Monthly Archives: December 2013

Merry Christmas!

MERRY CHRISTMAS from our family to yours!

(warning: this post will be VERY heavy on the photos – mostly to show the miles-and-miles-away family members what our Christmas looked like).

The Munchkins started the day by sleeping in (somewhat). I was the first person up at 7:15. Around 7:20 I heard (and then saw) Alex and shortly after, Samantha was added to the mix. Davey, however, didn’t make an appearance until sometime after 8!

In our family, we follow the stocking tradition that Dave’s family practices: stockings can be opened ANYTIME on Christmas Day. Yes, this means that you can wake up at 12:01am to open your stocking and then return to bed. Or you can wait until the morning and open your stocking with other family members. Our children aren’t fully aware of this rule yet, so the girls and Daddy made it downstairs first. Then I trailed behind them and Davey came straggling along much later.

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Since Davey woke up so late this year (SO CRAZY since Samantha is normally the one who sleeps in!), we ended up opening stockings (where Alex immediately dug into her small candy stash and these sweet treats were gone in less than 10 minutes:),

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and then eating our breakfast (homemade, gluten free cinnamon rolls)

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and then “putzing around” (while I got some stuff for our late lunch prepped in the kitchen) before we were able to read the Christmas story:

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and pray and then open our gifts.

i did, however, request a few Munchkin photos in front of the tree before the craziness of gift-opening began:

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We had a LOT of gifts to open! We had presents from family in Washington and New York and Pennsylvania…. and we started with the youngest person and moved up to the oldest, one gift at a time…

Alex started us off with a dress-up Minnie Mouse set:

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while Samantha scored some My Little Pony pjs:

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and Davey received TWO pairs of super hero pjs:

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Many, MANY thanks to grandpa & grandma for starting off the gift opening on such a high note!

Not to be overlooked, Dave and I get in on the action, too. He scored a MICRO Arduino for the Munchkins while I was blessed with some new black flats (I had to glue mine back together last week)!

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(Samantha claims she picked out those shoes for me while shopping with Daddy and her siblings yesterday morning).

After round one, I lost track of who opened what in any particular order, but in the end, everyone was quite excited for their gifts chosen with love by family members near and far!

Dave and I received a new printer (thanks, Mom!) and a special “date night” package (thanks, Dad & Mom)!:

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Dave’s haul included a Star Trek Phaser:

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a Thunder Tumbler:

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and some new lounge chairs for the pool area:

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(on Christmas Eve we opened “sibling gifts” with Dave’s family via FaceTime, so he also raked in a cool pool float. it’s well-known that dave LOVES to relax by the pool!)

Despite the lack of photos of me, I acquired some fabulous gifts, also, including (but not limited to) a food chopper/slicer (this will make homemade pico de gallo SO MUCH EASIER):

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a beautiful silver ring, a bread machine, a white Swatch watch (yes, the 80s are back and this is the ONE THING from that era that is a classic and DESERVES a comeback), a new belt, some Bath & Body Works stuff and on Christmas Eve I opened an uber cool typography book from the Sibling Gift Exchange (thanks again, Sterling!).

Davey had quite a haul including, but not limited to a Lego game:

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a remote controlled submarine (this will be AWESOME in the pool – THANKS, Uncle John & family):

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The Bible in Legos (and several other books), a remote controlled Thunder Tumbler (like daddy’s), a “rip cord racer” car, a Batman lego set and last night he opened his Incredible Hulk pjs (as seen in all these photos):

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Samantha was in her element with all the presents… I’m so thankful for her energy and enthusiasm! She received a VTech princess “magical learn and go,” Walter the Farting Dog book and noise-making stuffed animal, a Merida doll, Disney Junior Scrabble, a Polly Pocket set (much larger than the original PP sets, for which I am truly thankful), a Barbie Glam House, two movie tickets (so she can go see Frozen with mommy during Christmas break), a few books and all kinds of things that are pink and girly!

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Alex was hilarious. This was the first year that she really “understood” presents and she didn’t want help opening them. Her second present, however, was a Yo Gabba Gabba coloring book from her Uncle Tom.

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She fell in LOVE (since she’s obsessed, you know!), but made it to round three with ease: a walk-on PIANO (which is really, really cool… thanks Uncle John & family!).

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but after a few minutes on the piano, she got distracted with her Yo Gabba Gabba (coloring) book again. When it was her turn to start round FOUR, she exclaimed “I READING!” Dave tried to convince her to open another present, but she wasn’t at all interested – she was ENGROSSED in “reading” her Yo Gabba Gabba book. It was hilarious.

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So we skipped her. But about two people/gifts later, she wanted her turn again. So along came the rest of her presents: a Veggie Tale bath toy, a CD player and a kids’ music CD:

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Davey’s Lego “Brick Bible” set included a poster which I promptly hung on the wall in honor of the season:

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(the other side is a horizontal Noah’s Ark scene).

It was a FANTASTIC Christmas morning:

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and Alex, for reasons known only to her, decided to play HAIR STYLIST this morning after all the chaos was over:

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It was a really good Christmas Day, (though it wasn’t perfect. There was a very draining discipline issue that had to be addressed. No further details are needed, though a certain Munchkin learned a very good lesson about “GRACE” today).

Today was our first EVER Christmas without any additional family members – just the FIVE of us. I had been dreading it, but it turned out to be relaxing and fun and joy-filled and I loved the family time for us. We enjoyed a big lunchtime meal followed by 70* weather, a long bike ride in the sunshine, crafts/Legos, FaceTime with family, a special dessert by Dave (sous vid dulce de leche with ice cream over sous vid cinnamon apples) and the other half of last night’s Christmas movie: ELF (my favorite!)!

So from our home to yours, MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, and TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!

all is merry and bright…

tomorrow is the big day and i’m mostly ready. there are a few treats i’d still like to make (more GF sugar cookies, sour cream drop cookies and another 1/2 batch of poppycock) and there are a few more gifts to wrap (shhhh! they’re all hidden in the guest room closet – don’t tell!) but otherwise, i’m ready for tomorrow.

so i thought i’d share a few photos of some of our holiday decor and preparations.

Munchkin letters to Santa…

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Christmas letters and photos from the Dunkins to our mailing list….

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Red burlap stockings (I made these last year) and a burlap banner (left over from the shows this year):

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My yellow cart received a new coat of paint last week….

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and my pumpkins from Halloween also received a coat of paint and some other additions:

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i think these are my favorite addition this year!

i was making a pillow cover for a dear friend when i had an “i’m-all-finished-and-haven’t-made-any-mistakes” bright idea to re-stamp a letter that wasn’t too solid. when i picked up the stamp, i promptly dropped it and that left a blob of paint. BOO!!!! so i took this no-longer-suitable-pillow-cover and changed it to a banner… it’s another new favorite paired with my olive wood nativity from Israel!

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i love the lighted garland along the banister:

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and dave’s granma’s table is the perfect location (and height!) for the nativity scene for the Munchkins (which gets well used):

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my old “P-E-A-C-E” letters found a new home on a shelf in our family room. paired with the ruler-turned-star that i “forgot” to take to the JITT Vintage Market to sell and i have a new look!

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the other shelf pays homage to Christmases past…

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while the pantry door sports a brand new wreath made by Samantha!

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here’s our Christmas card/photo wall:

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and Samantha’s advent count down:

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finally, the tree:

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and the presents all wrapped with love and care:

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and because we all know i have a sweet tooth, these are causing my tummy lots of joys this Christmas season:

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(many thanks to samantha’s teacher for telling me how she broke her tooth – eating one of these – i had to IMMEDIATELY go buy them b/c they sounded SO GOOD – well, minus the broken tooth, of course!)

up, up and away…

it was about 4:55pm yesterday. i walked outside to put some chicken on the grill for our dinner (chicken caesar salad). and i heard… singing?

yes.

singing.

it sounded like Jingle Bells.

so i looked up and saw a hot air balloon.

it was really close.

so close i could hear the song “Jingle Bells” coming from the balloon.

and it kept getting closer.

and closer.

and closer.

i called the kids outside to see how close the balloon was.

it looked like it was going to land in a neighbor’s yard.

then i heard another neighbor call out “c’mon! let’s go see it!”

so i said the same to the kids and we were out the door -

(yes, with the chicken still on the grill).

samantha actually tried to go into a neighbor’s house to see the balloon in their backyard. it took some convincing to get her to believe me that it was landing in the park across the street and NOT in their backyard.

and then samantha started SCREAMING! with JOY and ELATION!

and with a few more steps,

there it was:

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and then we saw our neighbors – a few different ones!

and the owner of the balloon started talking that he was going to let the children WALK on it!

and then my alarm went off.

yep.

time to flip the chicken.

there was NO WAY i was leaving, though.

can you imagine?

leaving the potential of “balloon walking” to FLIP SOME CHICKEN?!

no. way.

not on my watch.

so the two older Munchkins DID get to do this:

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and it was cool to see some other kindergarten classmates there.

and some school moms who volunteer in the lunchroom.

and to learn who lives near us.

and it was wonderfully fantastic to see the delight on the faces of my children who DID walk and play on the balloon.

and within about 30 minutes of our first sighting, our eventful adventure was over.

and we returned home, where i flipped the chicken.

and it was not overcooked.

not too much, at least.

’tis the season… i think?!

one not-as-fun thing about living in the desert is that it’s hard to get in the Christmas spirit when it’s still in the upper 60s and low 70s in the afternoons. i mean, c’mon, Christmas with t-shirts? unless you’re on a family vacation to Hawaii, Christmas should be about chilly weather (maybe even snow?). think about it. santa lives in the north pole and wears a ginormous furry, red suit. he’d be a giant blob of sweat if he wore that here in arizona! or frosty the snowman? he’d melt before you could roll his three main parts! jack frost? he rarely makes an appearance here. fresh-baked cookies? it’s too warm to turn on the oven!  snowflakes and icicles? for real? yeah.

all those Christmas songs are just WAAAAAY off base for life here in the desert. but then i remembered what it was like to be in Jerusalem, Israel in December. and that climate is a lot like Gilbert, Arizona. and then it hit me. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which isn’t too far outside of Jerusalem. so when Jesus was born, there was no snow. there were no down coats. santa hadn’t been invented yet. frosty the snowman and icicles and snowflakes and jack frost weren’t around.

so that means the climate of our Christmas in arizona might be a lot it was that first Christmas so long ago. [please note: i understand all the debates about WHEN Christ was actually born and that it was NOT December 25th, but let's go with this for the sake of this blog post, okay? Thanks!]  and when i was reminded that Christmas isn’t about feeling the cold weather, my mood changed. and i was ready to celebrate. to enjoy time with my family. to decorate. to start baking. to buy gifts.

so last weekend we finally put up our tree (many, MANY thanks to Paul & Heather for giving us this beautiful hand-me-down tree last year!) and decorated it. and then in the magic of a darker room and the white lights of the decorated Christmas tree, davey and samantha wrote letters to santa…

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and in that moment, the MAGIC of Christmas returned for me. childlike wonder, admiration, anticipation, excitement, joy, hope…

so despite our culture and our society and the on-going pressure to BUY MORE and OWN MORE and to be DISTRACTED MORE, i am THANKFUL for this season. for the emphasis on FAMILY and FRIENDS and GATHERING and SITTING STILL (“silent night”) and BREATHING. and in our home, we joyfully celebrate the birth of Jesus (even though he wasn’t really born on December 25th!) and the true meaning that Jesus was a fulfilled promise to God’s people. a Savior.

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and knowing that we KNOW that, and that our priorities for the season are in order, makes little things like these (see photos below) heart-warming.

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may God grant you plenty of time this season to celebrate the birth of His Son, the Savior, with family and friends and neighbors and strangers. and may you also be able to enjoy the “holiday season” created by our society, b/c giving and receiving presents is also a gift and blessing from God – it’s just not as important as knowing the Savior!

extra fun

nana is amazing. she likes to shop for bargains, but she’s good at so many other things, too. throughout the year she’ll send us multiple boxes filled with things for the Munchkins (most often clothing) and sometimes she couldn’t possibly do a BETTER job picking out some major bargain for them!

for samantha, it’s been high heeled boots and booties (which she is NOT allowed to wear out of the house – she’s only 5, after all)! i have countless photos of her wearing her favorite high heeled boots, but THIS one is my favorite:

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and other times, her boxes/packages aren’t filled with a “favorite” item but they are filled with items that make the kids happy and/or excited. earlier this week, a small Priority box arrived with one item for each child. and I was VERY excited about the contents! back in November, i sent nana a link to an ADORABLE hat for the girls. within a day, she had already looked at the link AND made alexandra’s hat!

are you ready for some cuteness?

no.

seriously.

CUTENESS!

okay. here we go:

i LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this!

from nana

nana made matching Hello Kitty hats for the girls. and she found another George Brown Class Clown book for Davey.

many, MANY thanks, nana, for the special box!

movie night

on friday, dave and davey joined another father-son duo: jared and caleb, at the mall for a rather empty-theater showing of Thor.

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it was davey’s SECOND experience in a movie theater (we won’t discuss the reality that i haven’t been to a movie in the theater since we moved here almost two years ago). dave said he did great, even during the scary parts.

even though i might be a teeny bit jealous that davey gets these movie theater experiences AND that he gets candy, popcorn AND a soda during said movie theater experiences (I never even got that when dave and i were dating!), i am VERY, VERY glad that my two guys have similar interests. and that they LIKE to be together. and that they BOTH find it fun. hmmmmm – note to self: maybe if i liked super hero movies a little bit more then i might get to go to the theater?!

while the boys had fun (and fear!) at the theater, samantha, alexandra and i enjoyed a movie at home! casey and grace joined us for cookies, caramel popcorn and Charlotte’s Web (from 1996 with Julia Roberts as the voice of Charlotte). it was so nice to unwind, relax and enjoy some time with our friends.

iron and spiders…. say what?!

Halloween was fun and CRAZY this year.

i started the morning in Alex’s class at her party where she hit OVERLOAD and cried and clung to me through the majority of the party. it was definitely not like her. she DID perk up for the trick-or-treat walk through the front office – candy definitely motivates that girl. then again, what 80s glam rock star doesn’t like candy?!

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after taking a break at home for a few hours, she was in a better mood and we headed back to school to see the costume parade and run back and forth between the kindergarten and 1st grade classes.

we arrived in time to deliver “glasses” to Spider Girl and snap some photos of Iron Man and his classmates before the costume parade began. with running from one hallway to another, i missed out on the kindergarten class photo (boo!) but i’m glad i snapped this one of the 1st graders….

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 Alex had a rough time during the costume parade. and again during samantha’s class party. too many people. too much noise and chaos. i’m guessing she was on sensory overload x a lot. i might need to find a sitter for her during these classroom events! that said, i still had fun watching the kindergarteners play bingo:

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bowl with a plastic pumpkin,

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decorate cookies, make a tissue paper jack-o-lantern and eat snacks:

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 i also managed to take a photo of each of the kindergarteners while they were still dressed up. my favorite happened to be this darling Spider Girl:

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and then i ran back to davey’s class. most of the kids were out of costume by then, but i took a photo of everyone anyway. their party (which consisted of a trail-mix type of snack and green “Witches Brew” punch) was already over (boo!) but i still love spending time with the kids! especially with Iron Man:

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surprisingly, it was in Davey’s class that Alex calmed down. and turned into her happier self. and then we returned to samantha’s class for the rest of her party. and her teacher let me gather all the kids for ANOTHER group photo since i missed the first photo op:

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that night, we enjoyed a quick dinner of BBQ pulled pork and baked beans. i wanted something that was easy to make (crock pot!) and the kids would eat happily (no protests!). and i think it was around 6 o’clock when we headed out into the neighborhood.

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now i have to tell you, Trick-or-Treating in Washington state was COLD, WET and somewhat miserable. Here in Arizona, it’s WARM (sometimes HOT, even) and pleasant. families, neighbors and friends hang out in their driveways. they enjoy pot luck meals and block parties. fire pits are moved to the driveway, though they’re rarely needed. camping chairs and bowls filled with candy are in abundance. it’s not just an evening for the kids, it’s for families. for adults. for fun. it’s a full-on event to be experienced.

A LOVED riding along in the wagon. at almost every home, we would lift her out of the wagon and she would trail behind D and S to say “trick or treat” and “thank you!” their Halloween bags (thanks for those, Nana!) filled up VERY quickly.

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after making a large circle around our immediate neighborhood, the munchkins were  eager to HAND OUT candy so we stopped at home and started to set-up our driveway. one munchkin wasn’t quite finished yet, so i took said munchkin down and up our street to satisfy that sweet tooth. and then all five of us hunkered down for about 40 minutes so we could pass out candy to the few straggler trick-or-treaters that remained in our neighborhood.

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i’m DEFINITELY looking forward to next year’s neighborhood adventure!

p.s. any guesses on WHICH Munchkin wasn’t finished with T-or-T time when the other two were?!

lacing up those boots….

back in october, while nana was in town for fall break, we did a lot of fun things. at the end of fall break, dave took the day off work and we enjoyed the slightly cooler temperatures as a family getting back to something we ENJOY….

HIKING!

we finally found our way to Usery Mountain for a kid-friendly hike and we had a great time!

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at the beginning of our adventure, even alex was walking on the trail:

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but then she found a better way to get “up” the mountain:

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this is one of my favorite photos from the entire day:

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there’s a super-special bond between those two.

i enjoyed my time on the mountain:

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i love it when dave takes control of the camera:

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we’d been out of the house for at least 3 hours before i noticed this:

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sam chose to wear her soccer sneakers AND lacy dress socks for this hiking adventure!

please, washington friends, don’t cringe that our children no longer wear the proper “outdoor” gear for fun family adventures!

dave is a fantastic dad. and a good hiker. and when you combine the two, you see sweet scenes like this:

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it was a super-easy trail. davey and samantha were easily able to walk the full thing with no breaks (other than at the very top where dave and i snapped photos).

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but for the Munchkins, the best part about the hike was our picnic at the end. right next to a really cool play ground:

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we will DEFINITELY return to Usery Mountain again.

especially since our paths crossed with some very nice moms who gave us a diaper (two, actually) for alex after we realized we forgot the diaper bag!

new york, new york, what a (heck) of a town….

this will be a LONG post.

with a LOT of photos.

i just want you to be warned. if you turn away now, my feelings won’t be hurt. i promise.

i won’t go into a lot of detail about the back story of WHY this trip happened or HOW i felt before, during and after it. mainly because it’s not my story to share. and partly because i’m still sorting out my feelings. but i will say this: I AM GLAD I WENT.

many of you know that i’m from the east coast. and the majority of my family is still there. that “majority” includes my brother (and his family). and with three small children of our own, it’s not easy NOR cheap for us to go visit the east coast family. so earlier this year, dave and i agreed that it was really important for me to take a weekend to visit my brother in NY. as the passing weekends turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months, i knew it was time to take action.

so i worked with my brother to plan a trip at a time that would be mostly convenient for both of us. and then i checked the weather forecast:

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compared to arizona’s 75-80* weather, i was trying to prepare for a serious chill!

the weekend after i was a vendor at the Junk in the Trunk Vintage Market, dave took the day off work (friday, november 17) and he and alexandra drove me to the airport. for the THIRD time this year, i got on a plane bound for someplace else. for the SECOND time this year, i got on said plane ALONE.

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and by 8pm that friday night, i was in NEW YORK!!!

seriously, friends, new york city is one of my FAVORITE cities in the world. the life, the energy, the people, the chaos, the lights, the traffic, the noise, the smells, the feel…  now, i wouldn’t want to live there indefinitely. but i COULD live there for a finite period of time. but for now, i simply LOVE to visit it.

unfortunately for me, my brother no longer lives IN the city. he used to. in fact, he moved INto the city (the upper west side) in 1998. and in october of this year, he moved out of the city to long island.

so close, but not quite.

the purpose of my trip, however, was not to thrive in the city. it was not to smell the air. it was not to see the lights. it was not to feel the very vibration of the city in my soul.

it was to meet THIS guy:

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THAT is JJ.

the world’s happiest baby.

and one of the cutest.

and my nephew.

isn’t he a doll?

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i also went to see this guy:

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(that’s my brother), John.

and i went to see this lovely young woman:

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(that’s my youngest niece, Gwen).

she’s a Justin Bieber addict, as are many 9th grade/almost-14-year old girls these days,

i suppose.

i also got to meet JJ’s mom, Stella:

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to be completely honest, i was nervous. and scared. and curious.

what if she didn’t like me? what if we didn’t get along?

but you know what? i honestly and genuinely LIKE her. and i would love to get to know her more. and develop a relationship with her. it’s just going to take some time and extra effort since we live on opposite sides of the country.

my weekend was spent seeing the new house:

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in the new neighborhood:

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learning about the home renovations:

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marveling at the fading beauty of the changing scenery from fall to not-quite-winter:

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(i had no idea HOW much i miss the colored leaves of fall until i SAW them again!)

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enjoying the warmth from cozy fires:

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listening to this one spout off song after song after song (many of them by JB):

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snuggling and playing with this little man:

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exploring Sands Point Preserve:

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peeking into my future with teenagers completely tuned “in” with technology:

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trying to make this little man laugh:

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admiring the ridiculous amount of thigh rolls on sweet JJ (who is only 5 months old!):

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wishing it were just as cute for ME to have thigh rolls like that so i could eat an endless supply of gram’s chocolate peanut butter fudge, monster cookies, chocolate chip cookies warm from the oven, ice cream and every other yummy treat i enjoy but have to limit so i don’t go “overboard…”,

spending time with my “big brother,”

eating lots of good food

(including my first tasting of Korean beef – Stella’s mom made it!),

reading books (uninterrupted!),

painting my fingernails (!),

playing games,

getting to know Stella and JJ and Gwen and John (because when you live over 2000 miles away and see each other once a year or less, it’s hard to really “know” someone),

and just generally enjoying time with my family.

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There were LOTS of laughs (especially when watching the little man EAT – which he LOVES to do, as evidenced by the prior photo of those amazing thigh rolls):

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and lots of “oohs” and “ahhhs” (especially watching the little man sleep):

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and now that my trip is behind me, i know it was too short.

i know it was important.

i’m so glad dave agreed with me that this trip was a priority.

so while i didn’t see the city or the lights, hear the noise, feel the LIFE that oozes from NYC… i did experience something new. my brother’s new life: his family. his home. his “stomping grounds.” and i loved it. and i wish we didn’t live so far apart.

because family is important.

and on a much LIGHTER note, when John, Gwen and i were at Sands Point Preserve, he was taking some pictures of me. and i said “let me pretend i’m picking my nose!” and in the 1.4 seconds that i had my finger up by my nose, he snapped a picture.

THIS picture:

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and we laughed a ridiculous amount about it.

and then i made it my Facebook profile photo.

and that REALLY made John laugh at me.

in the end, i’m still me. and he’s still John. and THAT’s who we are when we’re together. i’m just thankful this trip did not involve any “contests” for sticking our fists in our mouths (we can both do it) or trying to put a leg behind our head (i’m not sure i can get close to this anymore), or any of the other crazy and weird things we’ve tried to do over the years.

i love you, john. and i miss you.