Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Happy Birthday, Eliza Mae!!

Eliza turned one!! Here she is, sleepy-eyed and all, first thing on the morn of her very first birthday. The girls were so excited to sing to her, they even cooperated (mostly) for this little photo!


When I told Grace, on Thursday, that the next day was Eliza's birthday she asked, "what’s she gonna get?"--and i swear to you that it was in that very moment that it first occurred to me that i should maybe get a little present for my child's very first birthday!!! Had it not been for Grace I never would have swung by that garage sale on Friday morning and picked up those building blocks that my sweet Eliza can not get enough of!! (I know, i’m a big spender, it’s a bit of a problem in our marriage) Thanks, Gracie, for being my brain so much of the time!!

We celebrated her big day on Saturday with her little friend, Kalia who just turned one a couple weeks earlier.


I made a Deceptively Delicious little brownie cake. I'm telling you, it was really, really good!! I'm sure the recipe is out there somewhere on the web, and i don't feel like getting my book out, so i'm just gonna say this- about 4 cups of fresh spinach, 2 cups of carrots, 1/3 cup sugar, cocoa, oat flour, etc=total awesomeness!!! We all loved it, and this is the kind of cake i could handle letting Eliza devour...which she did.


I don't know if I should say she devoured the cake or she slurped the cake. She didn't shove big fistfuls into her mouth like i'd expected. Rather she held the whole piece up and just kinda sucked on it until there was nothing left but the mushed up brownie between her fingers. She was giggling the whole time. It was the cutest thing. We didn’t really do presents, just the blocks. It was all very low-key. But there was something extremely unique about this birthday. Something that sets it apart from all previous 1st birthdays in this home. And that is that i am not pregnant with the next one!!! happy unbirthingday to meeeee!! :)IMG_2601

Now, what can I say about Eliza that i won’t have to go back and delete years down the road when she learns how to read…I’m kidding! mostly

She really is a happy baby. As long as all of her needs are met. I guess all babies are like that, the difference is in the amount of needs???

She loves clothes. She'll play with a pair of socks and a shirt for hours. For Christmas I think Santa might just bring up the laundry basket, heaping with clean cotton knits—all for her to play in :) (let’s not pretend that’s not something i’d totally do, btw)

She loves to be naked. she’d rather hold her shirt all day than wear it for even an hour.

She has learned one little sign-"please"--which is preformed by violently whacking her mouth over and over (I think she got confused with the "thank you" and we just went with it)

She says "nigh-nigh", "amen" and "da-da" and that’s it. But boy, does she ham it up with those three. She just loves to wait as long as she can after the prayer to say amen and still get a reaction from us. Such a nut.

She's happiest when it's just me, Reid and her sisters here at home with her. As soon as anyone else enters the scene, all confidence in life is lost, and she's pretty much miserable. (imagine how well it goes when that someone is our babysitter!)

She is crying less and less each day. It's hard to see sometimes, but I know it's true. She's getting much better at entertaining herself, and doesn't have to be in the exact same room as me every second of the day.

She's down to one nap a day, for the most part. And i LOVE it! 3 1/2 hours in one big chunk is far better than two 2 hour naps!!

She gives really big, wet kisses. And only to me. And i love them.

She loves to sing--really, really loudly. I don't know that anyone else hearing it would call it singing. But it is. She does it every time I sing. and it's lovely :)

She giggles every time she toots. i kid you not. And so now we all giggle when she toots. And i don’t see it ever stopping :)

She can scream at the exact same decibel and pitch as our home alarm system. I can't tell you how many times i've gone to turn off the alarm, only to find half way there that it was just my sweet child. She screams if you take anything away from her (can't blame her, right?), if you get too close to her, if you leave her in her booster chair for more than 3 seconds without food in front of her, and, of course, if I walk away and there's a stranger ANYWHERE in sight.

She loves food. She'll eat anything you offer her. And she eats endless amounts of it. She really does love all foods! It's so nice, when my older children turn their noses up at some of my crazy concoctions, to always know that at least one of my children will completely devour it, regardless of it's flavor or components :) Some of her faves are: steamed broccoli (it really is!!), blueberries, mini-sweet peppers (Reid gave her a whole one and she chewed it all without choking!!!), spaghetti, any fruit, and water in her straw cup. She is in love with her straw cup.

She's still just crawling. Not really scooting along furniture yet, but she does let go of my hands and stand by herself--and laughs.

She laughs at herself a lot. She sincerely thinks she's really funny. She gets that from me.

She’s my easiest child to shop with. She’s so friendly to everyone she sees. But sometimes, when they think they’ve been “invited” into her little comfort zone, she lays it on them—that alarm-system scream. It’s quite embarrassing. Some of you may have heard me saying “it’s not you, she does that to anyone that’s not me” to total strangers, on the verge of tears.

She loves to be outside. That is the one place where she’ll hang out all by herself for a bit. She loves her swing. Or she chills on the deck, eating leaves and sticks and old rain water in the little car, while Abby and Grace run around the yard playing Princesses and Bad Guys. I’ve thought before that the only way it could be any better would be if Eliza could come in and out as she pleases, without having to scream to get back in. And just today a little friend of ours ran through our screen door (luckily he’s fine!!), serendipitously creating a “doggy-door” of our screen!! This kept her happy for a whole hour while i made dinner! Her sisters had to try it, too :)

Eliza Mae, this has been the hardest year for me as a mom, hands down. I think that three kids will do that to just about anyone. But to top it off, you’ve been my hardest baby, hands down. And the combination has felt like enough to do me in--on many occasions. This birthday of yours is the first time i've celebrated a baby's b-day without asking myself "where has this year gone!?!" This year has not flown by. It's slowed down. But that’s not entirely a bad thing, at all. It's been so full of such sweet moments in this little home, and for those-- i'd stop the clock. I can really truly say now that i'm glad you came into our family when you did. Your friendships with your sisters are already forming. And all my fears about "three girls so close in age never being able to get along" and "one always feeling left out" are slowly calming. I think with just the right mix of personalities that three girls really can be best friends. And i think we just might have that mix. Thank you for being exactly the way you are :)

I love you, Eliza Mae!!


Girly time

My two awesome sisters-in-law gave me a pedicure/manicure gift certificate about 11.7 months ago--soon after Eliza was born. Only 11.6 months later I had a free Saturday to go get it done! And since no one loves nail painting more than Grace, I thought she better come along. Lucky for me, Reid reminded me before hand that things like this never play out quite like I might hope with Grace. Her shyness literally cripples her at times. Remembering this was very helpful, and got my expectations right where they needed to be. And we had a great time. Yes, her head was buried in either my or her shirt the whole time. And no, she didn't say a word the whole time we were there--except that she wanted the "most sparkliest" nail polish they had :) But she was so excited the whole way there, and the moment we got home, she could talk about nothing else! I was really glad to have some good Grace-time. And I know she felt pretty cool to have me all to herself, too :)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Abby’s Half Birthday Party

I tried to do this back in January, but that didn’t happen.  I tried to do this while Reid and Grace were in WY.  that didn’t happen.  But on August 12, 2009 it finally happened! Abby had her very first birthday party!  She loved all the build-up, all the talk of presents, and cake, and balloons.  She loved waking up to decorations, flowers, and balloons—all for her.

 Abby's HalfBirthday1

And she LOVED having her friends over here.  And I loved that it wasn’t right after Christmas!  I’ve always talked about doing half-birthday parties for her, but I was never really sure how it would work out.  But now that i’ve done it, I know that it’s a breeze!  And she didn’t really care that she wasn’t turning a new number.  So, for all you out there with Christmas/New Year’s babies—you gotta try this!!! :)

We played games in the backyard,  


then we bowled in the basement,


And then the girls all got to build their own fruit smoothies. (I love this alternative to cookie decorating, btw!)

Abby's HalfBirthday

While we were drinking our smoothies, the girls got to help me decorate Abby’s cake.  (Plan A for the cake fell through about 45 minutes before the party started.  But this plan B worked really well…i’m kinda thinking it might become Plan A more often!)

 IMG_2512 - Copy

Finally, we rushed to do cake and open presents before the moms came back to get their kids.  Abby LOVED all her presents!  Thank you to all who came!! (can that pass as a Thank You card?  ‘cause i’m really not very good at those :) )


I didn’t get any pictures of the cake.  It just looked like a bunch of little girls had dumped sprinkles all over it.  It was cute :)  And I was surprised that Abby blew out both the candles at the end of the song.  I didn’t think her aim was that good! 

Abby 2.5

Happy Half-Birthday, Abby!!  We love you!!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Daddy-daugther vacation, Mom's stay-cation

Grace and Reid flew to WY last weekend to spend 4 days at his parents' house. I'm feeling a bit vacationed-out, so I opted to stay home with Abby and Eliza.

They had such a great time. Grace's one and only cousin her age was there, too. And in spite of the fact that they fought lots, they had a great time together. They went to Jenny Lake, near Jackson. They went to the County Fair. They got multiple ice cream cones (which was the first thing Grace wanted to tell me when she got home Monday morning!). And Reid got some time with his little girl--something that they both needed. Grandma and Grandpa spoiled her rotten--and she loved every minute of it! thank you!!

I started to doubt my decision to stay on Wed night, as Reid and Grace were packing their bags. But can I just say that it turned out to be one of the greatest, most relaxing weekends of my life as a mom!!! Abby got the stomach flu on Thursday (thus the fever), which meant postponing the one "special" Abby event of the weekend--her half-birthday party. That party was the one thing that was making it okay that Gracie wasn't around. I was sure that not having it was going to ruin the whole weekend for Abby. But not so! She understood that she had "the pukies" and so her party would have to wait a few days. And we had a surprisingly great time! I felt like a new woman! honestly! How can 2 kids feel soooooo easy? How come cleaning up puke all over the place/car/seat/clothes, etc did not stress me out AT ALL!??! How did two kids almost feel like none?? Especially considering that I had my two kids that are still in diapers?!?! I don't know why, but i felt like I was the one on vacation! weird, no? Either way, I loved it!!!
Abby slept in until NOON on friday, Eliza slept until 9, and went back down at 10 for a nap--so I decided, right there in the middle of my usually really busy morning, to read Eat to Live (which, if you've read, i'd love to get your feedback on!). It was AWESOME! Abby got feeling better by Friday afternoon, and for the rest of the weekend we had so much fun! We went to parks, Chuck-e-Cheese, the library, ran errands(!), went to church, went to a church party, and just had the most peaceful, non-contentious weekend of the past 2 years! I didn't raise my voice once! not once! (and for all you moms with 2+ year olds, who consistently go many days in a row without losing your patience, i admire you immeasurably!) I felt so refreshed, so relaxed--it was awesome. And Reid got a vacation, too. He got to golf with his brother (his absolute favorite pastime) and spend time with his family.

Abby and Grace really needed a break from each other. They're best friends, it's true. But they're also worst enemies. They fight so much, and so often. And it drives me nuts! I think that the break from their fighting was what I enjoyed the most. The whole weekend was my idea of a perfect stay-cation.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mt Rushmore and more...

We spent July 24-27th with Reid's family in South Dakota. It was awesome!!! We've been wanting to make this trip for a couple of years now, and it finally happened this summer. The drive up to the Black Hills was surprisingly beautiful. It was just over 6 hours long, but with new scenery, it felt more like 4 (unlike driving to our parents' houses...that drive is getting OLD and feeling longer and longer every time!)
The two big girls girls did great. I'm amazed at how well those two travel. Eliza, on the other hand, was a pain. She did fine in the car actually. It was just in the early hours of the morning that I thought about selling her on ebay (or etsy? is she considered homemade?) In spite of getting next to no naps during the day, she still woke up 2-3 hours before her normal wake-up time every morning. Now, i know that i'm spoiled with kids that sleep until 8am, so I really have no right to complain--but I'm just not a happy person at 5:30 am (ask Reid's dad! (:) Eliza just needed to cry for a few minutes and she'd have gone back to sleep. But that's impossible to do at 5:30am in a little 3 bedroom condo! (on a good note, however, she's been doing awesome since we got back--sleeping until 8:30 most morning and taking HUGE naps!!) So, besides her waking up too early, the kids really did do great, and had a great time!
We managed to not get in an accident this time...BUT about two hours from our destination some small rock (or something) punctured the condenser in our van--wiping out our a/c. The weather was gorgeous, so we might have survived without it, but the honda dealer in Rapid City was able to get us in the next day, and after some seriously AWESOME wheelin' and dealin' i got the price down from $an arm and a leg to $a mere femur. So, we got it fixed and enjoyed it the rest of the trip :)
The condo itself was a little ghetto--straight from the 70's--appliances and all! But it was located in the most beautiful, remote little valley, on a fresh trout lake-with no cell phone or blackberry service!! It was AWESOME!
We spent the first day at Reptile Gardens. We'd told Grace and Abby that they'd get to see a Kamodo Dragon. Abby thought it was cool-ish. But Grace was extremely disappointed to see a big ole' lizard. No flying. No fire-breathing. No purple shimmery scales. To be honest, I kind of agree with her. It really was just a big ole lizard...which is why i think we don't have any pictures of it.
There were about a bagillion different kinds of snakes. The big one by Grace climbed all the way up that glass wall (as soon as my camera was off, of course!)--pretty amazing...
I think we all agreed that the best part were the shows. There was a snake show, a bird show, and best of all--a crocodile show! Seriously, it was awesome. This kid comes out, in the middle of a pit FULL of crocodiles, alligators and caymans and starts poking and prodding them with this stick. We're all just eating it up and secretly hoping to see some action, but not know. And finally he jumps into the little river, grabs a feisty one by the tale, pulls him out of the water, teases him a bit more, and then jumps on his back and manages to bind his jaws. All the while there are alligators all around him. It was perfectly amusing, entertaining and terrifying--and we all just LOVED it! :)
On day two we made it to Mt Rushmore. It was just as breath-taking as I had imagined it. We walked around the museum area, hiked up to get a look up the president's nostrils, carried the strollers up and down 400+ stairs, learned so many interesting things about when it was built, by whom it was built it, and why it was built. It was really, really great. And to all you reading this that live within a day's drive to see it--GO THERE!

We left Mt. Rushmore via Custer State Park. It was so fun driving through one-lane tunnels, passing over and under pig-tail bridges, and especially feeding the burros. Grace was even braver than her 17-year-old aunt (that's right, Karen, i'm talkin' about you :) i saw you coil your hand back!) and let the burros eat right out of her hands.
And why are there burros in South Dakota? it's actually an interesting story...that i don't remember anymore :)
We got back to our place just as the sun started to fall in the sky and the trout in our little lake started to get hungry. So Reid took Grace and Abby fishing. It was possibly the best part of the whole trip, Reid has so many wonderful memories of fishing with his dad as a little boy, and he was happier than anything to be able to teach Grace everything his dad taught him. And Grace LOVED it! She even caught her very own fish!

It was such a great, fun moment! She did a really good job at keeping steady, and didn't let her excitement take over. I was really impressed by that! And of the four fish that we caught, hers was the biggest. She was so excited to see it when Reid brought it out of the water...and she was equally as sad when Reid told her he had to go kill it so it wouldn't suffocate. She really wanted to go watch Reid kill it, but I thought that getting splattered by the blood of her Very First Fish might be a bit much for my sweet 4 I did my best to keep the girls from seeing/hearing it all. To be honest, they probably would have done just fine. I was more worried about me!!
Hear I am, singing Jingle Bells in a panic to block out the noise...I love that Karen took this picture--one of my all-time favorites!

It was so much fun being out there on the (mosquito-free!!) lake with our little girls. They really did just love fishing with their dad. Abby had a little less patience for it, but she was so happy to just be there. And when they weren't at the reel, Abby and Grace just ran around chasing geese and dancing in the long grass.

And we all enjoyed the fruits of their labor the next night for dinner. Reid did a good job, at least I thought, explaining to Grace about the circle of life, and about how grateful we should be for the fish that gave their lives for us. I was afraid she was going to freak out about it, and she never did. Reid's amazing, have I mentioned that before? :) and thank heavens he and his dad were willing to gut and prepare the fish. That fish was delicious!!
(maybe this collage should have been divided into two separate collages...not very appealing...)

Reid brought home his dad's fishing poles and is looking forward to doing this again with his girls. I think fishing is a blast...but i'm more of a catch-and-release kinda gal...unless Reid and Mike are there to do all the dirty work! :)

On day three we drove through the Black Hills, past some of the most beautiful lakes/dams I've ever seen. It was breathtaking! We detoured off a bit to see Thunderhead falls. Turns out that most of the fall is in a cave, and we didn't want to tour the cave, so we just took pics of the little part we could see.
We drove on to Rapid City where we went to Story Book Island. It is the greatest little park you can imagine! and it's free! There are statues all over the island of just about every fairytale character you can imagine! The girls were most excited about Wizard of Oz, Pinocchio, Snow White, the Three Pigs chimney, and Santa Clause. Cute how friendly Grace will be with statues...but get her anywhere near a moving version of just about anything, and she freaks out! If anyone hears of a Santa statue around Christmastime, let me know, 'cause she's probably be willing to tell a statue what she wants for Christmas :)
Next we went to Bear Country, USA. That place is awesome. It's like a drive-through zoo but with ginormous animals that are roaming all around you--reindeer, buffalo, Artic wolves, moose, Big Horn Sheep, and of course, bears--Black bears and Grizzly bears. A couple of them practically rubbed up against our van. awesome! And the baby bears were SOOOO much fun to watch. They're so playful and active and cute!!! It was so fun!
My favorite part was convincing Abby to sit next to the "stuffed animal" on the bench. Grace had seen him move and she ran, screaming and crying, in the opposite direction until Grandpa rescued her. But Abby had missed that, so she willingly sat next to him. He cooperated with my subtle hints ("If there were to be a person in that suit, he should hold still for a little bit" and "Okay, now would be a good time to move") and completely shocked Abby. It was hilarious! These four pictures don't even do justice to how awesome it was to see her face go from "oh, how cute is this big bear" to "get me the @#$% away from him" to "Dad, that was a mean ole' trick"--it was awesome!

[Side note: I'd told Grace that day, like i have every time we go to Chuck-e-cheese, or anywhere else there are people in big costumes like that, that it's just a mommy or a daddy dressed up in a costume. And she gets it, i know she does. So this day at Bear Country I was being all me-like, and totally was annoyed that she ran, screaming in the opposite direction of the Big Bear. I was saying how she needed to get over it, and how she knows that it's just a costume, and needs to get over it this silly fear. Weeeeeellllll, the other day we were driving around in the car and she said (and i am not making this up!), "Mom, I know that it's just people in those big costumes, but they still freak me out. Just like how spiders freak you out. You know they won't hurt you, but they still freak you out." WOW!! that was an awesomely-needed, well-deserved slap in the maternal face. I seriously love that girl!]
After dinner that night we left Reid's dad at home with our sleeping kids and went back to the Mt. Rushmore lighting ceremony. That was the most patriotic, moving experience I've had in I-don't-know-how-long. There were a bazillion of us gathered there in the amphitheater at the base of Mt Rushmore, and we watched a really well-made movie about the presidents on the mountain--about why their faces were up there. It's always nice to be reminded of how many people dedicated their whole lives to making this land what it is today. It was very moving. And at the end of the video, when the sky was pitch-black, the faces on the mountain lit up. It was so great. And I just sat there thinking about this great country, and how little I do to deserve it, and wondering what more I could do to show gratitude for it. I can't imagine that i was the only one wondering that. And that's about when they invited all the veterans in the audience to come to the stage. A-W-E-S-O-M-E!!!!! Men and women, from early 20's to late 90's (i'm guessing on that, but i doubt i'm far off) of all races and places gathered up there while we sang The Star-Spangled Banner. And then, after a troop of scouts lowered the flag, each and every one of those veterans passed by the microphone, touched the flag, and told us what Military branch they'd served in. Being there and being able to gratefully applaud them for their service felt like a tiny little something I could do to show my gratitude. It was a really great experience--a definite highlight of the trip.

We packed up the next morning and headed for Evan's Plunge in Hot Springs, SD. This indoor swimming pool is on a hot spring and therefore needs no chlorine, because the water is cycled through 16 times a day!! how awesome is that? The floor of the pool is rocks--and that's where the water comes up through. Grace and Abby had a great time swimming in the little 3ft pool. And they both went down the slide with Reid, but only one of them wanted to keep going again, and again, and again. I would have guessed it to be Abby, but no!--it was Grace! she just LOVED the big slide! She's getting so brave!! Every time, at the bottom of the slide, she'd turn to Reid and say "I want to go even againer!" (I have no intentions of ever telling her that "againer" is not a word--in fact, i even use it sometimes...)
After Evan's Plunge, we parted ways, and the Wyoming-ites went on their merry way, and we went on ours. The girls were good and tired and slept a lot of the way home. I was good and tired, too, and made Reid put his work down and do a cross-word with me to keep me awake! I really do have driving-induced narcolepsy. As soon as I'm behind the wheel my eyelids literally droop. As soon as Reid is driving I'm as alert as ever. We both equally hate that :)
We couldn't have, or wouldn't have done this vacation without Reid's parents and sister. They're so helpful and patient with our kids--THANK YOU!! We hope you'll join us when we do this trip again in 5 years or so!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Can I hear an Amen?

Two things i want to write down before I forget them:

I was so excited when 10 days ago Eliza started going up the stairs. Up until then she'd just kinda giggle at the bottom step and wait for someone to come help her up. i was even more excited 8 days ago when she learned how to go down the stairs. It only took about 1-2 hours of practice and she had it down! I was not excited 5 days ago to come home from the gym and find out that she'd fallen off of the 3rd stair and landed on her face. Reid said it was probably a good thing i didn't see it or hear her. She was very, very sad--poor girl! It was bound to happen, though. We have a LOT of stairs in our little house. But now she won't even think about going up or down the stairs. We're back to where we started. Only instead of giggling at the bottom, she cries and cries and cries. Abby was almost exactly this age when she fell (or rather, was pushed) off the 3rd stair and landed on conrete-covered tile. That ended in a concussion and a soft, mushy head for almost 2 weeks. Eliza just got a little goose-egg and a bruise. Thank heavens for "soft" wood floors!!

Although Eliza babbles a ton, she doesn't actually say words, like "mama" or "dada," on cue. She says "uh-oh" but i'm not sure that counts as a word. Let's say it doesn't count as a word so that I can tell you what her very first word is! At the end of our family prayer a several nights ago Eliza said what sounded like "amen." Reid and I kinda laughed, and figured it was just a coincidence. But now, about 20+ prayers later, I'm sure it's not a coincidence. She says "amen" after almost EVERY prayer!! i can't even tell you how pleased she is with herself every time she does it. Possibly the cutest thing in the world.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

feelin' smart 'n sad

for all one of you that wanted to be able to enlarge my little collages, i just figured out how to do it...and i'm feelin' pretty awesome.

what's not feelin' awesome is that I had a little Half-Birthday party planned for Abby tomorrow morning--the party that was cancelled back in January because of pink-eye, fevers, coughs, etc--and i just had to postpone it AGAIN! She woke up from her nap with a fever of 101. She's going to be devastated. I haven't told her yet.

She's been healthy since May 15th. We're getting to the bottom of the whole thing with her. I've got a few more Dr. appts/blood tests to be done before we have all the pieces, but basically we've found out so far that she had NO allergies (is she my child?) but she does have an antibody deficiency. Sucks for her. Good to know. Docs say there's nothing that can be done--she'll just always be prone to infection/illness. But, i don't really like that answer, so i have, by no means, given up on this.

Anyway, i've got to go coddle my girl, and make her some Kale and White Bean Soup.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Jared and Kristie

The second week in July we got to have Jared (my one and only lil' bro) and his wife, Kristie stay with us for 6 days! They're on their way to Duke, where Mr. Smarty-pants is getting a Ph.D in Economics. It was soooooooooo great having them here! We haven't seen nearly enough of them lately, and we just soaked up every minute of them being here. They brought their Wii, so every night when the girls went down we'd Wii it up. awesome. We also battled out a few rounds of Settlers of Catan, Wizard, and Sequence. They were here to help out with the 5K, and helped out with our kids every chance they got. It was so great having them here!!!

We spent Monday down in Colorado Springs. We went to Garden of the Gods, and hiked up to the Siamese Twins formations, had a little picnic, let the girls play around a bit, started to get rained on and headed back to the van.
It was only 1-ish by then, so we decided to squeeze in a trip to the Olympic Training Center.
That place is awesome! We saw the toughest chicks in the world lifting one million lbs., a team of swimmers warming up, and shooters using their electronic rifles and targets. And just as the tour ended we got DUMPED on by the worst downfall of rain i've ever seen! It was amazing! This photo, obviously, does it no justice! We're all squinting because our eye-balls were getting pelted by massive raindrops. not because of the sun.

On Tuesday we went and had a picnic up at Red Rocks Amphitheater. I LOVE this place!! The roadies were there setting up for the Snoop Dogg concert that night, and exercise maniacs were running, or jumping up and down all the stairs, and then there were a dozen or so families that were just there for the scenery. I'm thinking that now that Jared has seen this place, he'll make it a higher priority to come next time Rush performs i right??
On wednesday we went swimming here at one of our rec centers, and then chilled at home most of the day. Kristie, who is an amazing hair-stylist, cut Abby's, Grace's, and my hair. I kid you not when I say that i don't go ANYWHERE without people commenting on how cute their hair is! They'd probably comment on mine, too, if i ever had a minute to do it! She's awesome! So, if you live in the Raleigh/Durham area, and need a new stylist, let me know!!
Grace: AFTER

It was so much fun having them here for so long!! There is a need in all neices' lives to have the "fun" aunt and uncle come visit. So, thank you guys for coming and staying and helping out and playing and we hope to see you again soon!!

The 5K

Well, I ran the 5K, and it didn't completely kill me!!! AND it was a HUGE success. We had over 80 people show up, and we raised more $$$ than i could have imagined!!!
Einsteins donated, and i kid you not, over 450 bagels!!! The pictures here could not possibly do justice! We gave as many away as we could, froze a ton, fed all the 5k-ers with them, and still had TONS left over!! I don't know if i'll ever look a bagel in the face again! But if I do, it will only be an Einstein's bagel! (I won't mention that Krispy Kreme just throws away all their doughnuts at the end of the day...)

That bag there has probably 1/3 - 1/4 of the bages we received

These awesome ladies helped me get the bagles/watch my kids. Thanks, again!!!

People donated all sorts of yummy goods for the Bake Sale. We had some AWESOME honey whole-wheat mini-loaves, delicious rice-krispy treats, to-die-for cookies, and other things i can't remember right now. King Soopers donated $25 worth of bottled water! (I won't mention that Safeway wouldn't) and Party America donated a dozen balloons! Michaels gave me 50% off everything i purchased. I was amazed at how many companies were so willing to help out for a cause. It felt like Christmas everywhere I went. It was great!

The 5K itself was a really challenging course. Reid, the girls and I went with my lil' bro Jared, and his wife Kristie the night before to chalk the path. We did all these cute arrows, encouraging phrases, etc, etc, only to arrive home and see clouds roll in and rain-away all our hard work. So, my awesome hubby woke up early the next morning and RE-marked the whole trail!!! So, he ran his 5k and marked the trail and STILL did it in less than 30 minutes!!! something like 27...i think. Anyway, he's awesome. I love him!!

Jared and Kristie stayed here that morning with our little ones (thanks again!!!) It was so nice not to have to worry about my kids while we were setting up the table and getting people registered!. I sent the runners on their way in three separate groups--the runners, the joggers and the walkers. Three of my awesome friends waited for me to get everyone else off and we ran in our own little group. It was so much fun....until the hills came. And then I started cursing the blasted course and had no one to blame but myself!! There were probably a total of 100 yards on flat ground. Other than that we were killing our knees running downhill or killing our lungs running uphill! But, when it was all said and done, it did feel really rewarding to finish my first (and last?) race. (Merathon and Liz--you ladies rock my world. Dunno how you do it. And I never want to find out!)
There was too much going on before the race for me to get a picture of all the runners, so these after pics will have to do. I wish I would have had somebody take one before, but what can ya do??

It was so fun counting all the money at the end. People were SOOOOO generous! I'm realizing more and more that everybody loves to help friends, and friends' friends out. But they just need a way to do it. I can't tell you how many times people said something along the lines of "I've been wanting to help them out, but just didn't know how." And that, my friends, is what this 5K was all about.

Because of the extreme generousity of so many people, miracles have been happening. The Ortons had, combined, about $40,000 in medical bills. Miraculously enough, the hospitals were able to help them out a lot thru different charity programs. But the bills they had left were still totalling almost 4x the amount we raised. So, we needed some serious $$ stretching. And that, my friends, is what I do best. I've spoken with over 15 billing managers/assistants, and told them that the Ortons have some friends who've gathered some funds to help them out. And miracles have happened. It's amazing what a lot of cash can do!! Dr's have been willing to take off as much as 75% of the bill. Hospitals have lowered bills that "could not possibly go any lower." And I've completely mastered the "Is there any way you could go lower than that?" technique. Mastered it, i tell you!! Ask my friend, Kristin--she witnessed me not taking no for an answer. There are still a couple bills we're working on, and I've still got a little bit of the $$ left to work with. But....I'm really hoping that in a few days the Orton family will be medical-debt free!!! Isn't that amazing!?!?!?

I can't say Thank You enough to everyone who helped out with this little fundraiser! Every person I know offered to help out in one way or another, and that is why it went so well! so, once again, THANK YOU!!!

4th of July or Happy 31st to me!!

I've said it a million times, but i LOVE having my birthday on the 4th of July!! It's always such a fun day--there's never school, most offices are closed that day--it's just awesome! This year we walked over to the parade and then up to our towncenter's little carnival. the girls bounced in a little bouncy house thing, we had a Jamba Juice, walked around a bit and came home.

We had a (rained-out) BBQ at Amber's house that afternoon. Dave had some awesome (and loud, thus Abby and Izzy covering their ears) fireworks that he set off. The kids loved and hated them. And when Abby got really freaked out, the only person she'd let comfort her was Dana. Dana really is the nicest person in the world, so I can't say I blame her! Dave also had sparklers for them all. Grace and Abby had never had sparklers--they LOVED them!

We bribed Grace into taking a nap that afternoon so that she could stay up for fireworks. Abby naps about 50-60% of the time and on the days she does, she's up really late--so it worked out great!! It was a little breezy and chilly as we sat there on the driveway, but we got all bundled up and enjoyed a fantastic show. (I love that we have such a great view from our house!!) The girls still talk about the fireworks to this day. It was the perfect end to a perfect b-day.


I have no pictures. No evidence. So you're just gonna have to take my word for it. On July 3rd, my friend Lindsay and I were obnoxious enough to get 5+ seconds on the Jumbo-tron at the Rockies game! I'm pretty sure it wasn't my first time on the big screen, what with my days as the Timpview mascot and all.... We danced around, and looked like 30 year-old moms who still think it's awesome to get the camera guy to notice us!! and we loved every second of it!! Lindsay and I were both that obnoxious kid growing up who did all sorts of crazy things and loved the attention. And I dare say we both still have a little bit of that in us. Lindsay has toned hers down quite nicely. :) You should see us on the bowling ally dance floor, though!! what's that? you didn't know that bowling alleys have dance floors? my point exactly... :) thanks, lindsay, for being my fellow ham!!


I've let myself get too far behind!!! I've been feeling a bit blogged-down by the thought of catching up. And, since i have such lofty plans of printing this blog out someday as my version of a scrapbook/photo album/journal, i don't want to post things out of, instead, i just put it off until i've got about 20 posts, and I can't remember any of the really great details about each experience. When will I learn?!?! I'm thinking never... So, here's the first of many "catching up" posts...

We spent four days in the middle of June with my family in Moab, UT. Two of my siblings couldn't make it--Jared and Cynthia. And one nephew got really sick, so he stayed home with his dad--but other than that--we were all there! This was the first time in i-don't-know-how-long that my family got together anywhere besides my parents' house. And it was AWESOME!! We all just kept wondering why it'd taken us so long to do it! There's something magical about vacationing with your family, but not being at your parents house. There is NOTHING to do besides be together, plan together, go new places together, play games together, visit with each other, and it was just awesome!!! I'm sure many have figured this out already. But nobody ever told ME!!! So, now i'm telling you--your family NEEDS this!
The condos we stayed in were absolutely beautiful!! And we had amazing views of the Moab Rim.

The girls were so excited to get out of the car and see Grandma and Grandpa! They even almost posed for a picture!!

The place had everything we could possibly need, and we really felt right at home. (If you ever stay there, let me know and i'll give you the info!) I was proud to introduce people in my family to the concept of Vacation Rentals. Far superior to hotels in EVERY WAY! Our two condos were right next door, and felt like one big house, which was great. And since cooking ain't no small thang in my family, so it was really nice to have fully stocked kitchens with everything we needed. We had some serious dietary restrictions to work with (from low-carb to meat-haters) and we somehow managed to find meals that worked for everyone!
We stayed up late every night gabbing, going out for ice cream, coming home and eating more ice cream, gabbing some more, thoroughly enjoying our time together, and of course, playing Pete & Kate Land, .
The weather was amazing. It should have been in the high 90's, but it was about 75 the whole time--amazing! We picked a couple of the warmer afternoons to head to the pool. The girls had so much fun swimming with Reid. Eliza wasn't a big fan of the water, so she and I basked in the sunlight....and she fell asleep in my arms!! Not a huge surprise given that naps didn't happen the whole trip, but still--it'd been over 6 months since she'd done that!

The first day there we headed to Arches--to see Double Arch and the Windows. No matter how many times I see those red rock formations, I am always amazed by their beauty. And no matter how many scientific explanations I hear, I remain convinced that God dropped those arches there just like they are. Erosion Smerosion! It is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and we all just LOVED hiking, walking, and driving to all of the arches.

The girls had such a great time at Double Arch. I tried really hard to not be that mom--the overly-cautious really loud one. But i failed. All i could keep imagining was Grace losing her footing and rolling down the steep rock, only to land on more steep rock. Or Abby thinking that Grandpa was looking and jumping into his arms, only to send them both tumbling down. But after enough "be careful!!!"s and after Reid took the girls up to the highest part of the arch--freaking out even my two older brothers I just forced myself to shut up. I noticed that my sister, Julia, was equally as worried as I was. And seeing how ridiculous she looked helped me calm down a bit, and I finally joined them in all the climbing and got some good pics :)
That tiny little dot in the middle of the arch is my husband with my child!!!!!

Julia, Nate, Reid, Kevin and my dad all hiked up to the windows and saw this in the sky. I have no idea what this phenomenon is called. They heard someone call it a Sun Dog, but we looked that up, and that's not it. The best we can come up with is Rainbow Cloud. Either way, isn't it gorgeous!??!?!

We spent Sunday about an hour south of Moab in Blanding, UT. My mom was born there, and, although her parents moved before she can remember, they went back to visit just about EVERY summer growing up. She has always talked so much about Blanding and her experiences there. And it was absolutely wonderful being there with her. We went to church in the very chapel she attended as a child. We drove by her grandma's place (which didn't look anything like it used to), and drove around the town a bit trying to find as many things that she could remember as possible. Julia and I got to be in the car with Mom while she gave us a tour. I think it's fair to say that Julia and I are the most "sentimental" of all our siblings, so we were thrilled to hear her reminisce her youth and share her memories. We also visited Grandma "Darby's" grave--my Eliza's namesake--Mary Eliza Rowley Stevens. It was so neat to be at the graveside of this woman that I've heard about my whole life. And I know it meant the world to my mom to have most of her children there with her in this little town that holds such a special place in her heart. While we were down there, we drove to Natural Bridges National Monument. I'd never even heard of this place, but it was really awesome! The rocks weren't red, so it was a very different kind of beauty, but the bridges were amazing!
(yes, i wish that Eliza had been happy in this photo and that we'd cleaned off the grave...maybe i really should figure out photoshop...)
On Monday morning we headed to my all-time favorite arch--Sand Dune Arch. It was probably my girls' favorite of all the arches, too. We all had so much fun trying to run downhill in the sand, climbing all over the rocks, chillin' in the shade and soaking in the beauty. This was one of the only places where Eliza could get down, and she LOVED the sand! We could have stayed there for hours. Wait, we did.
That photo in the middle is the only one we got with the whole gang
After Sand Dune Arch, we drove over to Delicate Arch. My dad, Nate, Julia, Melanie and her kids all did the un-kid-friendly hike right up to the arch. Because of timing and kids Reid, Kevin, and I opted for the shorter hike. we literally ran to the lookout point while my mom sat in the car with my kids. It was breathtaking. If I'd ever seen that arch before, i had no recollection of it. It's unique in so many ways--but mostly just that it's standing ALL ALONE with nothing else around it!! Erosion? i think not. God playing with red clay play-doh? Obviously.
My mom, dad, Kevin and Nathan left Monday afternoon, which left Julia, Melanie and kids and us for the last night. After dinner we walked around downtown Moab. We got some ice cream at the Moab Creamery, decided that wasn't enough, went to the store and bought MORE ice cream, came home and nearly finished off 2 half gallons of ice cream, played games, talked, ate more ice cream, stayed up too late, and tried to make the vacation never end!!
The next morning we packed our things and drove up US-128 along the Green River, just north of Moab. We parked at a little sandy beach area where the kids got out and played in the water. Benjamin built sand castles and canyons, Grace and Abby got soaking wet in the freezing water, and we all enjoyed our last moments together in the most beautiful canyon I've ever seen. And Reid and I were lucky enough to get to drive the rest of the canyon on our way home. (If you are ever in Moab coming towards CO, don't miss out on this scenic long-cut. It is absolutely beautiful!!!)

I don't remember the last time I enjoyed both the company and the vacation spot so much. It was SOOO much fun being with family, and it was such a beautiful place to be. I'm pretty sure I speak for all who were there when I say that Moab '09 will go down in the books as one of the all-time best vacations ever!!