My dream car

I need a new car. Or maybe not, it's not really clear at the moment. My car has been through quite a few pricey repairs lately, and after each time I throw down my credit card, I throw up my hands and say "Enough! Fine! Let's get a new one!"  And then reality hits, and I look at dozens of different models, ads, dealerships, options, Craig's List postings, and I get overwhelmed, and I gulp at the prices and think, no, maybe we can stick with Sparky for a little bit longer. Except that the transmission might be failing. Or maybe it will run for another 30,000 miles. Who knows.
A few years ago I played a game with some family members where everyone  wrote down their "dream car" and put them in a bowl, and then you had to pick out the papers and try to figure out whose paper it was from the car listed. I didn't participate because I honestly couldn't come up with a car to list. I guess because my dream car doesn't really exist... one that is paid for, that fills itself up with gas, self-cleaning (or at least one with all rubber flooring and a drain so I can just hose it out).
I've since added new features that I want in my dream car...

(1)THREE bucket seats for the middle row that can individually move forward and back, and LAY BACK individually... am I right? If the driver and passenger can have fancy moving seats why can't the rest of the passengers???   My kids fall asleep in the car and fight like cats when somebody wants to lean on somebody else... holy cow.
(2)Remember mini-vans that had the built-in boosters in the seats? Do they still sell those? Why in the world wouldn't they put those in SUVs too??? In fact, why aren't those in every back seat in every car ever made? I'd love to see the car seat industry disappear entirely.
(3) I still would like to have a third row of seats too, because we do use them every once in a while.
(4) Four-wheel drive, but only when I want to engage it. Safe and sturdy in the event of an accident, good ground clearance, and running boards so my kids can climb in easily.  And so I can get in too, when I'm wearing a straight skirt.
(5) My dream car would also have to have leather seats, "Oh crap" handle in just the right place on the passenger side frame, and of course a DVD player.
(6) It also has to fit nicely in my garage and not resemble a minivan whatsoever. Or a Hummer (no Suburbans for me). Or a hearse (no Ford Flex for me either).
(7) I'm not into a lot of electronic-everything gadgets on a car. Because that stuff breaks. Our old Ford truck had windows you had to manually roll up. My Explorer of course has power windows... and we've replaced three out of the four motors for them in the last two years. The newer Explorer I looked at today had "power third-row seats".  WHY?????? Because it's too hard to flip up a handle and push it down with your hand? Silliest option ever.
(8) I'm also very brand-loyal. I would drive a Honda, and possibly a Nissan, but probably not a Toyota. And certainly not a Kia or a Hyundai. I would drive a Ford, or a GMC, but probably not a Chevy, or Dodge. Kind of like I'll only buy a Sony TV. Are you rolling your eyes at me yet?

Remember the Weasley's car in Harry Potter? How it was just normal sized on the outside but magically enlarged on the inside? Perfect.
SIGH. Let's all cross our fingers and toes that Sparky will last a bit longer and NOT cost us any more money in the short term. A few years ago we started a savings account specifically for "our new car". The theory was we'd pay ourselves a car payment every month and then pay cash for a car, if and when. Well, it's been 2 1/2 years since our last car purchase and I don't have even 1/4 of what I need in that account. Hey Dave Ramsey, how is that account supposed to work if you keep having to drain it to fix your CURRENT car??
Wish me luck.



websites I want to remember, after my painting, shutters, pool, flooring, built-ins, fixtures, and kitchen are all done, LOL




Happy Birthday A

I have an ELEVEN YEAR OLD. In FIFTH GRADE. How crazy is that? It seems like a lifetime ago that I was in New Market, Maryland, pregnant with my little girl. I had gotten laid off from my job a few months earlier, so to kill time until the baby was born I was working at Joann's in their framing department. I remember I was very good with the customers, picking out just the right combinations of mats, frames, fillets, etc. but mostly I loved building frames. And my discount. What I didn't love was wearing stupid khakis (I am a jeans-only kind of person) or standing on that cement floor for hours at a time. I worked there as long as my back could stand it, and then I quit and stayed home waiting... and waiting some more... and waiting some more.
On the morning of September 11th I was at home watching the news (probably Katie Couric (sp?) ) when the attacks happened. I'm not sure if I had already quit Joann's by then or not. I do remember wondering how we could possibly bring a child into this awful, dangerous world.
I was due on September 22nd. My SIL Tracie flew out a couple of days after that, and we spent the weekend walking our feet off around New Market, in all the antique shops, the general store... I think we drove down to Virginia for something?? We were desperately trying to get my baby here!
Finally, after more than a week my doctor finally agreed to induce me (sheesh!) and the next day we waited, drugged, walked around the hospital, tried to read, ALL DAY until something finally started happening at 3pm. A was finally born at 8:43pm on the evening of October 2nd. 10 days late. I remember being grossed out when they held her up (SO not like it is on TV or in movies) because she was all bloody... I made them clean her up before they handed her to me (I'm a nice mom, eh?)
Trace extended her stay a couple of days so she could spend time with the 10-day-overdue baby and me, thank goodness. I believe I finally learned to cook that week she stayed with me. My mom ditched her mission in Independence for a few days to come to Maryland too, and then when she left my MIL Brooke came out and stayed a good 2-3 weeks. It was great, but I remember being totally inept and overwhelmed once everybody left because they'd done everything for me for a month!
A week after A was born we received a phone call from the state health department - in the initial tests they do on every infant they found that her thyroid levels were way off... turns out my perfect baby was born with "congenital hypothyroidism" - without a thyroid gland - and would need medicine for the rest of her life. We were so blessed to live in Maryland when A was a baby because we lived 45 minutes from Baltimore... and our specialist at Johns Hopkins was probably the premiere pediatric endocrinologist in the country. Every couple of months we had an appointment and our doctor very precisely measured our baby, checked and triple-checked her levels to make sure all was good. That was a hard couple of years to have blood drawn all the time, because A was an especially hard stick, and many times we had to have multiple needle sticks to try and get her blood draw. I remember going to the lab and waiting for a specific phlebotomist because she (?) was the only one who could get it right.
Time flies. We had another baby, moved to Show Low Arizona, moved again to Eagar, moved again to South Phoenix, had another baby, and moved again ... and now we find ourselves settled in Mesa with three kids.
• A is a tween for sure. She loves singing at the top of her lungs to her Ipod in her ears as she wanders around the house. (mostly in tune) I believe she knows every word to every Adele song. She loves to make up little dance-slash-gymnastics routines.
 • Her favorite color is purple. She prefers to wear jeans and tennis shoes over shorts and flip flops, crazy girl, even when it's 100 plus crazy degrees outside. She is NOT a skirt wearer.
• She is a creator of all things colorful. She LOVES to sort things into rainbow colors. Right now in my front room is a setup of a "teacher's desk" and student desks with notebooks and pencils and colored pencils all lined up perfectly. Don't know if she will actually ever PLAY school, I think she likes the setup part the best. Both my girls love making little "clubs" but I think A is the instigator most of the time. Careful of any open space... my girls will take it over and make a club or store or something in it in no time.
• She is still as picky as ever with her eating. I stopped stressing out about it years ago. If she doesn't like what I cook then she makes herself something else. I don't care anymore. I do try to insist that she eat bananas every couple of days. Veggies I don't even bother with, except the occasional chicken divan casserole that includes broccoli - which she's loved since she was a baby. I do sneak healthy things into waffles or french toast or pancakes when I make them. We're doing good at not missing her synthroid pill daily. What she does have going for her and her teeth is that she doesn't drink soda... and hasn't... ever.  Her favorite food is pizza. Favorite candy = Nerds. She loves to get the frozen drinks at QT. And go out for yogurt. She's addicted to chocolate, but rather it come out of a package (like one that says O-R-E-O) than something fancy that mommy bakes at home.
• A is doing very well at piano. She and M both struggle with timing, but A is progressing pretty well. We try our best to get 20 minutes of practice in every day. Last week one of her songs was "Once upon a snowman" from the Primary Songbook which she did great with, chords and accidentals and left hand and all. : )
• Chores are not A's favorite thing. She tends to make messes and have clothes strewn everywhere in her room. Many times when I ask her to do or clean something she wanders over to the piano and starts playing, because she knows I won't stop her. Sneaky girl.
• This is A's second year in orchestra, where she plays the violin. I wish we had the time/money to do private lessons as well, but for now I think she's doing well, and likes it a lot. She doesn't even mind having to be at school an hour early 2x a week.
• She is also in gymnastics, in level 3, which she loves, all except the last 10 minutes each week when they have to do crunches and planks and pushups - ha! She is a monkey on the big rope, I love to watch her shimmy all the way up to the roof on that thing.
• This girl is a READER. And she got just the right teacher this year to encourage and promote that. She flies through books and is testing at an 11.8 grade reading level - by far the highest in her class. She often reads books that are way below her level just because she likes to read FAST and wants to be able to finish a book in an afternoon. For her birthday yesterday I got her the new Rick Riordan book "Mark of Athena" and she's already knee-deep into that. She needs to hurry and finish it so I can read it...
• She is doing the "Battle of the Books" at school this year and I'm super excited. 3 or 4 times this year they have a contest and go head-to-head with other teams answering trivia questions on a set of books. They have to know them backward and forward, which will be great for A to prepare for, since usually she skims books so fast I question how much she actually absorbs.
• A has lots of friends, including some I wouldn't necessarily expect. I want her to be besties with the girl down the street who's just a month younger than her, and instead she hangs out with the brother who's 8. Go figure.
• She would love to do science projects and read and watch Disney shows on the Ipad all day long, but unfortunately there's places to be and a million chores to be done at home all the time. Bummer.


Happy Birthday M

Nine years ago this morning I was in Maryland, in our little house in New Market. After getting to bed late at 11:45pm, my contractions started immediately so I never went to sleep... We paged our midwife and as we waited for her call, got packed for the hospital just in case. In the meantime we called and woke up a neighbor, Lynette Johnson. Got the call back from the midwife, dropped A off at the Johnson's at 2:20am, then headed to the hospital (which was a good 20-30 min away in Frederick). Got checked in by 3am. All my pain was in my back and I couldn't hardly sit down... so I refused to let them put me in a wheelchair to get me up to a delivery room. They had to get an entire bag of fluids in me before they'd give me the epidural, which painfully took forever.  I was at 9.5cm before they'd give me the shot, but thankfully it still happened. My little girl came quickly after that - she was born at 4:57 am and has been a morning person ever since!
That seems like an entirely different life now - I'm old.  I love my girl. She is helpful, pleasant, clever, a hard worker, goal-oriented and a great big sister. 
•  She is highly responsible, honest and for the most part is happy to do her chores every day. She gets up and makes her bed every. single. morning. without ever being reminded. 
•  She loves lists, drawing, playing at the neighbor's house, swimming, cooking and organizing. She loves to clean and help decorate or do crafty projects with me and teach family home evening. She is always interested in my vinyl business and is concerned that I get my work done, too.  She always wants to help me.
•  I had parent teacher conferences yesterday and her teacher couldn't be happier with her. M is way ahead of the curve in the class and has straight A's. Mrs. Murphy was telling me how sometimes she tries to be funny and sarcastic with the class, and a lot of the kids just stare at her, confused. M however gets her jokes every time and throws the sarcasm right back at her.  (Have I mentioned I love my kids' teachers this year? Because I do.)  She has lots of friends right now, even though there's a bit of the "she doesn't want to be my friend" or "so and so was mean to me" etc. that happens in third grade. M was excited to go to school this morning in her new clothes and accessories (Thanks Grandma!) and even had me curl her hair. 
•  She is in LOVE with anything and everything zebra right now. Her birthday present was a big canvas print of a zebra for her room - she loves it. She is totally drawn to obsessed with? anything black and white and pink and loves bling on everything. 
•  She is in synchronized swimming 2x a week and tries to practice stretching (goal = splits) at home. She's been in piano for a little over a year now, and though she hasn't progressed as quickly as I would have hoped she really tries to get her 20 minutes of practice in daily. "MOM set the timer!"  "How many minutes left?"  She likes to play primary songs and do her favorites over and over. She's playing Teach Me to Walk in the Light right now.
• Every once in a while she comes up with some zingers that crack us up. The girls and Daddy were playing Monopoly the other night and A was winning - and gloating. M got mad at her and snarked something about rubbing their faces in it like a dog  (what was it honey?)  . A couple of weeks ago I had spent the day rearranging A's room, which M was totally jealous about when she got home. She yelled at me that it wasn't fair because her own room looked like "a hideous troll".  Hilarious.  10 minutes later she had cleaned her room up and reorganized some things herself and was happy as can be about it.
•  She is great with J, playing with him, making sure he's got breakfast, packs his lunch often, carries his backpack for him and is basically his second Mommy.  She's the one who picks him up from his classroom every day and make sure he gets to the bus.
• M is a great eater and likes a great variety of foods. She is not a fan of mushrooms or sweet potatoes, and rarely chocolate, but she loves salad, carrots, grape tomatoes, spinach, chips and salsa, and all kinds of soups. She will get up and make herself an egg in the morning - which she would rather have than the pancakes and syrup that her siblings are addicted to. She chooses gatorade over soda when we go to QT. It frustrates me that she's the one who tries to eat so well and that she's going to be the one who will probably struggle with weight, versus her sister.
• This girl needs her SLEEP. She is a bear when she stays up too late, but is the most pleasant ever as long as she gets to bed on time. • She is very much a reward-oriented person and loves to earn behavior bucks at school. She totally understands the idea of earning her way and is quite vocal when she sees her siblings getting away with things . I guess you could say she's a natural conservative who doesn't tolerate entitlement...lol


Dear Santa

I have a lot on my wish list lately. I figure Santa's got an unlimited budget, or at least my kids think he does, so why not shoot for it all?

1. Citrus trees planted along the side of my house - 1 blood orange, 1 lemon, 1 grapefruit, and 1 navel- and then taken care of by a landscaper from now on, along with the rest of our bushes and trees
2. Sonicare toothbrush - Healthy White, I think it's called?
3. My piano tuned
4. Sparky I-phone case - this one http://www.fanatics.com/catalog/product/Arizona_State_Sun_Devils_iPhone_4_Silicone_Case_-_Maroon

5. New white king-size Egyptian cotton sheets for my bed
5b. While we're at it, four sets of soft high-thread count white twin sheets for the rest of the beds in the house
6. Les Mis and/or Anything Goes tickets at Gammage
7. Gift cards for Tia Rosa's, Sassy's Cafe, Charming Charlie's, Home Depot
8. Table saw
9. Compound miter saw
10. Leaf blower - that backpack kind that you control with your arm like landscapers have

11. Kids' bathroom, and downstairs bathroom, painted
12. Lighting for Master Bathroom 13. A NEW CAR 14. Yellow placemats for my kitchen table
15. Coordinating seat cushions for my kitchen chairs
16. New light fixtures and faucets for my bathrooms
Five of these Giagni Pearl faucets would be fine, and even better if I didn't have to install them myself:
17. a new ironing board
18. a Dyson vacuum cleaner, or actually, just any vacuum cleaner.
19. Shutters in the loft
20. Countertops & new flooring for my office...tee hee hee


My goals.

okay, for the record, I am able to do many things. However, I am unable to do all of the following simultaneously.

1. Keep 4000 square feet cleaned, picked up, dusted, vacuumed, with bathrooms sanitized and laundry and dishes done all at the same time.
2. Work and make a significant contribution to our household income.
3. Make sure three kids accomplish their chores, practice music, do their homework, bathe, brush their teeth twice a day and not kill each other on a daily basis.
4. Do my calling, go visiting teaching, attend the temple and read my scriptures. Gardening? Indexing? Are you kidding me?
5. Work out daily and cook healthy meals, and keep my children from eating junk.
6. Prepare for, pay for and then taxi my children to their various activities... piano lessons, gymnastics, orchestra, Let's Play Music class, synchronized swimming, activity days, library, school events...
7. (Smart) shop for the things we need and take advantage of sales and coupons.
8. Spend quality time once in a while with my children, my husband, my library books, and ASU's football team.
 9. Home improvement projects.
10. Keep in touch with old and new friends and offer service.
11. Journaling, Scrapbooking, etc.

Ummmm..... how about you?




We spent a low-key lovely & cool fourth of July at home painting our master bathroom (ran out of paint and it's STILL not done, sigh) and then going over to swim/bbq with family. We didn't even watch fireworks, lame.

I came down with yet another sore throat, and then had a bad reaction to a facial that week as well, so spent several days uncomfortably sick ON TOP of burns and fever blisters all over my chin too... it was not awesome.

We spent the rest of the month running around between piano lessons and swim lessons and swim meets and synchronized swimming practices and qualifying meets and and..... man, I'm going to start ranking the end of swimming events in July right up there with the end of school events in May in terms of keeping us busy! Here's A in her synchro outfits & makeup... we had to "Knox" her hair into a bun for the performances, which entailed mixing that unflavored gelatin stuff you use to make jam out of into a SUPER thick gel and then painting it on her hair... once it dries it's completely stiff and won't come out in cold water... Crazy. A HATED it. Middle photo is her with her Duo partner Rebecca.

M tried out a little synchro workshop one Saturday and now has the bug... she may be doing a year-round thing with the Arizona Aqua Stars. Stay tuned to see if she stays interested and I can get it all worked out...

N and I were able to go see Singin' in the Rain (my favorite movie ever ever) in a theater... so totally amazing awesome. I was in a good mood for days afterward. Thanks to Grandma and Poppy who melted out at a swim meet in our place so we could go.

SIDENOTE: We bought these super fun deals called "pogo passes" and have been able to do a ton of stuff so far... I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT - CHECK IT OUT AT POGOPASS.COM. We took the kids to Big Surf and to a Rattlers game.

The game was too loud and too late for them so they didn't want to go again, but I can say that N and I are officially HOOKED on arena football games! We used our pogo passes and went the next two weeks! For free! SO MUCH FUN. Total opposite of a baseball game, lol. High energy, fast paced, high scoring, lots of gimmicks, super exciting. No one EVER leaves a game early because the whole thing can change in a second! It's awesome. The Rattlers ended up as National Champions, by the way... we got to see all three of their playoff games here in Phoenix. Call it white trash football if you will... but don't knock it til you try it!!! Also was fun because I got to hang out with the lovely Janna at the games too! Don't mind my hair... I'm growing it out and it always looks like death.
A whirlwind trip to California brought us to the end of July. We alternated two days at Disney and two days at Newport beach, (necessary to recover from Disney days). So much fun. We had a 2-bedroom suite at our resort and were able to spread out and enjoy the space.

D-land: Both the girls got chosen (thank goodness) to be Jedis in the Jedi training show
. Next time I'm hoping J will want to do it! My favorite quote from one of the Jedi cast members to M, as she's standing in front of Darth Vader, was "Keep smiling. He HATES THAT!" Super funny. By the way they've redone Star Tours and it's great! We utilized our fast passes well and did everything and went ALL day long, even stuck it out for the Fantasmic light show too. J was a little concerned in some of the rides, don't want to say "scared" but he held on to me tight during Pirates, the Haunted Mansion, and Space Mountain. His quote of the day was "I want to grow up first before I go on that ride again". Cutie. Love him.

California Adventure was great, except for the whole losing-A-for-30-minutes-thing. California Screamin' and Tower of Terror were once again hits! Our favorite ride on the trip was Radiator Springs Racers... the big new ride in Cars Land. So much fun, and worth all the hype, surprisingly. All three of the kiddos were into their lanyards and getting PINS. Sheesh. I think M could look at pins in pin shops all day long. Oh wait, she did. We also got J his first set of ears. I love that he chose to go with the classic blue. :) The girls and I hit the "Mad T" concert (crazy Disney-esque costumed music group doing covers of a bunch of pop songs... they were actually really good and the girls LOVED it. Here is J in his 3-D glasses for Star Tours, and his newly acquired ears and lanyard!

Newport: Man, how I love this beach, We don't even try to go any other beach because I know it would just be disappointing. The weather was a little cold for me to get in the water, but I totally prefer to lounge on the sand and sleep/read anyway. Kids had fun boogie boarding and digging for sand crabs. Nick was in charge of getting dinner one evening on the beach...and he came back with pizza and salad.... ummm, can you say NOT beach friendly, especially with the wind blowing? Kids liked it anyway.


Home again, home again... I threw myself into a huge vinyl order once we got back in town, and cranked out nearly 75 signs for a school in Texas in less than a week. Shipped them out and was kicking myself that I hadn't charged a little more... and then I got a dreaded email from the principal saying that most of the signs had arrived damaged... seems that even though I thought I had them wrapped up and cushioned REALLY well, the screws on the back of each one scratched the vinyl on the next one. UGH. I re-did almost 50 signs and sent the last of them replacements a few days ago. I'm trying to repeat the phrase "learning experience" over and over and over again so I don't get sick about it again.

We used our Pogo passes once again and all went to Jump Street for an FHE a couple of weeks ago... TOTALLY AWESOME. I swear I want a membership there instead of at my gym, my abs got a WORKOUT that night! N and Dave Meadows played dodgeball with the kids for a good 45 minutes. He was as sweaty and gross as he is when playing basketball... I think we all had a great time.

Also before school started we traded up to this beauty. I was kind of sad to see my old piano go, I've had it my whole life! Lighting is bad because it's in front of the window, but you'll just have to trust me that it's super pretty!  Girls are getting better and better at the piano, and I love the richness of the sound of our new one.
This little guy has taken it all in stride, having to wear pants and real shoes everyday, sitting in a desk, taking his lunch... I love it. He hasn't complained once and seems to like it a lot. Even when the bus takes FOREVER to get home sometimes. No discipline issues I've heard of either... I'm not even sure if his teacher does the whole color-system thing anyway. She's just so "teachery" I can't stand it. It's awesome.

Speaking of music and new stuff, J started a "Let's Play Music" class a couple of weeks ago and is LOVING it.  We have a super cute teacher in my ward. "Miss Jenni" is amazing.

I am quite enjoying having some peace and quiet to myself. Doing lots of projects... vinyl orders, hosting bridal showers, reading books, going to lunch... lol. I am doing things like cleaning and laundry too, I promise. Planning on going to a D-backs game tomorrow night (again, thanks pogo pass!) and looking forward to ASU FOOTBALL STARTING NEXT WEEK! YESSSSS!!!! GO DEVILS!



Swimming. Jacuzzi. Disneyland. Pirates of the Caribbean. Indiana Jones. Astroblasters. Space Mountain. $40 pizza. Jedi training. Star tours. Carousel. Finding Nemo Submarine. Monorail. Leaving the park for a break and our timeshare owner update. (thanks for the Disney Dollars folks!) Ihop for dinner. Mickey's Soundsational Parade. Splash Mountain. Haunted Mansion. Fantasmic. Pirates of the Carribean. Bed. Sleeping In. Swimming. Reading. Newport Beach. Reading. Boogie boarding. Playing in the sand. Sleeping. Fish tacos. Shopping for new shoes for Mommy and a self-charging Iphone case for Daddy. Bed. California Adventure. Cars Land. Luigi's Flying Tires. Mater's Junkyard Jamboree. Toy Story Midway Mania. Carousel. Silly Symphony Swings. Goofy's Sky School. Jumping Jellyfish. $45 mexican food lunch. Soarin Over California. Shopping and pon trading. Play Parade. Monster's Inc ride. Bug's Land rides with Josh. Losing Allison for 30 minutes. Grizzly River Run. Radiator Springs Racers. California Screaming. Tower of Terror. Mickey-shaped pretzels. Mad T concert. House of Cards Dance Party. World of Color Show. Shopping. Back to Disneyland. Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Bed. Newport Beach. Napping. Reading. Smash Ball. Pizza. Swimming. TV marathon of Property Wars. Reading. Bed. Done.


Palm Springs

This last week the kids and I took a trip to Palm Springs with a couple of friends. (I know, I know, it's totally hot there too!)  The kids were all awesome the whole way to and from in the car. Couldn't ask for better. Spent time in the hotel pool, at Ruby's Diner (where they have the MOST AMAZING sweet potato fries I've ever had), and then spent all of Tuesday at Knott's Soak City water park. J was a little timid at first, but by the end of the day was fearless on all the huge water slides. His favorite thing was to lay in an inner tube going down the lazy river... he is his mother's child.  lol. He also loved the wave pool.  Of course I was in the water and wasn't going to carry my camera around all day, but here are some images I pulled from online: This was like an enormous climber/splash zone, with sprays and waterfalls raining down on you everywhere... J in the morning was terrified of the big bucket - - (see that on top?) dumping on him... It would slowly fill up and then dump HUGE amounts of water when it was full... however by the end of the day J was begging to go over there to the "dump fing". Fun.

This was our favorite slide of the day... but oh, what a HIKE! There were two- and four-person tubes (and since I was riding with the kiddos, guess who had to haul that thing up the million and two staircases? ME. It was crazy steep at the top and then you hit this funnel that sloshes you back and forth... so crazy, you feel like you're going to fall out every time!
And this, my friends, is the Tidal Wave Tower that I was too chicken to go on... A did it once, but I think it freaked her out a little... but M went down THREE times. Wow, it was scary just watching her. Seven stories high. Insane in the membrane.

I had major shin splints (?) the next day from all the climbing up hills/stairs! Quite the workout, actually. The next day we took a tram up the San Jacinto mountains and hiked around. This tram rose like 8500 feet and is apparently the second largest in the world... who knew? We took our lunch and hiked a couple of miles, let the kids climb on rocks and explore caves. So fun! Oh, and did I mention it was like 70 degrees up there? Bliss.


We're already half done, woohoo! What we've done so far: Picked up Aunt Cheryl and crew from the airport and spent the weekend in Safford with them and this cutie, AKA my great nephew Trenton!
Got new pillow covers made for my couch (so cute! Love how they coordinate with my lamp AND my yellow chevron pillows too) (with zippers, thanks to Cheryl)
and a valance made for my kitchen window. LOVE how it turned out. Yes Deirdre, I know I still need to iron it.
Other home improvement projects that first week of summer break included getting 90% of my kitchen painted, (HOORAY!!! Thanks to Lisa for coming over in the middle of the night and picking up a roller!) And, my dutiful husband got our new outdoor fans installed on the patio in time for J's birthday party. They are lovely. And Hunter brand, thank you very much Nate.
Though you may not be able to tell much from this picture, what this is is a finished and painted cabinet in our downstairs bath, Hallelujah. I'll have to find the "before" pics and show you those, so you truly appreciate this:
We spent J's birthday entertaining all of his friends and my girlfriends with a roarin' good time of a dinosaur party. More details on that in a different post. We then started our 8-week marathon of swim lessons, synchronized swimming, and swim team. Here are M and J waiting for A's class to finish:
I have read countless books sitting out in the heat waiting for kiddos every morning, and several evenings baking at various pools during meets. J is a good sport too:
M has been doing very well, and J has already moved up two levels since starting.
We've also hit the library multiple times to check out countless books and movies, and attend all of their free events/shows.
Here's A helping out the magician with one of his tricks. Still can't figure out how he did that one. Or any of them, for that matter.
The kids have also gotten to hang out with their cousins a bit, both at the children's museum and Grandma's house and Bass Pro Shop, and swimming at our house, etc etc. We tie-dyed shirts with Robyn and crew. Here's A's creation (I call it her "Ironman" shirt)

Dinosaurs ROAR

J turned FIVE on June 1st and we celebrated by having a big dinosaur party! There was lots of swimming:
And a super fun relay game, complete with dino feet:
Plenty of Finny to have fun with:
A fun dinosaur fossil craft:
lots of balloons, and dinosaur decorations on the walls (okay I can't believe I didn't take pics of all of that! Oh well. We also did a "dinosaur excavation" where I froze mini dinos inside water-filled balloons, and then peeled off the balloons. Each kid got their own egg to smash and find the dino inside. And the pièce de résistance of the party was this awesome dinosaur cake that my friend Kathy Walser made. Turned out awesome!


Clutter be gone!

Recently I have been trying to get organized and learn how to live with less clutter. I'm not a hoarder, nor am I a slob, but there are lots of corners and counters and piles of clutter in my house (and garage!)  (and computer hard drive!)  that 1)I'm used to SEEING and therefore don't acknowledge it and 2)have lots of homeless items where I don't know where to put them away, therefore they are "out".  And of course 3)  unfinished projects in varying stages of completion/design.

Found this blog today and now I'm inspired again to try and get to a state where I can "be" organized instead of "get" organized.  http://declutteryourhomes.blogspot.com/  I've only skimmed a few posts but this one totally hit home for me. This is the main reason I have such a hard time giving gifts... (and receiving them!)  because I want so badly for gifts to be useful and simplifying, rather than clutter/something new to take care of, learn to use, find a place for, dust, etc.

Here's the post in its entirety - a must read!

Gift Giving Shouldn’t Add Clutter/Junk To Our Homes!

Do you buy a gift just for the sake of giving a gift, because it is expected (or you think it is expected)? Several years ago I quit buying gifts just because someone was having a birthday or because it was Mother’s Day or Father’s Day! Don’t get me wrong…I love buying gifts for people! BUT…I realized that so many gifts add to people’s clutter! We all have faced the dilemma “I don’t like this, but it was a gift so I have to keep it”. I don’t feel that way anymore. I have been in many homes that are so cluttered and it is all things given to them by loved ones! I had a woman tell me one day “I bought this item because I liked it. After that everyone thought I wanted to collect things like that so I am constantly being given gifts. I don’t even like it anymore but I don’t know what to do!” Another woman told me “I like recipe books and so every birthday or holiday, my family buys me more. I have so many and I can NEVER use all the books I have!” I didn’t count but I bet this woman had over 100 recipe books!

Not only are we adding to clutter in people’s homes, but we are wasting our money! Have you ever thought about that? Every time you give a gift that adds to junk/clutter in someone’s home or life, you have WASTED your money!

This holiday season make a commitment to NOT do that! Be wise with your spending/giving. Put thought into your gift. ONLY GIVE A GIFT IF IT IS WANTED OR NEEDED.

Now that brings up another problem…children always think they want this or that. Don’t add to the children’s clutter either. If they do want new toys, help them make room for the new ones by going through and donating or throwing away some of the old ones. One toy out for every new one that is in.

So what should you do with Birthday’s, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc? Take your loved one to lunch, spend some time together. That is always so much better than a gift. Does this make you feel guilty? I announced to my sisters and parents what I would be doing. There were no objections. For my children (they are all grown), I give them money so they can buy what they will love. For Christmas I still give gifts but I have them complete a questionnaire so I know the things that are important to them.

Has this been a hard change for me? Sometimes. There are times I am in a store and I throw something in the cart because so and so will like it. Usually, I come to my senses and put it back, realizing that once again, I am falling into the clutter trap. Am I glad I made these changes? YES! Holidays and birthdays are so much less stressful and I know the gifts I give are loved and meaningful.

So my challenge to you is…change your gift giving habits! Make every penny you spend count and don’t add to other’s clutter!


April showers bring May HEAT

Another month has flown by.

We started out April sleeping through general conference... really need to grab that Ensign that just came and spend some time with it.  Nonnie and Papa came up to spend the weekend with us, so we moved our big TV downstairs so we could all fit on the new couch and watch... well, the TV is still downstairs — which I kind of like, kind of don't — and now it makes me more than EVER want to get our built-ins done! Anybody have a referral of a great cabinet guy for me?  (As if I could afford that right now) 
Easter was relatively low-key. By the time we had our own FHE about Easter, and I had done an Easter thing/lesson with the activity day girls, and we had ANOTHER FHE Easter lesson/egg hunt with all the Carter family, and then a neighborhood brunch/egg hunt, there was no way that the Easter bunny was coming to visit our house and bring a lot more stuff. All he left was marbles for the kids, and everybody was happy.
The next week was DADDY'S BIRTHDAY, which was fun. Birthday dinner with the in-laws included the biggest slab of prime rib I've ever seen on Nick's plate, wow. We went to Rustler's Roost by South Mountain, which is super full of ambiance and has a spectacular view and a live band and a slide for the kids. It was a fun place to take the kids.  We got up the next morning and went out for breakfast, Daddy went to his first-ever Lowe's workshop, we hit the library for an event... then basically went home and collapsed for the rest of the day. It was cold and windy and rainy and so nice.  Daddy finally went and got himself an Iphone, too.
J and I went to a sample Let's Play Music class the next week... I am SO excited about this program and the teacher, I think it will be just right for J come August. I wish I would have done this with the girls, they might have a better sense of rhythm if I had!  Alas, it was never in the cards when we lived in SoPho.
J and I have been hitting the gym 3-4 times a week, he doesn't mind the kids' room and I don't mind even if he watches TV in there for an hour since we don't have cable at home. I'm addicted to several of the classes and am loving the sweating and sore muscles, even though I haven't noticed any difference yet after 6 weeks... maybe because I'm also addicted to things like Nutella and trail mix. Oh, and QT Coke Zeros.  Having the TV downstairs means I'm not running at all anymore on the treadmill, which also needs to change.
Thanks to a couple of culture passes we hit the science center. Forgot how much I liked that place. Kids had a blast. Pictures forthcoming. I'm going to attempt to print pictures I took on my phone... I swear, if they turn out good enough I might consider getting rid of my big camera, since I NEVER use it anymore.
A has graduated to level 3 in gymnastics, which means I have to start paying for another hour per week. Sheesh. She's doing very well and is so flexible it's amazing... Both my girls are close to splits again, but haven't gotten there yet.  This gym hardly ever works on splits like our old gym did... weird. ??  
We are all signed up for 8 weeks of swim lessons, swim team, and synchro for this summer. Ugh. Need to find some great books to read to kill two hours at the pool every day!  I was surprised M even wanted to do swim team again, because last year at Stapley was no fun, so I'm happy she's trying again. We're at a different pool this summer.  A wanted nothing to do with swim team, so she's going to do synchro, which I'm sure she'll be much better at this year because she's been in gymnastics.  J did gymnastics for a while, but I decided it was a little expensive for playtime.
Idol... oh, who cares anymore. It's no fun to have to try and watch it live, since we don't have a DVR and it's not on hulu, but I'm not terribly upset if/when I miss it. I swear I'm going to boycott it in years to come if they make yet ANOTHER country singer win. Skylar? Smurfette?  Gag me.
More finds on Craigs' List:  a hall tree/coat rack thing for the laundry room, a new kitchen table and chairs, and a swing set!  Now I have three things to repaint:  our old kitchen table, so I can sell it, the coat rack, and a nightstand for M's room that I bought a year and a half ago. Yep.  Refinishing furniture scares me though! Who wants to help me/come do it for me?
Home improvement projects this month have included staining the new swing set and getting the pool ready.  We desperately need to start our big remodel job, but have to figure out how to win the lottery first. to afford it.
The kids spend hours outside every day playing on our the swing set. Definitely a good buy!
Next on the to-do list is to get our stinkin' upstairs A/C fixed. Called the repair guy last week and he supposedly "fixed" it, by repairing a small freon leak, but it's already not working again and our lines outside are frozen. Grrr.... I've been waiting all day for them today and conveniently they're not answering their phone.  In the meantime, we're all sleeping downstairs!
Also on the subject on unbearable summer heat... we're finally getting our sunscreens installed next week - - - HOORAY! I'm sure this will make a huge difference in the temperature of our home, not to mention how it's just going to make it look "finished" - which I've been waiting for since we painted the exterior!
Time to call the A/C people again, and for lunch. Peace out.



It's almost 11pm. I stayed up late tonight because maybe, MAYBE if I go to bed now I might stay asleep all night. I so wish I could blow tomorrow off, go play volleyball with friends, take J to the park, go get a pedicure... darn all these things on my to-do list! Instead I will be figuring out swim team/lessons and signing up first thing in the morning, coaxing the girls to practice piano, boxing up a sign a customer ordered, driving kids to the bus, hitting an RPM class at the gym, going to the post office to mail said sign, coming home to finish another vinyl job, starting on invitations to our big activity day "T"ea party in 2 1/2 weeks, figuring out how to e-sign all our refinance docs, inserting meals, laundry and dishes at some point in my day, calling the sunscreen company to get the ball rolling on that project, straightening out an insurance thing with my doctor, getting to the bank at some point, gathering up some cans to pay for all my fines at the library, picking up the girls from the bus, taking them to piano lessons, doing an exchange at the Verizon store, making muffins with J, picking the girls up, convincing one of the girls to do FHE, and putting everybody to bed at a decent time. Wish me luck.


Holy Cow, March,

where is this year going? The gorgeous weather of spring is fading fast, my air conditioning is on and I'm feeling the laziness accompanied with summer heat coming on as well... ugh.

So March:

Dentist appointments for all three kids showed we were free of cavities AGAIN - woohoo! We must be doing something right around here, at least...

Orthodontist appointments showed that A needs three more teeth pulled, great. Thanks a lot again, Nonnie, for our inheritance of your tiny mouth, and thanks Daddy, for our inheritance of your huge teeth. This will be happening in May.

Spring Break took the girls to gymnastics camp... partly because I've decided I do NOT want to travel on Spring and Fall breaks anymore. Staycations it is! Why would I leave Arizona on the two of the most perfect-weather weeks of the year? The girls went all week and loved it, and Mommy was able to get a lot of vinyl projects done.

Slight car problem during Spring Break as well... thank goodness for good friends who came to rescue me, saving me from a towing bill to the repair shop. Sparky is feeling much better now, but I'm knocking on wood every day that he keeps running okay. I feel like there's some major fix looming on the horizon... 160K miles, he's starting to show his age. Speaking of Sparky, he seriously needs an oil change today.

Spring Break also took J to Grandma's house for two days for his "G&G Inn" time. Our house was EERILY quiet while he was gone, and I found myself distraught and super lonely without my boy/sidekick. We were so glad to welcome him home!

I joined a gym in the middle of March, and have been going almost daily to classes, getting back in the habit. Now that I'm exercising my knee has loosened up and doesn't hurt nearly as bad as it was. Go figure.

The kids returned to school the next week, thank goodness. I spent a lot of time creating new vinyl and signs for a boutique... since I was almost out of inventory. Now I'm pretty stocked up again. Small (sometimes VERY small) custom orders keep trickling in, giving me pocket money each week.

Thanks to Grandma watching J I was able to see the Hunger Games movie on opening day with some friends.. Loved it. Getting ready to re-read Catching Fire and MockingJay now.

Spring boutique came and went, and it went about how I thought it would...lol. I sold about what I expected, so I can't complain. I need to put some time and effort into finding just the right boutique shows to get into... haven't found just the right place yet to feature our stuff.

Craigs List has become my new addiction since I scored an awesome sectional couch for our downstairs living room for CHEAP. Now I have hope that I can find deals for the rest of my house, and have been scouring every day for just the right pieces. I've finally sold all of the random things I had laying around here "to sell" and can move on now. Oh, how I love upgrading my furniture! Next on the list: new kitchen table/chairs. Wish me luck.

Activity Days has been going a little better since I've been putting more time and effort into it... we had a whole music lesson with the girls where we learned all about the different elements to a song, different kind of notes, time signatures, etc. Each of the girls took turns leading us to sing a hymn of their choice and we played a music matching game. Pretty good. Last Friday we had an Easter lesson, talked about the last week of Jesus' life, and planted seeds in egg shells. I'm crossing my fingers that the stuff actually grows, lol.

We went to the Easter pageant on one of the first nights it showed when Nonnie and Papa were in town. My kids enjoyed every bit of it. I need to go even earlier next year to try and get better seats, though... A was constantly complaining that she couldn't see everything.

Kids are doing well. J is the happiest kid I know and so fun. He plays with bouncy balls and marbles and sings a lot, though he only knows a few words to a few primary songs. When he hears a slow song come on, whether a church song or not, he does this whole interpretive dance thing and sways around with his arms up, eyes closed, permagrin attached. It's hilarious. He's definitely a jokester lately. Daily he tells us something to be immediately followed by "I'm just kidding!" or "I'm serious. I'm not lying."

M is the most helpful kid around, and generally so pleasant! She is more than willing to dig in and help around the house... on Saturday she helped paint AND got in the pool and scrubbed the sides with the brush. I never never have to ask her to make her bed, or get dressed or ready for school, etc. Her interest in the piano has waned, and we're doing well to get her to play through each of her assigned songs once a day. Because of that, she hasn't improved as quickly as I would have hoped. She is looking forward to swim team this summer, and is still enjoying gymnastics.

I've been struggling with A lately, not only with the eating thing but with her just generally being defiant. She has to get reminded over and over again to do her chores, and she tends to act so burdened. Seems like every time I ask her to do something she hides out somewhere and starts reading a book, or playing on my phone, or something... I'm the nag and this horrible person who doesn't want her to have ice cream every night because she barely eats lunch or dinner, and won't buy her gum, and I hate it. I don't think she's eating much more than pretzels every day for lunch, since she almost always brings home her sandwich from school untouched. She's doing quite well in gymnastics and is moving up to level 3 as of today. She's already saying she doesn't want to do swim team this year, yet she wants me to keep paying for gymnastics, piano, and also wants to do private violin lessons this summer. Grrr.... I'm at a loss as to how to deal with her. She's plowing through 3-5 books a week, doing fine in school, but a lot of times I feel like she only does the minimum of whatever it is to get by... just to be able to do what she wants. Shoves her stuff under her bed and calls it "cleaning her room" etc. She and her sister are NOT getting along at all lately, the screaming has become ridiculous, but I don't know what consequences to apply.

Between work, basketball and scouts, we barely see N. Seems like when he's home he's too tired to do much. I've all but given up cooking dinner because the kids (I take that back, 2 of my kids) won't touch it anyway, and N's not home to eat it. So, I throw kid-food at the kids (or have them make their own) and call it done most days.

House is ... coming along. We're coming up on one year over here in Mesa. We have a LONG way to go, but the difference is night and day from when we moved in. A lot of paint and TLC goes a long way. To-do list includes finishing cutting in the paint upstairs, painting bathrooms, getting quotes on built-ins for downstairs living room, painting a hall tree I bought for the laundry room, SUN SCREENS (tax return??) , living room furniture, and hopefully a pool decking re-do (SRP bonus??) but we'll see how much of that happens this year. Hopefully at least 2-3 things on that list.

Now I've missed my class at the gym today because I don't have any workout clothes clean. Looks like it's a laundry day!


Snakes at a preschool.

We've seen the reptile guy before, and I'll never get over how excited he is about all of his disgusting friends. This fellow here is named "Sunshine" and J is still talking about him. He's like 16 feet long and weighs 150 pounds, and you couldn't have paid me enough money to touch him. The kids loved him, though.
And yes, J is wearing his Finny shirt AGAIN. If he is dressing himself, and it's clean, that is his shirt of choice EVERY single time.
J also thinks the reptile guy brought a "gorilla" - - - and I keep trying to correct him that it was an "iguana" but I don't think he believes me.


Spring Boutique in Mesa On Saturday!

Looking for something to do this weekend? Relatives in town that you need to entertain? Need to get away from the kids for a couple of hours (I HEARD THAT!)?? Okay some ideas... Hunger Games movie, hello! I'm seeing it tomorrow and CAN'T HARDLY WAIT. Goodwill I believe is doing a whole-store 50% off sale on Saturday... ! Or plan to go to the temple and come see me around the corner here:



Ha ha ha!!! So SO happy Jermaine Jones is off the show and I never have to listen to him or see him again. Man, I knew he was an angry, unstable mess... Should have guessed that he was a dishonest slime ball criminal too.

Okay I digress... Down to business. Judges, will you PLEASE make up your minds whether you want people to "sing it straight" or "make it your own"?? Because I can't figure it out.

Phillip Phillips... I thought it was a great song choice for his voice, but he's just so limited. One-trick pony.

Jessica Sanchez... Her mouth might be Julia-Roberts huge, but her voice is great. But unlike what Will I Am thought, I didn't think she had enough swagger for that song. There's just some Latina vibe/rhythm a la J Lo or Gloria Estefan or Celia Cruz thing that she does NOT have. At least not yet, at sixteen.

By the way, I Love Will I Am. He oozes cool.

Heejun Han... I think he should have been singing Bryan Adams, instead of EVP. Yes, he enunciated the "chance" but he blew it on the "roman" instead of romance. I really want to keep liking his voice, but his accent is making it tough. It's like I'm rooting for him to pronounce everything right, instead of just being able to enjoy his songs.

Elise Testone... Her voice is good, but it seems she has to push each note out with various body parts... Her shoulders, her hands... It's like it's too much work for her when she sings. She lacks confidence and poise.

Colton Dixon... I liked him tonight more than I ever have before, but he still doesn't seem like the hard rocker that he's trying to be. Like, can you see him singing a Guns-n-Roses or Aerosmith song? He's just not BIG enough to be an Axel Rose or even a Chris Daughtry, he's not dramatic enough to be an Adam Lambert. I almost want him to go emo and maybe sing a Cure song?? I don't know.

Shannon Magrane... She's awkward for me. I don't like her angry face when she sings the big notes. Also seems to have to try too hard.

Deandre... I just. Don't care. Hate watching him. Hate listening to him. Can't wait til he goes away.

Skyler Laine... She was better tonight than usual, but it's laughable to put her in the same league as Hollie or Joshua. Go home, I'm tired of country music.

Erika Van Pelt... DidN't love the Bryan Adams choice, but I thought she did okay. I'm glad she covered up her relief society arms this week.

Joshua Ledet... Blow it out the box indeed! He's officially my new favorite guy this year. Ready to record, I think. Why do his eyes always look bloodshot though? Too many crawfish??

Hollie Cavanaugh... I just realized who she reminds me of... She's a grown up version of Abby Risenmay. (one of the choices I've picked out for Josh's future wife) She killed it! Love her. Effortless. She's great.


Self-sufficient snapshot.

I love my kids. I love that I can sleep in in the mornings if I want, and they get themselves breakfast, get ready for school, make their own lunches... (granted, I think that candy ends up in their lunches more often than not) and most of the time they even get their beds made without me asking. All I have to do when I get up is clean up after them, remind A to take her pill, and motivate J to get dressed and stop TALKING SO LOUDLY, holy cow. (N sometimes asks if he's hard of hearing, lol.) and then we're off to the bus stop.
99% of the time, the girls are done with homework before they get off the bus, so I rarely even look at their folders unless something needs to be signed. Their homework, and their work at school, is truly their own, and I've got nothing to do with whatever grades they get. They do dang well, considering. J and I have gotten into a rhythm with his homework too, and he knows the routine of sitting at the counter and sounding out all the words in his books. Darn those "b"s and "d"s and "g"s... they are confusing, and he has to think hard to recognize the differences. He's almost got the sight word "the" down... sheesh, I didn't realize reading was so hard. He's started to think about being gone from me at kindergarten. Yesterday he asked what my phone number was, in case he got separated from his teacher at school and he needed to call me. We worked on the phone number song a bit, but then he thought a bit more and said, wait, I need a phone too, mom, so I can call you! He's awesome. Funny.
Chores are hit and miss around here, the dishwasher and laundry are daily struggles. Sometimes the dishes are no problem for the girls, but there are a lot of times I don't want to wait for the kitchen to be clean so I end up doing their jobs myself. And I'm never patient enough to wait for J to get motivated to do his chores... but I'm hoping that will change eventually.
It's nice that the girls have been babysitting... they don't mind it at all anymore, and I'd rather pay them any day than pay a babysitter. Last night I needed to return books to the library and no one wanted to go with me, so I left the three of them alone... they actually all took baths and had jammies on by the time I got home 20 minutes later. Pretty good! Except that because they're so independent, sometimes, I miss them.


Who I like:

Joshua Ledet.
Heejun Han.
Phillip Phillips and Colton are on the fence for me.
Jessica Sanchez.
Hollie Cavanaugh.
Erika Van Pelt and Shannon Magrane... usually, but not last night.
Elise Testone... starting to be not so much. She always looks/dresses like the drunk, slutty sorority girl.

Who I still seriously dislike:

Jermaine is on the top of that list, followed closely by Deandre and Jeremy Rosado. Also on the hate list is Smurfette, I mean, Skyler.


Okay so nevermind that it's March 8th and I just finished my Valentines banner... at least it's done! I have tips if anyone wants to make their own...


Idol girls.

Chelsea Sorrell... Nasal is right. She's no Carrie Underwood. I predict we won't have to see her for much longer. Plus, you know how I feel about country.

Erika Van Pelt... This girl seems like somebody i'd be friends with. She reminds me of Kelly Clarkson a bit. Strong, confident, effortless. Great song choice. Let's keep her!

Jen Hirsch... Risky taking on an Adele song, but Wow, this girl's got mad skills. Love her voice.

Brielle 'aka Snookie' Von Hugel... Her performance was the complete opposite of that song and its lyrics. Why are you screaming at me about sitting on the dock of the bay?? Wrong, wrong song choice, no matter what the judges said. She's so tacky.

Hallie Day... An adult among a bunch of children. It's a wonder she's not a professional singer already. She reminds me of Jessica Rabbit, am I right?? Wow, she's good.

Skyler Laine... Reba??? Reba wannabe, maybe. She does not have the legs to be wearing Tinkerbell's dress, honestly now. Nick says she has Smurfette's hair... Spot on. This is one of the reasons I love my husband... He can be as snarky as me about Idol contestants.

Baylie Brown... On key much, honey?? Per Nick: she performs like she's on the talent portion of a Miss America pageant... And guess what, she wouldn't win there either.

Hollie Cavanagh... I think I have a new favorite!!! I was a little worried when the song started, because Christina Aguilera's voice is a hard act to follow, but she Totally rocked it. Loved, loved, loved her performance.

Haley Johnsen... Annie Lennox you ain't, Sharon Stone you are. Strong voice, horrible performance. She won't last through tomorrow's cut.

Shannon Magrane... If we're talking about lookalikes, she reminds me of Carrie Underwood. Her voice and performance are VERY impressive for a 16-year-old. Wow, she's good, hope she stays.

Jessica Sanchez... If you've seen Dreamgirls, you'll know that this was just about as brilliant as Jennifer Hudson's rendition. This girl is phenomenal. And she actually looks her age, which I appreciate. Standing O indeed.

Elise Testone... Okay, she's good too!! Love the tone of her voice, but I'm never a fan of her outfit or makeup choices.

So who I like... Hollie Cavanagh, Jessica Sanchez, Hallie Day, Erika Van Pelt, Jen Hirsch, Shannon Magrane, Elise Testone



Well, it's about time for my narrative, isn't it?? I know you've all been waiting on pins and needles for all of my insights! I really did have to wait until all the riff raff was gone, though. Now that we're down to the top 24 (25?) I can post with my thoughts. And so far I've been ... Underwhelmed. But it is what it is, so here goes.

Reed Grimm... My favorite guy by far! I think he's got skills by far beyond anybody else on the show. Not sure I liked the maroon 5 song because I really don't like maroon 5, but I liked what he did with it. He's just so darn interesting... can't wait to see what he does next.

Adam Brock white chocolate... Shouldn't he be on a karaoke stage somewhere, or performing at a corporate event maybe? Always feel like he's missing something. Doesn't do anything for me.

Deandre makinmesick Fro dude... Yuck, yuck, yuck. I want a guy to be at least a little manly, please?? I cannot STAND his falsetto.

Colton Dixon... Okay guy, if you're going to do the indie alternative rock thing and have THAT hair, please embrace it and start wearing some guy-liner. Seriously, your look is just off. I'm still trying to decide whether I like your voice. Adam Lambert you are NOT.

Jeremy Rosado... Again, with the non-manliness. Yawn. Go home please.

Aaron Marcellus... Wow, this is the first time I've really noticed him. Great song choice. Definitely a contender! He might be tied for my "favorite" with Reed.

Chase Likens... Ugh, I hate country music, but he actually wasn't bad. Though he seems like the most generic country guy ever. No style. Steven pegged it with the Brenden Fraser reference!

Creighton Fraker... Needs to change his name... Love his story... the fact that he's a street performer? Too cool. I like his style and personality. He might be Justin Timberlake's ugly cousin, but I adore his voice. Also a contender.

Phillip Phillips... His twangy accent makes me nuts, and I feel like he is trying too hard to get that Kurt Cobain vibe going. I DO like his voice though, as long as I don't watch him sing while doing that whole pulling-his-legs-up-thing when he plays the guitar. Hey, I guess if American idol doesn't work out he can do Huggies Pull-Up commercials with his "potty dance". . I would like to see him go on though, and see if he can get over this little quirk.

Eben Franckewitz... wrong song choice, buddy. You just showed how NON-powerful you are. Thanks but no thanks. Stay poppy and Bieber and you might have a chance of staying longer. Pitchy too. For the love, please stop saying "one step at a time".

Heejun Han... I love this guy, he is hilarious. I also love the quality of his voice... And he's got a slight chance if he can lose the accent when he sings. Big fan though. Wait, are those lens-free frames? Really? Who wears those?

Joshua Ledet... Shall we call him Mantasia, or is he Tracy Jordan's little brother?? Or is he channeling James Brown?? Pretty good, no matter who he is! One of my favorites.

Jermaine Jones... Really people?? Awful. J-lo says you have a special voice, I hate. It. So. Much.

So my vote on who should be in the top 5? 1- Aaron Marcellus, 2- Creighton Fraker, 3- Joshua Ledet, Reed Grimm, Heejun Han, Colton Dixon, Phillip Phillips. Oh wait, that's seven... eek, tomorrow night's cut it going to be rough.



I'm trying to get on here and post at least our happenings week-by-week each month... I can't believe it's already the end of February, gah, where is this year going already?? It's going to be blistering hot before I know it, yuck.
• New glasses have arrived, and are being worn non-stop. HOORAY for being able to see again, now my friends can stop making fun of me for closing one eye when trying to read.
• Sickness. It's run rampant through most of us, me especially this month. I'm tired of paying for co-pays and prescriptions, when it seems everyone is still coughing!
• Parent-teacher conferences. Girls are doing great in school, and have lots of friends. A's teacher is just SO darn impressed with her and her love of reading. A had three As, and M only had two. It's a little disconcerting to me to see all those Bs on a report card, but I just have to keep reminding myself that they're only in 4th and 2nd grades, we're not trying to qualify for any scholarships quite yet, and they know the material really well... sometimes there are just silly, sloppy mistakes that are bringing down the grades.
• Boys. M thinks that one of the boys in her class likes her. (Alex? Alan? I can't remember.) He's constantly fawning over her, and it's kind of funny to hear her reaction to him. A had a friend from school call her the other day... and she actually went up in her room to sit in her chair to chat with him. I haven't gotten the scoop on who it was or exactly why he was calling, but it kind of gave me a flash-forward on the teenage years, woah. A has started to ask questions... it's time for a talk.
• I was in charge of A's MUCH ANTICIPATED Valentine party at school. With the school being so rigid and structured all of the time, the kids really look forward to the few events they have each year... I'd have to say this party was a hit. Sugar cookies & milk and a few super-fun games was all it took to make a bunch of 10-year-olds go crazy!
• We made homemade Valentines this year, which made me remember why we do not make homemade Valentines anymore. We made about sixty "I Mustache you a Question - will you be my Valentine?" cards for the girls' classes, along with sticky-felt mustaches to go along with them. The kids LOVED them. When I walked into A's class half the class were wearing them... too funny! I never did get the grandparents' cards sent, sigh. Yet another of my unfinished projects. Story of my life.
• Valentines Day came and went with lots of thinking about Grandma V and her sweet influence she has had on our family.
• The weather is awesome! Seriously, you gotta love AZ.
• Friends. Our kids have started playing in OUR backyard a lot lately, which is such a relief... I was so tired of them escaping to other kids' houses in the neighborhood and never knowing exactly where they were. Just in the last week, they've started playing a lot with the neighbor girls that live directly behind us (ages 7 and 4) and that's kept them at home. Yay!
• Vinyl. Still a slow trickle... starting to think about putting an actual website together, and getting the ball rolling for that! Excited.
• Doctors, doctors, doctors. Finally went to see someone about my knee pain. Prognosis? Doctor thought it was meniscus damage, but it wasn't. MRI Results? Couldn't understand the lingo they used on the message they left me, but the next step is picking up those MRI files from them and seeing an orthopedic surgeon... so I'm assuming that means I'll be having knee surgery soon. Which I would rather do VERY MUCH SOONER than later. SO Tired of not being able to exercise. I'll be calling the surgeon in the morning! I wish somebody would just tell me whether I needed surgery or not!!!
• Slowly but surely working on house to-do lists... I spent a couple of hours yesterday cutting in paint (SO SICK OF PAINTING) while N installed smoke alarms and weather stripping around the back door. For the first time in six months, there isn't a ceiling fan in a box somewhere waiting to be installed, either! Just three more of these babies
in the last three bedrooms and then we're done with that project, at least! (But hard to justify spending money to replace fans that work just fine with some that are prettier) Gotta get two new outdoor fans for the patio, though, first... N took them old ones down when painting and threw them away rather than putting them back up.
• Spring break is just two weeks away, wow. We don't have any plans yet... anyone want to invite us somewhere? !


Priorities and Pointlessness.

Since I saw this, I've been thinking a lot about my own social media habits...

Four years ago, my main priority in life was scrapbooking. Recording the stories and photos of our family in books that I'd have forever. I was calling it journaling and family history and such... Permanent.
Three years ago, my priority was more about my blog. Hopefully, making sure that I was writing down important moments and thoughts and stories about our family, but mostly trying to record everyday life, cute projects I'd done, etc. Not as permanent, but at least somewhere I can scroll through posts and get an idea of what was happening month by month. Semi-permanent.
Two years ago, life became more about Facebook... barely posting photos, mostly trying to post something clever and witty as often as possible. Not permanent at all. Yes, there are photo albums but mostly... it's a lot of crap. It was then that I started doing vinyl quite regularly, and all scrapbooking pursuits went out the window.
A year ago, I got on Pinterest. Sheesh. Great online collection of "stuff I like" and "my style" and "decorating ideas" but wow, can you think of a bigger waste of time? It's a big popularity contest, too, with people "liking" your pins, "following" you, etc. But really?
A few weeks ago I actually signed up for google plus. Ridiculous.
Now it's all about Instagram. The most non-permanent way of recording life. Ever. Thie February-photo-a-day thing really made me sit up and wonder what the heck I was doing... when taking a picture of my front door was actually on my to-do list one day last week. Stupid. Pointless.

What do you think? I know at least for me, priorities need to change.


Happenings this month.

• Wedding. My nephew and his sweet wife Sarah got married three weeks ago. So excited and happy for them; they're a great couple. We had the luncheon after the wedding in my backyard, which I must say is very well suited for a big party! Food was great, weather was perfect. We hung around all afternoon and snacked on chips and played games. Fun. Favorite quote of the day was from J - he came up to me while I was sitting at the table and touched my arm... "Mommy I wuuuv you... (pause)... do you want a soda?" Me: "Why Josh, do YOU want a soda?" J - "Yes." It was too funny. Juliana's pictures of the event are super cute, too. I need to download my photos and edit them and see if I got any good ones as well.
• Landscaper. It was time to hire someone, since N no longer has time to do anything outside of work, let alone mess with our yard. The guy's really good - and so you get what you pay for, right? Once the yard is in shape and new trees are planted this spring, we'll be looking for someone less expensive to continue.
• Road Trip. The kids and I headed down to Safford the weekend after the wedding to attend the reception. It was decorated beautifully, lots of white, lots of Christmas trees with white lights and touches of purple everywhere. Nice. Since Sarah's Dad is a DJ, of course there was dancing at the reception. Got the kids out dancing with me and my niece Cherie - they had a great time. M's favorite was the Cupid Shuffle. Nonnie Jarvis was SO CUTE out there dancing! And yes, we did the macarena. And the electric slide. Which is kind of tough in a pencil skirt and high heeled boots! J kept vying for the attention of my camera while he danced.
• Painting. Of course! N is WAY ahead of me, and has finished rolling most of the main area in the house now, so I still have lots of ceilings/baseboards/door frames to cut in paint around to catch up. It finally looks like we've made some progress downstairs! Everything is looking CLEAN now, which is great. Once it comes time to do trim and doors and ceilings, I think I want to hire someone - I'm about out of steam to tackle all of that!
• Stitches. I stabbed my finger making dinner the other night and ended up at Urgent Care to get three stitches. The tetanus shot hurt for a good three days afterward. I guess I'm supposed to be keeping the stitches dry - well, you tell me how the laundry and dishes and cleaning and bathing and feeding of children is all supposed to get done then? Nope. I'm just trying to keep it clean. But dry? Impossible.
• Reading. In full force around here again. A hardly does anything else while she's home. I don't know how much she is actually comprehending when she consumes 300+ page books in a day, but she certainly enjoys it. Need to find some kind of incentive because I want her to WRITE something about each book afterward, to help with her takeaway. She is not interested in a mom-daughter book club, but I am!! Need to think about how I can get her on board with that idea. M has actually started reading a lot more, too. Judy Moody books are just about her speed/size right now. J is learning to read too! He is constantly figuring out the buh-buh-beginning ("B!") sounds of lots of words. Working on ending sounds, rhyming, etc. He has a hard time distinguishing between "b"s and "d"s and "p"s. And "g"s is confusing too, with the different sounds it makes! Giraffe, ring, garage... you know.
• Registration. My baby is all signed up for kindergarten, wow. Debating whether to send him half- or full-day. Wish I could do half for the first semester, and whole day for the second!!
* Shots. As of today J has been poked five times in the last seven days. He's finally all caught up on his vaccines, but the flu shot made him sick, darnit. He's currently taking a nap, enabling this blog posting session.
• Shutters. Aaaaah, I know it's a total indulgence, but shutters have to be one of my top 10 "things I love" in life. Seriously. Now we have two more in the family room downstairs. Which makes my kitchen look even shabbier! Ha. Love the quality of light in there now - just makes me want to lay down and read a book all the time!
• New glasses. Hallelujah, they're on their way. Hopefully I can pick them up Monday, if not today. Let's hope that I can actually read with both eyes open now. Just getting a new Rx, sticking with the same frames, heavens, don't want to go through that selection nightmare anytime soon.
• Gymnastics. We've started up again as of this week - this time including J in tumbling too. I'm going to take each month at a time, and evaluate whether it's worth it. For A? Definitely. The other two? Not so sure.
• Pool. We've started thinking about the "epic pool remodel of 2012". I have some fab ideas of what it could look like - of course, I have no idea if we can afford any ideas at all, let alone any of my fab ones.
• Vinyl. I wouldn't call it a steady stream of business, or even a trickle... maybe a slow drip? I've had a couple of custom orders each week keeping me going. As of this week I've gone international, ha, and shipped my first order to Canada. The shipping cost was more than the sign I shipped though, ridonkulus.
• To-do list: Lots of finishing touches: cutting in paint, a ceiling fan to be installed, outlet covers to be put back on, doorknobs/locks installed, outdoor lights put back up, weather stripping put on door jambs, smoke detectors installed, and finally, the last of Christmas decorations to be put away!
• Calling. This is more on the to-do list than the "happenings" list. I need to focus and have more of a plan/structure with these activity day girls, it's kind of a disorganized mess every time we get together!


A poem.

Just found one of M's school papers. It's a poem entitled "Wishes"

I wish I liked chocolate ice cream.
I wish I were taller.
I wish someday my sister
would just be smaller.

I wish when I am at school
my class would just be quiet
I wish my brother Josh would be quiet
Just like my friend Whyet (Okay that spelling is hilarious)

I wish that I could read
Just like my sister.
I wish they wouldn't
Call my dad a mister.

I've got such heaps of wishes
I've only said a few
I wish that I could wake up some morning
and find they'd all come true.


2011 - the rundown

Since I didn't get a letter written with my Christmas cards this year, here's the lowdown on what we did last year.

January saw us anxiously awaiting an auction on what we thought was our "dream home" in Tempe. Well, we didn't end up getting that one but neither of us was sad about it one bit - so I guess it wasn't our dream home after all. Just a couple of weeks later N ended up finding our REAL dream home - this time in Mesa, not in Tempe. From the first time I walked through it, I knew that THIS was the place we needed to raise our kids. January also saw me spending A LOT of time on my computer designing stuff for twovinylchicks.com, and even MORE time on my treadmill. I logged running more than 100 miles that month. Whew.

In February we said goodbye to Grandma Valentine at her funeral in Utah. Bittersweet, to know that this fine woman would finally be reunited with her husband, but missing her being around again too. Almost all the family was able to be there, which was fun. We're still laughing about some of those late-night games in the hotel room. We got to bring one of Grandma's dressers home with us to Arizona, which I've since had re-done and painted in turquoise. It's absolutely awesome in A's new room.

March saw me getting into packing/purging/decorating mode. Collected a hundred different ideas for our new house (and this was before I got on Pinterest!) Also stayed current on all things American Idol, of course. Spent most of Spring Break down in Safford, hiding out in Papa's wood shop cutting, routing, and painting a ton of vinyl signs. I also think it was this month that A got her braces off.

In April we finally got a closing date for the house, and busied ourselves with getting our house in Phoenix renter-ready. We listed it and only had one family come and look at it. Turns out, they are THE.PERFECT.RENTERS. We consider ourselves very, very lucky and blessed that we haven't had to deal with any serious rental property issues. I also spent much of April trying to figure out what school to send the kids to come fall.

May was a whirlwind of driving back and forth, back and forth from Phoenix to Mesa, taking load after load over to the new house. Also in May N went on a big business trip and left me holding the bag trying to coordinate a bunch of end-of-year activities at the school, and clean and pack up our house. I spent the last week of school commuting from Mesa to take the girls every morning and every afternoon. I still can't figure out how we got it all done, but that house was fixed, patched, sparkling, touched up, and beautiful when we handed over the keys. We also had the exterior of the house painted too, as if we didn't have enough to pay for that month. Also took a whirlwind nightmare trip with the Other Chick to California for three days to hang out at the beach. With all of our kids. In one vehicle. Will not be repeating that anytime soon!

In June we finally were able to turn our attention to the new house... and boy did it need our attention. Let's just say it was in pretty rough condition, and leave it at that. I threw a "Nemo" themed birthday party for J and invited all of our SoPho friends over to swim, which was a little ambitious two weeks after moving in! We spent the month performing triage on the house, painting, fixing plumbing leaks, replacing the garbage disposal, putting up the first of several ceiling fans, trying to get the pool functioning, painting, etc. The kids and I spent every morning at the Stapley pool while the girls did swim team, and J had his lessons. We also hosted lots and lots of barbecues. About halfway through the month J finally realized he could swim without floaties and was suddenly FREE in our pool. Too fun. The girls also spent about a month in a synchronized swimming camp that was super fun. We'll definitely be doing that again!

We spent the week of July 4th at Newport Beach with all the Carters. Ahhhhh, I love that place! Seven days of relaxing and snoozing and reading on the sand wasn't nearly long enough, and made me realize that I need a beach house of my own there! Got to spend time with cousins and had a blast playing games, sand volleyball, riding bikes, you name it! We still had a few more weeks of swim team once we got back to reality in Arizona, and we sweated our way through swim meets every week. While staying at our house for few days, my dad gave us a scare ... his defibrillator shocked him several times within a few minutes and he ended up going to the hospital in the middle of the night. Good to know that the paramedics are only two minutes away. Several of us had lots of dental work during this last year too... M ended up getting four teeth pulled. Curse these huge teeth and tiny mouths! S re-read several Harry Potter books in order to be ready for HP7 part 2... which she saw at a midnight premiere with several friends and had so much fun! The end of July brought us to Safford once more to watch my nephew and his wife get sealed in the Gila Valley Temple. A also somehow ended up sick with pneumonia in the middle of the summer, when no one else we know had it. (?)

I never thought I'd made it to August and school starting, but somehow we did. We decided on Franklin West school for the kids, and I think we made the right choice. The girls of course eased right into the curriculum and pace and have made a ton of friends. After school started I began exercising vigorously again with a friend, and started seeing some progress... but also did something funky to my knee. A started playing the violin in the school orchestra and has LOVED every minute of it. J started preschool at Discovery Club and loves it almost as much as his Mommy does. We spent every free weekend painting.

September found us in full swing of PAINTING. I swear, the theme of 2011 was PAINT for us. By this point we had all six bedrooms painted, as well as the laundry room. Now it was time to pick colors for the main areas and exterior of the house. Sheesh, talk about indecision! I got everyone's opinion I could get a hold of, and finally went with it... and luckily the HOA approved it. We ditched M on her 8th birthday like the good parents we are and took a trip to Maryland. Bliss. Saw old friends, ate great seafood, saw the sights, slept, worked out, ran around National Harbor... it was awesome. Two days after we got home I threw a birthday party for M and 8 of her friends. Swimming, pizza, minute-to-win-it games, cupcakes... oh, did I mention I broke my toe an hour before the party? Yeah. Not fun. Thank goodness Grandma came over to pinch hit, because I could hardly walk.

October brought A's 10th birthday and M's baptism. Lots of family and friends were there to make it special. I was still hobbling around a bit and still couldn't put a regular shoe on my foot with the broken toe. That, in addition to my twisted knee pretty much halted all exercise for me, which was not good timing with the holidays on the horizon. The girls started piano lessons in October and have really liked it. Patience to practice songs JUST RIGHT still eludes us, as well as timing. We spent fall break on a "staycation" at a resort in Scottsdale. For FREE. Love our timeshare! I finally got my new TEETH in October too; veneers that had been in planning stages for years because of a childhood mouth trauma finally became a reality. I love that I don't have to photoshop my teeth ever again in pictures! Exterior house painting finally began in October too. Now, three months, 40 plus gallons of paint, new garage doors, lots of blood, sweat and tears and a boom truck rental later, I can say that it's pretty much finished. For Halloween, we dressed up as Alice in Wonderland characters, with the girls being heart playing cards, J as the king, me as the Queen, and Daddy as the Mad Hatter.

In November, we spent our 13th anniversary going to see the Blue Man group. So much fun, I really do love seeing shows. We hosted Thanksgiving and were able to have my parents come up, as well as have friends over. Menu, company and leftovers were all fabulous. Starting in November the vinyl orders and projects started trickling in and kept me busy for the next month.

December saw me and the other Chick participate in a couple of craft shows, where we actually did pretty well! N got into a new position at work - - and the time he has spent has been even more intense than the bishopric calling ever was. I'm getting used to never having him around. At least the kids are older and more self-sufficient now. Between vinyl stuff and Christmas cards, ward party, birthday party, gift-getting and making, recitals, winter programs, parties and all the other December stuff, I was pretty much wasted come Christmas morning. We took off the day after Christmas and spent a few days in Safford recuperating. And, wouldn't you know it, I was sick by new year's. I'm just glad I made it through the month!

Now it's 2012. It's been 20 years since I graduated from high school; my classmates have been planning a reunion - yikes. My slug body that hasn't exercised regularly in months is feeling old lately. Probably because I'm addicted to soda, desserts and any dark chocolate and peppermint combinations I can find. The kids are doing awesome. They play outside every day with friends in the neighborhood, and ride their bikes and scooters constantly. We have started to hit every library event, Lowe's workshop and any other free entertainment Mommy can find. We have much, oh, so much to still do on this house, but I think we've made a significant dent in the to-fix list considering it's only been six months. I've tried really hard to maintain my old friendships, so therefore haven't really made many new friends here in Mesa. Overall I'm totally content with our life. We are blessed beyond measure. If you've made it through to the bottom of this longest post ever, then I owe you some kind of treat. Peace out.