter cup baked in the middle, topped with peanut butter frosting and (a half) a reeses cup to finish them off. I had a few requests for the recipe, so I figured this was the easiest way of sharing it with everyone.

Magic Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes
*Recipe is adapted from Better Homes & Gardens Jr. Cookbook

makes 24 cupcakes

2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 c. sugar
2/3 c. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs
1 1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. oil
2 tsp. vanilla
24 bite-size Reeses peanut butter cups

Prep:
Preheat oven to 350*. Put paper cups in each muffin cup. Unwrap bite-size peanut butter cups. Set aside.

Mix first seven ingredients (dry ingredients) in a medium bowl.
Put wet ingredients in a large bowl and add flour mixture, whisking until smooth.
Scoop batter into prepared muffin cups, filling about half full. Place a peanut butter cup on the center of the batter in each cup. (Do not push down into the batter).

Place in the oven for about 15 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly pressed with your finger. Place pan on a cooling rack and cool for 5 minutes before removing cupcakes from pan. Set on cooling rack and cool completely.

Frosting:

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup butter
5+ cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp milk

Put peanut butter and butter in bowl and beat together. Add half the powdered sugar and mix until combined. Next, add vanilla and milk, and then continue to add powdered sugar until you get the consistency that you want. This should make enough to top the cupcakes by piping on a large mound (as pictured). If you are just wanting to spread a smaller amount onto the cupcakes, you could probably half this recipe. But we eat cupcakes because of their massive frosting to cake ratio, don’t we?!

To finish off, I threw some white pearlized sprinkles on top and finished off with a cut-in-half normal size Reeses cup in the middle. Enjoy!

Gymnastics

Donny completed his first gymnastics performance on Saturday. Trying not to be biased here, but I really did think he was the best one in his class. He will take it again next year as part of his preschool there at Tanglewoods, and I hope that he continues wanting to do it after that, too. It has been good for him this year, although he gets frustrated when the other kids don’t listen (yes, I’m sure he is ALWAYS attentive and behaves perfectly. that definitely sums up my child.) Anyway, here are the clips:

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Nigel and the girls watching the action.

Donny and his teacher, Sarah.P1040329

Master Chef

Well, we now have a nine year old living in our home. Where did the last almost decade go?! I feel completely inadequate to raise a 9 year old, not to mention her TWO siblings, but I am excited for Shey to get older, to experience fun things and find her interests and talents. Shey amazes me with her positive attitude, her kindness, and her love for Donny and Violet. I really do feel blessed to have her as a daughter, as she teaches me every day.P1040183

Birthday sprinkle pancakes… one of Shey’s favorite birthday traditions.P1040172

Birthday Dinner at Tucanos… Shey with her Mango Cod Fish… her very favorite food in the world!P1040173

We quite enjoyed our meal. It had been two years since we’ve been there!P1040185

And the Birthday Girl with her cake… check out the smoke from the candles! She must be getting old!

Of course, with a birthday comes a birthday party in this house… this year’s theme was MasterChef Jr. The kids decorated hats and aprons, made their own smoothies, had a blind taste test, and decorated cupcakes. Triniti (the girl on the back row with the glasses) won the award! She blew us all away with her kitchen skills! And I think everyone had a good time. Grandma, Grandpa, and Amy (and Sam) came up for the party. G’Pa and Amy were the judges, and all three helped out so much, I couldn’t have done it without them! Shey thanked me for the party later that afternoon, so I’m pretty sure that means it was a success. 🙂P1040192 P1040193 P1040195 P1040196 P1040202 P1040206 P1040208 P1040209

Too Cool for School

Normally I do not take pictures of my kids during day-to-day stuff, and especially during the tantrums, etc. But last week I couldn’t resist during the biggest tantrum Donny has ever had. It lasted about an hour, so I had plenty of time to snap a few shots on my phone. First, I’ll share the story behind it. I was writing it down in my journal in real time because it was seriously the funniest thing ever, and I have to remember it forever.

From my journal:

So Donny doesn’t generally have temper tantrums… something I’m VERY grateful of. But right now he is having the biggest tantrum of his life. It all started (for me) when Shey and Donny came into my room for prayer this morning. I was up with Violet until 4:30, so I didn’t wake up earlier than this to help Shey get ready (thank goodness she is so responsible!) Anyway, they walked in and Donny was dressed, ready to go to school with Shey. I explained (thinking they were kidding) that he couldn’t go. Donny started crying and insisted that he was going. I said no again and sent Shey on her way. A few seconds later I heard the front door open and close. I assumed Donny was just going out to hug her goodbye and come back in. After counting to 10 in my head he had not come back yet, so I ran outside and there they were — halfway to the school! I drug him back home where he cried and yelled and kicked the floor. After a few minutes he came up and told me he WAS going- he had his bag packed and his lunch packed and the Holy Ghost was going to help him. “What’s the Holy Ghost going to help you do?” The Holy Ghost was going to stop me from being mean and being the boss because the Holy Ghost is boss! He then threatened to pray, which he did. I couldn’t understand the words of his tear-filled prayer, but after, he looked up and said “THERE! I PRAYED ABOUT IT AND I’M GOING TO SCHOOL!” I explained that Heavenly Father and the Holy Ghost can’t help us break rules, even if we pray about it. He opened his backpack and showed me his crayons and paper and stickers and told me about the lunch that Shey packed for him. He’s calmed down now, so maybe the prayer did help him — just not in the way he was hoping for!

Further update: when Shey got home from school that day, she had a pillow in her backpack… in case Donny wanted to take a nap while he was at school with her. I asked her why she would think that he could go to school with her and she just said “I don’t know… I just thought of it!” The next day she was upset again that Donny will only go to Kindergarten when she is in 5th grade, so they won’t get to play together and they’ll only have the one year together. I sure hope that she continues to love her brother so much! And, needless to say, since then I have made sure that I’m fully awake before Shey goes to school in the mornings!

Isn’t he the cutest tantrum-er ever?!IMG_20150203_081232_678 Donny saying his prayer…IMG_20150203_081635_285

Winter Wonderland

It has been quite an eventful few months, though not really eventful at all. We did get a little snow in November… I was surprised at how much Donny LOVED the snow.  He woke me up in the morning being fully dressed and ready to go outside.  It was adorable to watch him walk around in the back yard, using his sandbox toys to play in the snow, or just explore the cold.  I cannot relate to this at all, so I’m guessing its the boy in him.  He is too cute! I have taken up crocheting recently, and he told me he wanted a monster hat.  Thank goodness for YouTube or I wouldn’t be able to comply to his request!P1030840 I would say that my world was turned literally upside down on Nov 24th.  Days and nights were flipped as Violet Mae came charging into our life.  She was a whopping 7 lbs 11 oz and 20 inches long. Here is me right before she came, feeling quite large and in charge:P1030845 P1030849 P1030857 These two cannot get enough of their little sister!  They love her so much!  Donny worries when I drop him off at school that I won’t know how to take care of her myself.  (somehow, I’ve been able to manage thus far)P1030863 P1030871 This is our sweet Violet on ‘going home day.’  I was Strep-B positive, so we had to stay for two days.  But I was so glad to get home to the rest of the fam and in my own bed!P1030886 This gorgeous pecan pie was given to me by my friend Cammie.  Isn’t it beautiful?!  Between her and our other friends, the Bodreros, we had a full Thanksgiving feast despite the homecoming just the day before!P1030890 P1030894 P1030897 This was our FHE lesson about donuts… being grateful for what you have and not worrying about the little bit you didn’t get (missing the hole in the middle of the donut).  We had a few traditions that we didn’t quite keep this year for Christmas because of our addition, so I wanted the kids to focus on the things we were able to do and the gifts we were able to give and receive instead of focusing on what we were missing out on.  All in all, I think we got most of the traditions covered anyway, just had to adjust a few. *As far as Donny’s dress…??? he thinks he is hilarious when he comes down in Shey’s clothes. I REALLY hope he grows out of this stuff someday, although he makes us laugh for now!P1030923 We had Parent’s Day at gymnastics so I got to go watch Donny’s awesomeness for the first time… he’s a natural! 🙂P1030931 P1030932 P1030938 Grandma & Grandpa and Amy & Sammy got to come visit the week after Violet was born.  Sam, 6 1/2 weeks older, was literally/exactly twice her size!  They are too cute!P1030974 Oh, and the kids got to go swimming at G’ma&G’pa’s hotel.  They love any excuse to get in the water!P1030975 P1030977 P1030980 We went to see Santa the Monday before Christmas… had to fit it in last second!… down in Ogden.  It was freezing cold, but well worth the wait!  Santa was awesome and my kids loved seeing him.  They kept warm during the wait by dancing around… of course!P1030988 Oh, yeah… maybe it was bitter cold because I forgot a jacket! Brilliant. Violet stayed toasty warm in her snowsuit and snuggled up to me, though!P1030989 P1030990 P1030992I picked Thai food after Santa… it was delicious as always!  P1030993
This was Violet on Christmas Eve… four weeks and one day old!  She is growing so fast!

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P1040002 P1040006 Christmas Jammies on Christmas Eve.  I know I’m a little bias, but I’m pretty sure these are the cutest kids I’ve ever seen! 🙂P1040008 P1040015 Christmas morning… stockings!P1040017 P1040018 New pacifier from Uncle Mike and Aunt Liana…P1040020 Oh, Donny.  He cracks me up!  I didn’t get the full effect shot with his monster slippers, too, but you can see them in the pic below this one…P1040021 Shooting close-range at his puppy (named Break)… should I be worried?!P1040022 Carmel Apple Bar for lunch.  Donny wasn’t too interested, but the rest of us had fun!  It was a pinterest idea that didn’t quite meet my expectations since caramel doesn’t stick to the inside part of an apple, so it was messier than I expected, but still tasted delicious, so can’t complain too much! 🙂P1040024*Insert baby blessing weekend here.  I forgot my camera at home!  So, we have no pictures of the day besides what is on my dad’s camera.  I will eventually have to get them from him I guess.  But, below is my SIX WEEK OLD!  Six weeks can go by so fast when you don’t sleep at all!  She is a crier/screamer, for sure, but we love her.  She is just starting to smile a little bit.  We can’t always get it out of her, but she is getting there, and we are all constantly in her face trying to claim one!
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Thank heaven for little boys…

P1030781My sweet Donny boy turned 4 this week.  It was a bitter-sweet day for me… my baby is growing up so fast!  And yet, it seems like an eternity since I brought him home from the hospital.  SAMSUNG DIGIMAX A503I love that he is growing up.  I love his attempt at using big words and his attempt at telling jokes (which never have a punchline).  He is such a gentleman and MUST hold the door open for anyone/everyone no matter where we are, and he cracks me up when he constantly gives out these compliments to everyone around him.  His friend was over the other day and he says “Ty, you look REALLY COOL today!”  or he’ll tell me I did a great job on something or tell Shey she looks pretty or cute. He is my ball of energy that drives me crazy most of the time, but has this special place in my heart that I hope never ever goes away.

The day started of with the traditional sprinkle pancakes.

P1030750  This was definitely a hit, as he LOVES pancakes, and he was so excited to get a number 4 pancake for his special day. Then he had gymnastics during the day and got a lot of extra tv time on top of that.  He decided to go to Pizza Pie Cafe for his birthday dinner… it is a pizza buffet.  Luckily, they have a salad bar, too, so I was able to eat something!  We had a fun time and afterwards came home and ate cupcakes that Shey decorated and opened gifts.  He had a fabulous day, I think.

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Aren’t they adorable?!  We kind of pulled this one out of nowhere… Shey wanted to make monster cupcakes with the hair/grass tip that I have for frosting, and so we kind of just went from there.  The eyeballs are candy melts and the mouths are a black sugar sheet I had in the cupboard, with white sprinkles for teeth.  I think Shey did an awesome job on her little creations! 🙂

On Friday, with Nigel home on his day off from work, we had a Wild Kratts Birthday party for him.  I was a bit overwhelmed to think that we would have 8 kids there (including Donny & Shey), but in all honesty it was probably the easiest party I’ve ever done.  He had a great time and I think all the other kids did, too.  I am just glad it is over!

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This was one of our games… with platypus power.  It was just the traditional egg&spoon race.  Hilarious when they’re so little and don’t understand that they’re even racing and really can’t hold the egg on the spoon!P1030789

This was our cheetah power game… they each had a tail and had to chase each other trying to get everyone else’s tail.  This lasted a lot longer than I thought it would… some of those boys were FAST!!!P1030790

This was spider power… I got a pinata that has the pull strings rather than one you have to hit with a stick, so they each pulled a ‘spider web string’ to get their food.  Donny requested a pinata, so this was the only way I could think of to incorporate it into an animal power.P1030792

Shark power… they had to ‘swim’ through the balloons to find an ocean animal (stuffed animal) on the other side and then ‘swim back.’  Donny was super excited about this one, and went a little crazy, but it was fun to have him enjoy it so much.P1030794

This was our “Tortuga HQ.”  Each kid got to punch a button to find out what animal power we would get next.  This was also a request from Donny as he had a punching wall at his last birthday party.  This year we went heavy duty and made it out of MDF board and felt bags so it would be reusable.  It didn’t take much longer to make it this way rather than a one-time-use out of foam board, and everyone seems to LOVE a punching wall, so I’m sure we will use it time and time again! P1030796

Donny with his cake.  This was quite an ordeal of itself!  We were trying to just find an animal themed cake at the grocery store, but nothing was working, so I had to make one instead.  There weren’t any ideas on Pinterest or Google that I really loved, but I found one with a somewhat similar idea to this one and ran with it & made it my own.  I think it turned out pretty well.  I went with marshmallow fondant, which I normally don’t make, but I went to a fondant class a few weeks ago and she swore by it, so I attempted it once again.  It never got hard, but it tastes like marshmallows, so my kids loved it.  They picked the real fondant off Shey’s cake and threw it all away, so I was happier, I guess, that they at least thought this was edible!P1030797

Rhett got cut out of the picture… sorry dude… but this was the gang.  NOTE: press & seal over the cups DOES work, thank you pinterest!  I couldn’t find the Solo cups with lids in Brigham, so I tried this idea that I had seen on pinterest a while back and sure enough it worked.  It wasn’t the classiest looking, but saved me from a bunch of pre-K kids spilling chocolate milk all over the place!P1030800

And my two kiddos with their Creature Power Suits on. You can’t tell from this picture, but maybe you can see in earlier ones… the biggest circle actually has a layer of clear vinyl sewed on it, creating a pocket so that they can put their creature power discs in them.  These were a few days of work, but well worth it to me.  I went with fleece so I didn’t have to sew them, and I hot glued all the felt and velcro on, so all I had to sew was the vinyl circle… not too bad!  Donny loved his party and that was really the most important part to me.  (I’m just glad the details all worked out, too!)

Post birthday celebrations:

We had a halloween cookie decorating activity we went to with our city library on Saturday.  It was fun for the kids to get to make sugar cookies.  We haven’t (other than birthday cake) had much sweets in the house for the last six weeks, so I think they were pretty excited to do it.  P1030801 P1030803 P1030804 P1030809

So there was this cookie cutter and none of us knew what it was supposed to be exactly, but after I put yellow frosting on it I thought it looked like a pregnant banana.  So, that is what it is… Donny has told me multiple times in the last two days how much he loves the pregnant banana and how he could never eat it because he loves it so much.  For me, I just feel like I know how she feels!  We are getting excited to bring a new baby into our family, and we are counting down the days until I can stop being pregnant!P1030810 P1030812

And… we spent our Saturday afternoon at the Trampoline Park in Logan.  The kids love this place.  I was jealous that I couldn’t jump in there with them, but knew that if I jumped into that foam pit then BEST case scenario I’d pee my pants… WORST case this baby would pop out and then we’d all be in trouble!  So, Nigel and I just watched from the sidelines this time.

I love my family.  I love being with them and am so nervous to start over with another one, but I know that she will only add joy to what we already have.  I am so blessed to have my kids and my husband… they bring purpose to my life.  They are my strength, they cause me the most pain and the most joy all at the same time, and I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.

“bye bye bye…”

We have had a great summer, and it bitter-sweetly came to an end yesterday.  I have to say, though, that this was my first experience as a “Oh, good! School is back in!” mom.  Yep, it took until third grade before my day was just relief and not stress…

Kindgergarten… you’re not human if you don’t cry when your first born baby is all grown up and flies a little bit out of the nest.

First Grade… even worse!  All day?!  I was a wreck!

Second Grade… new town, new school… I think this was the worst of all, and lasted probably a week rather than just the first day.

Third Grade… ahhhh!  Just dropped the kid off at the door.  Didn’t go in, didn’t take pictures in front of the school, didn’t stress about the teacher.  It was SO NICE!  And unless we move again in the next few years, I have two more years before I have to start the emotions all over again with Donny going into kindergarten.

So, here are some pictures of our awesome summer, from start to finish:

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Donny won second place in his age group for the reading contest at the library… he had over 1800 pages read to him in one week!

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Happy boy with his sprinkler prize!

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Shey won first place in her age group… with I think over 2400 pages that she read.  (And no, they were not even close to the top readers!  I don’t know how, since Shey did not stop reading the whole week!)

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Shey with her prize

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This was supposed to be outside, but it was one of many freezing cold summer days to come!  It was still a fun prize ceremony… we love our library!

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I snuck a pic of Shey (in her messy room) reading a book… I love that she actually uses her little reading nook window sill.

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This was the day we found out that we’re having Baby Violet Mae (and not Baby Charlie Kaizen)… Donny was disappointed at first, and kept his hopes up by thinking that maybe the baby in dad’s tummy would be a boy, but he has warmed up to the idea of having a little sister, and is excited to be a big brother someday.  Obviously Shey was ecstatic about the news! FINALLY another girl!

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“The Tower!”  built with all the blocks, I think…and separated (mostly) into color.  They were pretty impressed with themselves!

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And another creation that required taking a picture of.  They love these smart-links from Wendy’s!

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Yay for cousins and Aunt Amy!  Happy Fourth of July, cute girls!

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Donny got super hero popsicles when Shey went to her cousins’ house for a week.  Totally worth staying home and hanging out with mom all day!

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Ogden Temple open house…

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Love this pic of these two.  We thought it would be this amazing experience, and they were SO excited that they would actually get to go inside a temple even though they were just kids (I was kind of surpirsed that they even recognized that it was a unique experience)… when it was over, they said they liked the water the best of all.  So much for being a memorable spiritual moment! Oh well…  it was still awesome to take Shey through and talk to her about everything.  And she did say that she wanted to get married in that temple, so that was a proud mama moment.

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I can’t believe the transformation of this temple!  And it only took Donny’s whole life to date to finish the renovations!

*Before I go on, I have to explain the N*Sync title of this post… while driving to Reno we were playing a game in the car where we’d say “this next song is what grandma says to grandpa” or “this next song is what Donny sings in the shower” etc etc etc and then we’d change the radio station to see what song was playing.  So, the two best ones were “this next song is what Baby Sammy sings in Amy’s tummy” and the lyrics were something about searching for answers and ‘this is not where I belong’… and then the other one was “this next song is what Grandpa sings while he’s going potty.” Hey, don’t judge… I have a three year old boy.  Everything is potty humor, not by my choice, but it keeps him entertained. Anyway, the song was “Bye Bye Bye” by N*Sync, and the kids just thought that was the funniest thing EVER!!!  So, that has been the joke in our house the last few weeks.  I think Shey even emailed Grandpa to ask him to sing that song every time he went potty, although I don’t think she gave him an explanation as to why he should… we’ll have to clarify that when we see them this weekend. ANYWAY… back to the photo-parade…

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Okay, this is the start of our family vacation to Reno… had to go to Awful Awful as our first stop.  Donny surprisingly didn’t want a cheeseburger, though… he ordered a little pizza instead, and thought I needed to document it since I took a pic of Shey with her Awful Awful burger.

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This thing was seriously the size of her head!  I will admit that it isn’t quite the same as going at midnight with your college roommates, but it was still fun.

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The boys 🙂

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…and the girls!

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The iconic Reno sign… had to get a shot by the sign now that we’re just tourists!

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We stayed in Circus Circus… it worked out well for us, and the kids enjoyed it.

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Donny painting on the window at the Discovery Museum in Reno… this place was awesome!  We only spent 3 1/2 hours there, but could have spent about 3 1/2 more!  Seriously the coolest part of our trip.

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And Shey painting Rainbow Dash over a cloud, with a target???  This was seriously only one of a thousand hands-on activities for the kids to do here.

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This was our “fancy night” at Cheesecake Factory.

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Girls team, once again.

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Donny would not look for the photo because he didn’t know the person who was taking the picture for us… I guess I should be happy that my kid somewhat knows stranger danger, but it was obnoxious at the moment!  Oh, well!

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Shey got her ears pierced this summer.  It is still the topic of MOST conversations in our house.  This was the first day she got to change out her earrings… she has felt so girly and grown up since getting them, I think.  I’m glad she loves them… it makes it worth it to me to see her so happy.

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We fed the missionaries on Monday this week… this was my pizza that I made, and felt like it was pretty impressive if I do say so myself.  I’m getting better at this! I started making pizza last summer when we moved here, and I’ve gone from just making rectangle whole cookie sheet filled ones to very oval awkward shaped ones, to this… the missionaries thought I bought it, so I took that as a compliment! 🙂

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And my baby girl… all grown up and headed off for her first day of third grade!  She had a lot to tell me when she got home, and I think it’s going to be a great year for her.

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Donny really wanted to go to school, too.  He was feeling a bit left out, I think.  He was up and dressed with backpack and all before I even woke up!  Luckily, he will start doing a once a week preschool with some church friends starting next week, and I’m going to try to put him in a gymnastics class, too, pretty soon.  Hopefully those will be good enough for now!

I’m really looking forward to fall and have about a million projects between Donny’s birthday party, Halloween, and Baby Violet Mae on her way… I plan on keeping busy for the next 12 weeks so I can just enjoy life with a newborn after that!

happy summer!

Well, it is that magical time of year… the time when moms all over the country get out the ‘chore charts’ and hope that this year they will last a little longer than last! Actually, to be quite honest, Shey was begging for hers.  No joke.  She’s not my kid!

(But they are so cute, aren’t they?!  I’ll claim them, I suppose!)P1030644

Anyway, last year I wanted to let Shey earn money so that we could learn about tithing.  It was something I had realized that she hadn’t been really introduced to, so instead of earning prizes or outings, she earned cold hard cash. I think it worked well, although I found 22 cents at the bottom of my church bag a few months ago that I’m sure was supposed to be tithing once upon a time. Oh, well.

This year, I really wanted to focus on WHY we do chores.  A lot of times, Shey gets frustrated because she has to help clean up a mess that she didn’t make herself.  We are constantly trying to explain that we all have to pitch in because we are a family, and because the work needs to get done.  So, I wanted to reemphasize that concept through the chore chart system this summer.

Instead of earning toys, money, or trips to the pool, I decided that I wanted them to understand that we are part of a family and we each have to do our part to keep our house nice (and to keep mom nice!).  So, they have a three part system.

1. daily chores.  these are things that have to be done.  They get no reward besides being able to play after they’re all completed.

2. weekly chores.  these are things that need to be done constantly to keep up the house.  They get to go to a movie when these chores are completed.  Our theater does kid matinees during the summer, so I got 10 movies (a movie each week) for $5.  I figured it would be exciting to them, but didn’t break my budget like swimming/jump zone/toys would.  And if they didn’t get the chores done and we miss a week, then oh well.

3. bonus chores.  these are extra chores that they can help me with to earn a leaf on our family tree.  Because they contribute to the family, they are building up our family tree, so once the leaves are all on the tree they earn a trip to see family. (*judge us all you want… I have to put bath/shower on there so that we make sure it happens!  the kids love a bath once they’re in there, but getting them to stop playing to take a bath is sometimes a chore in itself!)

BEHOLD… the chore chart.

family tree chart

(Our family tree after week 1… coming along nicely!)

I made our tree by painting butcher paper and then cut out the leaves and laminated them so that they can be reused a second time (hopefully they’ll earn enough to go see grandma a few times!).  The tree is about 3 feet tall and I cut about 6-7 leaves out of each sheet of paper.

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So far they have really enjoyed this system.  I know its only starting week 2, but I think it will be successful because seeing grandma and grandpa is ALWAYS very motivating in my house.

I think growing up I sometimes thought that my parents had kids so that they could do all the cleaning for them.  I didn’t understand that if they didn’t have kids there would be no mess to clean up!  So I want my kids to understand that we work as a family to help the family because family is important.  We are a team. Hopefully if they learn it now we can build a strong bond before school and sports and friends comes into the mix a few years down the road.

So, we’ll see if this actually works.  I am loving the concept, but I am also really good at being the first person to find laziness during the summer, too!

And this is what we do during the laziness of the summer:

“Camping” in our back yard.

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Feel free to ignore how awful I look in this picture… it was a typical first trimester evening and I felt like crap, but figured I better at least prove that I went into the tent.

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Big summer project #1: transforming “the garden” into “the play zone”

Nigel killed a brand new hoe trying to dig this whole weedy mess up!  He was a rock star and got it completely clear before we laid the black plastic and added the mulch and filled the sand box.  So glad I married a big strong husband.  You laugh, but he really is much stronger than he looks! 🙂

I really should have gotten a close up of “Seymour.” There was a GIANT weed that looked like it could eat one of my children (you can see one of his leaves in the upper right corner). I was almost sad to see him go… but not really.

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The finished product!  The kids have been loving it!  It is a much better use of our space for us non-gardening type.  I had such big hopes for the garden before we moved in, but quickly realized I don’t like dirt or bugs or weeding or gardens. So the sandbox/trampoline area is working out much better for us.

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