Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Parents have birthdays too, ya know

Sometimes I get so caught up in thinking about and writing about and taking pictures of and celebrating my kids that I forget that Brian and I exist, too.  And that we need a little celebrating every once in a while.  Even though our own birthday celebrations smell largely like a kids' celebration, what with a party tablecloth and a tacky banner displayed in the background and all, we both find little ways to grow it up a bit.  This year, for Brian's birthday, it was in the chocolate.  Well, okay... not really real chocolate, but chocolate that he loves and adores just the same.  For the kids, you see, I would have made the cake out of the much less expensive skittles, hard candy, and gum, with a few pixie sticks for flare.

But for Brian?  Chocolate.

This man deserves a gold sticker star for the way he carried us through the last year.  The whole story will be explored in its own post, but the important thing is that he has been so wonderful as this Adjusting To The Desert event kinda knocked me down.  So I was happy to celebrate him for an entire day.  We did the whole birthday thing, you know?  Presents, (candy-bar) cake, a popular song that has a whopping total of five different words... you know the drill.

And then we finished out the evening with a wild and awesome performance of The Newsies with the two oldest kids.  

The next week, it was my turn to celebrate my time of birth.  I took a nice, long walk in the morning with my favorite podcasts and my favorite walking companion.

Then we had fruit cake with some more of my favorite people.

That night, Brian showed me up and took me to a real grown up dinner in a stunning restaurant that sits at the top of one of the hotels downtown.  Looking out the windows, you could see all the impressive lights of Vegas... and the food.  Oh.  The food.  I don't think I've ever had food so flavorful and delicious.  All of it.  No chicken nuggets....  No cheap plastic toys...

It was fantastic.

But the best part about it was the company.  Don't be jealous, but I got to stare at that handsome face for the whole night.  Turns out growing up is a pretty sweet deal after all.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Party at the Pad

Last spring we traveled a lot.  And we had a lot of visitors come to play.  But in between all those festivities we also had a bunch of Fun Around the House moments.

*The kids got really into making forts out in the driveway.  They would pull all sorts of things from the garage and the closets in the house to construct their abodes and were always surprised when the end of the day came and I asked for it all be put away. It's just that, it didn't seem like a good idea to leave it all out in the front yard overnight, ya know?

One day I looked out the window and the whole scene looked like it belonged in a story book.

Discarded bikes, a makeshift fort, a captivating book, guitar music coming from the grass underneath the tree, and a small red headed boy playing with rocks in his own little world.

It was McKenzie's idea of a fabulous afternoon.

And Carson's.  Magical.

*Another fun thing about spring was toting Miles's friends around to and from homes and school and parks.  Miles had some great friends in our last area and we dearly miss being so close to them.

Something about rolling around hills of grass together brings a strong bond, you see.

*When we were considering moving out to this little town, we packed the kids in the car one afternoon and decided to drive around to see what there was to see. We wore swimming suits, of course, because we're in the hot desert and knew that if we wanted to be outside, we'd have to be in the water.

The splash pad did not disappoint.

*McKenzie and I look forward to the Father and Sons campout every year.

Even though we always seem to have an extra tag along.  This time it was this adorable kid. Next year, I bet he'll be old enough to go along with the other boys, but this year we had fun with him for a couple of hours before putting him to an early bed.

We celebrated with TV dinners (I must be getting older because they used to just make things fun... but this time they were quite gross), Ben and Jerry's (never gross), and Paddington (cute).

I sure love this girl.

*Perhaps one of the most fun nights in our own home came along with the NCAA Championship game.

The Larson's came to party with us and, I don't know how it happened, but somehow our two families have grown so much that we ordered all of Dominoes to feed us.

Oh how we cheered for our Duke team!  Brian found himself pacing back and forth behind the couches, Teek found himself yelling "Go Doot!" over and over and over and over, and Becky found herself on her hands and knees, scrubbing every inch of my kitchen floor with wet paper towels.

"Becky, what are you doing?!"
"Managing my stress."

Thankfully Becky and I are close enough friends that I just laughed at her, took her picture and went back to sitting on the couch to watch the game.  I told her she could come over any time she needed to manage her stress.

Also, I wish I managed stress that way instead of eating chocolate macadamia clusters.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Visitors Footfalls

The ornaments of your home 
are the people 
who smile upon entering 
time and time again. 
~Maralee McKee 

One of the very best things about living in Vegas is that people come here.  A lot.  It's a great stopping point for people traveling from here to there and from there to here, and it's also a pretty good destination point in and of itself.  Plus, it's relatively central to all sorts of things... and so people come.  And when they come we try to bribe them into staying with us.  We love visitors, and it turns out we landed in a pretty great place to feed that love.  

*Mom and Dad
First up this spring were my parents.  We always love to have them come because they are super laid back and happy to do whatever.  This time, we took them to the marina to feed the gross fish.  

But mostly we just sat to chat.  Which is exactly what my soul needs sometimes.

*The Birdno Family
Next, the Birdnos came from Arizona.  We took them to hike over the bridge that overlooks Hoover Dam.

Cute little feet.

It was a good thing that no one was afraid of heights - because there were some serious heights.

The lizard below is quite inspiring.  I think I'm going to go buy a whole new wardrobe in Couch Color so that I can sit really still on my couch when the kids are swarming around asking for things.

Camouflage, you see.

After hiking around in the awful hot sun and super red dust, we stopped by the 'beach' to cool off.  The beach in this sentence means the jagged, rocky incline that leads down into the lake that will cut your feet if you don't wear proper foot attire.  But the kids didn't care that they didn't have water shoes. They didn't even care that they didn't have swimming suits. We only had one tiny little blip in the fun when Teek decided he wanted to try swimming by himself.  Thankfully Merrill was close enough to save him.  Unthankfully, Merrill was quite wet after his heroic act.  Thanks, Merrill.

We finished off the Birdno visit by filling out brackets.  Yes, we are talking March here.  I realize that we are now in September and closer to next years March Madness than we are to last years.  But, moving, remember?

*Michelle and Jake
Boy these two are fun to hang out with!  We took a grown-ups night out on the town and saw all sorts of odd and wonderful things.  We also saw some odd and not wonderful things (we are in Vegas, after all), but we won't give those any more attention.

The M&M store is highly entertaining.  And, interestingly, it's even more entertaining when there are no children around. The children just don't realize that $8 plus any future children you have is too much to pay for one bag of M&M's.  They just want and want and want... but the grown-ups?  We just played.

Spinning, swirling vortexes (vortices?) of water and light?  I'm in love.  And I want one. In my closet. And purse.

Notice the bottom right picture in the above collage - Brian really tried hard to be a part of our night, but March Maddness was going on, you see.  And if Brian were to make a priority list of Most Important Things, March Maddness would be etched into the top spot with his own blood.

But Michelle, Jake and I had fun!

During the light hours of one of our days, we took the kids down to the strip (a risky move that involved an impromptu discussion of Why People Would Even Want to Look at Pornography and of the importance of keeping your eyes straight ahead. Don't look down sweetheart.  Oh!  Don't look up too high, either! But really.  Really don't look down).

This next picture just makes me laugh.  

In a far more family friendly outing, we drove out to the red rocks and hiked around one evening.

Such interesting landscape.

And then we went to the park where McKenzie showed off her impressive monkey skills.

*Tessems and Burtons and Walshes

These two family friends pictured above did not come together (nor did they even come in the same month), but they all make a very happy impression in my life.  Everyone like me (who tends to take things a little too seriously), needs to have a handful of friends like this who you can count on to simply make. you. laugh. I love these people and was so happy that they stopped by on their way from their comings to their goings to say hello for a few hours.

Not pictured is a fun family called the Walsh family.  Spencer was one of Brian's old high school buddies and I met and became friends with him in college.  We hadn't seen Spencer for probably a decade, so it was awesome to have him come stay with us for a night on his way back to Utah from California with his super cute wife and awesome kids.  

*My Family

My family is highly impromptu when it comes to traveling.  Sometimes it drives me crazy since I get rather stressed and nervous if I have to travel without a fair bit of warning myself (love you guys!), but this time it was awesome because they all came to me! (Which I could do impromptu any day of the year.)  The weekend before my brother flew in for a visit, the whole family decided that they'd like to come, too.  We were sad that Amber and Caleb couldn't get work covered on such short notice, but it was fantastic to have the rest of the family there.

We filled some of our time with the Blue Man Group and laughed until our insides burst.

We also ate at the shake shack.  Twice.  In one evening. It's true.

One day, we went to the cactus gardens where we saw tons of different kinds of cacti - and instead of showing you any of them, I'm going to show you a picture of McKenzie resting in the patched shade instead. I only had my phone with me, you see, and it was mid-day, so none of the pictures were all that impressive, anyway.  The heat makes us all rather prickly at times, so it works.

Though, I did love this one.

My heart felt rather heavy this past year, missing green things and drying up like a prune and all.  But thank goodness for the happy people who have come into my home to make me smile and to cheer my heart.

Visitor's footfalls are like medicine; they heal the sick. ~African Proverb

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Second star to the right, and straight on till morning

Hey there!

I could give you a few reasons as to why this blog has taken a backseat in my life, but I doubt that that would be much fun for any of us, right?  I'll probably get to that soon enough but, for now, how about we just give each other a happy fist bump and an energetic Hello Again! and call it good, yes?


Oh, and also.  You might want to prepare yourselves for a massive Record All The Things blog bomb that is about to go off here over the next month or so.  It might be big.  And it might be ugly.  But sometimes big and ugly and done is better than forgotten, amiright? Hopefully by the end of next month, we'll be back to our regularly scheduled program.

Okay - on to better things!

Like my amazing sister.

And how she somehow blended 'adorable' and 'beautiful' into an absolutely stunning wedding.

Amber is among the most interesting, most unique, and most wonderful people I have ever known. Somewhere along the path of time, this baby-of-the-family has grown into an adult and has enriched our lives with her quiet but powerful example of Do What Makes Your Heart Sing.  

I don't know when Amber's heart first settled on its dream of being an actress, but I do have solid memories of her sweet, pudgy, three-year-old face twisted in excited animation as she performed an impossible-to-follow stream of consciousness story to those of us sitting at the side of her bed. Somewhere through the years her dream of acting solidified, fed by experience, and she has followed that dream through a merciless gamut of emotions that only theater people (and those who love them) can appreciate.  She is so courageous. And, you know, when I see her on that stage?  Boy, is she good.  

Acting makes her heart sing.  And you can actually see it singing through her eyes when the spotlights are on and the audience is captivated - cheering, crying, laughing - by her.  

I've never seen anything else in this world that can make her heart sing like that.  
Until I saw her with Caleb.

Actually, Caleb kind of makes my heart sing.  In a different way, of course.  He is absolutely delightful.  Genuine, caring, and available with the biggest, warmest hug you've ever had in your entire life.  His smile doesn't just light up his whole face, it lights up his whole body. And yours, too, if you happen to be standing within eyesight of it.

They compliment each other beautifully.

They got married on a rainy day - which seemed strangely perfect.  Sure, rain sometimes represents sadness, but sometimes it represents uniqueness and fun, a chance to dance and to play and to sing and to twirl.  And their lives are going to be full of all of it. These two have the power to touch a lot of hearts with their fresh take on life and love.

One of the funniest moments of the day for me was watching my dad and brother assemble the wedding cake.  Which, you could never guess once assembled, was made of Styrofoam.  Those two sounded just like a pair of old ladies invested in creating a masterpiece. Okay, now you be careful.  Good, steady, good. Don't touch! Perfect! Okay, let me just adjust a little here; is that centered?  

My mom was ready with the touch-up frosting when they were all finished, I helped with the ribbons, and my magic mom placed the flowers and stood back to admire all the work.

Styrofoam cakes, people.  It's the way of the future.

Their reception was the most interesting reception I've ever attended.  Their theme was... I don't even know what to call it.  It was... deep, and rich, and theatrical.  Kind of a steam punk meets Peter Pan.  Amber and Caleb met while they were performing in Peter Pan, and their engagement even became official in Disneyland's Peter Pan ride when she came off the ride with a ring on her finger.  There were gorgeous, tactful references to Peter Pan sprinkled throughout the decor. Clocks were found in the centerpieces, thimbles and acorns in the flowers, antique looking maps and compasses... it was incredible.

The lighting was low and romantic.  Beautiful and stunning. 

Everything about the night sang of Caleb and Amber - which is the goal of most wedding receptions, I imagine.  But this one?  This one nailed it right down to the mood.

Amber shined the whole night in her custom made, designed by herself wedding dress.  Did I mention that she's a costume designer?

Jake shined, too.  But that was only because he got a hold of the photographers extra light.  

Teek shined, too.  But that was only because he has such a stinkin' cute face.

Towards the end of the night, Amber and Caleb finally got a chance to enjoy some of their own refreshments.

And the highlight, for them, seemed to be when these handmade puppets showed up as a wedding gift.  I didn't get the story, but I could tell that it meant a whole, whole lot to Amber and Caleb.

love this sister of mine.  She has taught me so much about myself over the past couple of years, and watching her grow into an adult has been beautiful for me.  Her personality is layered with depth, and no matter how much I uncover, I still feel like there is so much more to learn.  She's the gift that keeps on giving that way - and I love that she gets to share her wonderful depth with Caleb. I suspect that they will have a life together of deep love, selfless service towards each other, and a giant dose of theatrical fun.

The hashtag they chose for their wedding preparations was #wewillgrowup playing on their history with Peter Pan.  And, I suppose in some ways they are and they will.  But these two have pieces of their souls that will stay young forever.

And in that way perhaps they have found Neverland after all.