Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My very own Garth and Kat

Abby loves her big sister. The feeling is quite mutual. (they also fight a lot, but that's beside the point...at least this point) This morning, like many, many other occasions, Grace was making-up a song and Abby was singing along--as well as she could, considering she didn't know the next note or word that was going to leave Grace's mouth.

I love listening to moments like these.

Which is probably why I loved this clip so, so, SO much. I've watched it probably 8 times, and i laugh harder each time. (and, unlike many SNL clips, this one is appropriate for all ages...even Grace was laughing...although i don't think she really knew why...)


And if you're like me, and can't get enough of it, you'll probably enjoy the dress-rehearsal version, too.


Friday, January 22, 2010

The big reveal

I really only know of two people who are anxious to see these pictures and they're both related to me. But i'm sharing them here for the sake of all fellow kitchen re-doers. I can't tell you how many websites I searched through trying to find ideas....so maybe, just maybe there's someone out there searching terms such as "Tropical Brown Granite" or "2 5/8 inch crown molding on cabinets" or "removing soffit in kitchen" or "travertine backsplash with subway tile accent" or "under-cabinet and over-cabinet lighting" and they're going to find this and be inspired...or un-inspired--either way!

I'm not really sure why i decided that 2 weeks before having my third child was a good time to start our little kitchen remodel. In my head i thought "if I don't do this now, it'll take until Christmas of '09 to to it." And you know what? it still did. The ceiling, countertops, lighting and backsplash were all done before the end of '08. But the finishing touches--crown molding, cabinet molding and trim, end angle/cabinet, and new appliances--well those didn't get done until last month!! And, if we're being totally honest, there are still a couple things that need to be painted and stained...so technically it's still not totally done.

But, I'm posting these pictures anyway. It could be another year before I paint the nail holes on the molding :)

Before we bought the house, the kitchen/dining room was blue:

We painted it green, and this is what it looked like for 2+ years:

Notice the lowered ceiling in the kitchen. Getting rid of it was the best thing we've ever done...next to getting rid of the countertops that literally gave me a headache when I was pregnant with Abby.

While we still have "popcorn" ceilings in the rest of our house, we got rid of it in the dining room!! along with that lovely fan! Some lucky freecycler got it :)

DURING: (the only one i got!)

Isn't it amazing what a little top and bottom molding/trim can do for cabinets? I hated these cabinets when we first moved in...but they were good quality, in good shape, so I couldn't justify getting new ones--and now I'm really in love with them and am so glad I kept them!

I feel so spoiled every time I walk into my kitchen. It is perfect for me, and I don't ever ever want to leave it or our perfect little house!! But i really could use some help with decorating. What, if anything, should I put on top of my cupboards? and what should I put on my new shelves?

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Christmas '09--part 2

Now that Christmas is officially over, and my extremely dead tree is officially down (as of 8:45 this morning), it's probably time to officially wrap up the season by writing about and posting some pics of our time with our family.

On the morning of December 15th, Reid received news that his Grandma, Alta Mae Allred, had passed away. This came as a surprise to everyone. But Alta had lived a wonderful life and had enjoyed relatively good health in her last years. She was spunky and sassy and made us laugh often...like when we decided to name Eliza Mae after her. Upon hearing this news she said, "Oh, I don't know why my mother gave me that name...I never did care for it much." Her funeral was in Salt Lake City. We were already planning on spending the holidays in UT, so we just started our travels 4 days earlier (which resulted in us missing the huge storm we would have been in otherwise...which had been my biggest fear since last Christmas). Of course I'd put a million things off until the last minute, so getting out of here was a bit crazy, but once we were packed and on the road, we knew that nearly all our Christmas preparations were done, and we could just focus on the funeral and our time with family.

Which we did.

The funeral was beautiful. Reid's dad gave a wonderful talk about Jesus' teachings, about Life Eternal, about life here on earth, and its relative brevity on the grand scale of things. He told wonderful stories, which made us laugh...and cry. There was such a peaceful feeling at the funeral. I don't think that anyone in that room wondered whether Grandma was in a happier place, reunited with her sweetheart.
All but one of Reid's cousins were there. And Reid's sister, Alisa, was able to come all the way from Maryland--without kids! The cousins had so much fun catching up and reminiscing. It was truly a joyous occasion, as Grandma would have wanted it to be.

After spending a few days with Reid's family in SLC, we drove down to Provo to spend a week at my parents house. All but one of my siblings were there, and we had such a great time.
Just a few of the highlights of our time with my family
-playing games, night after night after night--We played the Bowl Game, Pete & KateLand, Scum, Scene-it Classics (might I add that it was 7 of us against my dad, and he STILL won!) and other games i can't even remember. It was so nice to just put the girls to bed and enjoy so many kid-free evenings. (I'm completely convinced we would almost never do this if we lived close to family. Am i wrong?? anybody?)
-the Nativity on Christmas Eve--with Grace as the angel, Abby as the star, Eliza as Baby Jesus, and Kristie and Jared as Mary and Joseph. The rest of us were wise men or shepherds. And, as always, my dad was the narrator. I'm telling you, when that man gets choked up it is truly impossible to keep it together. It was as wonderful as it was when I was a kid. And even better because Grace and Abby were so excited to be a part of it.

-watching the girls open their gifts--Grace was pretty excited about her reversible Erika/Annaliese dress...but maybe not as excited as Santa was when he found it!! Abby liked everything she opened, especially all the games and puzzles. And Eliza was content to just go from person to person, mooching more sugar than she'd ever seen in all her days. But, just like last year, the gifts that really took the spotlight were all the donations that people made in my parents' behalf. It's so fun to know that a family in Logan, UT was able to buy Christmas for their kids, a japanese internment museum got a generous donation, and other similar contributions--all in my parents' name.

-watching the girls have such a great time with their aunts, uncles and cousins. This is basically what we did the entire time. I've got awesome siblings (and in-laws!) who help out so much with the girls. Grace got at least 3 make-overs. Abby got to play all sorts of games. And Eliza was always able to find someone to feed her something.

-using my extremely amateur skills with my fancy-schmancy camera to take these pics of family members
Here's jared, my cute brother, and Kristie, his even cuter wife

My sister Melanie and her cute family

And here's the whole family, minus Cynthia and Tom (who spent the holidays in a hotel due to a house fire!!! but that's a whole other story...)

-and especially watching my girls just adore and be adored by my parents. I love their sweet relationships. I love how quickly they warm up to each other, and how both my girls and my parents enjoy the simple moments they get to spend together.
After 7 wonderful days at my parents' house we drove up to SLC to spend a week at Tom and Jana's. Well, it was actually only going to be 4-5 days...but we used the "storms" as an excuse to hang out and play a little longer.
We had a "second Christmas" with Reid's family. This started with the traditional spaghetti and meatballs Christmas Eve dinner--which is always so delicious, and a tradition we might just carry on in our family....if Reid will make the meatballs :) For breakfast we had the Allred family egg McMuffins--which are actually really, really good! And then it was time to open gifts--round two!! The girls loved every minute of it. Grace got a skirt that she wore every day for the next 6 days--thanks, Grandma!! And Abby got a shirt that Grace wore for the next 6 days...again, thanks Grandma!!

And Eliza got to ride on Gabe's little toys. These two were pretty cute together. (Eliza's the girl...the one on the right :) )
We spent one evening walking around the historic and beautiful Temple Square, looking at all the lights and international nativities they had--and freezing our little tushies off! It was crazy cold, but definitely worth it.Reid's mom brought a bunch of arts and crafts for the girls to do while we were there. She's so mindful of things like this. Thank you, Marie!! The girls had such a great time. I kept worrying that they'd get homesick and just be ready to leave. But honestly, they never reached that point this trip. They could have stayed another week. And we could have, too! And we maybe even considered it...but we were pretty sure Tom and Jana were ready to get their bedroom and house back!!
Thank you, Tom and Jana, for letting us all crash your place for so long, and for all the talks, the games and fun!!
I also got to catch up with some of my childhood friends and some of our law school friends. I could write an entire post about how much I love these friends, and how fun it is to see them, and to see our kids play together...but i probably never will...
The whole trip home Reid and I kept commenting to each other about how magical our time in UT had been, and how if we lived an hour from family we'd most likely NEVER take 2 weeks off to go be with them 100% of the time. And we'd probably only see them for Sunday dinner once a month. And we'd probably never put our kids down at their places, knowing that ours was only 60 minutes away. And we'd miss out on vacations and quality times like this. And, we'd have to live in UT. (don't get me wrong, all ye Utah-ites...it's awesome and beautiful but just not the right...umm...match for me :)
And for the first time since I've lived here in Colorado I realized that I really, truly don't want to live anywhere else, including closer to family. I'm ready to call Denver my home indefinitely. It's close enough to my family that I can get there in a day. It's far enough that when I'm away from here, I'm completely away. It's an awesome city for about a billion other reasons. And it's just perfect for me.
And that was my Christmas present to myself.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Christmas '09 Part 1

I could have blogged every single day of December and still not have had enough time to write down how wonderful this Christmas season was. I have a million pictures to post, stories to write down, and things i don't ever want to forget.

I'm starting with this post--an entry i've debated posting for several reasons....but ultimately decided that it might just be the best thing we did this Christmas and I want to talk about it. So, post I will!!

This year the girls were so excited about everything Christmas--trees, count-down chains, their play-nativities (thanks, again, grandma!!), listening to Christmas music 8 hours a day, talking TO and about Santa, and pretending to be Mary and baby Jesus, or Joseph, or camels--all while dressed in Cinderella and Little Bo Peep dresses.

And they (luckily) shared in my excitement for the families we tried to help this Christmas, especially this little sweet little family, where the majority of our efforts were focused: The father of this family made $675 in the month of October. The mom stays home with their 2 and 4 year olds. They live in a room (yes, ONE room) in the back of a tiny apartment that's behind a small house near downtown. Their wish list consisted of: shoes, clothes, coats, sheets and a pan to cook in. That was it. When I tried to get her to mention some sort of toys or dolls or trucks or anything else her kids might like, it was like pulling teeth. She got so uncomfortable--like she'd never asked for anything like that before....or received it. And finally, when she did mention other things, the first request was diapers. Diapers. For Christmas.

The days that we spent collecting donated items (from so many, many generous and helpful people!!), shopping for the family, wrapping presents and sorting piles were some of the best days of the whole year. Grace was so interested and invested in helping this family. I think it really made a difference that this year there was a 4-year-old little girl that we were helping. (and the fact that Grace is a whole year older) She felt, and truly was, more involved. She really has gained an understanding of the fact that having a home, a room that she only has to share with two siblings, food whenever she wants it and clothes to choose from means that she lives more comfortably than most kids in the world. And the more we talked about this family, the more she said things like "mom, we should just invite this family to live with us, since our home is always warm and we have lots of food" or "mom, after Christmas, who's going to buy these things for them?" She even asked me on Christmas morning, mid-gift opening, if Adanari and her family were opening their presents right then. That girl really thinks about things, and people and their situations. Her thoughtfulness is never-ending. She truly amazes me. If half the world had a fourth of Grace's love....i'm tellin' you...

But, as mentioned, we were not alone in giving to this family. And there's no way I could have done it alone. We had so many wonderful contributions and donations from friends, neighbors and people i barely even know. I found, once again, that people want to give and want to help this time of year, but sometimes just don't know how, or where or just don't have the time. But, since I did 99% of my kids' Christmas shopping at garage sales during the summer (i know, i'm ridiculous...) I have a little more time in December than others. AND, since i'm really good at taking most everything to its extreme, it seems that taking on overwhelming projects that consume my life for a few weeks fits perfectly with my plan of brain-washing the "true meaning of Christmas" into my kids' minds :)

So, after loading up all the goods, here's our van, full to the brim: The night we delivered the gifts to this family was such a sweet and memorable one. Grace and Abby were a little shy. The mom and dad didn't know how to thank us. You could especially tell that the dad was appreciative, yet unsure what to say. And the kids were just adorable and wanted to rip open all of their gifts immediately. We didn't stay long. Just long enough for Grace and Abby to really see what was going on, and the difference all their work was going to make.

I cannot describe the peace and calm I felt as we drove away from their house. Partly, i'm sure, because I was relieved that it was done. And partly because I was then able to focus on the next matter at hand--packing for our trip the next day. But mostly I felt all the worries I'd been having--worries that my own children's Christmas traditions and memories that i should have been focusing on were being smothered by this massive undertaking--just disappear. And I knew that Grace, who will have many, many wonderful Christmas memories of her days as a little girl, will fondly remember this one for the rest of her life. (that might just be because i'm gonna talk about it for the next 8 months, show her photos, quiz her, etc...)

It's hard for me to find the balance with things like this. I want my girls to understand that Christmas is about so much more than ripping open a few gifts under a tree. I want them to understand what it means to "care for the poor and needy" and I want them to get excited about helping others and associating this time of year with service....but I also really want them to have fond memories of getting that one doll that they'd been eyeing all year, and opening presents they never thought, in a million years that they'd get. And I can't say that I've found that balance yet. Again, extremes are my forte...not balances... :)

A couple weeks ago, as we were driving in the car and rocking out to some Christmas tunes, Grace told me that her favorite part of Christmas was giving to the families who needed help this Christmas.

I couldn't agree more, Gracie.

I just hope you didn't say that because all your garage-sale purchased gifts were lame. :)

Monday, January 4, 2010


We just got back last night from a 16 day trip to UT to spend the holidays with family. It was absolutely wonderful. And we got in zero car accidents, went to the ER zero times, had zero fevers (mild colds, yes, but no fevers!!), zero vomiting, and infinite amounts of fun with our families.

And I have pictures to prove it...but they're on my camera...which is a whole 10 feet away from me but would take over 10 minutes to plug, sort thru and upload...so, that's gonna have to happen some other day cause it's late!! It's almost midnight and i'm up baking a cake for my sweet Abby whose turning three tomorrow. Seeing as how i just got back and my house is a wreck, it didn't make much sense to try to pull together some last-minute birthday gathering for her....yet somehow that's exactly what i've done. Really, it'll be more of a glorified play date, with cake and ice cream. But it'll mean the world to Abby--who happens to mean the world to me. And it'll force me to clean up this place!!!

But, in spite of the hour, I want to write down what i'm feeling. I love my sweet girls and their sweet dad. This Christmas was awesome. we spent so much time talking about Jesus' birth, life and death. I've been praying for, and gaining a greater understanding of Him and of His many roles in my life. And I feel so much love for Him. And I love sharing what I feel and know with my daughters. And i love seeing it change them (in ways that I still don't allow it to change me). Grace is so full of charity and love for others, and loves to do what is right. Abby is so full of peace-making and happiness and brightens the lives of all around her. Eliza wants to be just like her big sisters--i couldn't ask for better role models for my Eliza. And I get to watch all of this, every day, and enjoy it, and learn from it.
I am, in many ways, more aware today than ever of my weaknesses, my quirks, the things about me that bug you and everyone else that reads this blog. But I am also more aware than ever of the power of change that comes thru the Savior. And I truly can see that I'm being changed. That doesn't mean i'm no longer an overly opinionated control-freak with zero tact. No, my friends, that part still remains. But the things in my heart, the way i see people and life and possessions and myself--those things are changing. Almost daily it seems. And I know it's because i've taken more time to pray for it. to actually ask for it. To literally start and finish a prayer wherein I've straight-up begged for a changed me. And it's working. And i apparently not only want myself to remember this 10 years from now, but for everyone else on the www to be able to know about it, too. i do love blogs.

On a side not, we had a little lesson tonight about "sass" (yes, you read that correctly). When Grace asked what our Family Night lesson was going to be about, and I told her it was going to be about sassing, she said "I don't want to learn how sass more, if I sass any more it's going to be coming out my bum!!" Needless to say, we're going through a sass-and-potty-talk phase.

Anyway, the cake's now out of the oven, it's even later, and i need to go to bed. I'll have a billion pictures to post over the next few days. but I feel caught up just having shared what's been on my mind.