Saturday, August 24, 2013

Halloween in August

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Earlier this year, Mia went to a birthday party for a friend at a place called, "Ghost Golf". Xander thought that was the coolest thing and from then on decided that he wanted to go there for his birthday. He told me, we can just have the family go we don't need to invite friends. I went online and they had a great deal for 10 people so I thought we would just take 4 of Xander's friends. That turned into more when I went to pay the deposit and the owner told me we could bring 12 friends which doesn't include the birthday boy or the parents. Then that's when I started making it into a party even though I was trying not to make it big.

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 We decorated the outside with a few decorations and I hung purple and black lights all inside the house. We put some Halloween costumes on for those who wanted to, played Halloween bingo, decorated bags, and played a eyeball ping pong game. I had the parents drop all the kids off, so we loaded all the kids up and headed to Ghost Golf. When we were about to begin, one of Xander's friends got really scared because of the noises. The place is pretty spectacular. It reminds me of the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland. They had things that popped out at you and places where air would be popped out at you.

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 At the end of the miniature golf course, there was a singing skeleton. I was really impressed with all the special effects. We had pizza and sat on a couch that looked like a coffin. The kids had alot of fun and were able to have unlimited golf.  Mia was so excited to dress up like a ghost and did all of her makeup on her own.

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Afterwards, we went back home and did the pinata. Ben and I made it and didn't do many layers, so it exploded pretty easy. At the end of the day, Xander said it was the best day ever! He got so many presents and was able to buy lots with his birthday money too. Some of his favorite gifts were magic trick kit, practical joke kit, spy door alarm, hex bugs, legos, bongos, and an optical illusion book.

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 Next year, I've decided I'm only doing 2 parties and I won't be doing both Xander and Mia at the same time and then I'll alternate kids the next year. Xander and Mia are only a week apart and its alot of work to put together two parties. Especially since I know it is hard for me just to do something simple and easy. Guess what I did the next day? I organized a cul de sac neighbor BBQ party. We potlucked the food and had a water fight and watched Brave projected on our garage. My neighbors say it should be a tradition.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Mia's "Sweet Shop" 9th Birthday

Mia has been thinking about her birthday party for about a year now.  She wanted to have lots of candy at her party, which is so surprising because Mia doesn't really like to eat alot of candy.  We came up with the "Sweet Shop" idea and everything came together after that.

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I loved the color scheme that I found for the invitation and decided to use that with my other decorations.  I painted the board and then I cut some vinyl out for the sign and making everything else was a piece of cake!  Ha!  Get it? Ya, so cheesy I know.

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I bought some candy jars from the dollar store and used some small mason jars for the rest and some noodle containers.  I think I could have gone on forever buying candy, there is so much to choose from.

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I made each of the girls matching aprons.  It didn't take me as long as I thought and went pretty quickly.  They each looked so cute!  Then we made some cake balls.  Yes, I let them stir it with their hands. . .probably really gross but don't worry they washed them first.

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Next, we headed to Kara's Cupcakes which are SO GOOD!  I'm not much of a cake person but Kara's cupcakes are so light and not dense and taste like heaven!  They each got to choose their own gourmet cupcake.  It was so hard to choose, they all looked delicious!

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We came back and did some "Sweet Bingo".  The girls each created their boards with the same pieces and could place them anywhere on their boards.  Each time the girl's won, they got to choose something from the "Sweet Shop" and put in their candy bags.  We did five in a row, diagonal, four corners and then finished with a blackout, where everyone won and was able to get a little bit of each of the candies.

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Then my husband helped them make their own small personal pizza.  They were so cute! We squeezed nine candles on the cupcake and sang "Happy Birthday" to our Mia.

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Mia has a talent for being a really good friend.  She has a bunch of friends that she likes to hang out with who are really "good" girls.  Some are members of the church and some are not.  Some of her friends that were at her party were classmates from Kindergarten from a totally different school that she goes to now.  They just make the effort to hang out with Mia and keep in touch with her.  I've had those parents tell me that their daughters love Mia and that "there isn't a friend that is like Mia."

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I will "note to self", that when doing a party that involves lots of candies and sweets, be prepared for hyper and crazy kids!  

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Yeah, they look all so sweet and innocent here, but I've seen what lots of candy can do. . .we spent the rest of the night and the next day detoxing!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Girl's Camp

This year, I was able to go to Girl's Camp with CJ.  Girl's Camp here is like no other camp you have ever been to.  Girl's camp for most is staying in a cabin and going on little hikes.  Girl's camp here is actually backpacking 16-27 miles, making your latrines, and purifying your own water.

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I was with the third years and with CJ.  For third year we hiked 16 miles over a couple of days. This was the first time for me to ever go backpacking.  I was learning with the girls.   I've learned that Mountain House (freeze dried food) isn't really that bad and purifying water is pretty cool.

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We hiked half the way the first day.  It was not an easy hike, in fact, it was labeled a difficult hike. The girls did awesome!  I couldn't believe how tough they were.  This was a hard hike for me. Hiking with 70 lbs. on your back isn't always fun, but getting to the destination felt great.  It feels good to work so hard.  On the way there, I got stung by a bee going through this meadow.  I've never been stung before so it was  a crazy new experience.

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We really had a great time once we set up camp.  It was very nice just to rest and relax.  We spent the next day swimming and certifying.  The next day, we packed everything up and headed back. I was excited because we hiked mostly up on the way back it would mostly be down.  For some reason, the hike back didn't seem that much shorter in time.  We didn't take nearly as many breaks, but it still took us a good time to get back.  And guess what? On the way back in the same meadow, I got stung by a bee twice!  I couldn't believe it!  It burns so much right after.  What are the chances??

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When we got back to camp, things were more busy and time went by quickly.  Something happened and the main leader needed to sit down with CJ and her friend.  The things she counseled CJ and her friend were things that Ben and I have been telling her for awhile.  It was great to have someone else tell her these things because she listened.  I have been struggling alot with her lately and praying that I could say and do the right things with her.  I've been messing up alot lately too.

When camp was over we headed back home and something amazing happened.  A change has come over CJ and all by her own will.  This change is not like the other times where we have had a really good week or even a couple of days.  This is the kind of change that just might stick.  Instead of negativity, there is a positive and cheerful attitude.  Instead of complaining and not taking responsibility for her actions there is patience and tolerance.  I am in awe of this change and pray and hope it continues.  She seems so much more happier and I keep reminding her of how good it feels to do what is right.

The other day she came home from Freshman orientation and told me that other classmates have changed because they are nicer to her.  I had to remind her that might be the case, but that she has also changed for the good and that she is more happy.  

CJ started school today and I can't believe she is in highschool!  I know these next 4 years are going to fly and I just hope things will continue to improve for her.  I love this girl and I am really glad that I got to go to camp with her.  

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Zoey turns 4. . .and America turns 237!

Our favorite littlest girl turned 4 this year!  The kids all wanted to buy her a gift and so they each got her something at the Dollar Store.  My kids are very thoughtful and when it is anyone's birthday or special occasion, they usually make a card or a gift.

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This year I wasn't sure what I wanted to do for Zoey.  It is kinda a hard day to put together a party, so I decided that I would let the party come to her!  I told her that everything was just for her; the parade, the fireworks, the decorations. . .

We went to some fireworks the day before with a bunch of our friends and the entire time I was telling her the fireworks were for her!  I wonder how long I can do that before she figures out that America shares her birthday? I'm going to enjoy it for however long it will last!

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Our ward has a Fourth of July breakfast every year.  Somehow we have missed most of them since we have lived here.  I thought it would be fun to have everyone sing, "Happy Birthday" to Zoey.  The middle picture is her walking back to the table after everyone sang to her.  Check out that tongue!  We let her bring her scooter that she got for her birthday and I attached a balloon to it.  I also made her a shirt and we had a birthday hat for her.  That was just the beginning.

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In Clayton, they have a Fourth of July parade each year.  Since it is such a small town, the parade is very small.  The biggest part of the parade just happens to be the kids!  Any kid can be in the parade.  They can ride their bikes or scooters or even electric cars!  I decided that this year, we should give it a try. We decorated the bikes with whatever red, white, and blue stuff we could find. The kids had a lot of fun doing that.

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The hardest part was waiting in line for the parade to begin.  It was so hot and the kids were about done even before the parade started.  Finally, it began and the kids took off on their bikes.  I had to go with Zoey because she had just recently learned how to ride her bike without training wheels and had a hard time riding her bike without swerving back and forth.  I was afraid she would run into someone.  She did end up crashing one time because a kid who was watching the parade jumped out of nowhere to grab a piece of candy right in front of Zoey. That scared her but she made it to the end, which was really only one block of riding.  That is how short Clayton's parade is but it was long enough for me!

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After the parade, we went home and packed up for a day at the beach.  It was an awesome day for the beach because it was about 100 degrees in Concord, so the beach was a lovely 70 ish degrees. It was the best thing we could have done on a day like that.  We hung out with the Michaels and McCallisters, boogie boarded, and had the best time at the beach.  

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I think I could have boogie boarded all day-it was kinda addicting.  Xander especially loved it and I couldn't believe how brave that kid was.  He has no fear when it comes to things like this.  Zoey was so cute trying to stay away from the waves.  Her poses are hilarious!

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After we left the beach, we hung out with the McCallisters and BBQ and shot off fireworks.  I made Zoey a red, white and blue cake.  So predictable, I know.  I had alot of fun making it.

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I can't believe how fast Zoey is growing.  Literally.  She is so tall!  I am already putting her in 5T and 6T clothes.  I wonder what size she will be when she is in Kindergarten?  I can't believe in another year, she will be getting ready to go to Kindergarten!  We love Zoey SO MUCH!  She really is the light in our family.  She brightens everyone's day with her fun personality and cute things she says.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Our Michigan Trip

It's been 6 years since our whole family has been to Michigan.  My sister Autumn even made it too, which made it an Armstrong Reunion of some sorts.  This was really the best visit I have had with my family.  I think it was great because I felt like my siblings and their spouses were able to get to know my children better and vice versa.

We got up at 3 a.m. on Saturday morning and traveled to Oakland.  We flew out of Oakland to Las Vegas, where we traveled on the same plane to Michigan.  The little kids loved being in the airport and at the most part, were good on the plane.  In Las Vegas, we got off for a little bit and the kids loved traveling on the moving floor.  I'm sure it has a fancy name but I don't know the name of it.

We finally made it to Michigan at 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.  I was exhausted and I thought the kids would be too, but they were ready to go and have some fun!  Here are some things that we did. . .

Family BBQ

On Father's day, everyone got together for a Armstrong style BBQ. If you are an Armstrong, you know that means LOTS and LOTS of food.  Dustin pretty much did it all, he likes to do that sort of thing.

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We've played some games, ate and took some family pictures.  One of my sisters didn't want her picture online, hence, the smiley face.

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Here are my very awesome brothers and their families.  I wonder when the Asian Armstrongs will start to age?  My oldest brother is almost 40 and you can't even tell!

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Cedar Point

Next, we headed off to Cedar Point located in Sandusky, Ohio.  This was "the place" for me when I was growing up.  I loved rollar coasters, the bigger and faster the better.  Cedar Point has since grown and there were so many rides there that we didn't have time to ride them all.

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My mom and dad were amazing and took the littlest ones to kiddie land, while we took CJ and Mia and road the giant ones.  My girls amazed me and road everything.  The first ride we rode was the newest ride, "The Gateway".  It was so smooth and fast, unlike the ones I grew up with.  They don't build wooden rollercoasters anymore.

We had a great time and the lines weren't long at all.  Xander was so bummed because he was about a half inch too short to ride the big rides.  He wanted to go on the big rides so bad.  He told my mom while they were in kiddie land, "Why do I have to ride all the baby rides?"  We found a ride he could ride, the Iron Dragon.  When we were in line, they announced that this ride was over 20 years old.  I remember when that ride came out.  Man, that makes me feel so old!

Ben, Mia and I ended up going back to the park after dinner and road the tallest and fastest rollar coaster.  It is called the Dragster and is 420 feet high and goes over 100 mph.  Mia was so scared to ride it and the people around her were encouraging and trying to help her.  I found out after, that Ben and her both didn't want to ride it, but rode it just for me.  I thought it was so cool.  It takes off so fast and looks like it goes straight up vertically.  Doesn't seem even possible.

I think the best part for the little kids was staying in the hotel afterwards.  I forgot how fun staying in a hotel is for kids.

Calder's Dairy

This year, we've been searching for the best icecream places, and Calder's Dairy in Michigan has probably been our favorite.  They raise milking cows and make the icecream right there on their farm from the milk that they produce.

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They also had some other farm animals for the kids to look at and a little lake area.  My mom told me that the icecream is a little expensive and so I was planning on a big bill.  But their expensive and my expensive is totally different.  We live in California and everything is expensive.  The icecream cones were only a couple dollars each and were giant.  Plus, the icecream was so creamy and rich.

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We also hit a custard place near my parent's house.  I don't think I could ever have enough icecream!

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Uncle Justin's & Dustin's

We spent a couple of days at my brother Justin's house.  He's only got one daughter and she's got a lot of toys.  That just might be an understatement.  This is the girl who has her own, four wheeler, barbie car to drive, her own golf set, the list could go on and on.  Needless to say, the kids were in heaven and loved playing with all of her toys.  She was so kind to share.

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Ben and I made homemade pizza for everyone.  They were so amazed by Ben's skills.  Justin told me he thought the last time he had homemade pizza was when we were kids and lived at home.  I told him, we have homemade pizza all the time!

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Aunt Wendy and Uncle Justin pulled all the big toys out.  The kids had fun four wheeling and especially driving the pink car.  Mia has always wanted one of these cars and I have always had a great excuse not to get one.  She was in heaven and told me repeatedly that she was not too big for one of these cars.

It began to thunderstorm on one of the days and the kids loved it.  Well, at first they were a little scared by the thunder and then loved it when it started to rain.  It made me miss thunderstorms.  I really love how fresh it feels after it rains.  It rains quite a bit in Michigan during the summer.  In fact, my brother doesn't even water his lawn and it is so green and lovely. . .lucky!

The next day, we had dinner at Dustin's house.  He is the hostess with the mostess!  He was always checking to see if anyone needed more to drink or eat.  We had a Eucre tournament, where my mom and I beat all the men!  Ha! Ha!  The Armstrong women rock!  When Dustin wasn't looking I took an empty beer can and filled it up with pop and exchanged it for his current beer.  It was awesome!  He was so surprised!  I got him so good!  He got me back by chasing me down and grabbing me and turning me upside down.  I love my little brother and I love wrestling with him.  I wish my siblings would come back to church, but I don't love them any less. They are my family and I love them completely.

TurtleCove and Fireflies

On Monday, we headed up to Turtle cove with Michelle, Wendy and Rylie.  We packed a lunch and played all day!  It's a splash park with waterslides, a pool and lazy river.  Remember Xander was a half inch or so shy of 48"?  Well, we tried to sneak him on the waterslides because you had to be 48", which he was practically.  At one point, they changed workers and one of them measured him and they said, "Close enough" and let him through.  He loved it!  He is really a little daredevil.

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The kids really enjoyed catching fireflies.  We spent a couple night catching them, sometimes killing them, and then letting the survivors go.  The kids loved it!

Great Grandma and Xander

A few years ago, my grandmother passed away.  I didn't make it back to Michigan for her funeral and while I was there I decided I wanted to go visit her grave.  Xander wanted to come with me.  I thought he wanted to come because he has a fascination for scary things and graveyards are right up his alley.  In fact, on the way there he asked me if zombies were real.  I think he was hoping he would see some.  He walked around and was very interested in the people who were buried there who were soldiers.  He read tombstones and just walked around.

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I had taken some pictures and was ready to leave when Xander asked me, "Can I have a picture with Grandma?"  I thought that was the cutest and sweetest thing ever! So then I took a picture of him.  I actually took two because he changed his position and said, "How about I go behind grandma?"

I bet Xander made Grandma Bennett smile down from heaven.


I have one very good friend from highschool.  We have kept in touch over the years and have stayed close through emails and facebook. I've shared my beliefs with her and she is very active and religious herself.  Everytime, I go to Michigan, I always visit her and it always feels like I have never left.  She is a very good person, a wonderful mom and great friend! 

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While we were visiting, our kids decided to have an impromptu water fight, the best kind!

Going home. . .

Was exhausting and LONG!  Our flight out of Detroit was 2 hours late!  We didn't leave until 9 p.m. EST which made our arrival in California at 2 am the next day!  Which is 5 am Michigan time.  I sleep and rested pretty much the entire day.  I get jet lag pretty bad and felt nauseated for the next few days.

I'm so glad that I got to visit my family in Michigan.  Sometimes, it is hard visiting them, but this has been the by far the best visit so far.  I feel like my brothers and sister have gotten to know my kids more and we just had so much fun with them.  Hope to take my family again sometime. . .hopefully sooner than 6 years!