Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Celebrating Christmas

We celebrated Christmas well this year, very well!

On Christmas Eve we had a ham and cheesy potato dinner with the Hess side of the family.  Sariah joined us for the evening since the Nichols side of the family had to cancel our Christmas Eve get together due to illness.  We watched a film about the nativity and then exchanged gifts.  Grandma Nancy made each of the families a quilt this year and spoiled the grandkids with lots of presents.

Christmas morning the kids awoke to a living room full of presents.  This year's haul was impressive!  We set out with the intension to have a small Christmas, but that just didn't happen.  With eight people for Santa to bring presents for (our family of six plus Grandma Nancy and Sariah) and some great deals, Christmas was the biggest our family has seen.  A few highlights of this years gifting include Nancy receiving a canner, Sariah receiving all six Star Wars films on BluRay, Greg receiving a cordless drill, me opening a bunch of decorations for the new house, Palmer and Brody each receiving a DS2 and games, and the babies receiving a pair of Cozy Coupes.  It was funny how all the kids reacted differently to Christmas morning: Palmer couldn't wait to open each present and had a hard time waiting on everyone else to be ready, Brody got tired of it and wanted to know when we were done, Archer didn't seem to care much about them, and Avonlea was crazy on a Christmas high of sorts ripping into everything and being really hyper.

That evening we got together with the Nichols side of the family for a dinner of fancy appetizers and birthday cake for Jesus.  We also exchanged gifts.  Pappy and Grandma Betty got the grandkids each a big toy and a bag of fun little toys and goodies, and gave the adults a gift card to Walmart.  London, Sariah and I also exchanged our angel gifts that evening.  Every year since our mother's passing we exchange a homemade gift in honor of her.  Sariah made a plaque with her motto for 2014: "Live a brave life."  I made homemade honey whole wheat bread and a variety of homemade jams.  And London gave us a jar of memories of our mother that she had collected from friends.  I read them all that night when I got home.  They made me cry.  My favorite thing about the memories was that almost everyone commented on how they remember her laugh; she had the best laugh!

I made our traditional steak pie a few days later for a special family dinner.  I love that I can continue this tradition from my childhood memories of Christmas.  I love Christmas and its emphasis on family.  After all, Christmas started with a family - Joseph, Mary and Jesus, and I think it's fitting that it continue to revolve around family.  

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Recipe - Honey Whole Wheat Bread

This is my favorite homemade bread that I make.  It is also super fast to prepare, only taking a little over an hour from start to finish.  This bread is delicious, a little denser and sweeter than my white bread recipe.  I made it for my sisters this year for Christmas with some homemade jams to accompany it.

Honey Whole Wheat Bread
6 cups whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons Instant Yeast
4 teaspoons dough enhancer
2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dry milk
6 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup honey (may substitute sugar or brown sugar)
1/4 cup oil
2 tablespoons soy lecithin
2 2/3 cups warm tap water
Combine dry ingredients (including sugar if you are not using honey) in mixer and mix on low speed about 1 minute (with dough hook). Add wet ingredients. Mix on speed 2 for a Kitchen Aid/Bosch for about 1 minute. Check texture. When right texture is achieved, continue kneading in mixer at speed 2 for about 8 minutes.  Prepare pans while dough is kneading. When kneading is complete remove dough from bowl and shape into a large ball on an oiled surface. Cut into 2 equal parts with an oiled knife. Form 2 loafs and place in oiled pans. Cover with towel and let rise 20 minutes or until double in size. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.  Remove from pans immediately and cool on a cooling rack. When completely cooled, slice and store in tied bread bags.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Card 2013

A very Merry Christmas to all our family and friends!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Festival of Trees

We took the kids to the Festival of Trees.  It is one of my favorite holiday traditions.  My camera died while we were there so I didn't get a whole bunch of photos of trees as in the past.  Honestly, we didn't get to see many of the trees this year.  We only made it through about half of them before the kids needed a break.  We took them to Kids' Corner and didn't leave the kids' activities until closing time.  So is life with small children, right? 

However, I wouldn't change our situation for a moment!  Young children make the holiday season so much more exciting and fun.  They bring magic to Christmas!  I'll have many years in the future to enjoy glazing at the trees.  I'll take my snowman puppets, fishing pond and phone calls to the North Pole while I can.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Trimming the Tree

Palmer and Brody helped Grandma Nancy decorate our Christmas tree this year.  Grandma chose "kid ornaments" this year, a.k.a. ornaments that don't matter if they get broken and that are bright and colorful.  The tree doesn't look much like this picture now that we are into the holiday season.  The bottom half is now quite bare thanks to two sets of busy, little baby hands.

Monday, December 9, 2013

In Threes

It comes in threes.  That's what I've heard numerous people tell me during the times our family has seemed to have a run of bad luck.  And that's just what has happened the past few weeks.

1.  Car accident.  I wrecked our van, really wrecked it, as in it was totaled.  I'm pretty certain the woman's vehicle I hit was totaled as well.

2.  Burglary. Someone broke into the house we are building and ripped out all our electrical wiring.
3.  Medical scare.  I had to rush Palmer the ER late at night with a substantial skin infection and high fever.  And soon after, he also had an irregular mole diagnosed and removed leaving a large gash and stiches in the side of his head.
At the time, each of these situations was quite upsetting, and in two of the cases scary.
With the car accident, I was so upset with myself.  It was my fault; I didn't see the light turn red and I drove through an intersection.  I was so upset that my mistake was going to cost us money when we were already tight as it was trying to save up for the down payment on our house.  My neck and my chest were hurt during the accident.
We noticed the theft of the wiring after we had already spent the previous hour carrying in almost 2,000 lbs. of flooring supplies that needed to be in a heated home for 24 hours before installation.  Of course, the heat was no longer running, and now that we knew our home had been targeted, we were worried about leaving thousands of dollars worth of supplies we had paid for out of our own pockets to be stolen.  The walls inside the house had already been put up, mudded and painted.  We had no idea how the electrician would rewire everything without having to take down walls and do major repair work.  And we were upset about how long all the work would set back our move in date.
Palmer had broken out in bumps all over his body, and those bumps were getting infected.  They hurt him a lot and once we'd finally get one cleared up, another one would get infected.  He had an infection on his knee that was getting really large and sore.  We had an appointment with a dermatologist, but we weren't able to be seen for a couple months out.  When Palmer came down with a fever, I got really worried.  He was shaking like a leaf.  He was lethargic.  He was too sleepy to function.  (Of course once he got into the hospital bed, he perked right up, as you can see in the picture.)  At the hospital he had to get blood work down, an IV and X-rays.  While the ER doctor was looking over his body he noticed an odd mole on Palmer's head.  The mole had been a concern of mine before, but our pediatrician said not to worry about it.  The ER doctor said he should definitely see a specialist about it.
After the initial distress of these trials passed, I realized just how blessed we were.  I was hurt in the accident, but not severely.  My chest was bruised and the seat belt burned my neck.  I couldn't lift my arms up the two days prior and I could lift weight for about a week after (a great difficulty with twin babies!)  But I healed quickly, and the more I thought about it, and the more Greg thought about it, we were so grateful that I wasn't severely injured and that the other woman wasn't injured or worse, killed.  I don't think I would ever been able to forgive myself!  Moreover, I'm so grateful the kids weren't with me!  Nancy happened to stay home sick that day and offered to watch the kids while I ran an errand.  And as for our financial situation, it didn't set us back that much.  We got more than we originally thought for our totaled van and we found a new van quickly for less than we were willing to spend.
The house rewiring went very well.  It was done quickly, effectively and is hardly noticeable.  In the end, the theft only set us back a few days, and we didn't have to move all our supplied because they were able to install them shortly after.
Palmer's bumps ended up being a simple case of molluscum contagiosum.  It was treated fairly easily by the dermatologist.  The infection he got in his knee was contracted probably at school and cleared up quickly with antibiotics.  The bumps were annoying and the ER visit was alarming, but both lead us to an appointment with a skin specialist who was able to look at Palmer's mole, take a sample, and determine that it was a something that was a detriment to his health.  The mole removal was pretty intense, way more than I was prepared for: a lot of shots, a lot of cauterizing and a lot of stitches.  However, Palmer wasn't upset by the procedure, and the diagnosis and surgery will prevent that mole from possibly giving him skin cancer in the future.
A few friends have mentioned to us what a difficult time our family has been having.  And yes, we could view these trials in that manner.  But honestly, we haven't felt that way.  After the shock wore off, the blessings came to our minds and hearts.  We are so grateful for a Heavenly Father who watches over us, and even gives us trials to help us learn and appreciate his tender mercies.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Gingerbread Houses?

I put a question mark at the end of this title because I'm not sure these qualified as gingerbread houses.  We made gingerbread houses for our last Family Home Evening.  We purchased a different kind of gingerbread kit than we have in the past, and it was much more difficult to get together.  The kit was a Snoopy themed and came with four little doghouses, which was great because the boys were able to decorate their own.  Thankfully the gingerbread houses didn't have to stay assembled for very long, since the boys were ready and willing to eat them up just after creating them.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Palmer's Prayers

I adore Palmer's prayers.  They are just like they should be, child-like, innocent, honest.  He talks to Heavenly Father the way he would talk to a friend.  And isn't that just wonderful?!  Just about every prayer he gives (and he gives a lot since he begs to say the prayer any chance he gets), makes everyone who is listening smile.  Here are a few things he has recently said during his prayers.

"We forgot to play Bingo."
"Please let my birthday come soon."
"We're thankful we had so much fun with our cousins."
"We're thankful that it's almost Halloween."
"Please bless that Christmas can come soon."
"We're thankful that I like this dinner."
"We're thankful that God watches over us."
"We're thankful that we have lots of toys."
"We're thankful it is Family Home Evening and that we can play a game."
"We're thankful the babies are so cute."

I pray myself that he keeps his desire to talk to his Heavenly Father often.  And that he is always able to express to Him exactly what he feels.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Amaya's Baptism

Our niece Amaya was baptized this month.  We could not be more proud of her decision.  She is a beautiful girl inside and out, and desires to choose the right.

Greg was asked to baptize confirm Amaya.  I was asked to give a talk on the Holy Ghost at the baptism.  We both felt honored to be involved in her special day.
The morning of her baptism, just about everything that could go wrong did.  Palmer awoke at four in the morning throwing up.  He continued to throw up or have diarrhea about every half hour after that.  At seven our alarm went off (although I was already awake with Palmer) and it was time for us to get ready to go.  We decided I would stay home with sick Palmer and Greg would go to the baptism with Brody and read my talk.  I said I would also keep the babies home so he would be able to fulfill his duties more easily.

About a half hour before we were supposed to go, Greg said he really wished we could all go to support Amaya.  Palmer had not been physically sick for the past hour and a half, and had been begging all morning to go to the baptism.  Nancy also voiced that she wanted Palmer to attend and see his Dad use his priesthood powers to Amaya.  Palmer overheard this conversation and took the discussion to mean he had the choice to attend.  After a lot of pleading, I told Greg to ask his sister if she wanted Palmer to come and if she was okay possibly exposing her children to the stomach flu.  She said wasn’t worried about her kids getting sick and she wanted everyone to come.  So, I had a half hour to get Palmer, myself and the babies fed, dressed and ready to go.  We ended up leaving later than originally planned but with just enough time to make it.
We took separate cars since I had plans immediately after the baptism, and Greg planned to return home with the children.  Just as I was getting on the highway, Greg called me and asked me to tell him what his car’s odometer read.  I did so, and he replied that the car was about to run out of gas.  His fuel tank meter is broken, so we have to keep track of miles to know when it’s time to refuel.  I took the next exit but there were no gas station around.  I finally found a gas station, but by the time I did, fueling up ended up being a twenty minute delay!  I was frantic at this point.  Not only was I going to be late, but I also had Amaya’s baptism dress in the car with me (a present from Grandma Nancy which she forgot to bring).  By miracle, I hit every green light and made it to the baptism only a few minutes late.
The babies were quite fussy throughout.  They only wanted me, Greg or Grandma, and at times, we were all busy participating in the program.  The only part without drama was Amaya’s actual baptism.  It was lovely; she was lovely.  As Greg and Amaya were changing afterward, I had both babies who were fussing.  It was just then that Brody leaned over and with urgency said, “I have to go poop!”  Just then Greg walked in the door, so I sent him right back out with Brody.  I had to start my talk before Greg returned, so I handed off two fussy babies to relatives.  I gave my talk; it went well.  I ended and went straight to the back of the room to help with the babies.  Just moments later Palmer came to meet me and said he felt sick.  I once again passed off the babies, and hurried a green-faced Palmer down the hall.  Palmer started throwing up before we could make it to the bathroom.  I cleaned him up as best as I could and we returned just in time to congratulate Amaya. 
It was a morning of madness, to say the least.  But we made it through and we were able to witness something quite amazing.  An eight year old girl, with inactive parents, choosing for herself, to be baptized into Christ’s church.  We are so very proud of her and so grateful we were able to be part of her special day.  We'd do it all again in a heartbeat!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween 2013 - Our Modern Day Fairy Tale

I have never been one to put a lot of money into Halloween costumes.  Greg and I have worn many a makeshift costumes (i.e. crayons made out of colored cardstock, Juno and Bleeker from Juno, three hole punch versions of ourselves at an Office party, etc.).  But, this year I just couldn’t help myself from buying our kids some cute matching costumes, especially when I realized the potential after discovering that we already had a Knight and a dragon costume that half of our children fit into.  So with a little help from eBay, I was able to complete the dressing of our modern day fairy tale, a.k.a. our kids.  Palmer was a king.  Brody was a knight.  Archer was a dragon, and Avonlea was a princess.  Everyone loved their costume except for Avonlea, which is funny because I thought hers was the least uncomfortable.  She cried everytime we put her in it.  All the boys thought dressing up was great fun!

This year the kids wore their costumes to: our ward Chili Cookoff and Trick or Treating party, our previous ward’s Halloween Carnival, Halloween storytime at the Library and trick or treating around the neighborhood.  The babies only trick or treated around the block, but the boys made it for quite a long stretch this year and returned with a lot of candy.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Things Our Boys Say...

"When I grow up, I want to be a dentist.  But if that doesn't work, I want to be a rock star."

Palmer: "Dad, who did you marry?"
Greg: "I married Mom."
Palmer, while laughing: "But Dad, you can't marry someone in your family!"

Palmer had a speaking part in our ward's sacrament meeting primary program.  The Primary Presidency had interviewed all the kids in the Primary and chose some of the children's answers to be included in the program.  Palmer said, "I know Heavenly Father loves me because I have a cat, and I'm thankful he created that cat."  He recited his quote well and from memory.  His part was met with a good chuckle from the congregation.

Brody :
After getting in trouble with Dad, comes to me sobbing and cries, "Will you help me do the right things!?"

Starts almost every conversation with "Guess what?" and will not continue what he is saying or stop asking, "Guess what?" until you respond with a, "What?"

While walking home from church on a blustery day, "The wind is mean.  It takes everything."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Star Wars Build a Bear Party

We celebrated Brody's fourth birthday at Build a Bear.  It was Star Wars themed.  I know, kind of a stretch to relate the two, but he loves Star Wars and he loves Teddy Bears, and we are currently without a home to throw a party in, so we made it work.  Here are the invitations I made (I am loving the MemoryMixer software).

All the kids in attendance we able to choose, name, stuff and bathe their bears.  The store had party host who also played games with the kids through out the process, always making sure Brody was the center of attention.  She was great.  Brody was able to pick out an outfit for his bear as his birthday gift from us.  He choose the Star Wars music button, a red light up lightsaber and a Darth Vader costume.

We served cake in the food court and Brody opened his gifts there.  Everyone was very generous and got him a lot of very cool Star Wars toys.  He has been in heaven playing with them all ever since.

All in all, it was a great experience for Brody and us.  I would highly suggest doing a birthday party at Build a Bear.  It was so much fun.  All the kids were grateful.  There was no preparation or clean up on my part.  It cost as much as it usually does for us to just provide dinner for our family at our past
parties.  And Brody loved every minute of it!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Brody's Four Year Photo Shoot

Brody had his four year photo shoot a week after his birthday.  We were late, like always, because Brody wouldn’t get ready, like always, because he was fixating on a toy, like always!  However, once we arrived and got down to business he behaved like a pro.  I had such a hard time picking out which photos to order because they all came out so great.  We just adore this cute, handsome little boy, even if it takes him forever to get ready!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Carving Pumpkins

Grandma Nancy brought home some pumpkins from her last trip to Laketown to visit her sister.  We made sure to put them to good use.  This is the first year we actually carved pumpkins with the boys; in the past we’ve always painted them.  And they proved that they were ready and responsible enough to handle the mess and the sharp blades.  They did great and had a great time.  Palmer, with my help, made a fun jack o lantern face.  And Brody, with Greg’s help, made a Darth Vader pumpkin.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sleepover Weekend with Cousins

My sister London and brother-in-law Monte ran their first marathon last weekend.  They did amazingly!  We are all very impressed and proud what they have accomplished.

We watched their boys while they were away for the weekend.  That meant we had seven kids (six boys and one girl) in the tiny townhome we are currently living in.  It was wild, crazy and fun.  And when it was over, we were all exhausted.

The boys arrived after school on Friday.  We ate tacos for dinner and fruit with vanilla fruit dip, which they all gobbled up.  My oldest nephew has a glutton allergy, so I tried my best to plan glutton free meals that were kid friendly.  We all cuddled up in the livingroom and watched The Croods with pop, popcorn and cookies.  It was great fun.  The babies even really enjoyed the evening.  Avonlea snuggled up against Greg with a big bowl of popcorn next to her, and Archer crawled amongst the boys getting treats wherever he could.  All the kids, except for the twins, slept in the basement downstairs.  Grandma Nancy was out of town for the weekend, so they happily took over her sleeping quarters.

Sariah came over on Saturday to spend the day with us.  She brought pizza for everyone.  We took the younger kids to the park.  Braedon left in the evening to go to the priesthood session of General Conference and sleepover with his friend.  We had hot dogs and tator tots for dinner.  Greg, Sariah and I took the rest of the kids to Gardener Village to see the witches on display.  It was a lot of fun!  The babies were pretty miserable all week because of teething and colds, but they were happy being out and about.  We bought everyone hot chocolate and Sariah bought all the kids a glow in the dark toy.  The boys again spent the night sleeping together in the basement.


Sunday morning we watched the morning session on Conference all together with some packets (Bingo, coloring and cut outs, games, etc.) for the kids to work on.  Palmer and Brody enjoyed the packets; Trevor and Davis did not.  I had a candy game planned for the afternoon session (the kids listen for a word and get a corresponding candy for each time they hear it, ex. Jesus Christ = Skittles, testimony = peanut butter cups), but Trevor and Davis were done.  A friend picked them up for the rest of the day, so it ended up just being our little family for the last session.

The kids all had a lot of fun with the cousins over the weekend.  I promised them all we would do it again in the new house and they were very excited about the prospect.

Monday, October 7, 2013

First Words and Twin Talk

The babies have started talking.  It's adorable.  We all get a kick out of their baby talk.  They babble a lot, but do say a few actual words and I think those words say a lot about their personalities and what they are all about.

Avonlea's first words:
  1. "Mom/Momma" - She almost always says this in a whiny/crying voice, and once in a while a yelling angry voice.  On many occasions Greg has said she is all emotion.  She is by far the most sensitive and dramatic child we have, and when all those emotions come to a head, she wants momma.  Or if she's hungry, tired, sad, playful, excited, or simply just sees me, she wants momma.  She loves to be loved, and apparently momma does it the best.
  2. "Archer" - Avonlea is very aware of Archer.  She is concerned about him when he is hurt or upset.  She looks for him if he is not nearby.  She wants to be with him and follows him throughout the house.  We joke that we had the twins because Avonlea didn't want to come to earth alone.
  3. "No no" - Avonlea says this very matter-of-factly, while wagging her index finger back and forth (wonder who she got that from?), and usually says it to Archer.  She is his second Mom and feels the need to tell him off and keep him in line. 
Archer's first three words:
  1. "Thank You" - He is a charming fellow, there is no doubt about it.  He has a smile that will warm and cheer anyone's heart.  He is mischievous and playful and loves to play fetch with us.  In other words, he loves to drop things, anything, and have us pick it up for him, just to drop it again moments later.  And so every time we took something from him in the nick of time just before it plummeted to the floor we would say, "Thank you," in attempts to encourage him to give us the unwanted item instead of chucking it next time.  He now says thank you whenever someone gives him an item or he gives someone else an item.
  2. "Archer" - While Avonlea is very aware of Archer, he couldn't care less about her.  It's not that he dislikes her or doesn't want to be with her.  He is just indifferent.  He doesn't need her like she needs him.  He will go on without her.  If she has something he wants, he takes it.  If he wants to go somewhere and she is in the way, he doesn't go around her, he actually plows over her.
  3. "Uh oh" - Once again, this word was learned thanks to the drop it/pick it up game that Archer loves to play with us.  Except this is what we hear when we fail to catch his sippy/food/toy in midair and it plummets to the ground making a loud noise or a big mess.
They also have recently started saying "hi," Avonlea now too says "thank you," and they both have uttered Dad/Dada a few times. 

Even though they don't have a huge vocabulary yet, they sure are good little talkers.  They talk to themselves, to each other and to any one who will listen.  Avonlea babbles in quite a unique way that involves a lot of fast, high pitched, tongue wagging.  It's hard to explain; you just have to hear it yourself.  Archer has begun to follow suite in the strange alien-like vernacular.  I have heard that many twins have their own language; I think that just might be the case with Avonlea and Archer.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Four Year Old Brody

Brody turned four this month.  To me, the time has flown by.  To Brody, it could not come fast enough.  He's insisted that he is four for about the last six months.  And on his actual birthday he decided he is now five.  He wants to be big like Palmer.  When he grows up he still wants to be a firefighter.  Brody is all about Star Wars right now; the kid is obsessed.  Everything he comes in contact with is transformed into a lightsaber or a space gun.  He likes to call himself "Brody Wan Kenobi."  And a couple weeks ago started asking what other family members' Star Wars nicknames were.  So now our family is made up of, "General Gregous, Padme Mamadala, Palm Solo, Brody Wan Kenobi, Arch2D2, and Princess Avonleia."  Brody has a great imagination.  He is also very hands on and likes to tinker with electronics and tools.  He can be a bit timid and shy around others, but talks his family's ears off.  He is a very determined child (I think all our children are!) and has a temper.  But he can also be very loving and has the cutest smile and gives the best hugs.  This is what is going on with Brody at four years old.

Stats: Height - 43.6 inches (96 %), Weight - 38 lb. (66 %), BMI - (5%)

 He has learned: to tell and create stories, to read a couple sight words, to write some letters and numbers, to recognize his name, to count to 30, to unbuckle himself from the car, to climb, to draw some items, to get dressed, and to play games on the computer and Wii.

He likes: Star Wars, weapons of any sort, super heroes, comfy clothes, stuffed animals, candy, cereal, Kool Aid, crackers, play fighting, Legos and Lego shows, tools, flashlights, the park, playplaces, swimming, blankets, Chuck E Cheese, and rides (especially roller coasters).

He dislikes: eating dinner, waiting for his turn to talk, being misunderstood, and being rushed.

Things he does that makes us laugh: a funny giggle he has started doing with he inhales while squeaking repeatedly, turns everything into a weapon and pretends to fight with it, says funny things daily and cheesy smiles

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Under Construction

Our home builders broke ground on the new house.  We are thrilled to say the least, it seemed like the day would never come.  It took a long time for the plans to come out of engineering and a long time to get the permits from the city.  We started the process in May by picking out our lot and early September this beautiful hole showed up on that lot.

As of right now, the footings and foundation have also been laid.  We've visited the site a few times and climbed down into our "house" and explored.  We are all so very excited for the house to become reality.  Even though it's just a pile of dirt and concrete at the moment, it already feels like home!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

First Day of Kindergarten

To Palmer's utter delight, school started (for D track) on August 30.  Palmer has been eagerly awaiting Kindergarten since he graduated from Preschool.  And as the date got closer he became more and more excited.

I took this picture just before he went into class.  As you can see, there is joy and excitement from head to toe!

He had a great first day.  When I asked him what he had learned he said very matter of factly, ""Mom, you don't learn anything in Kindergarten."  However he did tell me that he made "50 friends!"" and had three recesses (counting when I dropped him off at the school playground and picked him up from the playground).

He has always had a love for learning and for new adventures.  We know he will do great in his future schooling!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Recipe - Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches

I don't know why, but this summer I have been craving Philly Cheesesteaks.  This is especially odd because before a couple years ago, I didn't even like the sandwich.  We've eaten out a few times to pacify my craving; they aren't exactly cheap.  So when my most recently bought cookbook had a recipe for cheesesteaks, I knew it was a sign for me to give them a try at home.  I adapted this recipe from Family Favorite Recipes.  And it was great; definitely worthy to be a family favorite!

Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches

2 c. beef broth
1 package onion soup mix
2 packages (12 oz. each) philly cheesesteak sirloin meat (I got mine from Walmart, Great Value brand and it came frozen), or the original recipe says you could use regular roast beef from the deli
1 green pepper, sliced
1 white onion, sliced
8 ounces of cream cheese, divided
6 ciabatta rolls
12 slices provolone cheese

In a large skillet bring beef broth and soup mix to a boil.  When broth is heating sauté onion and pepper in another large skillet.  Add roast beef, reduce heat and simmer.  Cook each side of the steaks 3-4 minutes and then break meat apart with a spatula.  When meat is cooked through, drain.  Add meat to the vegetables, along with 4 ounces of the cream cheese.  Slice rolls in half and spread remaining cream cheese on the insides of the buns.  When the cream cheese in the skillet is melted, put a generous amount of meat on each sandwich, topping the meat with two slices of cheese per sandwich.  Broil in the oven for about a minute until the tops of the bread are lightly toasted and the cheese is melted.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

In Limbo

Our family seems to be in limbo, waiting for our new home to be built, for our new lives to begin.  It's been hard.  Don't get me wrong, we are blessed.  Greg's mom has been so kind to let the six of us take over her little townhome.  She is a great help and is so easy to live with.  But we are all a bit homesick.  We miss our friends; we miss our ward; we miss our neighborhood.

I feel like I've lost all my outlets that previously gave me me-time/a break/a pick me up.  I don't have good friends here.  I don't have a ward that I know and love.  I don't have the fitness center (or even more specifically Zumba) and free daycare to take advantage of while I sweat out my stresses.  I've checked into classes around here, but with the cost of daycare for four children in addition to the class fee, there is no way I can justify going.  It's been a difficult adjustment and I've found myself downright depressed at times.

The boys had an even more difficult time adjusting.  They also miss their friends (we had kids at the house just about everyday), their regular hangouts (the fitness center daycare, play area, and lunch at the park - a regular for us during the summertime), and the yard.  The townhome we are living in does not have a yard, in fact the whole area, while beautiful, is deeply lacking private yards.  There are many public parks, but it's not the same as a backyard where the kids can go play while I make dinner or clean.  And with the babies' napping schedule it's not possible for me to accompany the boys to a park for a couple hours each day and meet that need they have to run around and play in the sun.  Needless to say, their lives as they had known them have changed quite a bit. 

They were throwing round the clock tantrums and acting out in ways they never had before.  I talked with a friend who went through a similar move and she said her daughter acted out the same way.  She had been advised by one of our mutual friends (our realtor who has experience in these matters) to spoil her daughter in anyway possible.  That sounds odd, I know.  I thought so at first too.  But she was told that adjusting to a move, especially one where you find yourselves in transition, is very hard on the family.  The children miss their routine, their friends, and they feel their parents' stress as well.  Our realtor and good friend said anyway you can ease that stress during this short period of time is good.  He said to balance the stress with any good/fun/enjoyable moments you can such as: favorite meals, special outings, treats and small toys.  We have done just that the last month and it has seemed to help.  We've made more of an effort to make this time of displacement into a time for our family to focus on being a family.  It's still hard feeling like we don't belong, like we don't have a place, but at least we aren't consumed by it anymore.

In the past month we've visited the splash pad (a few times), the dinosaur museum, ward activities, parties, Chuck a Rama (a few times, it's the kids' new favorite restaurant), the swimming pool, a water park, the library, The Parade of Homes, the movie theater, many parks, the dollar store and other fun shopping places for the kids.  I've scheduled playdates here and had a couple families over for BBQs.  We've bought Brody a couple light sabers (bribery to go to his new Primary class on his own, which he has been terrified of) and have bought Palmer a new Wii game and an art set (more bribery to encourage him to dress himself each day in preparation for school).  And we are currently planning our family's first trip to Lagoon.

I know spoiling ourselves isn't the best solution to dealing with life's rough patches... but sometimes you just have to make it through.  And that's our plan for the next few months, until we are in a position to plant some roots.  Although this transition has been difficult, I can see a very positive result of moving away from our previous lives.  We have lost many of the things that used to occupy our time, and although they were good pursuits, it opened up more time for us to be together as a family.  We have gone on more family outings, had more family dinners together, spent more Sundays relaxing instead of attending extra meetings.  We have spent more time as a family playing games, watching movies, taking walks and just talking.  And that adjustment has been a welcome one!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

One Year Old Twins

We made it! Before I had the twins my friends with multiples said the first year was the hardest. And I'm not going to lie, it's been a lot of work. It's been overwhelming and exhausting. I've been stretched father than I thought possible. But it has been wonderful too. Twice the trials; twice the reward. Honestly, we count ourselves lucky to have been blessed with two beautiful, healthy, sweet, fun babies. They really seem to have grown up a lot in the last little while. They look big. They are started to show the first signs of being a toddler and leaving behind some of their babyish mannerisms. Bottles are gone. We never carry them in their car seats anymore. They are busy, always on the go and always getting into things. They are starting to communicate. They babble, yell, point, and let you know whether they are happy or sad. They still get a lot of attention when we go out in public. I'm guessing as they get older it will be less apparent that they are twins, and they won't be quite the celebrities they are now. However, they will always be popular in the Hess home. This is what is going on with the twins at one year of age.

Archer is just one of the boys. He loves to play and rough house with his older brothers. Sometimes he is a little too rough and tough for his twin sister. He is a boy through and through. He is good natured, very smiley and chuckles a lot. He does like to be held and cuddled, but more often he wants to be on the floor crawling around and exploring. He fights going to bed at night, especially if he gets a glance of the bathroom, i.e. the bathtub. The boy would live in the bathtub if I let him. Here are a few facts about Archer at a year of age.

Stats: Weight - 21 lb. 5 oz. (34%), Height - 31 in. (81%), Head Circumference - 22%, Weight to Height Ration - 11%
He has learned: to pull up to a stand, to drink from a sippy cup
He likes: baths, eating, going on walks, toys, crawling around, playing with his brothers at play places, getting tickled
He dislikes: watermelon, being in the high chair i.e. being contained
Things he does/about him that make us laugh: dancing, big toothy grins and sudden little chuckles

Just like Archer is a true boy, Avonlea is a girl through and through.  She is more sensitive, more fragile, less rowdy.  She is a sweetheart.  She loves to be held and given attention... from just about anyone.  She never wants to be alone.  She follows me from room to room; she cries if I am out of sight.  She and Archer are a little posse who roam the house together.  They are side by side whether they are eating, playing or on the move.  She babbles and talks almost constantly.  She has so much "sugar and spice and everything nice" in her that it more than makes up for the time I waited getting my little girl.  Here are a few facts about Avonlea at one year.

Stats: Weight - 19 lb. 6 oz. (27%), Height - 30 in. (74%), Head Circumference 9%, Weight to Height Ratio 14%
She has learned: to say Archer and says it a lot
She likes: being held, her binkie, dolls, toys, playing with her brothers, going on walks, peek a boo, and being sang to
She dislikes: being alone
Things she does/about her that make us laugh: funny sounding baby talk, sweet smiles and little giggles

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Dr. Seuss Thing One and Thing Two Party

We had a Dr. Seuss themed birthday party for the twins.  I know, the Thing One and Thing Two theme is so overused with twins, but it's so cute and fun, I couldn't help myself.

We held the party at a nearby park.  We were able to reserve the pavilion through Grandma Nancy's HOA connections.  It was a really big, nice, covered pavilion, next to a huge field and a playground.

We served sub sandwiches, chips, potato salad, assorted vegetables with dip and watermelon.  Auntie Rie made the smash cakes for the babies and Aunt Andrea made the big cake for everyone else.  I didn't cook one thing!  Which was good planning, because Greg had to work all day right up until the party.  With Sariah's help, I barely was able to get everything set up before the party began.

The decorations were simple, but ended up looking pretty cute.  All the plates, utensils, balloons and table clothes were red and turquoise to match Thing One and Thing Two.  A life sized Cat in The Hat banner greeted everyone.  And each table had a centerpiece inspired by a different Dr. Seuss book (stuffed animals, handmade truffala trees, quotes and books, thanks to my wonderful friends Ces and Martha who loaned me cute decorations from their previous Dr. Seuss parties).  We had party hats for everyone: Cat in the Hat hats for Greg and I and Thing One/Thing Two hair for everyone else.

We had a craft table with Cat in the Hat crayon packs and the makings of a Thing One/Thing Two puppet for each kid to complete.  And we had a fill in the blank Dr. Seuss quote paper for the adults to challenge themselves with.

Everyone ate, then we watched the babies eat their personal cakes, which they did not enjoy much.  Archer actually sobbed because it was so messy.  Funny how different the kids can be, Palmer and Brody dug into their first cake and covered themselves in cake and frosting.  Then the babies opened presents with the help of their Grandmas.  The older kids played on the park equipment and played football in the field.


The party was quite the success.  We all had fun visiting and playing, especially Archer and Avonlea.  The twins were spoiled with presents and attention!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

One Year Photo Shoot

We had what we thought was a wonderful idea to have the twins' one year pictures taken with them eating a cupcake.  Their actual birthday was the day before we had their photo shoot.  We gave them a piece of cake that evening.  Archer's reaction to that piece of cake should have clued me in that the cupcake during their photo shoot might not be the best idea; he did not like getting messy from the cake and actually picked it up and chucked it across the room.  During the photo session, Archer once again wanted nothing to do with the messy sugary treat.  He picked it up, threw it down and then proceeded to sit on it.  The only pictures we have of him where he is smiling and happy is when the cupcake is long gone... so he just looks like a messy little boy with no pictured explanation of his dirtiness.  Avonlea on the other hand was a champ with her cake and scarfed it down well and happily (she takes after her mom, haha).