Sunday, April 30, 2017

Dad's 60th and Other PA Shenanigans

Last weekend we took a quick trip down to PA to celebrate my Dad's 60th birthday with the fam. It was a much needed weekend getaway for our family. It's been a long few months full of sickness and everyday life business, especially for Darin as he prepares for his comp exam next month. We needed some time away. 

Darin still had work to do, so on Friday my mom and I took the kids out to a really fun playground where we met up with Philip and the little boy he watches. The kids just LOVED being outside as the weather is FINALLY warming up for us out here (and the leaves are finally coming in! Hallelujah!)

After getting home from the park we threw some streamers up and then got to cooking. We made a Strawberries and Cream Pie. We had just had this the previous week for Easter and Darin and I couldn't stop talking about how we wanted more. We did not complain one bit when my Dad chose it off the list of desserts I sent him that we could make for the big day. We also made his fave Beef & Veggie Pie with roasted broccoli/cauliflower for dinner. This is a special meal that his mom would make growing up. 

Beef and Veggie Pie

1 Pkg. pie crust mix 
Pillsbury unfold pie crust (found in the dairy case)
2 TBsp butter or margarine
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup shredded carrot
2 cups chopped cabbage
1 lb. ground beef
1 cup hot water
1 envelope instant brown gravy mix
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. leaf savory, crumbled
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Prepare pie crust mix. Chill 30 minutes. (or use Pillsbury crust).  Saute onion, carrots and cabbage in butter or margarine, stirring often until tender.  Remove to large bowl.  Saute meat.  Stir in water, brown gravy mix and seasonings.  Add to veggies.  Make bottom crust and place in pie pan.  Spoon in meat/veggie mixture.  Make and place top crust.  Cut a few slits in crust.  Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Shae wrote a story that he gave kuhn-ta. It was called: Kuhn-Ta, Shae, and Beekle Love Ice Cream. 
 The kids also got him one of their recent favorite books called How to Babysit a Grandpa that they can read with him when they visit. Shae loves to talk about how he wants to babysit kuhn-ta some day. (Excuse the blur in these last two pics, my camera has been acting up on me).

 Philip got him a new weed whacker head.

After the kids were down he opened his final present which me and my mom and siblings had been working on for a few weeks. Sixty letters/memories from friends and family. We ended up getting 32 letters in total from family members (extended and not) and friends that he has had over the years, and the rest we filled with memories. One of my favorite memory pages was about what we think of when we think of Dad in the kitchen. We all had some variation of the same thing: crazy, random foods mixed together. Sometimes good, sometimes not. How we learned not to ask what is FOR dinner, rather, what is IN dinner. Peas in everything. One time I remember a leftover casserole that he made that was Ramen noodles, meatloaf, and broccoli with cheese all over. Yum. 

It was just so entertaining to hear him read through all the letters and memories, that then sparked other memories that he would share with us as well. It was really special to read through them all together. 

I loved hearing about farting games that he played as a kid from his brother's letter and how at a camp out he didn't want to use store bought wood since he wanted to teach Scott about making fire from the nature surrounding them, and then went and pulled out dryer lint. His friend from MD, Mark, asked him, "Where in nature did you find that Bill?" 

I loved the story from Sister Wiltfong about the first time she heard my dad play the accordion in church way back when. She was holding back giggles and thought an accordion in church would be sacrilegious, but said that the number brought her to tears. 

My favorite FAVORITE memory was Anna's, when she remembered a time as a kid when her friend came over asking to play ponies with her. Anna didn't want to since she was "too cool" for that and left. When she came back outside my dad was sitting on the outside steps playing ponies with Anna's friend. I just LOVE that memory because it is SO my dad. He loves kids and he loves putting other's feelings/needs before his own. Such a sweet memory of something that he would easily do again tomorrow.

Darin and I got to sneak away on a date Saturday afternoon which was lovely. We went and saw La La Land at a $2 theater (something we lack in Ithaca), then went out to eat. Darin's adviser here at school is from the area and recommended this Vietnamese restaurant in Harrisburg to us. We had only had Vietnamese one time before this experience and it was not good. Everyone always raves about Pho. It just seems like it's one of those things I'm supposed to love, so we gave it another chance. 

 It was really good Pho, MUCH better than the other place we tried last year, but I've decided I'm just not a Pho girl and that is okay. It's just so brothy. Don't get me wrong, it's a good broth, but if I'm spending money on food I really don't want broth. Give me all the meat and rice and sauce! The noodle beef dish that we ordered was really good though. 
 After the date we met up with my parents and the kids at a middle school where they were doing the stake Road Show. The performances were pretty fun and the kids (especially Shae) just thought it was so cool to be at a show.
 On Sunday, after church, we did a second Easter with my family. We had a nice Easter meal and my mom set up a great Easter egg hunt for the kids.

 Better, brighter pictures from Philip :).

Before heading home we had to squeeze in a few more rounds of Sleeping Queens. Like I said in my last post, such a fun game. 

Then back home we went. The kids were exhausted after a long, fun day and crashed a few minutes in to our trip. Shae with his feet up on the seat. BelĂ©n is finally at a point where she can sort of car sleep. Only for about 45 minutes max, but much better than last summer. Sweet sleepy babies. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


We've started doing our "dying Easter egg tradition" the Monday before Easter for Family Home Evening. Before dying the eggs we had a really lovely little lesson about the meaning and story behind Easter. 

We read The Easter Story by Patricia Pingry that we got from the library. It was the perfect picture book for the kids about this topic. We then watched this lovely video about finding peace through Christ. There were a lot of words in it so I read them aloud for the kids. At the end it says: "He is Jesus Christ. King of Kings. Lord of Lords. Prince of Peace." After saying, "Lord of Lords," I got a little emotional and paused and didn't immediately read the next line. When I didn't read it, Shae shouted out, "Mom! What does it say?!" Through tears I read out, "Prince of Peace," and in that moment I felt such a strong connection to and love for Christ. I continued to feel it that entire week leading up to and on Easter as we discussed the Savior and his resurrection.

During one conversation Shae asked, "But why does he live AGAIN?" It was so special to be able to talk to him about what that means to me, and to our family. These kids, man, they sure do know how to bring out all the feels in me on these heartfelt topics that over the years I just haven't thought about or talked about or studied about enough. Thank goodness for their sweet inquisitive minds.

After the lesson we got to the fun part, the part Shae had patiently been waiting for ALL week. This was the first year that I felt like I didn't really have to worry about him drinking the dyed water or cracking all the eggs as he plopped them in the water (2016 and 2015).

 Lucky for us, we had this sweet girl to make sure we still had a few cracked eggs at the end of the night. Let me tell you, putting six cups full of colored water in front of her was terrifying. She's quick and messy. Thankfully, we somehow ended the evening with only one minor spill.
 (Face covered in chocolate from the Chocolate Cadbury Cookies we made the day before).
 Shae wanted to dye the eggs just like we were, which meant doing half an egg one color and the other half a different color. He was so patient, holding the egg in the water (and of course sticking half his hand in while doing so). 
 The Saturday before Easter we did a little egg hunt Primary activity with other members of our branch. Here the kids are playing a "pass the hat" hot potato type game.

These two. I just love them so much. I haven't started crying DAILY yet over the fact that they are moving in three months, but I have definitely cried. When is it too soon for the daily cry to start? 

 Our little spring bunny.

That lip. Always with the lip.

 We don't really do big fancy baskets from the Easter Bunny around here, but are trying to figure out a good tradition for us. This year we did a chocolate bunny for each kid and a new family game (Sleeping Queens), that we are obsessed with. We have played it a few times a day since Easter. It's a game that Darin and I actually enjoy playing too. In fact, I look forward to it (unlike never ending games of Candy Land or Trouble). And it was only 10 bucks! 
 Darin was sweet and let me sleep in a bit on the holiday since I didn't have church meetings. After I woke up, we ate some pancakes and then did our own little family Easter Egg hunt. The eggs were filled with M&Ms and Paw Patrol chocolate that I found at the Target dollar spot, which the kids of course were very excited about.
Before rushing off to church we had to take some obligatory family photos. We were in a hurry so didn't get outside. Of course I said, "Let's take a few now just in case we don't go outside after church, but let's go outside after church!" Of course that didn't happen because after church everyone is hungry and tired and the church clothes come off as soon as we walk glad we took these awkward hallway apartment pics before leaving :). 

The rest of the afternoon/evening was really lovely, spent with friends and food. What more could one ask for? 
 This sweet girl was the only one left on the tarp after 5 minutes and probably the only one who ate all her food. What a doll. 

At church I wasn't really expecting all the feels of the week to hit me so strong from the start of the meeting, but yowza, all it took was the first hymn. The words were just so beautiful.

That Easter Morn, a grave that burst
Proclaimed to man that "Last and First"
Had ris'n again
And conquered pain.

This morn renews for us that day
When Jesus cast the bonds away,
Took living breath
And conquered death.

Thus we in gratitude recall
And give our love and pledge our all,
Shed grateful tear
And conquer fear.
(Hymn: 198 That Easter Morn)

So thankful for him.