Monthly Archives: December 2015

Christmas was Merry….

after spending monday and tuesday on the couch,
i was ready to tackle CHRISTMAS PREPARATION on wednesday.
well, mostly ready.
i definitely wasn’t 100% but i felt sooooooo much better.

so i declared wednesday to be CLEANING and BAKING day.
and maybe not in that order.
or not entirely in that order.
or maybe it was just all mixed together.
but by the end of the day, I had 3 kinds of cookies completed.
and a batch of fudge.

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we also spent a few hours of our day at our dear friends’ house.
Mrs. Casey made some sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies (both gluten free) and invited us over to DECORATE cookies!
the kiddos all had a blast.


and then we kicked them out of the decorating area
(seriously – there were sprinkles EVERYWHERE) so we could decorate in a much more calm environment.
we had a blast!

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 but a little munchkin and i were pretty wiped out by the end of the day:


and before i knew it,
it was Thursday.
good grief!
with the wedding/trip to NYC and being sick,
i lost all my prep time!

while prepping dinner (chili and potato soup),
i put the munchkins to work decorating some gift bags
(aka: lunch sacks) for their gifts to each other.


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we had planned to enjoy an early dinner and then go see some Christmas lights (Comstock Lane in Gilbert had an entire block of lights timed to music and they won a show on ABC for their display!) but with Dave and the Munchkins running around to acquire last-minute gifts, the day got away from us.
We ended up going to see the lights
and then we ran outside to the neighbor’s donut food truck for a treat
(to save for AFTER dinner)
before eating our dinner and simultaneously watching MY favorite Christmas movie: ELF!!!


(a certain someone could NOT sit still during the movie.
dave and i were highly entertained by her “hands clasped” and then “step in and then out” of her clasped hands moves. she did it over and over and over. and i video taped her about 5 times. and she has no clue. none. what-so-ever. she was thoroughly engrossed in the movie. but she also wanted to be up and moving. crazy girl!)

and then… FINALLY….
around 9pm, it was time to open ONE present each:IMG_0334 IMG_0335

new pjs!
and then there was time for a quick photo shoot (that took FOREVER b/c all three children have a real struggle to look AND smile at the same time…. not surprisingly, it’s the oldest and youngest who struggle the most!)

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and then we shipped the Munchkins off to bed.
and i took photos.

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and then i realized dave was missing.
it turns out he was in the garage assembling some presents:



finally finished.

in the morning, we let the munchkins open their stockings before embarking on a tasty breakfast: GF waffles with all kinds of sugar and fruit!

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after breakfast, Dave read the Christmas story from Luke 2:


and it was time to open presents!

THIS munchkin was pretty excited about a certain stocking gift…
he proceeded to use it to open a vast majority of his gifts…. which helped make “present time” last quite a bit longer. he used the tiny scissors to cut the tape on his wrapped gifts:

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the munchkins didn’t know it, but they bought off-brand camel baks for each other.
(now we need to go on a hiking excursion)…

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daddy & mommy came through with plasma cars for all:


and two days before Christmas, Dave decided to buy a chrome book for the Munchkins as an extra special Christmas surprise. He ordered it at 11pm on the 23rd. It arrived before 11am on the 24th! Davey and Samantha were (are) ELATED:

grandpa & grandma are always good for some clothes AND toys:

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at school, davey made a cool snowman decoration for us:

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while Samantha made us a calendar:
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uncle john usually rocks it in the gift department.
this year was no different:

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daddy got some new games this year:


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while i received my own scooter:


uncle sterling & auntie rachel (dave’s sister & family) sent a game and a book…
and with alex around, there was no continuing with gifts until the book was read:

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we highly recommend The Day the Crayons Quit!

Dave’s parents made game for us (it’s BEAUTIFUL, Dad!) and provided us with the funds for a date night. AND the promised us FREE BABYSITTING if we wait for their visit in January!
um…. DEAL!

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The Munchkins had fun opening their gifts to each other.
Davey bought Sam a ring.
Sam bought the SAME ring for Alex.
As I expected, Samantha LOVED that reality!

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and our dear friends, the Dycks, sent each kid their OWN box of bubble gum…. while I got a mini gum ball machine (which i quickly washed and filled with the peanut m&ms that were in my stocking!)

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Christmas wasn’t over,
but we needed a bit of a break.
We took some time for everyone to use the restroom.
And we prepped some food for later.
And then we decided to go for a drive.
With presents still under the tree.
WHAT were we thinking?

Alex kinda fell asleep on our car ride:


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we drove for quite awhile with minimal “where are we going?” questions.
but then we got to the airport.
so we watched planes take off and land.
that’s ALWAYS cool.
but the questions were coming faster and faster.
more frantic.
WHY are we HERE?
WHAT are we DOING?

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and since we didn’t time it perfectly,
we had to find the cell phone lot.
and THAT’s when they started guessing.
and before we knew it, Davey had the right answer….


we were picking up NANA!!!!!

Once we got home,
we needed to ACTUALLY prep some Christmas meal stuff
(Dave smoked a turkey)
before diving into presents part 2…..

Nana got a calendar of the Munchkins:

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Samantha is ALWAYS good for an animated reaction to a gift.
her reaction to “MY VERY OWN SEWING MACHINE” from nana did NOT disappoint:


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davey and daddy got a gift to share:

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and alex received a tea cart
(which broke during assembly and needs to be returned to the store)

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there were other gifts, too, for all the parties involved.
but the best gift was given last.
and it wasn’t planned that way.
nana opened the very last present in this house on Christmas Day….

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so you need some back story for this one.
back when i was in late elementary school or early junior high,
my mom was a PAL to a GAL in Pioneer Girls at our church.
and among other things,
she paid the extra money at McDonalds to acquire THREE special “stuffed animal” MUPPETS as part of her “Gal’s” Christmas gift.
and i was jealous.
i WANTED those darn things.
but Christmas morning came and went and i didn’t get them.
in the early afternoon on Christmas,
we headed to my gram’s house.
it was about a 40 minute drive.
i’d say we were about 20 minutes in when my mom SUDDENLY pulled the car over
and GOT OUT OF THE CAR (without a word to me what was going on)!
i was nervous something was wrong with the car.
she opened the trunk (wait – the trunk? why not the hood?)
and when she came back to the car,
she calmly opened her door and tossed something at me.
i remember her words as something along the lines of:
“i forgot about these. merry christmas.”
and there they were.
in all their glory.
the THREE MUPPETS from McDonalds.
my very own set:

so when i saw them at a flea market just a few weeks ago,
and when i knew my mom was coming HERE for Christmas,
i HAD to buy them for her.
for the memory,
if for no other reason at all.
(but you should also know that Nana LOVES Miss Piggy.
always has.
and always will.
in fact, one of her birthday presents one year was also a Miss Piggy/old McDonalds item: a drinking glass with Miss Piggy riding a motorcycle through a giant glass window!)

and THAT,
my dear friends,
is the story of the LAST Christmas PRESENT in our home this year!
she laughed
when she opened that box b/c she remembered that Christmas
when she gave them to me!

Later in the day, we SKYPED with Dave’s family in Washington:


and just before we sat down to eat,
the littlest Munchkin showed us she was still in “recovery” from her recent illness:


she fell asleep while Nana was reading a story!

but a delicious turkey waits for no man, woman, or child,


so we filled a plate for her and started on our own meal:


(don’t mention the over-toasted-ness of those marshmallows on the yams.
i was very Unhappy about it.
thankfully, my family is pretty gracious.)

I hope you had a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS, too!

New York and a Wedding….

If you want to know what a crazy, whirlwind trip to NYC in December looks like, keep reading. My oldest niece (shhhhh – she’s 24 already!) planned her wedding for December 19th at a vegan restaurant in NYC. Despite the craziness of the season, AND the reality of a week of classroom parties, festivities, group teacher gifts to coordinate and create, and more, I bought a round trip ticket…. leaving PHX at 5pm on Friday the 18th and landing back in PHX at 11:51pm Sunday the 20th.

After surviving all the fun (but busy-ness) of the week, I packed quickly (only forgot a razor and my hair product!) and almost fell asleep on the family room floor waiting for it to be time to leave for the airport!


flying into NYC at midnight on a Friday night is just like flying into any other city at 7pm on a Friday night!  :)   lots and lots of lights and people up and about!


except in the airport. i was surprised that our terminal at JFK was so…. silent!


But have no fear. My $70 taxi ride (that included tip) to my ex-SIL’s apartment (it’s complicated) was definitely entertaining. My driver moved to NYC 4 years ago from Africa (I couldn’t understand what country within the continent) and he’d never heard of Arizona. And he didn’t know that just a few hours drive outside of the city would take him to open spaces with fewer buildings and people! We talked about Global Warming and Population and I don’t even remember what else.


I felt relief, however, when we pulled up to this un-numbered, small (3 story) red house (aka: 3 apartments) where Babi lives now.


The bride was almost asleep on a pull-out sofa. Her youngest sister (aka: my youngest niece), was almost asleep on the floor next to her. And my bed hadn’t been laid out yet. There were hugs and greetings all around and then we all crashed!

In the morning, Babi made breakfast (eggs with salmon and fruit for me) for each of us.

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We eventually kicked Liz out of the apartment so she wouldn’t be too late for her hair appointment.


And then the rest of us got ready (and I also took photos of the details of this adorable apartment)!

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with a maiden name of “Sarapata,” it’s always pretty unique to find something with that name on it…. even if it’s my youngest niece’s field hockey jacket:


but even cooler than that would be this sight:


that’s my 16-year old niece…. who looks like she’s in her 20s.
i wish i looked like i was in my 20s.

isn’t there something special about a wedding gown hanging…
waiting to be worn…
on the bride’s most planned day?!

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and then, just like that, it was TIME!
Liz rushed in from her hair appointment. She was a bit frantic as she chanted “fix contouring and get dressed. Fix contouring and get dressed. Fix contouring and get dressed.”


getting dressed included putting on her jewelry.
a special necklace from her nana (my mom) that was purchased in Burma or the Philippines.
earrings made by the groom (using a 3D printer).
and (after getting on her gown), a bracelet. i missed the significance of that.

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Liz looked stunning.
and every bride should be as radiant on her day.
and joyful.
Liz never seems to lack joy when the occasion calls for it.


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we certainly made sure there was enough time for a few groupie/usie shots….
me, Nana, Liz, Gwen, and Babi:



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and then we were off.
we told Liz that YES, she HAD to wear her coat over her dress.
it was too cold outside not to.
and we had to walk a block… to Broadway… to hail a taxi (or two):


those stairs were pretty treacherous.
I’m honestly unsure how she did it in those heels (here i am, proving my old age with comments like that).


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surprisingly, it took us awhile to hail a taxi.
Liz, Gwen and Nana went ahead in one.
Babi and I returned to the apartment for bags and suitcases before heading back to Broadway to hail our own taxi….


in case you’re wondering, people who live IN the city DO like live Christmas trees.
here’s how you buy them:


the wedding and reception were in an upper room at BLOSSOM, a vegan restaurant in NYC.

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it turns out that the couple got married (Justice of the Peace/City Hall) over the summer, so this was really just their big party. they gave ZERO thought to the “ceremony” portion of the wedding but hundreds of thousands of hours of thought into the PUZZLE portion of the reception. but we’ll get there.
so in lieu of any “ceremony,” they said some words (that couldn’t be heard) and exchanged rings and kissed.

and just like that, the wedding was over and the party was beginning….

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(fun fact: that picture of Liz in a “victorian lilac” dress in the lower left corner of the frame above, is her at MY wedding back in 2002!)

so it turns out that the CAKE was missing.
this is the groom’s mom (also named Tamara but pronounced differently) and Babi reading from the “script” about the missing cake:


so it turns out that we had to solve some puzzles to find out WHO stole the wedding cake.
for real.

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(that guy up there, he’s my brother. love him.)

there were LOTS of puzzles to solve.
and answers had to be submitted on line.
again: yes. for real.

in the midst of puzzle solving,
there were toasts,
and the couple visited around the room and provided hints and clues,
and there was eating.
lots of eating of the vegan food.

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and after 3 hours, people were getting antsy.
so it was time for the couple to fast-forward on the puzzles and provide us with the meta-meta answers to the puzzles.
don’t get it? me either.
but they’re both in PhD programs (physics, i think).
they’re smart.
like…. REALLY smart.
and i’m not.
and i’m okay with that.

but to find the CAKE,
we HAD to solve the puzzles to get the answer of “WHO STOLE THE CAKE?!”

so there were 6 META-META answers.
then we had to group them into two groups of 3 to solve for the META answer.
The two groups were names of Spice Girls and Things with Rings.
The META answers, therefore, were as follows:
1. the MISSING spice girl was GINGER. another name for GINGER is RED HEAD. who has red hair? LIZ, the bride!
2. what/who else has rings? think Lord of the Rings. i can’t remember the name of the character, but in the end, it was a HOBBIT. who else is like a hobbit? PETER, the groom!

so the answer to WHO STOLE THE WEDDING CAKE was PETER & LIZ.



except does this look like the type of cake puzzle-lovers and creators would enjoy? math geeks? people who don’t love tradition?

i didn’t really think about that either.
but they did.
so the cake in the photo above was fake.
like, LITERALLY fake.
and then there was the big unveiling of the REAL cake.

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(note: also VEGAN from a bakery in Bethlehem, PA that makes the only good vegan “buttercream” frosting – and it was sweet and tasty)

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and then i asked the couple for a photo of them with the bride’s dad (aka: my brother):


and i wanted a selfie:


and then the photographer took their final photos (the couple with all the various attendees at the wedding – individual shots, no big groups).

and then we (John, Gwen, and I) were off….
we walked 10ish blocks to a chocolate place and on the way,
i found some fun Christmas decorations:


and then we joined another 1000 people from the city who were ALSO on the subway…

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(you can’t tell from the photos, but it was SARDINE city on that subway.
i was literally being held up as the train moved ONLY by all the bodies surrounding me!)

and then it was a mad dash around PENN STATION (no photos) to the Long Island trains.
and we waited for the announcement of the train track.
i forgot how RUSHED everything is in the city.
i do NOT miss that part of living on the east coast.
and then we were on the train.
sitting 3 across…. enjoying the time before landing “home.”

i spent the next 24-hours thoroughly enjoying the company of this young man:

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he’s my adorable nephew, JJ.
i LOVE him.
he’s fun. he’s cute. he giggles. he laughs. he plays. he eats. he sleeps.


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Korean food:

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(they don’t use knives, but they DO provide scissors to cut your meat!)

see… he DOES sleep:

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and, unfortunately for him,
he slept when it was time for me to get out of the van at the airport.
i miss you already, sweet JJ!

after a RIDICULOUSLY long line to get through security at JFK (took me over an hour),
i was able to buy souvenirs for the Munchkins (NYC pens), some beverages (Dr. Pepper and water), a snack (Chex Mix) and some reading material (a book) before crashing at my gate and “re packing” my carry on suitcase (including my long, camel-colored, wool coat that i NEEDED in NYC but would NOT need upon arrival in PHX):


and then i flew from JFK to LAS VEGAS:

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and from LAS VEGAS to PHX.
where my amazing friend, Casey, picked me up at midnight.
and she drove me from the airport,
PAST her house,
to my house.
where i crashed.
and i spent the next two days on the couch, barely functioning,
from a killer head cold paired with complete exhaustion
(that’s my expert medical opinion, anyway).

our fall break camping adventure….

 so it’s very, very belated, and i’m hoping to make a resolution for next year that i’ll blog at least 3 x a week….. but we’ll see if i’m ready to commit to that in just a week’s time, k?! in the meantime, here’s a glimpse of our camping trip in the low desert over fall break (back in october). the writing below is from my scrapbook story of the trip. normally i’d share a lot more here, but since it’s taken more than 2 months to get this to the blog…. let’s just share the basic version, okay?!


Camping at Cholla Campground

Roosevelt Lake in Arizona.
Thursday, 10/15 to Saturday, 10/17/2015

Low desert camping is a WHOLE DIFFERENT BALLGAME, my friends. Seriously. Let’s start with the “obvious” that wasn’t so “obvious” to us when we planned the trip: NO TREES. For real. I mean, there are bushes that people want you to think are trees. But for real, there are no trees. Which means no shade. In the desert. In October. When temperatures still get in the triple digits. Thankfully, it is waaaay WARMER when camping in the low desert. There are other problems with camping in the desert that include but are not limited to rattlesnakes, scorpions, biting ants, black widow spiders, sudden rain storms, and wind. We encountered all of those. Yes. Seriously. ALL OF THEM IN our campsite. Poor Faith and Rhodes…. they were just walking over with their dinner when the snake made it’s presence (RIGHT NEXT TO THE PATH) known. It’s highly possible that I curled into the fetal position at the picnic table and started crying (after I helped Faith get Rhodes away from the snake). The next day, Dave killed a black widow spider UNDER that picnic table. Poor Alex and Samantha endured some potently painful ant bites. The sting lasted for a solid hour. It was too hot the first night to spend time around the campfire, so s’mores were limited and hot cocoa wasn’t enjoyed. After enduring the wind and rain storm on Friday (from the safety of our Pathfinder), we enjoyed the rest of our evening with cooler temperatures, s’mores, hot cocoa, conversations around the fire, and the general enjoyment of life while camping. Despite all the negative things, we had a great time and we’ll definitely go again. In

the end, it’s more about who you’re with than where you are. We enjoyed a walk down by Roosevelt Lake on Friday. There was a nice breeze and the Munchkins enjoyed picking up shells. We played games with Jeff & Faith Smith and their friend Chris while Samantha chased Rhodes. We drank beer. I read a whole book! We played with the Munchkins. We talked and laughed and shared stories. Yep. I highly recommend camping with friends! And though we’re eager to camp again, we don’t feel the need to camp in the low desert again since we experienced almost all that it has to offer! Once per lifetime is enough!

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