All posts by Tamara

the Dunkins in the Desert: day one

as if the ostrich festival wasn’t enough fun to last us through our ENTIRE spring break,
we had to go ahead and plan a family reunion.
for reals.
with the new baby
(not ours!),
one family had to bail.
but that’s okay.
the cousins have been SO EXCITED for this week.
the Washington state and Chicago family are looking forward to SUN and WARMTH.

we are SO THANKFUL to have this HUGE house (not ours) for us all to share this week.
it’s a huge blessing.
a perk, for sure.
it’s not far from our home.
in fact, we’re just in a neighboring town.
but it feels like we’re miles and miles away.
because we’re vacationing.
and there’s a heated pool.
and family is here….
oh my. let me stop there for today and get back to the story at hand…

Sunday was day one (full day) of the Dunkins in the Desert.
not everyone has arrived yet.
in fact,
it was just us and one other family.
but it was a fantastic day anyway.
lots of sun.
lots of pool time.
cousins playing and having a blast.
siblings and spouses talking and cooking and eating and parenting together…
probably the way life once was before trains and planes made traveling easier.
before people moved thousands of miles away from their family instead of just to the other side of town.

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pretty sure this guy was on a high school diving team:

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he’s got some crazy acrobatic moves.
i should’ve taken video instead of stills!

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(The Littlest Munchkin asked for her big brother to yell “cannonball” and then jump into the water. He acquiesced. She chapped.)

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along with his own acrobatic skills,
he’s a pretty great uncle and dad to help the kids realize their full acrobatic potential:
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this little series of photos makes me laugh…
probably because i can see their smiles.:
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dave found a comfy place on the living room floor to take a nap
(while the kiddos watched some Jake and the Neverland Pirates):


and while I whipped up 1/2 a batch of Monster Cookies.
and a batch of pico de gallo.
in my most amazing kitchen for the week:


isn’t it amazing?
it’s HUGE.
with TWO sinks.
and TWO dishwashers.
and THREE ovens.
and a pantry SO LARGE it holds it’s own fridge.
that’s just for beverages.

here are the girls reading stories before dinner.
ironically enough,
after a day of swimming,
the book of the night was The Little Mermaid!


with a morning at church,
a lunch of Rancho Market’s pollo asado,
an afternoon of swimming,
breakfast for dinner,
and a whole host of fun moments in-between,
i think Day One of the Dunkins in the Desert
was quite successful.
the silence in the house from FIVE sleeping children would probably support that thought!
we’re all quite excited to see what day two holds!

spring break shenanigans…. with ostriches!

Spring Break began on Friday at 12:01pm for D&S and at 12:31pm for A.
In an effort to make our week as crazy as we could,
we opted to repeat a fun activity from last year….


and to make it as much fun as it was last year,
we went with the same people:
The Wood Family!

Since we were rookies last year,
we learned to get wrist bands for ALL the kiddos.
that was a HUGE HIT this year.
and to avoid buying tickets,
I got a wrist band again this year.
Dave didn’t want one.

Alex thoroughly enjoyed ALL the rides she tried.
and she tried a lot.
roller coasters.
crazy rides.
tame rides.
she LOVED them.

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it was super fun for me this year to be RIDING with the kiddos.
especially alex.
i didn’t grow up going to carnivals or fairs or festivals.
and the few times i ever did attend one, there were LIMITED rides i could go on.
because my mom wasn’t into rides.
the carousel and ferris wheel were about the extent of it.
but amazingly, i LOVE rides.
not the the kind that spin and make you nauseated.
(well, not anymore.
when i was younger…)
but what i really loved about this year was dave being BEHIND the camera..
which put me IN a lot of the photos this year.

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and after lots and LOTS of kiddie rides,
we wandered over to the big people rides.
and got distracted by the reptile people on the way….

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this ride….

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i’m so thankful i talked samantha into riding with the boys instead of with me.
it would’ve made me sick.

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poor munchkin,
it DID make davey sick.
next year, we’ll give him 1/4 to 1/2 of a motion sickness pill.
and yes, he actually got SICK….
about 30 minutes AFTER riding it.
lesson learned.

he did bounce back.
but it took a little while.

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after the big kid rides (where alex was too little to enjoy anything),
we made our way back to the kiddie area for a few more rides….

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before making our way back to the Ostrich Races
(yes, for real),
we stopped by the reptile booth again to see and pet a different animal:
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and then it was time for the OSTRICH RACES!!!
for real.
there was way too much talking this year between events.
but when the events were actually happening, it was pretty fun!


ostrich races: 

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kids chasing emus:


chariot races:


kids racing ducks:


zebra races:


more ostrich racing…
that was CRAZY FUNNY when the ostriches decided to spin in circles in an attempt to knock off their jockey:

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dromidary camel races:

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and some close ups of the animals….

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and then we returned to the rides
(i told you,
it was ALL ABOUT the rides this year):


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(see alex in that photo with me?
the one above?
yeah… she’s crazy!
but she loved it!
she had one short moment of fear
but we pushed past it and she wanted to ride this MULTIPLE times!)

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yep. we did the kid swings more than once:

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like last year,
we took our own snacks to the venue.
but we didn’t miss out on the good stuff.
samantha enjoyed a corn dog for dinner.
the rest of us (dave included) shared a turkey leg for dinner.
we (minus dave) scarfed down a funnel cake.
and before we left,
we bought a large bag of COTTON CANDY to enjoy on the way home.
well, we enjoyed about half of the bag that day.
we’re still working our way through the rest of it.

i think a wonderful tradition is well underway.
we look forward to this event next year…
with The Woods!


deep roots….

so the older two Dunkins look a lot like dave.
and a lot like me.
they’re a pretty amazing blend of the two of us.
the way God designed genetics boggles my mind.

unfortunately for the older two Munchkins,
they take after ME in the dental department.
that means small mouths and big teeth.
a year ago,
on a regular trip to the dentist (our FIRST trip, mind you),
the dentist recommended that davey have SEVERAL teeth pulled no later than summer.
summer 2015.
as in – less than 3 months later.
really, really soon.
and then they recommended that Samantha would need the SAME THING
(aka: lots of teeth pulled) the following summer (2016).
and that didn’t sit well with me.

so it took several months,
but i finally remembered to get a 2nd opinion appointment
(from MY dentist, whom i really trust and respect).
and my dentist (who didn’t charge me for the consult!)
recommended the same thing as the pediatric dentist.
he also recommended an orthodontic consult.
so i finally got that last month.
and he recommended THE SAME THING.


so i gave in.
and i scheduled the Munchkins to get some teeth pulled.
by taking a year to get those two other opinions,
davey ended up losing a few of his teeth.
so instead of needing to have SIX teeth pulled….
he only needed ONE!
this morning, his smile looked like THIS:


but just a few hours later,
he looked like this in the dentist’s chair:


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along with getting just ONE tooth pulled,
he also got SEALANTS on all four of his molars.
hopefully he’ll end up with far fewer cavities than his mama!
(this sweet boy didn’t even realize his tooth had been pulled.
he knew the sealants were on.
and he was waiting.
and waiting.
and waiting for his tooth to be pulled.
but they’d already done it.
after the sealants.
silly boy!)

this girl,
didn’t get off so easily.
this morning, her smile looked like this:

and just a few hours later,
it looked like this:
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those are some LARGE gaps in there!
she had FOUR teeth pulled.
her four canines.
that means one tooth on the top left
one on the top right
one on the bottom left
one on the bottom right.
so combine those FOUR canines that were pulled with the 3 teeth she’s pulled out or lost on her own over the last few months and this girl is missing LOTS of teeth!

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both munchkins were in good spirits this morning.
and when they discovered the movie ALVIN & THE CHIPMUNKS on the tv at the dentist’s office?!
all was well at that point!

but then they each took turns going back to see the dentist.
davey’s visit wasn’t too bad.
samantha’s was a little harder (though she actually went first).
her first two teeth came out easy.
the third one put up a tiny fight.
and the fourth one didn’t want to let go.
she may have shed some tears at the end of her visit.
the staff in the office were so kind and gracious and understanding.
and i would like to say that once her dose of Motrin kicked in….
she was FINE for the rest of the day
(until bedtime when she needed another dose of medicine).

on our way home from the dentist’s office,
we stopped at McDonalds for MILKSHAKES
(chocolate for D and strawberry for S)…
to be eaten with a SPOON and NOT a straw!


along with their milkshakes,
they watched HORTON HEARS A WHO
and about an hour of netflix cartoons.

they found some other things to do later this afternoon:

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and they even joined us at the table for dinner!
samantha only ate the cheesy potatoes (wise choice!)
but davey was able to eat some salmon, too.
(note: samantha DID have a smoothie this afternoon – with a spoon, not a straw – and it included LOTS of spinach).


these two tackled this day with grace and understanding.
they were brave and gracious.
they were polite and kind.
i love them with ever fiber of my being.

and i really, REALLY wish they had dave’s mouth instead of mine.

everything is awesome in Candyland….

by now, i think you know i’m a “parent rep” on our school’s PTSO board.
that means i’m part of the decision making and planning and prepping of our PTSO activities, events, and fund raisers.

last year, we hosted a CANDYLAND themed Valentine’s Dance/Party
(there was a little drama from the upper grades when we called it a DANCE instead of a PARTY, so we re-named it and pushed hard that it’s a FAMILY EVENT).
we had candy, candy, candy, candy, and more candy.
plus cupcakes, soda, and water.
i agreed to create a photo backdrop AND to take photos for $5 each.

many thanks to pinterest,
i went with a “candy dots” themed backdrop:

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kinda fun, eh?
i agreed to take photos again this year.
but i wanted to change up the backdrop.
and simplify it.
but after searching on Pinterest,
i didn’t come up with many great ideas.
one idea i DID find there was PERFECT for this year….

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colored streamers.
with blue butcher paper behind it.
yep. that’s all i did.
well, i made it a little harder….
but in the end, it made it easier for me to put it up and take it down.
i stapled 7′ lengths of streamers to square dowel rods.
since we were working with a CEMENT BLOCK wall at school,
i used a hot glue gun to attach the butcher paper to the wall.
and then i hot glued the square dowels to the butcher paper.
and i used glue at the BOTTOM of the streamers to attach them to the butcher paper so they wouldn’t fly about and get tangled during the evening.
i also snagged some huge frames from my home and painted them
(using trusty-old spray paint) to add another “dimension” to the photos.

i love that there was no “seam” visible in the middle of the backdrop this year.
i did learn, however, that i need to make my backdrop taller (we have some TALL DADS)…
and wider (there were some photos with 9 people in them!).
if we stick with the CANDYLAND theme again next year,
i’ll have to come up with another fun backdrop….

now i know the above photos of my kiddos and i aren’t the greatest.
we were missing a KEY piece to our lighting kit.
and that piece was at a friend’s house.
and she wasn’t going to be home until AFTER the party started.
so she ran it to me as soon as she could.
and after about 7 or 8 photos,
i had MUCH better lighting, b/c we got the slave flashes to work.

but before the doors opened,
we got a photo of SOME of our trust PTSO board hard at work….
well, maybe we’re not hard at work in this photo.
we’re smiling nicely.
and standing up tall.
but we were in the middle of scurrying around to get everything READY.


many, MANY thanks to Bobbi Jo (our president),
for snapping a few photos of me “at work” in the photography booth that evening:


(since this year’s photos weren’t “fixed” – meaning i didn’t have the camera attached to a tripod to keep them all “portrait” style (like a prom photo),
i was up and down all night long.
i was on my knees.
i was squatting.
i was walking.
for TWO hours.
i spent the next few DAYS trying to recover.
my left thigh, especially, was SORE.
and stronger.
much, MUCH stronger.

here are a few of my favorite people who bought pictures that night:

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(that last photo is of Bobbi Jo, our President, and her son.
it was the LAST photo i took of the evening.
it was literally SECONDS before i ripped down the backdrop and rendered it useless.
so glad for that ONE. LAST. PHOTO!)

now since i was at the photo booth ALL. NIGHT. LONG…..
(seriously, my line was CAH-RAZY looooooooooong)…..
I have ZERO photos of the event itself.
many thanks to SUSAN for showing up to take photos for the yearbook!

i was, however, able to snag some photos from some friends….

this photo is like a “where’s waldo?” search….
can you find SAMANTHA:


apparently it’s a dance circle and there was a 4th grader inside doing AH-MAZE-ING things.
there’s a video of it on Facebook.
but not on my page.
i don’t know the kid.
that might be kinda weird.
but the dance was cool.

i think our PTSO pulled off another VERY successful event!
and bonus for me:
it’s first thing Wednesday morning right now and i’ve already
all the photos I took.
for reals.

(please be advised that “delivered” means i put the photos in the teacher’s boxes in the workroom at school. they are responsible to deliver them to the students. and the students are responsible to deliver them to the parents.)

while i really do ENJOY taking the photos,
i do wish i could enjoy a few moments with my kiddos on the dance floor.
then again,
samantha was the only one who stayed at the party this year.
davey, alex and daddy went home to eat dinner and watch
The Lego Movie.

the angry crab shack

a few years ago, i heard about this place called “The Angry Crab Shack.”

it sounded intriguing,
but with Dave’s gluten intolerance,
it’s not always easy to try new places.
to be fair,
their menu DOES note that the sauces are all gluten free.
but i was never sure if it would be worth it for him.
and i really didn’t know if my kids would enjoy it.
i mean, i’m SURE they would LOVE that your food gets dumped out on your table.
and i’m sure they would LOVE making a giant mess at dinner -
especially because they wouldn’t get in trouble for it!
but they’re not crazy about seafood.
we eat fish tacos and we eat salmon but that’s about it.
samantha had fresh from the bay crab in WA one summer and LOVED it.
but that was awhile ago.
and it was crab that had been pulled out of the bay only hours earlier.

so last week, when Audra was in town and we planned to have lunch together,
it took me a few days to think of another restaurant for us to try
(she has multiple allergies and foods she avoids, too),
we agreed on The Angry Crab Shack.

now you should know that lunch (or any meal) with Audra is always an adventure.
she likes to order different things.
she likes to try the specialty of the house.
she pushes me out of my comfort zone.

so for an appetizer,
it was recommended that we try the breaded alligator or the breaded frogs legs.
since Audra is supposed to avoid gluten/wheat,
we went with the recommendation that had LESS breading:


frogs legs.
for real:

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so it wasn’t gross.
(the breading was actually REALLY good – and i’m NOT a breading lover).
it was extra chewy.
it didn’t taste like much.
(no, it didn’t taste like chicken).
i have no need to order them again.
but they weren’t bad.
but now, as i think back on frogs
and all the dirty, slimy, swampy, muddy places they live,
i’m a bit grossed out.
so i stop thinking about it.
that’s my best defense.

now, Audra is allergic to crab.
so she asked our server for a recommendation for her meal.
he suggested the grilled salmon basket.
i ordered a Dungeness Crab.
i didn’t pay complete attention when i ordered,
so i neglected to realize i was ordering a WHOLE crab instead of just crab legs.


that, my friends, is 1.75 lb of tasty Dungeness crab.

Audra was disappointed to later discover that there was LOBSTER on the menu.
(try to imagine a photo of Audra holding a LOBSTER like i’m holding that photo of a crab!)
and THEN we learned that our server doesn’t even like seafood.


so Audra wants to try this place again.
and she’ll order the lobster.
and i’ll order crab LEGS.
and we’ll maybe take the guys with us.
and i don’t know WHAT Dave will order.
or Bob.
it could be very, VERY fun!

so Audra,
THANK YOU for our lunch date!
i had a great time.
i ate great food.
the conversation didn’t falter at all.
i wish you lived here all the time.
come back soon!

dynamite can be very, VERY scary!

a few weeks ago,
when my mom (aka: Nana) was still here,
(the official date was Saturday, January 2nd),
we decided to take advantage of winter in Arizona….
so we went for a hike!
dave found a new trail for us to try:
on San Tan Mountain

it was easy enough for alex to walk a solid mile before i agreed to carry her.
granted, she complained for the last 0.3 miles that we made her walk,
but it was good for her.
and she PHYSICALLY can do it.
she’s just a fairly lazy child.
with very limited endurance.

anyway, we loved the clear, blue skies and the warm sunshine.
it was a clear day, so we could see all the way into phoenix
(and we were SOUTH EAST of our house,
which is already south east of Phoenix!)

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oh yeah,
the two older Munchkins tried out their new water backpacks.
alex struggled to suck the water so we left hers in the car.

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as you can see, it was fairly windy up there:


and while arizona is VERY brown and a LITTLE bit green,
it still has it’s own kind of beauty.
(i forgot to mention that i only had my iPhone for this hike!)


this trail was one of those “walk as far as you want and then turn around and go back” types of hikes.
so we went a little over a mile and then decided to push for 1.3 miles.
but then we were so close to the “other side” of the mountain that we pushed a little further “just to see” what’s there.
and we ended up walking 1.7 miles before enjoying the view of the OTHER side of the mountain.
and then we stopped for a snack break.

and a certain someone REALLY had to go to the bathroom.
because that certain someone drank ALMOST ALL of the water from their backpack before we even STARTED our hike.
i kid you not.

and then ANOTHER Munchkin had to go potty.
but we were on the side of a mountain.
with no bathrooms.
no port-a-potties.
and no trees for “coverage.”
and it was a fairly busy day on the trail.

i finally sent them off
(up the side of the mountain – off the trail)
to find a place to do their business.
and the rest of us settled down to some granola bars and peanut butter crackers and fruit snacks….



immediately my mind flashed to:

so i took off running on the trail.
searching frantically up and down….
left and right.
and then i saw her.
to my left (up the hill).
a little roughed up.
she had fallen.
not far.
but hard.
and the ground in arizona is not very forgiving.
it’s rock hard.
and filled with rocks.
and cacti.
and sticker bushes of all varieties.

it turns out,
she scraped up her ear.
it bruised up within minutes.


i think it’s safe to say,
she won’t remember this hike too fondly.


but she wasn’t so hurt that she didn’t want to eat her snacks.
and THAT was a good sign.

and then we went down the mountain rather quickly.



and we enjoyed a REALLY TASTY dinner at Joyride Taco.
we had earned it.

i should also point out that this day,
HIKE day,
was the ONLY day during our Christmas break that i took over 10,000 steps in one day.
I usually have 10,000 steps between noon & 3pm.
but during Christmas break,
i skipped my mornings at the gym
(b/c I’m too cheap to pay for childcare for all three kiddos).
so it felt GOOD….
to be active again.

thankful for so many, many years….

it’s true, my friends.
i’m another year older.
i have more wrinkles.
i have more gray hairs.
(when, oh WHEN will your new space be ready, Bethany?!?!)
i have more aches and pains.
it’s harder to drop the weight when i binge eat something.


but it’s also true that i have an amazing family.
my wonderful husband loves me – wrinkles and all.
my Munchkins proudly call me mommy and still want to hold my hand
(i’ll savor that one as long as it lasts!).
i have friends who mean so much to me.
friends who love me and spoil me and put up with my crazy-self.


i’ve been on this planet for 41 years now (gasp!) and i’m thankful for them all.
there were fun years.
and hard years.
learning years.
growing years.
poor years.
rich-er years.
years of travel.
years at home.
years at working.
years of waiting.
years of wondering.
years of wishing.
years of change.
years of monotony.
and yes, the years of diapers and potty training {insert body-wracking shudder}
and many, many other kinds of years.


and they all helped make me who i am today.
i’m not perfect.
not even close.
i have so many flaws in WHO i am
and in WHAT i do
and in HOW i think and react….
i get “it” WRONG more than i get “it” RIGHT….
but God has been graciously patient, kind, and loving.
He continues to give me opportunity after opportunity to
i wish i would get it all “right” the first time.
but i’m thankful for change.
for growth.
for understanding.
for insight.
for second… and third… and fourth chances.


and i’m thankful for another year to love my family.
to laugh and play and spend time together.
for another year to TRY AGAIN.
to pray more.
to read the Bible more.
to STUDY the Bible more.
to make an impact on the people i meet.
to help others.
to grow and change and thrive and evolve.

one little word

i wasn’t planning on jumping on the one little word bandwagon.
(if you don’t know what i’m talking about, check out THIS link).
i mean, i LOVE the idea.
i LOVE the intent.
i LOVE the purposefulness.
but i’ve never had something resonate so deeply within me that i KNEW i wanted to spend the next year focusing on it.
living it.
breathing it.
letting it change me.
watching it change me.

but this year, something is different.
back in early december i went to a local flea market (my FAVORITE pastime).
it was a crazy saturday morning b/c i had my munchkin girls with me.
but as i walked up to a church friend’s space, i saw this:


and i was hooked.
it didn’t matter to me that there was one right next to it that read “peace.”
(if you know anything about me,
even if only my personal e-mail address,
you know that word means SOMETHING to me.
“peace” was a HUGE theme in my life waaaaaay back in 1997
and it has affected me ever since).

but for unknown reasons,
i was really drawn to the JOY sign.
perhaps because i was looking for more outdoor Christmas decor.
perhaps because i have FINALLY realized that everything in my home can NOT have the word “peace” on it.
or perhaps….
just perhaps
God was working in me even then to prepare me for now.

perhaps He was breathing new life in me.
a desire for change.
a desire to be different.
a desire to grow.
a desire to be JOYFUL.
filled with joy.
not happy, my friends.
not happy.
something MORE than happy.
something deep within that will bubble up and spill out of me when i talk.
when i type.
when i hug.
when i laugh.
when i cry.
when i live.

i want it to be WHO I AM.
not what i feel.
or how i act.

so, my friends,
my ONE LITTLE WORD for 2016 is


joy in the mundane
joy in the boring
joy in the fun
joy in the hardships
joy in the trials
joy while folding laundry
joy while cleaning poop off a toilet seat
joy while holding a crying Munchkin
joy while walking to school
joy while working the copier
joy while reading with children
joy while shopping
joy while eating
joy while cooking
joy while studying
joy while grieving
joy while driving
joy while celebrating
joy when not getting my way
joy in the frustrations

JOY, my friends.
this year i will CHOOSE JOY in all i do.
i won’t be successful all the time.
i will still complain and whine and cry.
i will still be sad and mad and frustrated.
i will still be human.
but it is my heart’s desire….
my prayer…
to be JOYFUL through it all.

Psalm 30:5b
“Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.”

Psalm 51:12
“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit.”

an unexpected snow day
















today was monday.
martin luther king jr day.
a holiday from school.
not a holiday from work.
but with his parents in town, dave took the day off work.
and we were ready for an adventure.

we planned for it to be a hiking adventure.
in sedona.
so we loaded up the car and drove away…


…and it was a LONG drive.
around 2.5 hours.
but the littlest munchkin had plenty of attention….


love this photo of her holding hands with grandpa (left) and grandma (right).

the drive to sedona is beautiful.
and inspiring.
and boring.
all at the same time.
as you drive to sedona, you see lots and LOTS of saguaro cacti.
and then you climb this rise and all-of-a-sudden there are ZERO saguaro cacti.
or you’re driving along and you see brown dirt.
and then, all-of-a-sudden it’s RED dirt.
it’s cool.
but those are two brief moments during a 2.5 hour drive.

it’s also pretty sudden that you see things like this:


cool rock formations in the sedona-famous red dirt/rock.

but something else even CRAZIER is this:


don’t get it?
he wore PANTS.
this has happened TWO TIMES since school started.
and today is ONE of those two times.
that come all the way down.
not shorts.


silly cowboy munchkins:

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making music on the streets:

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cool street art:

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walking through town…

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ready to eat lunch.
yelp recommended this place as having good food AND a gluten free menu.
the GF menu was “enh” at best.
and the food?
two people had to send their food back.
and it was EXPENSIVE.
we won’t return.



two kid’s meals:


after lunch, we wandered around town a little more before piling back in the car for a drive to a hiking location….


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as we drove INTO Sedona,
a certain munchkin got RIDICULOUSLY obsessed with snow.
wanted to touch it.
wanted to play in it.
counted the months/years since they last touched snow.
or played in it.
or lived somewhere with snow.


but upon arrival to a “sea of snow,”

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(^^^^ a seriously amazing backdrop for the snow, yeah?! ^^^^)

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(^^^ in love with this photo ^^^)

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snow much fun!
they didn’t mind that we left home without gloves.
or hats.
or mitten.
or snow clothes.
they had so much fun!

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(^^^ that giant snow glob may have been thrown at daddy’s bottom! ^^^)

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this place looks so different with snow!
we’ve only been here in the summer before!


i think i should frame this one for our wall:


this one’s pretty fun, too:



in the old apple orchard harvesting facility,
dad found a piece of his own history.
he learned to drive on a tractor like this:


i can’t get enough of that “dimple:”


after wandering by the water, we found a trail and braved the snow and mud:




(^^^ cacti in the snow…. not a common sight! ^^^)

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saw this amazing sky sight as we got back to the car:


isn’t that sky AMAZING!!!

then we did a quick drive-by of the Church of the Cross:


before spotting a wild JAVELINA:



(^^^ i KNOW you can only see a blurry picture of his backside.
i’m SORRY.
i had camera issues….
my car window was up.
then the lens cap was on the camera.
then the camera wasn’t on.
then the lens was locked in place.
and during all those moments where i had to “FIX” something, he wandered across the street and away from us. we even TURNED OUR CAR AROUND to take a photo and that’s the best i could do. i failed. i apologize.


and then we headed home.
with some traffic.
and a pit stop at a drive thru for dinner for the kiddos
(grown ups decided to eat at home – late).

and we still made it home in 2 hours.
and now the munchkins are eager to play in the snow again.
and i don’t blame them!

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!