Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Best of 2009

So much has happened this year that I'm bound to forget something important, but here are a few highlights!

- Eric interviewed and matched into the orthopaedic residency program at the University of Arizona.
- Eric and I took our first real vacation - all by ourselves. We went on a 7 day Carribbean cruise. Neither one of us were that impressed with the boat, but loved the ports of call. When we got home, we weren't sure if we'd ever do a cruise again, but ask us now and we'd jump on a boat in a second. There is something very appealing to the complete lack of responsibility!
- Eric graduated from the Texas A & M College of Medicine as a real live doctor!
- We found out we were expecting our fourth child.
- I closed the book on PTO presidency FOREVER!
- We said a painful goodbye to way too many loved ones in our beloved Texas.
- We reconnected with much loved and missed people in Arizona and found out how much fun cousins can be.
- We bought our first house.
- The kids spent hours and hours playing in our very own yard.
- We learned what it actually means to own a house.
- We learned what cactus we really shouldn't touch and how to get the prickles out when the urge was just too much.
- We received our first pay check in 4 years!
- Eric learned the level of love interns receive isn't really a level at all.
- I learned how to be a single mom.
- I made and planted my first garden, only to watch the rabbits enjoy it.
- We watched the kids grow, struggle, change, start new schools, make new friends, etc.
- Isaac discovered his love of reading.
- Carter decided he could build or create anything his imagination could conjure up. All he needed was a willing adult and a trip to Lowes (and a free pass past impossible!).
- Ashlyn fell in love with Cinderella, established herself as the official princess of the house and adores anyone who will adore her and sing her praises. She is soooo beautiful, you know!
- We had our first Christmas in our own home.
- We found out that life has its ups and downs, but we can handle anything as long as we have each other.

I can't wait to see what the new year brings!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Fun with Family

After breakfast on Christmas morning, Eric headed to work and the kids and I packed up and headed to Thatcher for a few days. Cody and Em were already there and Kimberly's family joined us that evening. Cody had brought his violin and it was really nice to play it for a minute. I should get mine out every once in awhile.

Carter was in heaven having Trace come. They were like kindred spirits the second they started talking. "Cool!" and "Awesome!" were practically the first words out of their mouths as they started talking about their Christmas gifts. Isaac was in heaven with Grandma and Grandpa's new pinball machine that Grandma and Grandpa Weech gave them. It was a blast to play on. Dad sure enjoyed making fun of my hand-eye coordination. "You did see that ball coming, right?" were words I heard a few times!

We were spoiled by more gifts, but the most thoughtful of all was this beautiful lap quilt that Cindy made. She's taking a quilting class and has fallen in love with the art. She does amazing work - much more meticulous and perfect then I could ever do! They still had buckets of fabric that mom had picked out and never had the chance to use, so she made each of our families a quilt with "Debra's fabric and Cindy's stiches" and lots of love. Thank you so much!

After a few days of lots of fun (besides the few hours that I passed a kidney stone the day after Christmas. Thankfully it was a quick one...phew!) and not a lot of pictures, we headed to Mesa to spend the evening with the whole family. We started out at Peter Piper Pizza where the kids had a blast as usual. The merry-go-round ate all of Ashlyn's, Jordynn's, and Kailan's tokens. Plus she hung around it just in case any other random child decided to fork over the goods. She loved it!

Kimmie, Steven, and Emily

Cyndi, Stacie, Jordynn, Lucy

Chase and Isaac. I swear Isaac looks more like Eric than me, but you can't deny that these two are related!

Dad and Cindy. Who had more fun - them or the kids? :)

Cari and I with our prizes, which far exceeded our ticket income (the lady was generous when we were having such a hard time deciding!). We flopped twice on Deal or No Deal, so used the rest of our tokens on air hockey and a little bit of skee ball. No wasting our time sitting around a table chit chatting! I just couldn't post the full picture of either one of my shots. It would have been too cruel to one or the other of us!

After pizza, we went to the Temple to see the lights and watch the short movie "Luke 2." When the movie was over and all was silent, Ashlyn turned to Dad (in her not-so-quiet voice) and said "That was a GREAT movie, Grandpa!" Everyone laughed and the sister missionary agreed. She is pretty dang cute, but does everyone have to know all the time? The lights were beautiful as always. It's been several years since I've seen them. I don't know if my kids actually saw them or not. Too many other important things, like cousins!

We then gathered at Cari's to finish the night off with a little rock band and game playing. I'm not so hot at the guitar or drums, but man can I wail into the microphone! I need a karoake machine - and then my family will probably need some ear plugs! Stacie and I stayed at Cari's that night, and the next morning we sang a few songs for the kids. They just sat on the couch and stared at us. I don't think they knew what was happening or who these strange people, who used to be their moms, were. Good times!

Hallie and Ashlyn enjoying a little Strawberry Shortcake.

Ashlyn drumming her heart out.

Does it really surprise you that she has the most pictures? Let her enjoy it while it lasts, there's about to be a new baby!

Friday, December 25, 2009

It never gets old... matter how old you get!

This special moment deserved a post of its very own. Our whole lives, rarely, if ever, have any of us gotten the best of Dad at anything, and believe me, we've tried. This little rumble in the kitchen started with Cody demonstrating the latest police moves. I was just happy it wasn't me. It's a favorite pasttime of both Dad and Cody - I've had my share. I cheered and cheered as it appeared that Cody would be victorious.

Way to take a 58 year old man down. We're all so proud!

Merry Christmas!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! We love you all!

Christmas Celebrations

We had a wonderful Christmas Eve and Christmas. This was our first year ever to spend it by ourselves and we loved it. We definitely felt the lack of and missed family at different times, but had a lot of fun just spending time together. Eric was able to get Christmas Eve off and they didn't make him come in until 9:30 on Christmas, so that was just an added bonus. We've been really blessed!

As I prepared our traditional Chapman family Christmas Eve "snack" feast, Ashlyn was the only one I could get to stick around and keep me company. I tried to bribe them all with sodas if they would stay and hang out, but it didn't last long. At least I can always count on my girl!

I didn't quite get everything, and cut the portions down considerably, but here it is. It was delicious as always! And of course, we had egg nog and IBC rootbeer and cream soda to go along with it.

We played, cooked, hung out for most of the day and then ate, watched a movie, opened our Christmas Eve gifts and acted out the Christmas story. The Christmas story by ourselves was also a first for our family. We didn't get any pictures, but we videod it. I'm a little scared to go back and watch it. Ashlyn refused to be Mary, so my big pregnant self rode the donkey (Isaac) into Bethlehem. Isaac was also a great shepherd and angel (filling in for a, once again, defiant Ashlyn). Carter performed brilliantly as Joseph. Unfortunately, I'm sure our stunning performance will be one that goes down in history.

To keep the kids from sneaking in early and seeing their Santa gifts, we decided to let them all sleep in our room.
Nice try, Ashlyn. No surprise to us, she didn't last long and ended up in her bed after all.

Christmas morning was perfect. I don't think I would have changed a thing about it. It took Ashlyn a minute to realize the kitchen was hers. We uncovered her eyes - and she just stared. We told her Santa brought it - she just stared. We told her that it was hers to keep - and then she got excited. It has already brought hours of entertainment. Thank you, Santa!

After all of the thought, stress, purchases, returns, more purchases, and more returns, I think the boys' favorite gift was the Chuck E. Cheese gift card in their stocking from Santa. I make things way too complicated! Carter was also pretty pumped about his "real" handcuffs. He couldn't wait to take them and show Grandpa and Uncle Cody.

Underwear in our stockings has become quite the joke in our family. For some reason, I always loved getting them when I was younger, but my boys feel much differently. They will continue to get them year after year, for my own personal entertainment. The more the better! Carter was pretty funny as he pulled out pair, after pair, after pair. I think Isaac's face says it all. Ashlyn, on the other hand, was very excited over hers!

Here is a representation of all the kids throughout the morning. I'm not sure where my camera was, but I didn't take very many pictures. They all seemed to love everything and there was no complaining, no arguing, no whining, and no pestering. I think that was the best Christmas present of all!

Ashlyn's Christmas would have been a huge success if the only thing she had gotten was her Cinderella dress. All gift opening had to stop while she suited up, and it didn't come off until her bath that night at Grandma and Grandpa's.

We hope everyone's Christmas was a merry as ours. Amongst all the hub bub that Christmas is, fun as it is, we made a special effort to remember our Savior, Jesus Christ, which became the sweetest part of all our celebrations. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

All Fancied Up

Here are the kids in their Christmas best before church. For my kids, they were all pretty cooperative for our quick photo shoot. Especially Ashlyn, who has been anticipating wearing her "very special polka dot princess Christmas dress" all week.

Merry Christmas!

Winterhaven and Desert Museum

Cari and her girls came to Tucson Friday evening and Saturday to help us start our Christmas Break right. We took the kids to a neighborhood called Winterhaven to see all of the lights. They block off the entrance streets to cars and you can either walk through or ride a hayride. We walked and only got a corner of the neighborhood. We'd have to go back several times to catch everything. It's in their HOA that they have to to decorate for Christmas. For some, this was stringing a few lights across their roof, for others, it was a much bigger deal.

This house was our favorite. They had a fountain and light show tuned to Christmas songs. It was pretty neat. We watched it for a while on the way in and on the way out.

Beautiful Cari and her beautiful girls

What a fantastic looking family! :)

On Saturday, Cari and I took the kids to the Desert Museum. I got a family pass when we went for Carter's birthday, but we hadn't been back since. It was a whole new experience. We found and saw things that we completely missed the first time, and couldn't find other things that we had seen originally. I'm going to have to start taking better advantage of my pass so we can explore again and again.

The kids loved the snake house. Personally, it gives me the eebie geebies. There were way to many rattlesnakes enclosed in one little house. Several of the snakes had recently shed their skins, so that was pretty neat to see. Cari did fine with the snakes, but wasn't quite as crazy about the tarantulas. I'd take a spider any day!

The kids hard at work looking for dinosaur fossils.

What a cute bunch of kids! Who would have thought that I had to threaten them within an inch of their lives to get them all together for one little picture?

We were really glad that we made the effort to go. Cari and I have just as good of a time taking a nap together while the kids play in the yard as much as anything else, but I think it was nice for them to get to do something a little extra.
Thanks for coming, Blackwells!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I'm just not that German

Isaac had a project at school where they needed to find out where their ancestors were from, decorate a paper doll in their country's traditional clothing, and tell about their heritage and culture. Then they were going to have a multi-cultural dinner, where each student is to bring a main dish from their country of origin for all second graders and their families to enjoy. I gave Isaac the options of countries where our families are from (England, England, England, probably some more England, Scotland, and Germany) and he chose to do his project on Germany. I emailed Meemaw (its her family that's from Germany) and she couldn't remember any specific German traditions, and when I talked to my in-laws, the only food they remember being prepared was Mexican. Our German ancestors immigrated to Central - South Texas and quickly adopted the ways of their neighbors.

Thank goodness for the internet! I think Isaac's heritage doll turned out great, his report was the best we could do, and my mother-in-law found some German recipes online that she emailed to me. I picked a simple, no fail recipe for the dinner tonight. We were golden.

Now I sit here typing as I anxiously await the results of my second batch of Kraut Bierocks. The first batch looked great going into the oven, but my two year old, unbeknownst to me, turned my oven up 125 degrees sometime in the cooking process. Now I'll only have enough for 12 people. I'd love to quickly whip up something else authentic to go with it, but like I said in the title, I'm just not that German.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

December Doings

Can you believe December is already half way gone? Besides hot chocolate and Christmas movies, here are a few things we have done so far this month.

We rolled, cut, and baked our gingerbread cookies, but I'm afraid we never did frost and layer them with candy as I had promised. I discovered that those nice, little gingerbread cookies hit a spot deep down inside that was way to satisfying to ruin with extra stuff, so I ran out of powdered sugar until I could convince them that they were perfect just the way they were. Luckily, they're good kids who love their mommy!

Last year I made a "Feed the Cookie to Santa" game (isn't it great how "Pin the Tail on the Donkey can be modified for all occasions?) for Carter's preschool Christmas party, having no idea what a big hit it would become with my family. It will be a long-lasting tradition. I think their favorite part is the dizzy ride in the chair before they take their cookie to Santa. Eric has as much fun spinning as they do riding! We all get a kick out of the stumbling.

I think our Santa hat is more see-through than we thought.

Ashlyn started to take a turn, but we laughed at her, the way we (including her) laugh at everyone, and she crumpled to the floor in sobs and refused to play anymore. The drama!

Friday night was our Ward Party. Santa, of course, was the highlight. The boys' main objective was to discover if it was really Santa or one of his helpers. Due to their super sleuthing skills, they determined that he was neither because he said "I will tell Santa's helpers." Who says that? Maybe "I'll tell Santa" but what's with adding "helpers?" They're not sure who he was, but they're confident in their findings. Luckily, it didn't dampen their Christmas spirit, it only added an air of mystery.

This was the closest I could get Ashlyn. What a surprise.

The line for food gets enormously long before you really even say "amen," so I decided to leave the kids at the table while I waited in line and got all of our plates, instead of trying to keep them with me. I wasn't positive that it was the best idea, but they did pretty good. Mostly thanks to leaving my camera on the table. This was the best of the 20 pictures and 5 videos that occupied their time. If anyone is interested in how everything was decorated...let me know!

Eric had the day off on Saturday, so we loaded up and headed to the MALL! The boy's were not so excited (Seriously? That's what we're doing today?), but Ashlyn was practically giddy. Santa being there was the only consolation for the boys, but the line was so long we convinced them that a picture with the Chic-Fil-A cow in a Santa hat was just as good. Carter has no problem hopping on Santa's lap, but he just couldn't muster the courage for the cow. The picture of Isaac is on Eric's phone, so you'll just have to imagine for now.
To make up for shopping, we took them to a toy train museum to look at all of the different models and settings. It amazes me how long the kids - Ashlyn just as much as the boys - can stare at those trains going around and around. The tracks were pretty neat. It's fun to see all of the detail they put into it and find the funny little quirks.
We love getting home after dark so we can "oooo" and "awww" over all of the Christmas lights. Even the smallest strand is exciting. The kids think its nutty that people put lights on their cactus. They can't figure out why they would risk the prickles. We obviously haven't had great experiences with cactus since we've been here.
Nothing too grand, but we're loving the season!

Ashlyn's "School"

I've been trading off babysitting with my friend, Natalie, so that we can volunteer at the kids' schools. Ashlyn LOVES going to Natalie's house. It is her school and she asks every day if she can go. They have their routine of Amy's room, Elmo, and apple sauce. Carter went once (he's usually at preschool) and totally threw off her groove. She wasn't happy. It is also very important that she take her back pack when she goes. As you can see, it's loaded with the essentials...

...such a burden to carry!
I'm glad she loves going so much. It's nice to know she's in good hands!
(I'm still waiting for the day that she likes and actually cooperates for the camera. She was all smiles - all morning - because it was school day.)