Friday, June 20, 2014

The Kiddos

Xander never ceases to amaze me! His class voted him "funniest" person in the class. That really surprised me until the teacher said that Xander trys to make people laugh when they are sad. And that is spot on! He is so kind and aware of others and their feelings. As he walked up to get his award and came back to his seat, he walked like a T-Rex with tiny arms. The class all laughed. 

CJ was such a trooper! One week she had oral surgery where she got out two of her wisdom teeth and a chain was put on an impounded tooth that had not come through yet. The idea is that they hook that chain to the wire of her braces and slowly over time bring that tooth down. She was amazing and the oral surgeon was very impressed with her. A week later, she got braces. Her appointment was 2 1/2 hours long! Crazy! I think she looks super cute in them. She says she likes her smile better with braces.

Mia is busy working on birthday gifts. Here she is busy sewing a United States flag for Zoey, our Fourth of July baby. She was so clever that with the "free foot" that allows you to go all over the fabric, that she made stars. She is super thoughtful and she just has to have a gift for everyone on their birthday.  Birthdays are special with Mia!

Zoey loves butterflies so much! We went to the Academy of Sciences in San Franscisco a couple of weeks ago. They have a rainforest that you can go through and at the very top, there are oodles of butterflies flying around. If you are lucky, you can get one to land on your hand. Zoey is obsessed with butterflies! So much so that her birthday party this year is all about butterflies and well. . .some insects too because she's got a lot of friends that are boys. Every day she asks when her birthday is. She just loves her birthday. Now that I think of it, all of my kids love their birthday!

How can I forget about my biggest kid? Ben has been wanting a Playstation 4 for the longest time. I haven't been wanting to shell out the $500 for it especially since we just bought a house. Well the other day, Ben got a letter from Advanta stating that he was entitled to part of a retirement settlement. Ben worked there for 5 years and he thought he would get .30 cents or something like that. Turns out he got $500! Just enough to buy the Playstation 4! His dreams came true and I can continue to be husband less on Thursday nights when he plays online with his other 30 something year old homies.

Oh life is good!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Surprise! It's a Party not a dinner!

Oh birthdays. . . I love them! My birthday. . . Historically not always great. I started getting sad the day before. I told Ben not to do anything because I've been feeling poor with buying a new house. Even though, I really didn't want him to spend money on me, I kinda got sad that I wouldn't be doing anything for my birthday. Then I bought my birthday cake because it was convenient. And even though I really didn't mind getting my own cake, I started to get sad that "I got my own cake." Same with my birthday present. 

Then I decided that I was going to ask Ben to maybe write me a note. You know something that doesn't cost money. Then we started to talk about my birthdays because they normally stink. And I told him excluding this year (because I want to save money) I want to do something fun on my birthday that I don't have to plan. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money either. Like going to the park or a bike ride or something like that. 

Anyways Ben says defensively," you're getting depressed about your birthday and it hasn't even happened yet!" Fair enough.

My birthday arrives and my friends take me out to breakfast. That just made my day! Then Ben decides to take the day off from work and I got to go to the temple something that I really needed to do. I stop by Old Navy on the way home and spend some of my birthday money. Xander plays "Happy Birthday" to me on the piano and we have some yummy cake. All in all, a good day.

Saturday arrives and I have a photo session that evening. Ben sets up a dinner with another family which never happens. I was a little suspicious about it all but with all the selling and buying and packing of a house that was going on, I didn't press it too bad. I literally couldn't even think straight. I was so late getting back from the photo session. Fourty minutes late, that doesn't even qualify for fashionably late or Mormon standard time. It qualified as embarrassing and rude.  I couldn't believe I had made that family wait.

I arrive at the house to see another friend's car in their driveway. "Oh great!" I thought. Yet another family I made wait. I open the door and a giant group of people say, "Surprise!" It was a surprise birthday party for me and I had no idea. The best surprise birthday party ever!



It was great because all of my dear friends were there and we would be moving the next weekend. I loved it!

So I guess my birthday wasn't so bad and I guess 37 isn't so bad either!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

M.I.A.

The title says it all!  We have been Missing In Action in the big wide world of blogging.  So much has happened lately that I cannot wait any longer or I will get very behind.

DISNEYLAND 




We went to Disneyland! We went around Presidents' Day hoping that the lines wouldn't be that bad. And they weren't! The longest line we waited in was for 2 hours for the Cars land racers. The rest of the rides were 30 minutes or less. In fact, since we got on rides so quickly we decided to see some shows and meet princesses, things we normally don't use our precious time for. So in 2 days we pretty much rode all the rides that we wanted to.




After getting our fill of Disneyland, we headed to Hunington Beach. I love the beaches in California! We had a great day chillin' at the beach. 




FIELD TRIPS AND SCIENCE FAIR

I always try to make it a point and go on at least one field trip a year with each child. I've done that since CJ started school. This year I went on a walking field trip to the local fire station with Xander's class.



I always love it when I see my children so excited that I am there with them. They love school and love it when I am there seeing the things they do and participating.


went to the theatre with Mia and we got to see professional dancers perform and teach us about dance. I am truly amazed at how many field trips my kids go on in a year. When I was teaching school, we only went on one, maybe two if the other one was a walking field trip and didn't require a bus. Here, they charge the parents however much they need. I've had to pay up to $12 for my child to participate. In Utah, we couldn't charge the kids anything. It all came from PTA funds. Maybe it's just California.




The science fair was epic! Xander and Mia both came away with medals for first place in their grade level.  Every year, I think my kids are going to be disappointed because, really how long will this winning streak go on for? Every year I never have to deal with their disappointment because they keep winning!

SOCCER



This year I signed Xander and Zoey up for soccer. Soccer is awesome! I wish I would have signed Xander up sooner. When he was 3, we did the Kids Love Soccer program and even then I thought he showed some talent for the game. 



But then we got involved in baseball and taekwando and didn't come back to the game until now. I'm so glad we did. I love the AYSO program. I also love his pinky finger up in the air as he kicks!



Zoey is having fun although she really had a rough start. She screamed her head off the first day and refused to participate. I had to hold her hand the entire time. 



Then around game 2 or 3, she decided that she really liked soccer. She told me before we left for soccer, " I'm so excited to play soccer today! I'm not going to cry,  I'm going to be brave!"


Since then, she has done great!

GOODBYE HOME! HELLO NEW ONE!

The biggest news right now is that we are selling our home and buying a new one. We put our home on the market at the beginning of April.  Within a week, we had a buyer! We had 10 offers on our home, all over asking price.  Since there is a low inventory on houses in our price range we pretty much got to set the terms and asked for a 45 day close and 30 day rent back. We narrowed it down to two offers and sent out a multiple counter offer. We ended up getting what we needed and the offer we accepted offered a 30 day rent back for $1! 

That gave us plenty of time to find a house. After getting under contract with our house we set out to find a new home for us. There weren't many houses on the market at that time that fit our specifications which were 4 bedrooms and at least 1600 sq feet in our price range. We were looking for a home we could spend at least 10 years in.

We stumbled upon a house near where we live now, that was out of our price range. I had been watching the market for a couple months now and noticed that this house was overpriced and thought, "well maybe we should check it out".  So Ben and I did. The house was a flip and completely remodeled and we didn't understand why it wasn't selling. We asked our realtor if we offered $50,000 less, if that would be a total joke? He said,"No" and also told us since it had been on the market for so long, we could make our offer contingent on our house selling. 

They came back with a counter offer, of course asking for more money. They asked for $25,000 more. I thought about it and thought, that's pushing it.  We better play safe and just reject the counter offer. I sent the email telling our realtor that we were declining the offer. Then i just laid on my bed thinking about it. The more I thought about it the more i really wanted this house. It was 2500 sq feet-bigger than we ever dreamed we could afford and it would fit our family comfortably. Ever other house we looked at couldn't compare and were about 1000 sq feet less!


(The picture isn't great, I just took it this morning on a run)

I talked to Ben and I told him that we should look at our finances more closely and see if it was something we could do. I emailed our realtor back and said to hold off on our rejection. Ben and i spent a couple hours crunching numbers. Ben just recently got a wonderful raise from work but since it was so recent, we didn't know how much more per paycheck he would actually get. Once we figured it out, we realized that the raise that Ben had gotten, would be enough so we could accept the counter offer and afford the monthly mortgage payment.

I could see the Lord's hand in everything. He provided a way for us to get this house. I have no doubt. 

Our realtor had gotten an email from the seller's agent saying that they got another offer and wanted to do a multiple counter offer. Well the seller's agent is very sloppy with his work and failed to send paperwork out voiding the counter offer they sent us. So when we signed the counter offer document, we were technically under contract.

For three days, we had no idea if we were really under contract. The seller's agent was angry because the other offer they had received was bigger. The broker's on each side were trying to work it out and finally the seller's buckled and we were officially under contract!

Had the multiple counter offer been sent out, there is no way we would have gotten this house. We offered the most we could and could not go higher.

We have been so blessed! This house is only a mile and a half from the one we live in now and is in all different schools than what we have now. Once I got over that and accepted that it will be okay for the kids. I began to realize things work out for a purpose that we can be very happy in this home and that it is big enough to be a 20 year home, not a 10 year one that we thought we would get.

Phew! I made it through the major stuff. I have been slacking on the blogging lately. Once we get settled into our new home, things will be better I'm sure. I can't wait!


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Boo-yah!

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This is Mia's reflection entry for this school year.  I took her out to a place across the street where I've shot some amazing pictures.  I have taken a picture of this same tree but in my shot, it is of the tree alone.  I was amazed at how Mia framed her picture.  This picture is actually taken a good distance away from where I had shot my picture and because of her perspective in her picture, she got tips of trees and other foliage.

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Well. . .her entry was sent to Districts AGAIN!  I cannot believe how much this girl wins.  I feel like every year I'm blogging about the same story but it is true.  Mia is just really talented and I love helping her discover her talents and helping her in anyway.  She doesn't realize how big it is getting to Districts.  Each school judges and sends their entries onto the next level.  There are over 30 schools in our district alone.  From there, the school council judges the entries and chooses which entries make it to Districts.  In Mia's age group and category, there were only 5 entries.  I am still so amazed that Mia has made it to Districts 3 years in a row!  Amazing!

And if that wasn't enough. . .BOO-YAH. . .science fair!  Well that's what Zoey would say.  She's been saying boo-yah alot lately and it is the cutest thing ever!

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Mia and Xander came home yesterday so excited with how their science fair presentations went.  They have to present their science projects to the judges.  Mia said hers went so well and that she had to do it twice to two different judges.  Xander said they said his was "brilliant"!  He was so cute presenting his project on how the body moves.

Today was the night where the parents were able to come and see all of the projects and the announcement of the science fair winners.  Mia got all dressed up and put lipstick on.  She was ready!

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The time came for the announcing of the winners.  Xander and Mia both won first place in their grade level and Mia's is going onto the District science fair.  Unbelievable!

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Christmas

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December was a great month for our family!  We were very busy but still squeezed in our family traditions. We added making gingerbread houses out of graham crackers to our family traditions this year.  Mia made one for Activity Days and so everyone was super jealous.

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We also made our traditional ornaments for our tree.  This year we used glass ornaments and the kids could paint them or stick things inside them.  Zoey loved sticking things inside hers.  She had so much glitter and beads and other things inside her ornament, I didn't think it was going to stay on the tree, but it did!

I also made ornaments for my friends this year with their family pictures in them.  Since my friends are so nice and hire me as their photographer, I have many of their pictures.  I copied the pictures on a transparency and rolled it and stuck it into the glass ornament. The hardest part was getting the right size circle to fit in the ornament.

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We did our sibling secret santas, and we encourage our children to look for opportunities to serve each other.  Service is something that I would like to focus more on.  Service to each other and those around us. I want them to see how serving others and making those around us happy can bring us true happiness.  We had a wonderful experience this holiday season.  I've been wanting to find a family who could not afford to go to Disneyland and give them tickets so they could.  We found a family and I wanted to give it to them with our whole family present so they could see what happiness comes from doing something for others. It was a great and special moment.  The family we gave them to were so happy,especially the mother.  I learned that Disneyland is the "happy place" that this mother envisions when she is going through a tough time.  There young family has experienced so many trials and it was wonderful to give them something that would bring them some smiles and happy times.

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After Christmas, we headed to Utah to visit Ben's family.  His parents just moved recently so we got to see their beautiful new home.  It's huge!  Well everything is huge to our family who lives in about 1100 square feet.  It's funny because when we go to someone's house that is just a normal size house, my kids ask if it is a mansion.

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We really had a wonderful time visiting with family.  I love that there are always someone for my kids to play with when we come and visit.  I got to take some pictures of Ben's brother and his family as well as his sister's twins, who are so adorable.  I really miss his family and appreciate them so much more living away from them.  They are a great bunch of people!

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I squeezed in a visit with one of my friends from Alameda who moved to Utah about the same time we moved to Concord.  We also got to visit some of our long time friends that we have known for over 10 years now.  We are very lucky to have such wonderful family and friends.  I'm excited for 2014!  It's going to be a great year!

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Gobble. . .Gobble. . .Gobble till you wobble. . .wobble. . .wobble!

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We had my parents in town for Thanksgiving.  Holidays are just so much better when you are surrounded by family!  I also LOVE cooking big dinners.  I spent probably 5 hours straight cooking and eating the food took about 10-20 minutes depending on who you were.  Mia helped me make the table decorations which were fun to make. We made place settings for everyone.

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The day after Thanksgiving, we decided to head to San Francisco.  It was such a beautiful day!  I couldn't believe our luck!  It was the best weather I have ever experienced in San Francisco.  Blue skies, no fog, and no wind.  I wish I could have stayed the whole day there!  We headed to Crissy Field and took some family pictures quickly. I love taking pictures but when it comes to my own family, I can never get the shots I want because I have to be in the photo.  My Mom helped us out this year which was nice.

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Xander, Mia, Grandma and I walked across the Golden Gate Bridge.  It was awesome!  There was a ton of people there that day but we still had fun.  Grandpa wanted some yummy clam chowder so we got some food to go since I had a photo session that day.  I wish we had more time to spend in San Fran, the weather was just so awesome!

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Grandpa Armstrong's birthday was the next day.  We surprised him with a train ride on the Niles Canyon Railway.  It was a steam train with decorated lighted cars.  It was fun to see my Dad in his element. He used to work for a railroad company and helped repair the trains.  I think he had a really great time!

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The kids also had a wonderful time. I don't think they have ever been in a train like this before.  We've ridden in smaller kiddie trains or the BART train but this was an experience that I think they will remember for awhile.  Santa also visited each of the cars and the kids got to visit with him.  Grandma and Grandpa had alot of fun with him too posing for pictures and Grandpa pretended to kiss him on the cheek!  I think Santa was relieved when he moved onto the next family!  We're a little crazy!

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Christmas came early for the kids and they got to open presents up from Grandma and Grandpa.  They each got the perfect gift and were so happy!  Zoey got a makeup kit and absolutely loves it! She puts makeup on almost each day and I am subjected to her makeovers almost daily.  CJ got her batman pants that she was dying to get.  Xander got an Electronic playground for the scientist in him and Mia got some baby dolls.  She is pretty much obsessed with babies these days.  

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While Grandma was here, I helped her get started with online banking and even had her join Facebook.  She loves it and it is weird to see my 70 year old Mom "like" my status or picture.  One time I saw her comment with "lol", now that was even weirder!  Thank you Grandma and Grandpa for coming!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Deck the Patch. . .fa la la la la, la la la la

Deck the patch with orange and black
fa la la la la, la la la la.
Take along your goody sack

fa la la la la, la la la la.
Don we now our weird apparel,
fa la la, la la la, la la la.
Toll the ancient pumpkin carol,
fa la la la la, la la la la.


See the goblins rise before us,
fa la la la la, la la la la.
As we sing the pumpkin chorus,
fa la la la la, la la la la.
Follow them as they ascend,
fa la la, la la la, la la la.
Join with all your loony friends,
fa la la la la, la la la la.


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October was yet another crazy month!  We even squeezed in some Halloween caroling.  This time, to Ben's relief, I invited several families to join us. Ben would rather sing in a large group than with just our family because mostly, it is just him and I singing.  We had fun caroling, decorating cookies, and drinking hot chocolate.

CJ had fun at the Stake Youth Halloween dance and I had fun taking pictures of all the youth in their costumes.

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October was also filled with school Fall Fest, our traditional Halloween pizza night, a painting night and raking leaves.

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Xander and Mia had a parade at school. . .

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And Xander had a crazy hair day during Red Ribbon week.  He looked super fierce when he went to karate that day!

This month it was very hard for Ben and I to get on the ball and put up the Halloween decorations.  Luckily, we have done it enough that the kids will constantly remind us about putting up the decorations.  Also, the kids are great at knowing what they want to be for Halloween.

Zoey wanted to be a supergirl. . .

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CJ wanted to be batgirl. . .
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Xander wanted to be a mad scientist. . .

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Mia wanted to be a gothic vampire. . .

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I'm glad we survived October. Now if we just can survive the month of December!