Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day!

As we all know, Memorial Day is about honoring our troops, and having FUN! As the kids get older, I really do want to go to the parades and the memorials and make it a more significant day, but that just wouldn't fly for us right now. So instead we went to Bellevue Park- one of our favorite places in the summertime! We go several times every summer, and it just gets better and better. Plus, it is a PERFECT place for photo-ops, hence the million I am about to show. What can I say- I FINALLY got some decent shots of Claire, so I have to post them!

 You can kind-of see her smile in this one. That is very hard to catch.

 Very proud of herself for climbing all the way up.
 She's so beautiful!
 I'm so mad at Ben for closing his eyes- otherwise this is such a great picture!!! Maybe we can photo shop sunglasses on him?
UPDATE: My friend Becky put sunglasses on Ben! Woo-hoo!!! This looks SOOOO much better! Thank you Becky!!!

 In this picture you can almost see Claire's boo-boo on her lip. Yesterday while taking a bath, she fell against the tub with her whole face and got a nasty bloody nose and split lip. Poor girl- she was just gushing blood. Luckily, because it was in the tub, the blood stayed there and didn't ruin any clothes or anything. Also luckily, she didn't break her nose- it was bleeding so bad I thought she might have. But, after a little Cat In the Hat, she was back to her usual dare-devil self.
 Claire isn't looking, but at least everybody's eyes are open.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Before and After

Once a year I decide to finally go and get my hair cut. I decided that I really want to do something different. Maybe it's because I feel like a frumpy mom- you know, that feeling all of us stay at home moms get- stuck in a rut because we have no where to dress up to go.
Here's my before picture (yes, I know my hair is in a pony-tail, or as my friend calls it "mom-tail". But that is how I wear it almost everyday in the summertime- until now):
I can not believe how much of a difference a haircut makes! I feel like an entirely new person, and I LOVE it! Seriously, I LOVE it!!! I feel so vain- always looking in the mirror. But how can I not when I'm so dang hot?!? I felt so good about my haircut that on the way home I stopped and bought a new outfit (the one I am wearing in the picture). This is something I NEVER do- I don't impulse shop. If I need a pair of jeans, I go and get one pair. I don't just casually stop in and buy a whole new outfit. But, again: I feel so good about myself- and it's been awhile since this mom has been that way. It feels good.

I came home and ran upstairs and got ready for my date with my own hottie. I didn't let him see me until I had put on some make-up and had the tags off my new clothes. I came downstairs and Ben was in shock- it was really funny. Audra said, "I really super-duper like your haircut" and she kept asking if I was going to have my hair "forever."

Obviously, I know it is just a haircut. But truly, I feel so much better about myself with the new 'do! Whenever I need a pick-me-up, I will be getting my hair done from now on! Oh, and it will no longer be just a once-a-year event.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dance Recital

I feel like I have been a blogging machine the last couple of weeks, but Audra has had some pretty big milestones (I have been neglecting Claire on this blog, I will honor her in a little bit) lately. Her latest one: Her dance recital.

On Saturday she performed on stage for the first time- and she did fantastic! She said is was a lot of fun, and she really liked that we took her to DQ to get ice-cream afterwards. We got a sitter for Claire (woo-hoo!) and everything went wonderfully well, and here are the pictures to prove it:

 Instead of being in the audience, I was in the back helping with the wardrobe changes and making sure the girls got on stage OK. I told the girls silly stories so they would sit nice, and I ended up with a pretty good view since all the girls were looking in my direction to watch their teacher instead of at the audience.

 When they put these costumes on, I told the story of "Princess Bathtub." It was as lame as the title, but the girls were sad I didn't have time to finish the story before it was showtime once again. By this time, Audra was tired of me taking pictures.
 Audra took the lead in trying to get the girls organized on this very difficult dance move- forming a circle and walking around:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Happy Birthday!!!

Today was Audra's Birthday, and even though we already had her party, we wanted to make today a special day. So, we let her decide what restaurant she wanted to go to. Thinking she would choose Chick-fil-A or The Corner Bakery, we thought it would be a fun tradition to start. We might rethink this, because instead she chose The Elephant Bar- a very nice sit-down restaurant. To quote Audra:

"I want to go where we went with Aunt Michelle and I got ice-cream."

I was able to deduce that she really just wanted the ice-cream and was able to convince her to go to Red Robin instead. Which was nice, because The Elephant Bar is a 30 minute drive away, whereas Red Robin is only about 3.

Audra was very excited that she got to choose her restaurant. She told me that was "really fun" and that she was turning 5 tomorrow so she could go to a restaurant again.

During dinner I asked her some questions. Her favorite place: This place. Her favorite animal: A polar bear. Her favorite food: I don't want to answer. Her favorite activity: The restaurant is too loud.

It's strange to think that four years ago today she entered this world, but it is even weirder to think there was ever a time when she wasn't in our lives.

She is such a fun girl. The other day this was our conversation:

Me: Audra, do you want to go to Grandma and Grandpa's house?
A: No, I want to go to Ben's mother's house.

She is fascinated that grandma is Ben's mom and such. It's so cute!!

Audra loves scissors and cutting up the Sunday ads- which is what I let her cut. She obviously LOVES clothes. She doesn't like having her hair brushed- but who does at this age? She loves her baby sister more than anything else. Every morning the second Claire wakes up Audra goes in and keeps her entertained. She loves wrestling with Claire.

Her motivation is privileges. If she isn't eating her dinner, I'll say "That's fine- you don't have to eat your dinner. But if you don't eat your dinner you don't get dessert." She has never gone without dessert.

What else can I say? She's great.

Two of Three- and Other Things

Well, this week hasn't been the best- but it could be infinitely worse, so we are counting our blessings!!!

On Monday Ben hit a biker on the way home from work. Oops!!! Thankfully, the guy was perfectly fine, but his back tired was ruined so we need to replace his back tire. That could have been a lot worse, though, so we are grateful it will only be a couple hundred bucks and VERY VERY grateful that nobody was hurt!!! But, when Ben came home I said, "Well, bad things come in three's, so we have two more to go!"

Last night when Ben came home we heard this loud "CRACK!" We didn't know what it was, but thought it was something from outside and didn't worry about it too much.

But then this morning I hear, "Crap! Our garage door is broken!" The spring actually snapped, and we really can't open it. The lady on the phone said when the spring snaps, you can't open it because all of the pressure of the door goes onto that snapped spring and makes it virtually impossible to open. So, now we are hanging out at home waiting for the garage door fixer to come.

Now we're at 2 for 3! I wonder what the last thing will be...(it's a little ironic because just the other day I was thinking, "oh, how nice- it's been a few months since something on the house broke or we've had some unexpected expense. That feels good." Now I know- never think those thoughts or you are asking for trouble!!!)

But, in a way it is rather humorous and I am trying to think of it that way. It kind of stinks that Ben has to take a vacation day because our cars are held hostage in the garage, but that's not the worst thing in the world!

Today also happens to be Audra's Birthday. In honor of that, I will leave you with this gem:
We were going to a restaurant, so we asked Audra to go get changed out of her Minnie Mouse Dress so we could go. She came down dressed like this and exclaimed, "I'm ready!" Now, tell me, how can you not be happy with life- even when things don't go well- when you've got a character like this living in your house? We are truly blessed- and I am grateful every day for that!!! (and yes, we let her wear that to the restaurant)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ben's Bells

Have any of you ever heard of Ben's Bells?

Chances are, you have not. I hadn't either until my friend Jenny became involved. Now I understand what an awesome program this is!!!

It started when a woman, Jeanette Mare, lost her son Ben when he was 3. This happened 9 years ago, and Jeanette said she felt dead and numb inside. Of course, on the outside she looked fine- nobody knew the horror she was enduring inside. She said every smile, every tiny act of kindness, became huge for her to help relieve some of her suffering. She learned how much small acts of kindness truly can make a difference.

Out of this, she came up with the idea of Ben's Bells. She began making bells and distributing them throughout the Tucson area- hanging them on trees or in parking lots or wherever, with notes on them that spoke of kindness. The idea spread, and is now a huge project with full-time employees.

Jenny learned about this and decided to sponsor a Ben's Bell Distribution here in Denver. She raised the funds, and on Saturday we got to participate in distributing bells.

This is where I have to apologize to Jenny. I did not understand what an unbelievable and magnificent undertaking this was, nor all that Jenny had to do to accomplish this task. If I had, I would have been much more diligent in advertising and getting as many people as I could get to also attend. I am truly sorry I did not do that this first time around. Now I understand, and the next time there is a distribution, I will be much more diligent. This was such a fantastic event and service project, I can't even describe it in words. You are a rock star, Jenny!!!!

It was incredibly cold as we met at Red Rocks. Audra asked what we were doing and I said we were going to Red Rocks and on the drive over she said, "I don't know what Red Rocks is- I hope I can get through the door." It's a huge outdoor amphitheater- no doors to worry about!

Jeanette Mare, the founder of Ben's Bells, was actually there- what a huge surprise that was! Despite the cold, the spirits were high. We were each given 20 bells and a map of a general area to go and hang up bells- it was as simple as that.

 I think Jenny will admit that the pictures don't do the bells justice. They are stunning in real life- absolutely stunning. I had seen the pictures before, but when I saw the bells I was awe-struck. They are just gorgeous.
Jenny has better pictures on her blog HERE. The card says "You have found a Ben's Bell. Take it home, hang it in your yard, and remember to spread kindness throughout our world."

Then, today stories started coming in on the Ben's Bells website about people who had found bells in the area. Maybe some of these stories are from bells that we hung! The stories are HERE. We hung a bell on a bush at a grocery store- maybe that was ours!

Thank you Jenny for the wonderful opportunity to spread a little happiness with my family!!! It was an amazing day for an amazing cause!!!

Friday, May 13, 2011

We Survived!

Today I heard the phrase, "when is my Birthday party?" a few too many times.

Because I survived the Easter Party so well, I decided to have Audra's party at our house this year. I had some fun planning it, and I think it turned out great.

The theme was (surprise, surprise) Princesses. Specifically, Princess School.

The guests arrived and were given a checklist of things they needed to learn in order to be a Princess. The list included:
1. Dress like a princess
2. Wear a tiara
3. Walk/wave like a princess
4. Dance like a princess
5. Learn good from evil

For each item on the list, they had to complete a task. They had to  put on a princess dress, then they made tiaras (note: craft stores sale foam crowns kids can decorate for $2.99 each. I cut out crowns out of poster board and I got 12 crowns for $1.79. The kids were just as happy with paper crowns as they would have been with foam crowns, and my pocketbook was much happier as well). Then I took them on a "Princess Parade" where they had to wave and have their hand on their hip. I took them outside where Princess Violet was waiting for them- yes, I hired a Princess (one of the teenage girls from church) to be at the party. The girls LOVED it- even though they were shy! Princess Violet had a wand and one of the little girls said, "I know the princess is real, but not the wand." So cute!!!!

Then we did a little Princess dance with the girls.

Learning good from evil was a little more difficult. I decided to put pictures of either a mean witch or a good princess inside balloons. The girls then popped the balloons and had to find a picture of the good princess to present to Princess Violet. Of course, the girls LOVED this task, but: putting the pictures inside the balloons was incredibly difficult! Unfortunately, I had the really small balloons (I didn't realize this at the time), and my cheeks hurt really bad blowing up those stupid balloons.

From there we had dinner. I made the mistake of visiting a website about how to throw a princess party that said, "Princesses don't eat pizza." That was a bummer, because my original plan was to send Prince Ben to Little Caesar's. Instead of pizza, I made heart shaped jell-o jigglers, fruit kabobs, and PBJ's and cheese sandwiches cut into fun shapes, and kool-aid with strawberry slices in them. Note: 4-year-old princesses would have been just as happy with pizza.

Then we decorated cupcakes (some of you like to spend hours making incredibly beautiful and magnificant cakes. While impressed, I am not like that. Having them decorate their own cupcakes took time during the party- thus reducing the amount of activities I needed to plan- and was a lot easier for me- well, except the clean-up) and opened presents.

Prince Ben and I then spent the next hour cleaning up after the party and wondering if it was worth the money we saved doing the party at home, or if next time we will go somewhere instead. The jury is still out.

I'll have to say a quick word about Claire. She was the biggest obstacle to getting things ready for the party- Prince Ben finally took the girls to the park until just before the party. During the party, she was kind-of trying to figure out how she fit in with all these girls who are just older than her. She truly wants to be a part of them, but doesn't quite fit in. This will be a problem for the next 16 years I think.

Without further ado, here are some pictures (Princess Violet's mom took more way awesome pictures, so I will post more later. Prince Ben was in charge of pictures, and he took a lot more video than still photos):

 Here you can get a glimpse of Princess Violet:

The Calm Before The Storm

In a few hours I will have lots of little Princesses running around the house for Audra's Birthday party, but while Claire is napping and Audra is out playing with sidewalk chalk, I have just a few minutes before things get crazy, so I thought I would share THIS blog.

It's a young father of 3 who just lost his wife and baby (who she was pregnant with). I believe she died around May 2nd, and he is sharing his thoughts and feelings of the last day he had with her. Be sure and have tissues handy.

In sharing this blog, I realize I might come across at times as one who is looking for these horrible, tragic stories. I really don't seek them out- their just seems to be a lot of people who are going through some pretty horrific trials, and because of the internet we now have access to those stories, whereas before we didn't.

As I have done more genealogy, I have come across several tragic stories in my own family lines. My great-grandmother died in her early thirties, leaving several young children for my great-grandfather to raise. A young couple- distant cousins of mine- died together of typhoid in the 1920's (too bad Carlisle Cullen wasn't there to turn them into vampires- Edward was so lucky). An 11-year-old boy was struck by lightning in his doorway and died. Another distant cousin was run over by a horse and buggy and died.

Tragedy is all around us, and reading these stories makes me so incredibly grateful for the blessings I share with my family. I feel so incredibly blessed, and yet I know that I could lose it all in an instant. So these stories are a reminder to me to be grateful and to cherish everyday I have with the ones I love.

Above all else, I am grateful for eternal families. I am grateful to know that I will have Ben and the girls with me forever. My testimony of families has really been strenghtened.

Most of you probably know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is REALLY big on families. We believe families are central to Heavenly Father's eternal destiny for His children (all of us on the earth). My testimony of His perfect plan for us- of children coming to earth to a mother and father who love them and love each other and will raise their children in truth and honesty and righteousness- has really grown (and yes, I know that truth and honestly and righteousness looks differently for different people, and I think that is OK). For a full description of what we believe in regards to families, click HERE.

I believe the doctrine of eternal families is the most glorious thing EVER. What a blessing to know that God loves us enough to let us continue in our family relationships forever!!!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Temple De-Struction

Today Audra and I were able to go to the temple and pull out flowers. Apparently, they have winter flowers and summer flowers. We got to take out the winter flowers to make way for the summer ones. It was technically a Relief Society activity, but kids were involved, and it was one of the best RS activities I have ever been to! I LOVED that Audra could come with me and that Audra is learning to love the temple as much as I do!!!

 About to get her hands dirty

 Audra with one of her best friends Adele

 Audra's reward for doing such a good job: "a big, special temple cookie!"