Saturday, January 24, 2015

Sweet Traditions

Baking Christmas cookies is one of my favorite traditions of the season.  It goes without saying that it is possibly the favorite Christmas tradition for my kids.  It is, after all, an entire weekend devoted to cookies and Christmas movies (movies in case, you know, you need a break from eating cookie dough and frosting cookies).  Each year, we assume that the process will get quicker and more efficient, because we have one year more experience, but it just never works out quite that way.  And that’s okay, because our memories of these days are something that I always want to remember.  Truthfully, I would love to think that this is something that we will repeat in our home for years to come, even when our kids come home from college or have chubby cheeked children of their own.

This year, we added our new favorite chocolate chip cookies to the standard sugars and ginger molasses cookies.  I already have a couple new recipes in mind of cookies I want to add in 2015 (thumbprints and snickerdoodles, in case I forget).  The schedule is that we spend Friday night making dough, Saturday baking and usually making more dough, Sunday decorating and bagging, and Monday evening delivering to our friends and neighbors.  Tempting as it is to eat 500 Christmas cookies, our favorite part of the whole ritual is making the deliveries.  In a small but significant way, we are getting to celebrate with each of our friends.  The kids take turns walking up to the door and personally making the deliveries.  This is one errand they never complain about running, no matter how cold or dark it is outside.  The chance to present their friends with a treat that they helped to make all weekend long is an honor that they compete for at each stop along our route.

These are the tiny things that make up our season.  It’s these tiny things, these everyday things, that I appreciate so much.

 DSC_1241 DSC_1239DSC_1244DSC_1246 DSC_1247DSC_1256DSC_1243 DSC_1253DSC_1249DSC_1257DSC_1262

Monday, January 19, 2015

Welcoming Christmas

This year marked the second Christmas that we celebrated since moving to our new home.  When Christmas came last year, we had really only been living in this house for a week or two, so everything was rushed and many of our traditions didn’t happen at all.  This was okay with me, since we were just so relieved and feeling so grateful and blessed to be in our house that nothing else seemed to matter at the time.  This year, settled in as we are, we were ready to welcome the Christmas season into our home with wide open arms.  We took our time putting up decorations, watching Christmas movies, bringing home maybe a few more new decorations that I normally allow myself each year, sending out Christmas cards, drinking hot cocoa, enjoying the company of our elf ‘Jingle,’ having company and bonfires, and baking and delivering Christmas cookies to our friends and neighbors.  In our own little ways, I think we made merry pretty well, and this Christmas was for us one of those treasured ones that really feels like it’s Christmas.

DSC_1235DSC_1227 DSC_1220DSC_1217 DSC_1223DSC_1232 BackgroundDSC_1229DSC_1237

Sunday, January 11, 2015

We Wished For Winter

It doesn’t always snow in the desert Southwest, but when it does, it draws a crowd.  This snow storm was hosted by Jake’s sister’s HOA in the neighborhood park and was made with a few tons of shaved blocks of ice.  We all had an amazing time having snow ball fights and “sledding” down the hill.


Liam was a little confused initially, but it didn’t take him too long to decide that he was having fun.

DSC_1189 DSC_1190DSC_1186DSC_1196 DSC_1198

Ari was not a fan of having cold hands, but she loved sledding and hanging with her cousins.

DSC_1202DSC_1181DSC_1205DSC_1207DSC_1209 DSC_1210

Everyday Miracles

He thought he was so sly sneaking a taste of flour.

We have cookies coming out of our ears! In a good way!

I ate crab and giant prawns with my bare hands out of a plastic bag and using a rock as my only utensil // our date nights are never boring.

I walked to church today // the smell of wet earth and autumn leaves, the sound of birds chirping, the warmth of the sun on my shoulder and the fresh air on my face, the peace and quiet left me so refreshed.

Thank you garden // Orecchiette with Swiss chard, fresh mozzarella, and spiced chickpeas tonight.

Cookies.  All weekend long.

Little green sprinkles of Christmas cheer cover my kitchen right now.

Bella's class Christmas party.

Ari's class book exchange.

This made my heart melt // Jake was quick to call my attention to the fact that Bella was already making plans to sneak out of bed to meet boys.

Our little country house all lit up for Christmas.

Celebrating with friends and neighbors in the country // we keep the kids up till 11:30 pm for nights like these.

Lemonade season has officially arrived.

Enjoying their awesome gifts from one of their favorite people, Brooke // she spoiled us all.

Happy little makeshift card tree grows taller and more cheerful by the day // we thank you for all the well wishing cards and for your beautiful photos.

The way he says “I luv yewww!”

PicMonkey Collage12-25-14

Everyday Miracles

Phoenix has snow days too ❄.

My miniature candy cane pilfer.

The moon.

Liam's first tennis lesson with mommy.

Putting the tree up is a week long process over here // we make the memories last.  Ornaments on deck for tonight.

Everyone helped decorate the tree last night // it looks just like four little children worked hard on it with very little guidance // it's perfect to me.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Favorite things party with some of my favorite girls!

I made out like a bandit at the favorite things party // first presents of the season.

Garden spinach going into chicken sausage meatball, orzo, and spinach soup // seems about right on this not-quite-winter day.

The Pied Piper // he had just finished his Nature Valley granola bar.

A boy and his... bird?  It was a baby rooster by the way.

Little women in the kitchen //whipping up our Christmas cookies.

We couldn't have had a more beautiful night for viewing Christmas lights.

This is how cloudy days conclude in Wild West.We took our rebel rousers to see the temple lights with their rebel rouser cousins // don't let their cuteness fool you.

PicMonkey Collage12-24-14

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Everyday Miracles

Sleepover at Grammy and Papa's // not much sleeping happening but lots of great memories being made.

She loves her some bunnies in a very gentle, caring, non-Elmyra Duff kind of way ;).

This day makes you sigh so hard // standing here in Grammy and Papa's front yard.

Liam rockin' the scooter. Gabe rode his razor scooter down quarter pipes at the skate park today too. Pretty cool.

The men all pitched in to help frame the playroom addition at Grammy and Papa's house today.

Boys and their tools // he thinks he's so big, but just look at that face.

Found treasures // the opening of an unintentional time capsule happened today.

Today is a good mail day // I'm a hippy at heart.

Lovely winter afternoon.

There's always something going on over here. Today it's my Christmas present... Skylights! // The Jakes like to hang out on the roof, being studs, and talk about manly stuff like beard oil.

Because of the magic of Velcro, I was able to realize my dream of hanging wreaths in subway tiled windows.

Grateful to have this wonderful girl in our lives // more like family.

A rare moment // Liam sharing.

I love our new skylight well and how it brightens up this previously dark space // last night the moon was shining right down through it.

Garden salad takes on a while new meaning when it's from your own garden.

One day, I hope to have a real fireplace mantle, but until then, I've made one from twine and twigs (tree branches) and it's making me happy.

PicMonkey Collage12-23-14


This Thanksgiving, we went up to Holbrook to be with Grammy and Papa, Ryan and Chantelle’s family, and Ali and Darren’s family.  It is always such a fun and memorable experience each and every one of the times we have gone up there.  Every time we go up, it’s both the same and different from the many times before.  It’s different of course because the kids are older, but we somehow always manage to do something new every time also, and let’s be honest, a house with 19 people can not be boring.  But it’s the same in ways too; there is a sense of unwavering and unconditional love despite our differences in personality and the scuffles the kids get in over sharing or roughhousing. 

We all go to bed and wake up knowing that we are loved, and we feel secure with sharing our love in return. 

I feel thankful that my children are growing up with this cherished notion of family.  I know how valuable it is, as I grew up without the company of cousins or the influence of aunts, uncles, or grandparents.  I know that it’s hard for me to speak how grateful I am, which is why I write it.  I know it’s hard for my kids to put in words how grateful they are, but I see it in their tears when we have to leave to go home.  I know and they know that it is here where life’s most important lessons are taught and learned.  This is where we are safe to make mistakes, to unapologetically celebrate our victories, to change, to be our worst selves at times, to be our best selves at other times, to air our opinions and share our knowledge and to gain inspiration and wisdom from each other.  I’m thankful for that.

This Thanksgiving, I am also thankful for my loving and supportive husband, my four beautiful and joyful children, my two sisters, finally living in the perfect home for our family, our current health, discovering a promising new seizure detection watch that is due to be released this summer, and of course, our everyday miracles.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Everyday Miracles

Bella and Gabe's wishes are coming true  // after watching their sister do it for years, they are finally getting to learn how to ride a horse.

I had a sign made for Jake's detached home office // now he's officiall.

Traded in my colorful rug for this neutral beauty // craving simplicity.

Leave it to me to cry at a rodeo // that flag ceremony was so touching my heart almost burst.

Ari didn't do the chicken chase with her siblings and friends, but did she ever love watching!

On the days we don't want to put on socks and shoes and fully commit to playing outside, we swing indoors.

Added to my ever-growing list of things that are always totally worth the effort: 1) Having friends over for dinner and 2) Baking pie... even lattice crust.

Bella's Christmas list this year: 1. Lego friends 2. Makeup set 3. Giant stuffed animal peacock 4. Care dog (seizure dog for her sister, Ari), 5. Pet fish 6. Real professional sports bra (size 11?) // Quite a bit more attainable than the one from 2013: A real cat, to be able to fly, an iPad, hundreds of roses // still is true to form Bella.

He can drive me crazy, but I'm still crazy about him.

Cuddle bunnies.

Gabe decided it would be fun to reenact one of my childhood memories by getting his tongue stuck on something frozen // he and his cousins ended up with bloody and raw tongues just in time for thanksgiving dinner.

Ari crawled across the floor to cuddle up with her favorite cousin, Trevor.

The big kids went to see ancient Anasazi petroglyphs at the sink holes today and made awesome memories.

Sink hole adventures included finding pottery pieces, eagle feathers, ancient petroglyphs, Gabe getting trapped between rocks, a close call with the Ranger and more.

Second day apple pie, vanilla bean ice cream, and caramel sauce on my plate.

Drinking hot cocoa on this chilly morning with Grammy.

PicMonkey Collage12-3-14

Everyday Miracles

Jumping bean.

Yesterday, I told Bella she couldn't pluck the roses off the bush. As much as I hated to cut them off and throw them in a basket, I hated it way more that I said 'no' to her innocent request // so this is my redemption.

First swimming independently and now "showering" independently? You two are growing up way too fast.

Moms and Sons movie night at Carlson Elementary // saw 'Earth to Echo' on piles of blankets and pillows under the stars with my little man // he even held my hand.

Making lemonade for our friends // fresh picked from the tree.

Firing up the Egg tonight for Sunday dinner.

We're at it again // yay... // when will it not be caterpillar season?

Enjoying our autumn nights with good friends // kids running amok and eating way too many cookies // just the way we like it.

My big girl riding her favorite four legged animal, Pace // pronounced (by Ari) "Payee".

Our first fall garden harvest is here // Bok choy and cilantro // I am making steamed red snapper with bok choy and red chili garlic sauce for din din.

A little mid-week ferris wheel // Veteran's Day

Grateful for the tender mercies that keep allowing us to catch Ari's seizures and stop them long before they stop her // grateful to be her mama // grateful that she has a daddy who loves her beyond measure.

Getting into watercolor painting to give my kitchen some color on the wall // I decided the theme would be “fruit we grow” // grapefruit, watermelon, peach, apple.

PicMonkey Collage12-2-14

Everyday Miracles

Catching up on documenting our October moments…


The kids caught their first lizard and passed it around in a jar // my first feeling was relief that they won’t be deprived of this childhood experience.

Holidays call for baked desserts // Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for the win // Happy Halloween!

Third time in costume this season, but definitely not the last // Trunk or Treat

Popping giant bubbles in the sky.

Class parties are like snow days, only better because all of your friends are there.

It's November, which means he looks all rugged handsome and skips the shave // I'm not complaining.

Today is beautiful.

New pillows for my breakfast nook make everything look cheery.

Lunch box notes // every day // the kids act as though we forgot to pack them a lunch when we forget their notes // Jake writes the best ones.

The lineup: peacock, stealth ninja, knight in shining armor, and pretty witch.

Skillet apple pie as the closer for Sunday dinner.

He fell in and couldn't get up // tempting as it was to keep him in a few minutes, I did help him get out // he then proceeded to unfold the folded laundry.

I can't wait to eat it all // hurry up and grow!

They are proud of their daddy and all the other soldiers who served our country // Veterans Day

Honoring our vets past and present with our own little flag ceremony.

Bella (6 y.o.) drew this for her daddy before we woke up this morning // I love how she projected her feelings of war onto the soldier with tears.

PicMonkey Collage12-1-14

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Sedona Getaway

In July, Jake and I took our first mini-vacay without our kids, and do you know what?  It was awesome.  In October, we had the opportunity to do it again when a couple of our dearest friends tied the knot in Sedona at L’Auberge.  And although we may have had literally only a couple of hours to burn for ourselves, you would be amazed at what a couple of hours feels like when you’re in an autumnal utopia and the only noise that surrounds you is soft babbling of the creek, the chirping of the birds, and the wind rustling through the trees.


We went for a hike fairly close to the famed West Fork Trail, which is known for its vibrant colored autumn leaves.  It was spectacular even though it was early in the season, and the leaves had just begun to change color.


Sunlight through trees is my second favorite kind of light with moonlight still holding on to the position of first favorite light.  But, it just makes you sigh so hard doesn’t it?

DSC_0128 DSC_0132DSC_0137DSC_0156DSC_0148

Some professional landscape photographers were nice enough to take our picture for us and teach me how to photograph a waterfall and capture that milky water effect that you sometimes see in the magazines (see below).