Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmastime is here: Lights (good and debacle-like)

One night, we were driving to the store and the boys decided we should make up a song. We each made up a line and the first verse was so fantastic that we had to make up a second verse. This song has become the theme song to our holiday season and we sing it basically every time we're in the car. It's called "Hambly Song of Weirdness," Here it goes:

Go to Darth Vader,
I love Minions' bananas,
I love Minions,
Christmastime is here,
Bele' dat.

I want my ears to be cold,
Quacky quacky loco,
We're singing and driving along,

*the emphasis of this line MUST be placed on the right syllable, or you'll face the intense scrutiny of Reed.

I love how random and hilarious we think we are.

A few of the things we've done so far this Christmas (whilst singing the song), in no particular order:

1. Bellagio Garden
We try to go to the Bellagio every few months so we can see the garden each season. Our favorite time is Christmas time. The centerpiece is always a gigantic REAL Christmas tree! Every year the boys try to tell me the tree is actually fake. And every year I show them the sign that tells that the tree is, in fact real. Mom: 2 Boys: 0. Our favorite part of the garden this year--other than the huge tree--was the penguins! They were so cute, but unlike the tree, were fake.

We also discovered that somehow we've been missing the soaring chocolate fountain at the Bellagio. The fountain is at a cafe that is literally around the corner from the garden and somehow we never knew about the chocolate fountain until this trip! We went to see it and were entranced by its melty chocolatey goodness.

2. Service + Advent
My mom gave us a brand new, beautiful advent for one of our Christmas presents this year. She filled each box with either a treat, a little craft, a gift, or something for us to do! We have loved the advent so far and the kids have not missed a day yet. Reed also got his own Star Wars lego advent for his birthday (also from Grandma) and that advent has been quite popular, as well. Anyway, one day the advent from Grandma had a note that told us to do a secret service for a neighbor. This activity was perfect because we have been trying to have a season of serving. For our secret service, we made Jello popcorn, then had the boys write notes that said, "We love your lights!" We secretly dropped the notes and treats off to two neighbors who have really fun Christmas lights. We actually make extra trips past these neighbors' houses to see their lights, so thought we should share some of the joy they bring us! Both neighbors are located in a tricky spot as far as ding-dong-ditching with children goes, so we just dropped the treat off and didn't knock or anything.

The next day, one of the neighbors brought a treat over to us along with a card thanking us for the treat! I don't know how they knew it was us but how thoughtful of them to bring us something, too. 

We also made a list for our fridge of service we wanted to do. As of today (12/17/15) we've completed everything on the list! Here is how we set out to serve:
1. Thank you note for Sis. Schelin--stake children's choir director
2. Put $1 bills in the toy section of the dollar store--Ryan and the kids did this when they were out shopping for me. They put two in plain sight and hid one!
3. Put quarters on a toy machine--we did this on the giant bouncy ball machine at Old Navy. We were hoping to see someone find one but didn't.
4. Secret service for a family member--we each chose something to do for someone else in our family.
5. Notes for homeless kits/donate clothes--a boy in our ward wants to go give out clothes and food to homeless people on Christmas day. We took the homeless kits the primary kids made at our missionary activity--ziplocs with water bottles, granola bars, and a few treats--and added Christmas notes to the bag. Ryan and I also went through our clothes and pulled out sweaters and gloves to donate.
6. Food for homeless--this one was Asher's idea. He picked out four boxes of crackers at the dollar store (okay, five--but one day we were desperate and ate one), and we've been looking for opportunities to give them out! Last Saturday, we were at a stop light when a woman came walking between the cars with a sign. We gave her a box of crackers and she seemed very happy! This was a really cool one to do.
7. Serve Crystal's family--Crystal and her kids Tristan and Kylee are investigating the church. Crystal and I have been able to develop a friendship and we wanted to serve her somehow. I've been giving Kylee and Tristan rides to activity days and scouts. On the night of our ward Christmas party, Crystal wasn't up to coming because she broke her toe--so we took her kids as part of our family for the night!
8. Invite Sara to play at recess--this was Reed's. I asked him if there was someone at school he could serve. He immediately thought of Sara. He invited her to play the next day at recess and they've been playing together every day since! He also asked if she wanted to sit with him at lunch, but she has to sit at the peanut-free table.

 3. Sam's Town/Neighborhood lights
We thought it would be fun to go see some of the better neighborhood light displays, particularly a house we'd heard of that was only blocks from Ryan's office. We dropped Ryan off the work in the morning, then I made a map of good places to go! We also needed to go to Joann's for my secret project supplies, so Ryan suggested we add a detour and go to Sam's Town. He'd been wanting to check out the Sam's Town lights, but when we realized that Sam's is approximately 45 min-1hr from our house knew we wouldn't make it. We were all quite glad of the detour, because the Sam's Town lights were so cool! They have an indoor garden area with a big waterfall and animatronic animals. During Christmas, they do a Christmas-themed laser light show on the waterfall! The show was a lot of fun. The highlight of the trip, though, may have been the rides up and down the glass-backed elevators. The elevators looked out over the lit garden area and the kids were in heaven as we rode up and down!

After Sam's, we continued our route--in the wrong direction. My bad--I got turned around! The Robindale house was really cool. They had thousands of lights that were synced to music and we all enjoyed it. The next house we got to wasn't even lit at all! Apparently we had an old list. At this point, everyone was melting down and I kind of lost it a little bit, which was not my proudest moment. We were just going to go home, but there was one last house really close to ours we decided to stop at. The last house actually redeemed the trip a bit because it was the most amazing of all. Their lights included big LED screens that had images dancing that coordinated with the songs! Poor Ashie slept through the whole thing, even though we tried to wake him up!

A few days later, I had to stop at scouts, so we left home early, found some pretty lights in neighborhoods around us, then went to the cool house after scouts so Ashie could see it. After this mini trip, we went home to enjoy snickerdoodles and hot cocoa with homemade whipped cream! Our mini trip was so much happier and better than the big trip. Lesson learned: don't plan a lot of driving between the lights, because everyone just gets tired and grumpy!

Pillow Pile (Again)

We've been making pillow piles for a long time 'round these parts. We even did a pillow pile as part of Buddy School one time. We hadn't done a pillow pile for a while, though, and when Reed had a day off earlier this week and our park plans got canceled by insanity wind, doing a pillow pile just seemed right.

Basically, to create a pillow pile, we gather all the pillows off all the beds, add in the bean bags, then throw a few blankets and stuffed animals on the top for good measure. You then back as far away as the room allows, run, and jump! I even took a jump this time--though only one, because I was (as ever) worried about what it would do to my knee.

This pillow pile was particularly successful. When I showed the boys the first photo I captured--with Asher in the air--they flipped out over the awesomeness and asked me to take more photos where they tried to get more air. It was fantastic. I love that things like a pile of pillows in the middle of the floor make them so happy.

We also used our pillow pile to cozy up in to watch a show! Because it was Reed's day off, I used the show time to actually cuddle up and watch with the kids (instead of getting something done), which was quite enjoyable.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Reed turns 7!!!

Reeder had a birthday, shout hooray! Reed's birthday celebrations started the week before his birthday, when Grandma Lexie and Grandpa Jack came to Vegas to party with us! After a lot of back-and-forth, Reed finally decided what he wanted to do: hike Calico Tanks. We packed a lunch, decided the day was too beautiful to need to bring jackets, and piled into the car. 

At the base of the trail, my mom also decided not to bring her jacket because it really was a beautiful and sunny day. My dad was the only one who decided to bring his jacket along. (Am I being too obvious with the foreshadowing here?) Well, we soon found out that in the shade, it wasn't quite as warm or beautiful. And the hike had way more shade than we remembered--granted, we had hiked the trail at very different times of year before, so could have had more sunlight. We were all a little chilly, but at least the hike was interesting enough and pretty enough to mostly keep our minds off the cold! I will say that the hike was not really pretty enough or interesting enough to keep Asher's mind off the cold. He was in complaining mode and would not be appeased.

When we made it to the top, we pulled out our picnic, which perked Asher's mood considerably. As we ate, the shadows crept further and further across our patch of sun until we were sitting in full shade and freezing once again! Sweet Grandpa gave Lila his sweater, then stayed with her while the rest of us climbed a little further up to take in the view. The Calico Tanks hike offers a spectacular view of the Vegas valley, which is truly beautiful. After we'd had our fill of the view, we decided to start back down before we would be racing against the sun.

The hike down was much more pleasant than the hike up. We were all still really cold, but Asher had decided to stop complaining and had turned into a hiking ninja. Reed was a good sport the entire hike. I don't think he complained even once about being cold or tired. He did want to try his hand at making a cairn, so we stopped at a few different places along the trail so he and Asher could stack rocks to their hearts' content.

Once we got back to the car, we thawed ourselves out a bit and decided to try the park! We reasoned that we wouldn't be in shade so we'd be much warmer. We were wrong. I don't know what it was, but I was so cold I was physically hurting. No one but Reed wanted to stay, so we talked him in to going after only about 10 minutes. He was really, really disappointed. We decided to make up for it in a small way by going to his favorite place for dinner: Panda Express! I love that his favorite place to eat at is no longer McDonald's.

After dinner, we went home to open presents! Grandma and Grandpa gave Reed the Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar. He got the regular lego advent calendar last year, so he was super pumped to try out the Star Wars version. His birthday falls at the perfect time to give him an advent. After presents, we went outside to do what Reed wanted to do most of all: have a fire and eat birthday brownies and ice cream. I think our seven-year-old had a fun day!

Reed's actual birthday was the next weekend! Our main birthday activity was the sledding/Floyd Lamb/Harry Potter day--see my other post--but on Sunday, we made sure to celebrate a bit more. Reed helped me bake a cake--strawberry cake with party chip frosting per his request--and even did most of the frosting. He wanted to top his cake with some of his lego creations, and I let him pile whatever he wanted on the top. The effect was actually quite cool! We also opened presents, of course. My favorite part of the present opening was when Reed opened a lego set and murmured, "Yesssssssssssssssssssss" in a funny little voice! The lego set was one he's had his eye on for at least six months, and it was really fun to see him so excited about it. We also gave him a table-top foosball, which has been a huge hit. We've played multiple rounds most days since he opened it!
Happy, happy birthday, Reeder dear!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Mommy and Lila Date

Lila loves, loves, loves dates. She gets so excited when it's her turn to go on a date that she literally bounces out the door. Lately, in her love of dates, she's started labeling everything where anyone is paired off as a date. Case in point: a few weeks ago we were at a stake children's choir practice. The boys were on the stage in their spots, waiting for the practice to start. Lila was with them, waiting to get kicked off the stage by mom and dad. She looked down at the pews and saw Ryan and I sitting together and promptly yelled, "Mommy and Daddy DATE!" Want another example? Just yesterday I asked Lila if she wanted to help me make whipped cream. She of course wanted to help, and as soon as she sat on the counter she told me, "We doing Mommy and Lila date!" Ryan came in the kitchen to work on making hot cocoa and Lila told him, "You can come on our date, too, Daddy! Mommy, Lila, Daddy date!"

So basically, if we want anything at all to sound more appealing, we can label it is a date. We put this idea to the test last weekend. We went to Town Square to see the Christmas tree and play in the play area. But first, we wanted to stop at two stores: Old Navy and Guitar Center. The boys were being very complain-y and Ryan and I decided that since he wanted to go to Guitar Center and I wanted to go to Old Navy, we'd split up and do just that. Ryan decided to take the boys--they like(ish) Guitar Center because they can touch a few things and we trust them there because they'll avoid the things we ask them not to touch. We both knew that Lila does not excel at not touching things, so I offered to take her with me. The boys overheard us and Asher--before we said anything to him, mind you--asked, "Lila, do you want to go on a Mommy and Jae Jae date?" She immediately started yelling, "Mommy and Lila date! Mommy and Lila date!" repeated at least five times. I just love that the boys even have learned the PR part of parenting.

So anyway, Lila and I were on our "date" and she was being really good and loving looking at all the clothes. Any time she saw something small she'd tell me, "That's not my size. That's just like for babies." We came upon a section of hats and gloves that were on a one-day sale and I decided it might be fun to get some. I was right. Lila was SO excited that she wore her hat and gloves for the rest of the day! We also grabbed a pair of hat and gloves for Lila's friend McKynlee. We gave the hat and gloves to McKynlee yesterday at her birthday party, and now Lila has decided that we should wrap her hat and gloves and give them to herself (from herself I guess?) for her birthday in January.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Special Saturdays: Snow and Floyd Lamb

Last year, we tried to go play in the snow at Mt. Charleston for my birthday. We tried looking online the night before to see if there was going to be snow, and it appeared there would be. We spent some time in the morning gathering snow gear, even taking a trip to the store to get a sled and snow gloves, then decided to check again on the snow situation to make sure we'd have something to play in. And our new (and better source) told us there wouldn't be enough snow to play in. Bummer summer (or winter, as the case may be). We ended up doing other fun things that day and didn't actually make it to Mt. Charleston at all that winter.

Now on to this year. We were trying to think of something fun to do the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Ryan thought it would be fun to try to sled. We did our research and found there was some snow, but not a ton--and decided to just go for it! We found sufficient snow gear for everybody, packed a huge bag of snacks, and set off to Kyle Canyon.

The drive was actually very pleasant, mostly because we listened to the final two chapters of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire while we drove. And when we turned off into the Canyon, we saw the first patches of snow (!!!). Then snowflakes started falling. Then we had to stop at a "silly potty" (AKA a non-flushing potty) to use the restroom and I remembered how COLD it is when it snows!

Finally we made it to Lee Meadow. Getting everyone dressed took a good 10-15 minutes, which gave us a chance to appreciate how chilly it was before we were bundled. Then I made everyone take a few photos, which they were thrilled about. (One day they'll thank me). In the photos, it looks like there isn't any snow, but I think that's mainly because we were standing on a hill that gets full sunlight. Just across the road from us was a meadow of not-very-deep snow--but snow nonetheless!

A few weeks prior, we'd scored at the Goodwill Clearance Center and had gotten 2 nice sleds for $3 each--which was good, because otherwise we would have been sledding down on cardboard. We found a tiny hill, climbed to the top, put Lila and me on a sled, and...we went about 5 feet forward. Apparently we were too heavy for the very slight grade. We tried sending the boys down, and they went about 10 feet. So we tried a different spot. The second spot was better, but not by much. Luckily, a group who was sledding in yet another spot was moving on--so we took their spot over. The third spot was the winner. Getting started took a little doing, but once we had a little momentum we'd get a pretty good little cruise down the hill!

At the bottom of a hill was a small ditch. On one trip down, we turned toward the ditch and I dragged my feet to stop us before we got there. I didn't think about covering Lila's face, and she got a face full of snow! She was very upset, but calmed down quickly. After that, each time she didn't get snow in her face, she'd tell me, "You not get snow in my eyes this time Mommy! DANKS!"

The boys mostly rode together, but after a while wanted to try solo trips. After that, they only wanted to go alone! They even got brave enough to take solo trips on their bellies.

After sledding for a while, we decided to explore a cool teepee someone had built out of fallen trees. We were all quite impressed and I'm pretty sure one of the boys suggested living in the teepee. After the teepee, Ryan wanted to go check out another sledding spot--but Asher was totally done and Reed didn't really care about sledding more, so instead we shed our layers, climbed back in the car, and ate a ton of snacks.

On the way home, we had to stop at Tommy's, mainly because it's the closest Tommy's to us and is about 45 minutes from our house. Then, Ryan mentioned that we were only a few minutes from Floyd Lamb State Park, so stopping there only seemed right, too.

I am fairly certain I visited Floyd Lamb as a child, but I didn't actually remember anything about it--even when we got there--so it was fun to explore! The day was an exceptionally cold one, but since we had all our warm gear from sledding we were bundled enough to avoid too much complaining.

Floyd Lamb started as a working ranch. At one point, it served as kind of a hotel for all the people who came to Nevada to get a divorce. Apparently, getting a divorce used to be very hard and time consuming; but, in Nevada, you could get a divorce after only 6 weeks. Potential divorcees would come to Nevada and stay here for 6 weeks, awaiting their divorce. At Floyd Lamb, they could swim and have parties and just hang out for 6 weeks. Weird, right?! Anyway, now it's a state park where you can give yourself a walking tour of all the old ranch buildings. You can also visit the gorgeous lake system--there are three or four lakes, all interconnected, with tons of ducks and huge mature trees. You don't feel like you're in the desert! We had a fun time 'splorin. After we'd walked everywhere there was to walk, we headed home. We rounded out the day by watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

We were taking a photo and this is how Lila posed. Ryan was getting down to pose with her and cracking up, which I thought was cute.

He's pointing at the duck in the picture below. He named said duck "Big Foot" and one of the geese "Long Neck."