Our Griswalds Family Vacation Part I

I can’t believe it’s been 2 months since I’ve updated the blog! Why the absence? Well, there were a few reasons. 1. I was just kind of over it. I didn’t feel like I had anything to write about and I hate forcing it, you know? 2. I started scrapbooking, a lot! And I honestly just didn’t have time in the day to do both! Between the two I really love the hands on feel of scrapbooking. I love the feel of paper sliding between scissor blades. I love the creative process. It fulfills all of my creative urges! But I also can’t keep up with scrapbooking the way I’d like to so I started the blog to record the memories until I could get around to scrapping them. The scrapping took over for a while, but I’ve realized I need to find a way to do both. 3. I kind of felt for a while like blogs were becoming the new school yard. I follow so many blogs, many by moms, and I absolutely love reading them. I don’t always agree with what they might say or post but I love to see the day in and outs of other people’s lives. But I became kind of jadded seeing the way that some of these women were being judged and ridiculed on their own blogs. It felt like blogs were becoming the new mean girl central and I didn’t want anything to do with it! But after my hiatus of both reading and writing I’m missing it, so I guess it’s time to get back!
Our 15 day sojourn out west was amazing! We covered 11 states in 13 days. It was incredible! It was long! It was hard at times. But I wouldn’t trade a single minute we spent in the car, or a single dollar we spent on gas for anything in the world! We made some amazing memories on this trip and I can’t wait to share it all with you!
I thought I would start by sharing some of the things we did to get ready that made our lives so much easier on our trip. Going such a long distance and being gone for such a long time with 4 little ones definitely takes more planning. You really have to prepare yourself for every possible scenario. You will over plan because if you don’t prepare for it, it will happen!! lol
We planned for this trip for 10 months. 10 months of researching on the internet, talking

to others who had done the trip, etc. We definitely planned to do more things than we actually got to do, but that was OK because we were prepared for sites that took less time than others, sites that were farther away than we thought they would be so driving took longer, etc.

For us, getting the trailer ready with all of our camping equipment was essential. And I’m not joking when I said we have a trailer.
 She is probably our most important supply that we have!My mom bought this last summer and we took it on a few test runs. It is wonderful to have all of our camping stuff in one spot. We can drop everything on a Friday afternoon if we want and head out to camp, and all we have to pick up is some food. The trailer is set up with Rubbermaid totes in the rear for each tent (we have several). In each tote are the air mattresses for that tent, the sleeping bags and/or sheets, pillows and a rug. My back doesn’t allow me to sleep on the ground and the kids sleep better on an air mattress too. Steven and I decided to buy a sheet set to put on our mattress and we cover up with extra quilts, which are stored in their own tote. The kids each have their own sleeping bag. And we also bought pillows just to be used for camping since they always end up smelling like campfire after a while. Each tent also has a collapsible dirty clothes hamper so that dirty clothes aren’t strewn all over the tent or shoved back in suitcases and then we don’t know what’s clean and what’s dirty. Eventually I want to get a shoe rack for our tent also since we take several types of shoes (tennis shoes for everyone, flip flops for the showers, water shoes for creeking or swimming in lakes).

We have several shelves inside the trailer that hold our Dutch Ovens (we have several different sizes), various pots and pans, a wash basin that we store paper towels, napkins, etc in while we’re traveling. We have hooks to hold cooking utensils, fire utensils, bungee cords, extension cords, hoses, etc.

We have several of the 3 and 5 drawer Rubbermaid organizers. In these we store plates, bowls, cups, eating and smaller cooking utensils. Flashlights and batteries get a drawer. Drink mixes to add to water bottles get another drawer. We also have a drawer for garbage bags and ziploc bags.

We have several other Rubbermaid containers that we store food in. We have a camping stove as well as a camping kitchen, which we all pitched in and bought my mom this past year for Christmas. We keep the kitchen under our canopy which we bought new this year. It has plenty of room to put it over the back of the trailer so we can keep the doors open while we cook or to load up the trailer in the rain (like we had to do a few times on this trip!) We also have folding chairs for each person to sit around the campfire. For Eli we have a high chair that will attach to the side of any table and takes up very little space.

We have a container that holds board games, card games, bubbles, some toys for the kids in case they get bored (which I have to admit didn’t really happen but it’s better to be prepared!) We decided to take Eli’s Jumperoo and it was probably one of the best decisions we made. We were able to put him somewhere safe while we were setting up camp, cooking, etc. It gave him some exercise and it was also the only place he got a nap at times besides the car seat.We line the coolers at the door so that we can open it and get to them at any time. We came up with a general menu plan of our favorite camping meals (I’ll share some later!) and went ahead and gathered up what we already had at home to help save on some of the cost. We had quite a few things in our freezer like chicken breasts, ground beef, hamburger patties, hot dogs and sausages. The day before we left we made up a batch of egg salad, tuna salad, pasta salad, and potato salad. We used these for picnic lunches on the way out and even once we got to a few of our destinations. This saved us a ton of money, not to mention was a lot healthier than stopping at McDonald’s every day! We made sure to start out the trip with fresh bread and individuals packs of chips. We grabbed several trail mixes and different snacks in order to cut down on the junk at the gas stations. We grabbed pancake mixes and condiments. All of this pre-planning helped to make sure we were eating healthy and helped us with our bottom line (and our waist lines too! lol) In our cars we put our suitcases and a small cooler with drinks and a bag with some snacks so we wouldn’t spend a ton of money at gas stations on drinks and snacks.

Now as far as the clothes situation, being gone for 15 days meant we needed a ton of clothes. I knew that we were going to have access to laundry facilities at several of the campsites we were going to be staying in so I knew we didn’t need 15 pairs of clothes for each person. I decided to go with 10 per person in case it took a few days to get to a laundry mat, or if someone got messy and needed to use 2 outfits in a day. I also took several pairs of pajamas per person, including winter jammies since it gets cold out west at night. I took a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt for each person to change into once the sun started going down.

In order to keep all of these clothes in order I took the example of a pin on Pinterest and used gallon sized Ziploc baggies.

I wrote a name and a number on each bag and then filled it with an outfit complete with clean underwear and socks. I put pajamas in another bag. This was probably the best thing I did to prepare! There were several nights that we pulled in to a hotel at midnight or were setting up camp in the dark. This allowed us to get in each person’s suitcase, pull out a bag and know that they had a complete outfit ready for the next morning. All we had to grab was a pair of jammies and the shower tote and we could leave all the suitcases in the car and not have to completely unload and repack the next morning. It also helped when we returned home because I knew that clothes that were in baggies in the suitcases had been cleaned on the trip and didn’t need to be cleaned again. It was fabulous!!

Each child got to bring a backpack filled with toys, coloring books, books, etc. They also each have their own DVD player. I took CD cases and removed all their DVDs from their plastic cases and organized them into the CD cases. Brianna had her own and the boys had one with their movies. We also have a larger one that holds Disney movies or movies that would appeal to everyone. Each child took a blanket and their PillowPet to use in the car. They also got time on the Kindle to play games and read books if they wanted thanks to Kindle Free Time.

One of the other great things we did to prepare was to make Goodie Bags for each child. We got plain gift bags, decorated them with their names using alpha stickers from my scrapbooking stash. Then we filled them with things we picked up at the $ Spot at Target, the $ bins at Michael’s, with snacks and candy. If the kids kept good behavior in the car they got to pick something out of their bags when we stopped for lunch or for the night. Just a threat of “If you keep up this behavior you are loosing your goodie bag treat for this stop” often made them stop what they were doing. For the most part they followed the rules of the car and loved the goodies they got to draw from their bags. They had everything from a new DVD (I love the $3 movies at Target!!), new books, candy necklaces, packs of Oreos and Goldfish. They couldn’t wait to see what they might get next. And we filled those puppies so much that when we got home they still had stuff to eat, play with and enjoy. So it felt like vacation just kept going! lol I highly recommend Goodie Bags for your next trip. Yes, it cost us up front but it also was key to our kids great car behavior on 12 hour days on the road!

So, that’s what we did to prepare before we ever got on the road. Next I’ll break it down day by day because we did so much on this trip and took over 1900 pictures so you just can’t share that in one post! I hope you will enjoy seeing our trip! We definitely enjoyed it!  Any questions as we go along please ask! Here we go!!


I’m back! Did you miss me?! I can’t believe it’s been 10 days since I last posted…I guess I’ve been busier than I thought! So what have we been up to? Well, here’s our last week in pictures and video:
Saturday Brianna receives her 1st Communion. We are really excited, although I’m trying to figure out how I can possibly have a child this old! lol- this is the symbol that we made to add to the banner that hangs in the back of the church so everyone knows who is receiving 1st Communion. I think it turned out cute!

Last Monday I was shocked when I received an alert on my phone that there was a shooting at a local high school. As the story unfolded we learned it was one student who walked into his 1st period class, pulled out a gun and attempted to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head. Fortunately (unfortunately??) he wasn’t successful. He survived the attempt and is still in critical condition at a local hospital. It brought up all kinds of feelings and memories though as it happened right around the anniversary of the Columbine attack.

My mom picked up this Jumperoo at a local consignment shop for Eli. He absolutely loves it and got the hang of it very quickly!

Micah was walking around Friday night while we were getting ready for a baby shower here on Saturday with a wrench up against his mouth saying “Mustache! Mustache! I got a mustache! Mustache!” It was hilarious…especially with the Handy Manny t-shirt that he was wearing!

Thursday Brianna brought home her ballet costume for her recital this year. I love it! I think it is so beautiful! We have really lucked out…since she started I think her class has managed to have the most beautiful costumes. I can’t wait to see her in it on stage! It makes me such a proud mama!

This mess turned into an awesome luau themed baby shower. The mama-to-be loves ukelele music so I immediately thought of a luau when I started planning her shower. It came together perfectly! Everyone had a great time, especially the parents-to-be, which is the most important thing!

Micah made it through his first year of Sunday school. He loved going to “school” and asked all week long when it would be “school day” again. He learned a lot this year and experienced time in a classroom which is really good for him. I’m hoping to get him into preschool next year so it was great training! They had their closing on Sunday which is always a hoot!
And I leave you with one final picture…we wore ourselves out this week and it’s not over yet. One more party for Brianna’s 1st Communion on Saturday and then we get to rest for a while! While I love throwing a good party, I’m going to be all partied out for a while!

Crop for CareNet

It has been FOREVER since I have shared any scrapbook pages with you all! I have been scrapbooking for 13 years now, and while I still love it I have less and less time to do it these days. So I get very excited when I can get my butt off to a crop and get some work done. Anyone with more than 1 kid will tell you that you will never get caught up, but it sure is fun to try!
A local church here hosted a 12 hour crop this past Saturday with the proceeds benefiting CareNet of Northern Kentucky. My scrapbooking buddy Jannene and I thought “Why not? We like babies!” Plus, it had been almost a year since we had done our last crop together so we were due. 12+ hour crops are my favorite! (We used to go to a 24 hour Crop for the Cure years ago…I miss those!) I get so much when done when I have nothing to focus on besides scrapping. Well, in between the eating, and talking, and eating, and talking, and talking…you get the picture! I was very excited with what I was able to get accomplished at the crop! All in all I finished 12 layouts-some 2 page spreads and some 1 page. Some were multiphoto layouts and some were single photo. Most of them were for Eli, who only had 1 stinkin’ page done at 8 months (so sad!!) and a few for Bri and Jonah with school pictures from this year and last year. But enough talking! Here are some of my favorites that I got finished!

As you can see I still use the traditional method of scrapbooking, good ‘ol paper, cutters and pens. I know a lot of people are moving to digital scrapping or Project Life, but I enjoy the whole process of the “old” way too much to ever give it up. Plus, I’ve invested too money in it at this point to change now! I scrap mainly in 12 X 12 now and I love it! 
I just found a program last night that will allow me to scan layouts and then stitch them together so that I can digitally back up my layouts and share them with you! I am super excited! It’s a little time consuming because I have to scan each layout in 4 sections to make sure I’ve got everything on it but it’s worth it now that I’ve gotten it down to a science! 
So that’s it! Hopefully I will be able to share more layouts with you in the future!
Do you scrapbook? What are your secrets to keeping up with it?


Yup! I’m great at disappearing! lol! I go through these cycles of loving blogging and hating blogging! Well, apparently last month I wasn’t feeling it! Goodness! Well, now that my magic trick is done here’s what you missed last month!

Valentine’s Day:
Our Valentine’s Day Mantel. You can read all about it here if you missed it!

The gifts that the kids gave their teachers for Valentine’s Day: boxes of raspberry bar mix with tags that said Shooting for Brownie Points. Tags found on Pinterest (of course!!)

Jonah’s Valentine’s that, again, I found on Pinterest. We added a little cherry sucker. They were really cute and very Jonah!

Brianna’s Valentine’s box. The whole thing was foam and was so cool!

Brianna’s Valentine’s. She made them all herself with a kit we found at Michael’s. We added Valentine’s pencils that I found at the Dollar Tree. Brianna loves pencils and I thought it would be a nice change from candy!

The kids goodie bags, Micah’s elephant Valentine’s box (Brianna and Jonah both made sure Micah had a Valentine from them!) and Eli’s owl Valentine (Whooo loves you baby!?! lol)
My 2 dozen long stem roses from my hubby! They were so gorgeous! And he’s so good he had them delivered the day before! He’s a keeper! 😉
Our little cupid! He’s getting really good at this sitting up thing!
 Various Fun:
Brianna being goofy with Eli at the dentist. All three kids had appointments and we were there for like 3 hours!! She got a little slap happy after a while! And I love the look on Eli’s face!! It’s like “Oh here we go again!” lol
Morning fun with daddy before he heads off to work. (I promise he changed and looked a lot more presentable for work!)

The thing about having a baby with a lot of hair means you get lots of crazy baby bed head!
Date night out at Mahogany’s watching my brother-in-law Eric preform. He did awesome and it was such a fun night out. We had a whole crew there including my mom, Steven’s parents and her friends Sue and Jim. And of course Samantha was there too to cheer on her hubby!
Eli’s food list keeps growing. Here he is trying peaches for the first time!

Love these!! He kept turning his head towards the spoon for more! I really think making our own baby food was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. And it takes almost no extra time because we just whip something up while we’re making our food. Super easy and nutritious!

So that was the month of February for us! I hope your month was great too! Now on to our regularly scheduled programming!!!

That’s a Wrap! Week one

So I was thinking that each Friday I will start to write a weekly wrap up post. I hope it will make me more intentional in taking pictures of things that happen during the week (with my camera, NOT my phone!!) and give me another reason to write on the blog until it becomes a habit again and I don’t have to think about what to write about! 😉 Some weeks will be way more exciting than others. This was one of those not so exciting weeks. But next week holds Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday and the first Friday of Lent. What’s not to get excited about!?! 
This week I spent most of it sick with a cold. I got very little done around the house but I did get my food storage container cabinet organized, cleaned out my cooking utensil drawer and experimented with my first batch of homemade dishwashing detergent. 

Once I decide whether or not I like this recipe and will continue making it I will share the recipe with you. And I’ll also make my container cuter…I have some ideas to put my Cricut and some vinyl to work! I also started getting order back into the Master Bedroom but the cold totally sidelined that one. Hoping to finish that up this weekend, and maybe even get our paint on! (Thank you Federal Tax return!!!) If we do get some painting done I will totally take before and after pictures and show you!
Brianna had a great assignment at school a few weeks ago. They had to use recycled materials and create an animal. She wanted to make a penguin! So we used a coffee creamer bottle, some cups of an egg carton, some newspaper and recycled boxes. A little bit of paint and this is what we came up with:
Cute, huh!?!? She did such a great job! It came home from school on Monday with a note from the teacher that said “Awesome!” and a 100% written on it! She was pretty excited and we were really proud of her!
Jonah is our gamer. For Christmas the kids got Skylanders Giants for the Wii. There are over 100 different characters that you can collect and use to place on the portal while you are playing the game. Yesterday was a big day for Jonah. We went to Walmart while Brianna was at dance and the boys were being so good I let them each choose a new character for the game. And Nina bought them a case to hold all their characters. (They started with 3, they now have 10! lol) If I could tell you how many hours a day this boy will spend playing this game I’d probably be ashamed! As it is, I can’t, so I’ll try not to feel too ashamed!
Micah is a little obsessed with pirates right now. It all started with Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Now his obsession is Treasure Planet. It gets watched every day around here. (We are on the 2nd play rotation just today!! Ooooh….bad mommy!!!) While he watches he runs around the house with his Jake and the Neverland Pirate Ship and makes it fly through the air like Treasure Planet. He has such an imagination and I love that he uses it to entertain himself, especially when his brother and sister aren’t around to tell him what to do! (As I write this he has the Skylanders pieces on the ship and is using them as his crew! lol- Jonah would be proud!)
I swear my TV didn’t look that dirty until I was editing the picture! Guess I need to get out the Windex! lol
This week Eli discovered a new (to him) toy. We bought this walk-about from a friend when Brianna was a baby and it’s still going strong! 
He’s been in this quite a few times but only this week did he decide that he really likes it. He even spends almost an hour at a time in it without making a peep except to squeal when he gets something spinning. He has even figured out how to turn the seat around to get to other toys AND gets the whole thing moving in circles on the floor. Yup, it’s my new go to toy when I must get something done around the house and have him some place safe! 
And like I shared in his 6 month post this week he really decided to sit up unassisted. He can’t get himself into the sitting position but once he’s there he has decided that sitting up is pretty cool.
Go me! Go me! Go go go Me!
This week Steven was busy with Confirmation for our 8th graders. They had a rehearsal on Tuesday evening and then a retreat most of the day Wednesday before Confirmation Wednesday evening. We got to spend some extra time with him on Wednesday after the retreat before he had to leave again. It was nice to have him home for the afternoon, especially since that was the day my cold hit really hard. So now Confirmation is over, nothing really big for him til 1st Communion in May. (As far as his church responsibilities go that is!) Other than that he has spent a lot of time working overtime. I can’t complain too much, at least the pay is worth it! But boy I will be glad when tax season is over and the overtime slows down a little! 
Well, that was our week! Looking forward to a slow weekend with nothing scheduled (except PSR on Sunday morning)! Have a great weekend everyone!

What a Difference 6 Months Makes

This little guy turned 6 months yesterday!
It is amazing the difference that 6 months can make! The little thing above that surprised us a month early, gave me the scare of his life by deciding he wasn’t going to breathe after birth, who didn’t like eating, spent time in the NICU, who made me wonder if we were going to have to worry about brain damage or developmental delays has turned into this:
And over the past 6 weeks he started doing this:
Rolling over!
He grabs anything that gets in his reach!
Forget it mom! You’re camera strap is not safe!
And over the past week or so he has decided that he likes doing this:
Look at me!
I know I’m starting to tip sideways mom, but no worries! Everyting is gonna be alright! (My FAVORITE Super Bowl commercial!!! lol)
 Eli has brought so much to our family and our home. I literally cannot imagine our lives without him in it! I was snuggling him the other night and I looked at Steven and said “I love this baby so much! Thank you for not letting me give up before we tried again. I can’t imagine my world without him!” Steven just smiled and nodded like “I know right?!!?” He really is just what our family needed! (But babe, don’t get the wrong idea or anything! We really are done now!!! 🙂  )
He really is a super baby! And we are looking forward to seeing what the next 6 months will bring!
Elijah’s Favorites at 6 months:
– His swing
– His play gym that he got for Christmas
– All of his owl toys
– Sleeping…he is a very good sleeper!
– His brothers and sister. He will smile and laugh whenever they come near.
– His daddy. He will turn from whatever he is doing when he hears Steven enter the room. 
-Grabbing onto anything and everything that gets into his path.
– Snuggling. Especially if you have boobs! 😉
What is he eating:
– Still mostly breast milk. 
– He’s tried rice cereal (not impressed) and bananas (thought they were OK, but he was also coming down with RSV when we tried them so eating wasn’t much fun at that time.) 
– His fingers, your fingers, everyone’s fingers!!
Things that make me mad:
– When he cries and you don’t get to him right away!!
– Being on his belly too long during tummy time. He can only roll back to front right now, still working on the other way. So he just gets good and ticked when he’s been on his belly for too long and doesn’t want to be there anymore!
– Being hot! He hates to be hot!!
Who do I look like?
– Right now he’s looking just like Brianna when she was this age. It’s almost scary at times! I hope he keeps his dark hair though! I have two blondes, I’d love to have two brunettes!
Happy 6 month birthday sweet baby boy! We love you so much and are loving watching you grow!!

Happy New Year!

I love a new year, don’t you!?! The slate is wiped clean and it feels like you get to start all over again. It’s a wonderful feeling! And a new year also means a new start for my poor, poor neglected blog! I had to take a step back and figure out why I was blogging. When I started this blog in 2007 I started it to keep a record of what we were doing, especially as I got farther and farther behind in my scrapbooking. I knew the blog would be a great way to go back and have the stories to go with the pictures when I finally got around to srapping them. Then, I got all caught up in getting followers and blah, blah. Now don’t get me wrong, I do love those of you who follow our little blog! But recognizing that I started this blog as a sort of record keeping and a way for long distance family and friends to keep up with what we were doing, and watch the kids grow, the sudden “need” to have lots of followers started to get overwhelming. I looked at other blogs and what they were doing, and how many followers they had and I felt like a failure in comparison. But I didn’t start this blog to get thousands of followers, and it’s time to get back to the bones. So in 2013 I’ll be getting back to regular posts about what is going on in our lives. I’m embarking on a serious fight to get organized and find a routine (daily, as well as cleaning) that works for me. I’m going to be menu planning again (with the costs of everything looking to go up in 2013 a menu plan is going to become essential to keeping costs down). You’ll hear about my obsession with Pinterest (the heavens part….AHHHHH!!!) and Instagram (how awesome is Instagram!!) And of course, my kids will continue to be the stars of the show around here. After all, they are our abundant blessings and we are so blessed to have them! 
Speaking of Pinterest (are you on there yet?!? If not, why not!?!? It’s amazing!!!), I found so many great ideas that we used for our New Years’ Eve celebration this year. Our circle of friends actually ended up with no plans this year for New Years’ Eve, so for the first time in probably 5 years we were at home with the kids. I knew it was going to take some planning to keep them engaged and playing nicely as we counted down to the New Year. So, off to Pinterest I went! 
First, I found this idea from The Real Thing with the Coake Family.

Source: realcoake.blogspot.com via Kari on Pinterest

She made these bags for her daughters, one bag for each hour of their family’s New Years’ Eve party. Inside each bag was an activity for the family to do together. I loved this idea and decided to make up some bags myself. Using plan brown lunch bags, white cardstock, my Cricut machine and some markers I created 12 bags.

Not nearly as cute..but they got the job done 🙂

Inside each bag I placed an activity. The first one was a little bit of trickery on my part, but it needed to be done! lol

It’s time to start the night off right, we don’t want you to scream or fight. Just run around and pick up those toys, so we can have fun and make lots of noise!
That was our activity for the 1 o’clock hour: cleaning up the playroom and the living room so that we would have the space to have fun. Nothing kills the fun buzz worse than stepping on a car or a Lego!
For the 2 o’clock hour we spent some time looking back at 2012. We used 2 different printables, one for the adults and one for the kids. The printable for the kids came from Amy’s Finer Things. 
Source: amysfinerthings.com via Kari on Pinterest
I liked that this printable had a space to write the kids heights and weights. We broke out a measuring tape and the Wii Fit scale. Each child had an adult to help them fill out their sheets. They turned out so cute! And they’ll be great to go back and look at as I’m trying to scrapbook pictures from this year 🙂
The reflection for the adults came from one of my favorite blogs, The Dating Divas. 

Source: thedatingdivas.com via Kari on Pinterest

It defnitely took some self inspection to fill them out. Some of the questions were just downright hard! But it was a fun way to look back and think about the highs and lows of 2012.

Our girl didn’t need any help-it’s kind of sad when they can start filling out things without your help! Except for the occasional “How do you spell ________?”

And so the day/night continued on, opening a new bag every hour (or 2, in the case of the 4-5 o’clock hour when everyone laid down for naps and no one woke up til 5:30. Luckily the 5 o’clock hour was eating and the 6 o’clock hour was playing board games so we could do that and eat at the same time!)

We played some Wii games (bowling and Just Dance 3-what a workout!!!)

This little guy is good! His first time ever playing Wii bowling and he bowled a 72!

The pile on the desk…the reason I am on an organization mission in 2013! lol Oh, and yes, that is a broken arm! I’ll have to share that story soon!

And that little thing…he’ll be 5 months old this week! Can you believe it!?!? I sure can’t!!!

This game totally wore me out! You don’t need an expensive gym membership! Just buy any of the Just Dance games!!

We ate our favorite New Years’ Eve dinner…munchie foods! I made potato skins from scratch, something I am ashamed to admit I’ve never done before! They were so easy and sooo good! So much better than those frozen things from the store that are probably full of additives and preservatives and other yucky stuff that we are trying to cut out of our diet this year. We also had BBQ chicken wings, sausages, cheese, crackers, celery, carrots, cucumbers, dip, chips, and salsa. I contemplated making quesadillas, but thought we had enough. Don’t you think so?!?!

Yummy, yummy homemade potato skins. I’ll never buy potato skins again! Too easy and too delicious to make on your own!
All the yummies!

 While we were eating, and after, we played a few games that the kids chose. The first was Headbandz. If you’ve never played this game I highly recommend it! It is a great family game and one that is very portable. We will be taking this camping this summer for sure!

I think Jonah was trying to use his powers of ESP to figure out what was on his card! lol

 Our sweet baby boy! The time is going by way too quickly with him! It seems the more kids you have to faster the time goes! I’d love to slow it down just a little. He is just way to sweet and I’m sad to think that we are almost half way through his first year. Knowing he’s the last baby has made every smile, every cuddle, every everything that much more special, but it’s also made it a little bittersweet. Lasts are hard! Now I need some neices and nephews to spoil!(Yes, Samantha and Eric I am looking at you!) For those of you wondering if he really is our last the answer is a big, resounding yes! 5 pregnancies in 8 years have been very hard on my body and my emotional state. For the sake of our family we’ve made the decision that it’s best not to push our luck. I’m doing good right now but it’s been a battle at times and I’d rather not push it anymore. So for the sake of our family Eli is our final baby. It’s a little sad, but at the same time he has made everything feel so complete. We know it’s the best decision!

Another of our activities for the night included calling grandparents to wish them a happy New Year!

Finally, it was time to countdown! With the exception of Jonah’s little cat nap the kids made it all the way to midnight! I didn’t know if they would (let’s be honest, I didn’t know if I would at times!! lol) but they did. And it was so much fun to ring in the new year with all of us together as a family!

10, 9, 8….
Happy New Year! Welcome 2013 (2013-how crazy is that!?!? And where is my flying car?!?! Just sayin’!)
After midnight snuggles! Yup, even the baby was up!
And just a few days after New Years baby came down with RSV and an ear infection. The tears you see here we thought were from teething. Turns out not!
But after a little Tylenol the smiles were back!

We had a wonderful New Years’ Eve together! The bags definitely helped pass the time quickly. We commented often how it seemed like hours were going so fast. It was time for a new activity before we knew it. If we end up doing a family New Years again this year we will definitely be doing this again! It was a huge hit! But we were all ready for a good nights’ sleep not long after 2013 showed up. There may or many not have been a little snoring!

 Happy 2013 my friends! 2012 was a great year for us, but here’s hoping 2013 will be even better!

Our Vacation-Day 2

Saturday, July 3rd was our second day in Washington, DC and also my mom’s 50th birthday. So because it was her day she got to choose what we did that day. She chose to go to the National Zoo. This zoo is incredible! And huge! And was crowded of course, but not nearly as bad as I thought it would be! And it was free…like all the other Smithsonian’s (you just end up paying $20 to park by the time that you are done there!!!) 
We got to see Andean (speckled) bear cubs, (the first that had been born in the zoo in 20 years!) the Giant Pandas (which were really giant!!!), some gorgeous tigers and lions, and other really fun things. The kids loved the zoo and we spent a fun morning there. 

Brianna and Jonah in the petting zoo.
Micah loved the fish in the aquariums!
Brianna and Jonah with the Andean bear cubs (which you can’t really see but that’s what is in that cage!!!)
She’s on a frog, in case you can’t see what that is!
For lunch we picked up picnic stuff and drove out to Great Falls National Park. I had no idea that this place existed in DC until I started doing research and planning for our trip. It is an incredible park built around the falls that occur along the Potomic river at that point in Maryland and Virginia. We were on the Maryland side along the C & O canal. We hiked out and found a spot for lunch and then surprised mom with a cake. (Who knew cakes from Whole Foods were so incredibly delicious?!?!?!) After lunch and cake we walked out to the falls, which were beautiful and felt like such a well kept secret.
Steven and I with the kids in front of the waterfall. You can’t see them very well in the background, but they actually are really big! 
My mom with her kids: my brother Michael, me and my brother Chris. 
“My Buddy…my buddy! My buddy and me!”
Mommy and her baby!
 One of my favorite pictures from the trip!
Nina with her crazy grandkiddos!
After our afternoon in the park we decided to take Steven and the kids back to the hotel to swim and we went out to Capitol Hill to watch the dress rehearsal for the Capitol 4th concert. The temp for the 4th of July was 103 degrees and we knew we’d never be able to sit out in that heat all day just to see the concert that night. So we caught the dress rehearsal instead. We got there just as the sun was setting behind the Washington Monument. 
We missed Darius Rucker, but got there right in time to see this guy:
If you can’t tell, that’s David Archuletta! We LOVED him on Idol! He was awesome! We also got to see Reba McIntire, who have loved for years! She was amazing, and did one of my favorite songs of hers, “Fancy”, which made me really happy! We had a great time sitting on the Capitol Lawn and listening to the great music. And of course, since the Capitol building is one of my favorites I had to get some pictures at night.
This is one of my favorites!
Of course I had to get some group shots too of us with the Capitol in the background all lit up (it’s soo pretty!!!)
Mom with her boys!
Mom and her girl. 
It was a great day in our Nation’s Capitol. Definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity! Happy 50th Birthday mom! I hope it was great and all you were hoping it would be! We love you!

On A Rainy Saturday

So we’re getting hit today with the deadly storm that passed through Arkansas, leaving at least 16 people dead and countless others unaccounted for. And while I feel awful for their loss, I am greatful that the storm has lost some of it’s strength and fury as it passes over us! One good thing to come out of this though is that we are stuck in the house, no yard work, no building the deck. And while I’d love to get the deck finished, I came down from my shower to find this scene in front of me:

 Father and daughter rediscovering their good friend, the Wii. 

And even though she had been singing “Rain, rain go away! Come again another day!” not an hour before, this smile tells me she’s just fine with the rain, because she’s found something better to do snuggled up in her daddy’s lap!

Have a blessed weekend, be it rain or shine where you are!

Welcome to Friday Family Fun Night!

Today is our first Friday Family Fun Night post! I am really excited about this because I know that I really love to learn from others and coming up with fun and interesting things to do for family night gets harder and harder sometimes! In our home we try to do a weekly family night with our kids. I say we try because we are definitely not perfect in doing this. I have my weeks where it’s just too much “work” to get together something to do. Or if the kids have been bickering and fighting all day the last thing in the world that I want to do is listen to them bicker and fight all through family night, so I have been known to cancel it (although my husband doesn’t agree with doing this so I might have to reconsider this in the future 😛 )

So, for our first Friday Family Fun Night post what I want to know from you is: 1) Do you currently hold a weekly family night with your family? And if you do, do you follow a regular schedule? Do you have it on a certain day of the week? Do you follow a certain format (ie, open with a song and a prayer and a scripture, do you light a family candle? Do you have a lesson and an activity? Or do you have family game night or a family outing?

And 2) If you don’t currently hold a family night with your family what would you want it to look like if you started? Is there any particular reason that you want to start having a regular family night? What are some of the things that you are hoping to teach your children during these special times together?

So, as for our family, we try to do family night every Thursday night. And we kind of go back and forth with our “routine” of how we do things. Some weeks we know that there is something we want to have a lesson on. For example, lately we’ve been having problems with hitting and name calling, so for next week I’m planning a lesson on showing love in our home and how hurtful things like hitting and name calling are to the love and spirit of our home. Then there are weeks when I just want to to do something fun. For example, this weekend is going to be a CRAZY weekend, so I just wanted to spend some time with my husband and my kids before we were all pulled a million different directions. So we went out to eat at Frisch’s Big Boy and then went to the park to run around on the play equipment and swing on the swings. It was a lot of fun, and we got through the whole evening with almost no fighting (which is a HUGE accomplishment!!!)

Those weeks where we do have a lesson planned we follow an outline…To begin we light a family candle that we made at a family night a while back. Then we open with a prayer, a song and a scripture reading that goes along with the topic that we are discussing. We usually try to keep the lesson short (10-15 minutes at the absolute max, but our kids are 5, 3 and 9 months so attention spans are very short!!!) After the lesson I try to have a craft or a game that we can play to try to reinforce what we were learning and then we close with a prayer, and the kids’ favorite, a snack!

So this is our first link up. In the weeks to come I hope to  have posts with activities for certain holidays or special events, just “regular” ideas for those “ordinary” times and I really help that we can help each brainstorm and become each others accountability in this area of our lives.

Please note: While having a regular family night is a premise for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, you do not need to be Mormon to participate in this meme. Other religions (and non-religious organizations) also see the importance in having a regular time that we spend together with our families. Do not feel the need to edit your posts or lessons because you think you will offend someone. That you are teaching your children your values and what is important to you is the most important thing. Another thing to remember is that couples without children (either who have not yet had any, or whose children have all grown up) are still a family. You can do things with your spouse to help keep your special relationship with each other strong. So feel free to link up too, you may help another couple out there find fun things to do!

OK…it’s time to link up! I am so excited!! And I can’t wait to see what we can share with each during this journey!