Slowly but surely...

We have been to the top of the mountain and down again... er... went on vacation and came back home, that is. Although "vacation" is a bit of a misnomer in this instance... as it was a lot more "work" than "vacay"

The kids had worked SO hard putting on their kids camp we had them contribute $$ if they wanted to do "one more day" at an amusement park this trip. They all wanted to do THREE days instead of our normal TWO.  So, we did SeaWorld on Monday, beach on Tuesday, drove up to Anaheim and did California Adventure on Wednesday, Newport beach on Thursday, and then did Disneyland on Friday. WHEW three days. It was just as exhausting as it sounds, especially considering we pretty much stayed and closed each park each of those three days. And hot, hot, hot. I don't think I've ever been that uncomfortable at a theme park before... apparently we've never gone in July before. Never again in summer!

On the other hand, how great was it to go with three BIG KIDS??  Josh was tall enough for every ride. We didn't have to mess around with meeting characters or riding any of the "little kid" rides. Josh really liked the big rides... California Screamin, Tower of Terror, Indiana Jones, Space Mountain... he loved all of it. We didn't even have to venture into Fantasyland or ToonTown... awesome. We did stop about 20 times each day for the kids to trade PINS with every shop owner in CA and DLand though, sheesh! My husband was brilliant when he bought a big lot of cheap Disney pins on Ebay before we went... so each of the kids had pins to trade with, and didn't hardly look at any of the "new" pins at retail prices... so our credit card escaped from the parks relatively unscathed. I say RELATIVELY because it's still Disneyland. Seems to be even tougher to save $ at SeaWorld when you have to pay $16 for parking... it cost us about $50 for lunch and probably another $30 in snacks @ SW, not to mention the souvenirs...

Worst line:  Jungle Cruise, in the sun in the middle of the day @ Disney
Worst show:  Dolphin show in the middle of the day @ SeaWorld
Worst ride: Space Mountain. MAN, that one is too rough and hurts!

Favorites: Sea Lion Tonite show, the "Filharmonics" acapella group (from Pitch Perfect 2 fame) concert @ SeaWorld, Aladdin show & Mad "T" Party @ California Adventure
Best rides: Radiator Springs Racers, Tower of Terror, Manta

We've been recuperating and playing catch up for the last few days. Slept many hours on Sunday. I finally got all the stuff from my old computer transferred to my new one, installed all the new software from Adobe Creative Cloud, and am currently blogging on my new machine! Still using the old mouse and keyboard though, as the new ones are a little small and too streamlined for me. Now I'm just hoping I get sent some design work and start earning my keep.

School starts in a mere SEVEN DAYS! Woohoo! Kids and I are SO ready. They are so bored, spending WAY too much time on screens and way too much time at home. Every day I promise I'll take them somewhere if/when they clean up and do chores... but those "to do" lists never seem to get accomplished so we never end up going anywhere. Fine by me, because my computer and my office have gotten MUCh more organized than ever before this summer!

Speaking of office activities, I've actually SCrAPBOOKED several spreads this month too! Amazing! Here's to catching up on all those old pics I never printed & layouts I never finished! Manda is a great helper and loves to do it.

Allison is going to be a big 8th grader this year. She's so grown up, loves to hang out with her friends, doesn't mind practicing piano so much anymore (as long as it's songs she wants to play). Her favorite thing to wear is jeans, even in the dead of summer. It kills me when I see her wearing tight long jeans when she could be wearing shorts! We went through her dresser and most of her closet yesterday... she'd outgrown more than half! I had to convince her to go with me to the thrift store last night, and we found lots of cute new replacement things for her to wear to school.

Manda went through her drawers this morning too and passed down a dozen shirts to Allison, so her drawers are a little bare as well!  I will be taking her shopping tomorrow and hopefully find some cute stuff. She is super hard to fit. By the way I love thrift shopping, where I can afford to buy all the brands I wouldn't even think to look at @ malls.

Time to get something done today! Peace out!


Summer 2015 - probably the most epic-long post ever.

It's 2:12am. Awesome. Why is it that I can so easily fall asleep trying to watch a TV show, but once I go up to bed I'm wide awake... for hours...  *sigh*  I figured maybe if I got up and blogged and wrote down everything swirling around in my head I might be able to sleep... so here goes...
Summer is almost over - hooray! We started out strong it seemed, with SO much happening I could barely keep up. We got through all of the end-of-year recitals, school events, camp prep, etc. and then Nick and I were able to go to the U2 concert a couple of days after school got out in May. We got to do dinner and catch up beforehand with the Meadows... man I miss/love them.

When I bought our tickets for U2 back in December, I tried to arrange it so we were directly across from the end of the catwalk, essentially in the end zone of the arena (U.S. Airways). Anything along the "sidelines" was more than double the price, so I figured I was doing great getting such lower level-seats. When we showed up to the concert, however, we were directed to the box office and given new tickets... apparently they had changed the orientation of the stage and our seats didn't exist... long story short, we ended up being kind of on the front row to the side of the stage... and it was awesome. What an amazing show. Bono, Edge = still completely amazing after like 30 years. {SIDENOTE: Bono kind of ruined the song "Pride" for me forever by aligning it with GAY pride and celebrating the fact that Ireland had just legalized same-sex marriage that week. Psssh... why'd you have to go and do that??} I digress. I couldn't believe the graphic effects on the GINORMOUS screen that spanned the length of the arena. Had we been seated where we were originally supposed to be... we wouldn't have gotten the effect of it at ALL. We lucked out! Wish we would have gone both nights. For real.

A couple of days after U2, Allison and Nick headed off to the pioneer trek. This was actually Allison's 2nd trek, as she went with Poppy Carter on their stake trek last year... their stake lets 12 & up go.  What a difference in how a Scottsdale stake, and how our Mesa stake, executes things! Last year their Scottsdale stake outsourced the whole thing... they bussed the kids over to California, and did the trek up in the mountains sort of by Palm Springs. Allison didn't really know anyone but her grandpa, and one other girl in her trek family, but she was a trooper and did pretty well, aside from the fact that the food was very scarce and awful. To this day, though, all she can talk about that trip is the horribly long and boring bus ride on the way there!

Fast forward one year:  Our stake went up north of Payson and had absolutely perfect weather for three days. Our stake does SUCH a good job putting on events like this. It was an awesome experience for both Nick and Allison. I'm so glad they let her go even though she's still only 13! Nick went as the "photographer" for our ward. I'll have to get him to write about all the activities they did, the jamboree show they put on, the dessert auction complete with professional auctioneer, the limerick songs everybody made up, the soldier who showed up to enlist the men in the Mormon battalion, the hatchet throwing, leather bracelet making, using tin cups to drink out of... you name it, it was done in a pretty awesome fashion!

That weekend, I put on a SHARK birthday party for Josh. I swear that kid wanted to decorate for the party a good TWO MONTHS before the actual event! He gets SO excited about that kind of stuff. Funny. It was simple, as I was so busy with camp prep I didn't put a lot of time into planning anything other than "swimming" and "eating", but we had amazingly cool invitations and cool inflatable sharks to play with and a super awesome Pinterest-worthy watermelon shark! A lot of the boys ended up being out of town, so it was small.

On June 1st my baby turned EIGHT! What a great kid. He's mostly up for anything asked of him, whether it's taking out the trash, helping set up for kids camp, judging American girl doll fashion shows, whatever. He's completely addicted to playing games on devices and watching cartoons on Netflix. He loves the Flash, and Once Upon a Time, Octonauts and Studio C. He still fits on my lap and is always willing to cuddle with me, which I just adore. He is getting particular about what clothes he likes to wear. I can't hardly get him to wear a collared shirt anymore at all. He mostly ends up in some sort of royal blue t-shirt everyday, and black soccer shorts. Whatever!

With turning eight, this kid has also entered CUB SCOUTS! Wow, he loves it so much. Grandma hooked him up with a knife, scout shirt, cub t-shirt and more for his birthday and he carries his pocketknife EVERYWHERE now, and wears that cub t-shirt (it's blue) every chance he gets. We have the most amazing couple as cub leaders in our ward. I appreciate so much the time and effort and love they put into their calling and into these boys. It's such a great group! We've got about a month off of scouts right now that everybody's going on vacation, and they'll pick it up again after school starts.

June 1st also brought the beginning of swim team for both Amanda and Josh. Josh SO wanted to do it last year but the teams were full at Stapley, so I made sure and sign him up first thing this year... turns out, it's not so much "his thing". "WHY do I have to go EVERY DAY" Thankfully his cousin Landon was also on the team so at least it got him to go to the pool most days... though their bad attitudes rubbed off on each other, I think. Amazingly, Josh got a blue ribbon in the backstroke meet! After getting disqualified at the butterfly meet, though, he got his heart broken a little and was embarrassed... he wanted to leave the meet immediately, and it was very, very tough to get him to go at all the next week. So, the IM meet and any kind of divisionals were out of the question. What a waste of $70 this year. I'll probably just put him in a stroke class next year, or try diving, but I think we're officially retired from swim team.   Manda did okay the first few weeks of swim team, but tends to beat herself up/gets self conscious/gets angry when she's not finishing at the top of the heap in meets, so it's not fun for anyone. I think I'm just not a good swim team mom anymore, if I ever was.

Allison, Amanda and I headed to Camp LoMia for girls camp on June 3rd-6th. What fun. Again, our stake hit it out of the park with the theme and activities and programs, just as great as last year. We had FIVE leaders go with our ward, and 15 1st - 3rd year girls in our 2 cabins. Theme was "look up" and everything related to the movie UP, not looking to the sides to compare yourself to others but rather looking up to Christ, and the temple... great crafts, classes, speakers, service projects... it was completely awesome. We had very little drama even with our huge group of girls that were all very different. Everyone loved everything I'd created for our ward... t-shirts, bandanas, banners, posters, handouts, etc. I've got this girls camp stuff DOWN now, I tell you!  The weather was absolutely divine as well. We didn't even have to turn on our fans in the cabins! We had rain the last day and a half, but it was like a raining miracle... every time we were scheduled to be outside, it would clear up, and every time we came into the lodge or cabins it would pour. For the program on the last night, a singer named Freddy Ashby (sp?) came and spoke and sang for over an hour. It was an excellent, spirit-filled program. Even more amazing to me was the "rain testimony"... if it was pouring rain on that corrugated metal roof, it was difficult to hear what was going on on the stage, but it's like it was perfectly timed to Freddy's talk & songs... while he was talking, no rain... while he was singing... no rain... as he finished a song... pouring, deafening rain on the roof... as if it were applause. Time and time again. Kind of a miracle. Also, I got to wear my awesome Sun Devil rain boots for two days, which was pretty sweet!

We spent the rest of June in ortho and dentist appointments, swim team, some playing with cousins, but mostly my kids have hung around home all summer and haven't wanted to go anywhere.  I feel like everybody's just holding their breath waiting for vacation and for summer to be over... me too! I also had a mammogram last month, which was horrific and traumatizing and I never want to do that ever ever ever ever ever ever again.

We spent the fourth of July weekend at a resort in Scottsdale with some of the other Carters. It was a very nice place but HUGE. Everything we did was a trek to get from one place to the other, and my feet were killing me after two days there. And it was still very, very hot outside and very, very miserable. Maybe I'm getting old and getting to be a total prude but I am SO uncomfortable at a public pool at a place like that, where there's just miles of way-too-exposed or way-too-tattooed skin everywhere you turn. Just not our kind of hotel. Got to watch lots of shark shows on Discovery getting ready for shark week though!

For the last three weeks the girls have been putting on a kids camp to raise some money for our trip to  California. They have done little crafts, relays, games, parades, dance parties... you name it! They bought their own supplies and snacks, and have done really well, and they are both fantastic with the kids, but man, it is a struggle. They fight with each other for a full day beforehand about how things should be run or "She's not helping!" "She's not cleaning up" "She's not listening to my ideas!" Trying to get them to clean up after themselves after each camp has been super fun too, because once the kids leave, they're just kind of done... I just try to breathe deeply and remind myself that it's good for them to learn to work together, and learn the value of money, and learn how to be good babysitters. I have tried to help them prep most days, but have also tried to stay out of their way once camp starts. Today was the last day. They have earned their money for Disneyland tickets, plus spending money, and everybody's happy. HOORAY!!!

Now onto the things that have been keeping me up at night... I was approached with a job opportunity this week that could potentially be so, so great for my situation. However, it requires a computer upgrade for me, (macs are NOT CHEAP) plus a monthly membership fee (that you pay FOREVER AND EVER) for a software package... one of whose programs I do NOT know and would have to MASTER in order to be assigned jobs in order to make money in order to pay for the upgraded computer and monthly software fee. You get me? I realize that it is an investment, but can an old dog like me really learn new tricks? A new program? And be fast enough at it to compete with designers that, you know, haven't been 10 years out of the business??

Hopefully I am going to be pulling the trigger on all that tomorrow (well, I guess today, since it's after 3am) and will start the process of transferring all my old computer stuff onto a new one. I have spent HOURS this week going through cleaning up my files, trying to eliminate all the ancient and/or dated design stuff, and organizing everything. I've barely scratched the surface of what is on this computer, though. I probably threw away 1000 files in the last couple of days. After all that, THEN I have to somehow teach myself how to work off "the cloud" and learn this new software program inside and out.

This may just be what the doctor ordered for me, though, to get me out of my Netflix addiction-slump, and relieve some of my financial stress. Seems like July is every bit as hard as December when it comes to me running out of money to pay for everything... maybe it has to do with this month's $497 electric bill that I have yet to pay. Air conditioning is fun! #firstworldproblems  Get me on a beach STAT!

In other news, we tried to start our kitchen months ago... we did the remodeling part of it anyway, and had the old pantry ripped out, and reconfigured that wall, and patched in the tile. Now we're just waiting... waiting... waiting...  All of our appliances are purchased, (plus a kitchen sink!) and nearly all of the design decisions have been made... contract has been written with the cabinet guy... just waiting for more money to be able to continue with cabinets and countertops.  So my spending nearly $1K on a computer this week is not so conducive with that happening anytime soon. Nick's car repairs have totaled $2700 this summer as well. And we're trying to pay for a vacation next week too! We are 4.5 years into paying off a 5-year loan we borrowed from Nick's 401K when we were buying this house...  almost there!! January can't get here fast enough!  I can't WAIT until that is paid off and we can actually start saving money again each month, instead of spending every penny.

We are so blessed. I have good kids. We have amazing, fun, faithful extended families on both sides of the tree. We have a beautiful house, and I have a cool car. My husband has an excellent job and is good at it. I have talents, and it's about time I started getting paid to use them! I need to remind myself to be grateful more often. Daily. Hourly. I really, really try to live within our means and be humble.

The End, for now.