Saturday, December 31, 2016

Our Year in Review

Darin finished his first year and started his second year as a PhD student at Cornell. He was awarded a Latin American Studies Program Graduate Fellowship, the Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship, some small research grants (one of which he will be using in two weeks to go to Indonesia!), and presented research papers at conferences in Chicago and Philadelphia. He worked as Sunday School President in our branch at church. He also played "monster", tag "superheroes" "ninjas", "aliens", hide-and-seek, and wrestled with the kids a few hundred times. 

Some of his favorite moments of 2016: Visiting Lake Michigan, driving across the country, building a snow fort with Shae, his surprise 30th birthday trip to a BYU football game (and a surprise visit from his sister!), teaching the kids "Jingle Bells Batman Smells...", and being with his mom for Christmas.

Brillante...let's just talk in first person here since we all know who is writing this... I continued my busy full time job at home, teaching Shae and Belén how to navigate life (trying to teaching them anyway :). I organized and taught Joy School every few weeks for our co-op preschool. I continued my part-time job editing for Bare International. I was also released as the RS Activities Coordinator and called as the RS President. I read more books than I have ever read in a years time (25 books! Plus thousands of picture books--I know this may not seem like many to a lot of people, but that is monumental for me). I also loved the opportunity to add a few new temples to my list of temples visited (Palmyra, Detroit, and Provo City--and sort of Rexburg, didn't do an ordinance, but went inside :). 

Some of my favorite moments of 2016: Our little trip through Leland, MI, being in Baltimore and going to an O's game, watching Shae take a "victory lap" around the chapel slapping everyone's hands on his way back to his seat after he sang in the Primary Program, weekend away in Philly, and a stormy night cuddling the kids on the couch while Darin was gone at General Conference (they couldn't sleep because there was so much thunder and they both fell asleep on me on the couch. It was one of those tender moments that you want to cherish forever).

Shae continues to be as energetic, friendly, and outgoing as ever. Although he can still throw a monster tantrum when he wants, he is generally very sweet these days and always making us laugh. He started to learn sight words and can sound out simple words. His passion for Paw Patrol, while still alive and well, is quickly being replaced by a love for all things super hero. He has loved another year of Joy School and asks just about every day, "Is TODAY Joy School?" He also did his first round of swim lessons this fall. His biggest fear is getting his hands sticky--he washes his hands at least 50 times a day.

Me: Shae, what was your favorite memory of 2016?
Shae: Watching a show with my sister.
Me: What was your least favorite part?
Shae: The scary parts. 

Belén has easily been the busiest of us all this year. She learned to sleep through the night, use a sippy cup in place of nursing, walk, run, feed herself, give kisses and hugs, hit her brother, say prayers, and is now stepping up her game by TALKING. She mostly just says words, but we can't get enough! She is also a lover of all things Paw Patrol (thanks to her big brother), cries every single time we leave Shae at preschool, loves greeting any and every dog we see outside, and has the biggest sweetest puffy lip to stick out when she doesn't like something. She also lights up if you play peek-a-boo or sing Old McDonald or Wheels on the Bus with her. She went out west for the first time this year (both by car and airplane) and met lots of family and saw lots of places she had never met/seen before.

Me: Belén, what was your favorite part of 2016?
Belén: Uhn-uhn, bye! 
Me: What was your least favorite part?
Belén: *shuts door on me and runs away*

For our family, it was a busy year of travel. We ended up visiting 6 big cities (Washington D.C.Chicago, Toronto, Niagra Falls, Philadelphia, and Baltimore) and added two new baseball stadiums to the bunch (Toronto and Philly). We lived in Ann Arbor, MI for a summer while Darin took a few classes, where we also got to go on a little weekend trip up to Traverse City). We then drove out to Idaho to visit family (and took a day trip to Yellowstone). We also got to see every single one of our family members (Mine and Darin's siblings and parents) which is not an easy feat (but something we are so happy we got to do!)

We feel extremely blessed for all the fun adventures we were able to enjoy during 2016 and are excited to continue those adventures in the coming year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Ice Ice Baby

We didn't make it to the Ice Festival last year, and even though Darin was working on a paper most of the day, we were able to snatch him away from school for a bit to come down and check out the ice with us. It did not disappoint. 
It was so fascinating to watch these ice sculptors at work. I couldn't get over all the different tools they used, from chain saws to blow torches to irons. 

 Belén doing her little check to see who is looking before sneaking away with that amazing ice ball over there.

 There was a little area with this Connect 4 game and some blocks. Shae took on some girls in an intense game of Connect 4 and they were loving it.
 I couldn't get enough of this ice bar. A bar, made of ice! Is that not the coolest thing! 
 What a fun event. If only we could have found someone selling hot year we''ll have to go earlier so that we can participate in the chowder competition. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmasy Things

Our first of many Christmas parties this month was our branch party. The kids got to participate in the little nativity program which was adorable to watch. Here is Shae (Shepherd) and Eppie (Mary), although I like to think they are Joseph and Mary, just because I like to think of them as a couple later in life some time and this makes it more fun.
"We need more cow bell!"
Shout out to my mama who threw this awesome little jumper together when we were visiting for Thanksgiving. I mentioned that Belen was going to be a cow and there just so happened to be some cow fabric laying around and voila!

Shae was so disappointed and confused at this point. When it was over I went over to him and he said, "But, it can't be over yet, I didn't say anything." (Someone just read the nativity story). I told him he could keep going and he turned to "Mary" and said, "Mary, I am here to see the baby Jesus." That seemed to satisfy him enough. 
We've done our Pizza-Picnic-Christmas-Movie night a few times now. During the one that I recorded below we actually had homemade chicken nuggets, potato wedges, carrots sticks, and cherry tomatoes. Still went with finger food, but felt like we had been eating pizza for days so I had to switch it up. 

We watched the classic Frosty the Snowman, but after moving on to Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer, we lost Darin (and me too if we're being honest). Those old stop motion films are kind of hard to watch.
Let's be REALLY honest, Shae was the only one paying attention, Belén was busy burying herself in pillows (I wonder where she learned that).

My mom sent us these advent calendars that we always did as kids. Belén is a HUGE fan of this tradition.
I feel like we were so busy with parties those first two weeks of December, everyone trying to cram things in before leaving for the semester. We had our branch party, a friend threw a White Elephant Party, our RS Christmas party, and then I went to a Favorite Things party. They were all SO fun, but it made for a few busy weeks.
Last year, it was in the 50s in December. This year I think we are getting a better taste of what real Ithaca winter is like. It's been pretty snowy the past few weeks and we have loved it. Snow in December is so magical. And while I am perfectly content to enjoy the snow from the indoors, the kids much prefer to be outside, so I finally got us all bundled up last week and took them out one morning and we had a blast. (One of those times when I really wish we had a backyard that they could just go play in).

 We have read this book about a hundred times since we pulled it out a few weeks ago. It was the book that I bought on sale after Christmas last year and it has been a huge hit. Shae loves that it is OUR book and that we never have to return it to the library. For some reason there is something special about that to him. (We've also read Samurai Santa and Olivia Helps with Christmas dozens of times, both very fun reads as well).
 Because of the above book, we decided to make our own gingerbread men one evening. 

 I wasn't planning on making cookie plates for neighbors this year. There was just so much going on and I've been so good about holding back on baking the past few months (sooooo hard!) while trying to lose a bit of weight...but then we made the gingerbread cookies and I was like, well, if we're going to make these, I may as well make 20 other kinds of cookies too. So I did, and it was actually really lovely (Of course it was, baking is my happy place). Shae and I made a few during Belén’s nap time one day when I didn't feel like I needed to lock him away in a quiet time because I didn't have much work, and it was just so fun to cook with that boy. I love when we get some one on one time like that, especially when it is in the kitchen!

(These and these have been my go to Christmas cookies for a couple years now and I loved trying this recipe this year for fun too. It's a definite keeper. Also made the Food Nanny's pumpkin bread because I've been wanting to make it all fall but have held back until now. So that one was kind of random, just making up for lost time :).

Mmmmmm, those Christmas goodies.

I read on a blog last week that a few girls were doing a sugar-free holiday challenge and I am happy to say that that is a challenge that I would NEVER want to participate in. Bring on the chocolate peppermint EVERYTHING! I mean, New Years (resolutions!) is right after Christmas for a reason, am I right?

Monday, December 12, 2016


We had our first taste of Christmas the day after Thanksgiving when we pulled out the tree and all the decorations at my parents house. 
Belén was clearly very helpful.

Shae chose the pose for this one.
We had such a wonderful visit with my family. It's so nice to be able to spend time with Philip while home as well. He is such a great uncle to our kids. He follows Shae's every command and lights up Belén's face like no other. I'm so thankful to have such a wonderful little brother.
Shae's favorite part of Black Friday was playing Sorry. He made my dad play this game with him, like, 20 times in the 3 1/2 days we were there.
The day after getting home we pulled all of our Christmas decorations out and got to work again. I love when Thanksgiving is on the earlier side of things because it means we get to enjoy Christmas that much longer!

 The tree definitely does not look like that anymore. I don't know why I thought that Belén was over the "pull things off the tree" phase. Not at all. Our tree is now only decorated half way up and we keep finding random ornaments throughout the house. Life with a toddler always keeps you on your toes. Quite literally sometimes. 

The kids favorite part about pulling out the Christmas stuff was getting out our Little People nativity. Best 50% off after Christmas deal ever. 

 Monkey see, monkey do.