Christmas, Holiday, Kids, Parenting, Uncategorized

Trees…Tinsel… and Three Kids

img_4367img_4364Yesterday we took our annual trip to the Wisconsin Tree Farm to pick out the O’Brien Family Christmas Tree… not to be confused with the Griswold Family Tree. Daniel and I are the perfect mix of picking a tree that has no business being in our modest size home. I always go for the tall ones and he always goes for the big round ones. Usually, by the time the tree is in the house there is NO room for a star or angel as the top is smashed into the ceiling and if you indulged a bit too much at Thanksgiving you’re going to have to find an alternative route around the tree as it’s usually so round that it takes up the entire walkway.

The Wisconsin Tree Farm is a great family owned business right on College Street in Fayetteville. Each year the Latzig family from Merrill Wisconsin comes to Fayetteville, lives in a camper and sells their homegrown Christmas trees in the Gator Golf parking lot. They have all types, Balsam Fir, Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir and Scotch Pine just to name a few. We have purchased a tree from this family every year we’ve lived in Fayetteville.

 

We don’t have a designer tree, never have… but I love our tree as it’s covered in ornaments that both my husband and I have collected as well as the kids handmade ornaments they’ve made each year at school. It’s colorful and about 75% of the tree is covered in some type of kid craft that involves glitter, paint, and sequins.

Am I the only one that has this grand picture in my head of how decorating the family tree should go? Let me set the stage for you…

We are all in the living room listening to the Pandora Christmas radio station, fire flickering and hot chocolate or egg nog in everyone’s cup. We all sit patiently while my husband puts the lights on the tree. After all the lights are hung each child goes to their marked Rubbermaid tub and begins placing their ornaments on the tree, taking turns and making sure they are well spaced in order to have a well-balanced tree. all three kids listen to me as I say, “Be sure to put the heavy ones on the top branches.” After the tree is covered in ornaments we sit and listen to the music and stare at the tree filled with lights while everyone gets sleepy for the night.

NOPE, not at all close to the madness that happened here last night (remember my post on Hostage Negotiating?) … Here’s the real picture…

We are all in the same room most of the time and yes, Pandora radio is playing some of our favorite Christmas tunes, but there is no flickering fireplace as it’s a little too warm for that just yet. No one has hot chocolate or egg nog at this point because the milk that my ten-year-old was trying to boil in the tea kettle is shooting out the whistle whole as it got waaaaaaaayy too hot. I’m burning my fingers trying to clean up boiling milk from the stove while my son is yelling from the other room that he’s hungry and my two-year-old is screaming at the top of her lungs because we won’t let her touch any ornaments. It’s finally time for the lights. I work to get the lights on the tree as my husband unravels and checks each strand… Apparently, we aren’t moving fast enough for my son who is trying to see how many times he can slide off the arm of the sofa onto the ground behind the tree and make his way out without touching any branches… our very own American Ninja Warrior!

After all the lights are finally on the tree, it’s time for the ornaments. Now you know those Rubbermaid tubs I was talking about, each marked and organized with each child’s ornaments… HA, wishful thinking… we have four to five buckets full of ornaments wrapped in 5-year-old newspaper and old grocery bags (read this blog from Rubbermaid – awesome storage idea for ornaments). The kids are holding the newspaper and unraveling them so quick that ornaments are hitting the floor like raindrops. We ALWAYS have a designated area for ornaments that need to be glued back together, because we just can’t do it without breaking any. We should probably buy stock in Gorilla Glue this time of year. The kids are all trying to attack the tree at once and all the heavy ornaments that they placed on the weak lower branches are hitting the floor one by one. My two-year-old is climbing the ladder that I forgot to move post – Christmas tree lights and as soon as you go up to make sure she doesn’t fall she repeatedly tells you “GO WAY!” By this time I have stepped on at least three hooks and a shard of glass from the broken ornaments (think  Marv from Home Alone entering the window with no shoes).

My two-year-old has now come up with a new strategy to reach the branches she can’t quite get to, toss those Christmas balls right on up towards the tree and see if they’ll stick … of course bringing two or three other ornaments down along the way! By this time the tree is pretty full and I start hiding ornaments because we need to wrap this party up before someone falls off the ladder or has to go to the emergency room for glass removal. The two-year-old is now standing over by the wooden nativity scene picking up each animal and very loudly showing off that she knows her animal noises.

My husband and I escape to the garage for 60 seconds to put all the empty boxes away… we pause and look at each other like we’ve just been through an F5 tornado and bust out laughing while we hold each other up from exhaustion.

It’s the same thing every year… I have a pretty picture in my mind about how it’s supposed to go, and then it goes in a completely different direction. It’s crazy and the house is now covered in glitter, pine needles and ornament hooks (I used the old trusty Hoover Wind Tunnel to get the glass up already… that thing is like the perfect kid, cleans up and very quiet) but in the end, everyone had a good time. The kids will remember the laughs and their baby sister telling everyone to go away and saying “haw hee” as she holds up the donkey from the manger scene (one of these days we’ll tell her it’s hee-haw, but it’s just so darn cute). For now, I’ll treasure the years we have left with each of them while they want to be around us, want to help decorate and make fun family memories. I can’t wait to see what next years tornado will bring!

What is your family Christmas tree/decorating tradition?

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Kids, Parenting, Thanksgiving, Uncategorized

FRIENDSgiving And A Two Year Old…

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Today we are not only celebrating Thanksgiving Day but also a birthday!

I can’t believe our caboose is now two years old. This time two years ago I went to my routine checkup at the doctor’s office. Only this time… I didn’t get to leave! I’ll never forget the words that came out of the nurse’s mouth as she checked my blood pressure, “did you run up the stairs when you came in?” “Uh, No…” I told her, why would she think that? She told me that my blood pressure was pretty high and that she would give me a minute to relax and then check it again. After checking it again, she asked me if my blood pressure had ever been high. Again, I said, “Uh, no…why do you ask?” It was in that moment that I was beginning to understand what was happening. The nurse left the room and quickly returned with the doctor, who began asking me a bunch of questions.

Doctor: “Do you feel dizzy?”
Me: “No”
Doctor: “Are your ankles swollen?”
Me: “No”
Doctor: “Do you feel nauseous?”
Me: “No”

I felt normal! Then she proceeded to tell me that my blood pressure was so high that she wouldn’t be surprised if I started having seizures… after that, the only thing I remember was the number 160/100. I could see her talking to me, but I was not really processing all she said. She told me that I was going to go on upstairs to the hospital and have this baby today. “Wait, what…” I said. I haven’t packed a bag, my parents aren’t here, it’s three weeks early I probably need to call my husband! Lots of thoughts were running through my brain. The last thing she said to me was that I could call my husband, but we wouldn’t wait to get things started, so tell him to hurry.

Ok… so I grabbed my cell phone, shaking I called my husband and tried to tell him what was going on. Later he told me I had made absolutely no sense on the phone so he figured he better come to the hospital. My second call was to my parents to see how soon they could get to Fayetteville and finally, I called two of the first ladies I’d met when I moved to Arkansas Wendy and Karla, to see if each could take one of my older children for the evening. After that everything went really fast and our third child, a daughter had come into the world around 4:15 that afternoon.

We ended up having to stay in the hospital for a bit longer than normal until they could regulate my blood pressure. Finally the day before Thanksgiving we were able to go home and finally be together as a family of five. (six if you could the giant dog). I’ll never forget the next day. It was Thanksgiving day and I had bought everything we needed to cook a full Thanksgiving meal. Only, I didn’t really feel like cooking. Daniel stepped up to the plate and offered to cook everything! He said, “just tell me where your recipes are and I’ll get everything ready for a late afternoon meal.” “Hmmmm…” I thought to myself, looked at him and said, “I don’t really have recipes written down, I just do it from memory.”

Now, for those of you that know my husband, you know that he is a process person. Everything has its place, processes are written down and followed exactly in order to always have a successful outcome. And, while at this point he was probably ready to strangle me, he didn’t let it show. He proceeded to pick up a sharpie and write directly on each ingredient how much he needed for each dish. Some hours later, we had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day meal that he cooked all by himself. Love him!

Since that day, I have never cooked a full Thanksgiving Day meal. We have been blessed with wonderful friends (Lee & Greg) that have invited us over to join in and celebrate with their family. I bring the crockpot mac n’cheese (because we’re from Alabama where you have mac n’cheese on Thanksgiving) and everything else is taken care of. What a blessing!!

There are so many things for me to be thankful for; God’s Grace… because I’m a sinner saved by it, my husband, my three kiddos, my parent’s, my sister and her family, Daniel’s mom and siblings (and all of our extended family). I’m thankful for the Lord bringing us to Fayetteville where we have made some really great lifelong friends. As I think back to this day two years ago, I will forever be thankful for the wisdom of the doctors and nurses who helped bring our little caboose into this world three weeks early for both her safety and mine.

Thinking back, I wasn’t ready for number three to arrive when she did, but I quickly remembered that it’s usually not my timing that matters. I’m usually impatient for things I want when I want them and worried when things happen too fast or I feel unprepared. But then I remember the Lord has His own perfect timing and everything is part of His perfect plan for me. So, I am Thankful most for a God that knows my every need and provides exactly what is needed in His perfect time.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Kids, Parenting, Uncategorized

“Mom…I’m Bored!”

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It’s been two days… 48 hours that my two older kids have been out of school, that’s it! I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard, “mom… I’m bored” over the last two days.

When I was 8 and 10 I used to spend hours outside or down the street playing with my friends. I’m pretty sure it was only when it was too dark to see that we would finally go inside. I remember making up all kinds of games to play or setting up cans to shoot with the BB gun (no, I’m not a girly girl) and my all time favorite memory had to be making a car out of a moving dolly and actually riding it down the street (yes, without a helmet – Please don’t tell my kids).

Kids are overstimulated these days. Screens are everywhere and I think it kills their creativity. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m just as guilty as the next person giving in and allowing more screen time to get them out of my hair while I’m trying to work or on a conference call, but I really think I’m doing them a disservice.

I was so tired of hearing “I’m bored” I even looked up a list of 101 things to do when your kids say they’re bored… below are some of the suggestions, I’m sorry but seriously.. is this  a serious list or a list created to just to make me laugh.

  1. Plant a tree – I usually don’t have trees that are ready to plant just lying around
  2. Act out your child’s favorite book – Not sure a book on wrestle mania would be the best one to act out.
  3. Build an indoor tent or fort with couches and some bed sheets – This one’s okay, we’ve done it before but once they’re done building it, they’re right back to being bored… and then I have to wash all the sheets again… dog hair!
  4. Head to the local library – this is a good one… if my son can use his inside voice
  5. Create paper mache –um no, BIG MESS
  6. Plan a scavenger hunt – We’ve done this one before… we made our hunt a video scavenger hunt for added fun.
  7. Learn how to tie-dye T-shirts – Um no, see number 5. BIG MESS
  8. Count how many times you can spin in a circle without getting dizzy – The answer is 5 and then someone falls and gets hurt… possibly me.
  9. Construct an indoor obstacle course – this is a good one for rainy days
  10. Choreograph a dance routine – If you know me, you would just laugh and shake your head no at this one
  11. Take silly pictures with a camera. My kids do this all the time and then I have to delete stuff from my phone because there is not enough memory
  12. Make a paper mache volcano and mix baking soda and vinegar for an explosive reaction – Explosive reaction, really?? No!
  13. Break out the pots and pans and practice drumming skills –
  14. Rearrange your child’s bedroom – afraid of what I may find under the bed
  15. Ask “what do you want to be when you grow up” and then plan your day around that career. Last time we asked my son what he wanted to be he said a “boxer and a diamond digger” hmmm… we may skip this one
  16. Count and roll loose change lying around the house – My dad does this one with the kids… they seem to enjoy it.
  17. Run relay races – We do this one a lot because it also tires them out
  18. Give the family pet a bath – We have a Great Dane… NO WAY…my daughter took it upon herself to do this once… it ended in all of us chasing the wet, soapy dog around the house.

After making it about half way through the list I stopped… clearly this list was not going to give me my magic answer.

I read a few articles about how it’s good for your kids to be bored. Why You Should Do Nothing When Your Child Says, “I’m Bored” and Handling Boredom: Why It’s Good for Your Child.

Being bored is usually what leads to some pretty neat activities that they think up on their own. After I decided I wasn’t going to give them a running list of options and just told them to figure it out, they had the best time! They played a pretty cool wall ball game outside, played in the rain and tried to see if the wind would lift them off the ground if they hit it just right with the umbrellas. They road bikes and scooters and laughed together most of the afternoon.

Next time they come to me and say “I’m bored” I’m going to say “I love bored” go figure it out!

Exercise, Fitbit, Fitbit, Exercise, Healthy, Health, Travel, Uncategorized

Get Out Of My Way Pink Jeep…

Our final day in Sedona we hiked from the time the sun came up until about 3:00 in the afternoon. My legs and feet were exhausted by the end of it, but I’m so glad I pushed myself to complete the almost 7.5-mile loop to see some of Sedona’s well-known sites and a 360-degree view of Munds Mountain.

We hiked Little Horse Trail to Chicken Point, The Broken Arrow Trail, Mystic Trail, Submarine Rock Trail, back around to  The Chapel of the Holy Cross and then took the Chapel trail to meet back up with the Little Horse Trail to hike back to the car.

There was not one cloud in the sky and it seemed like the sun was right overhead the entire day. We started out to only hike the Little Horse Trail to Chicken Point so we didn’t take any water or snacks with us for the journey. BUT, when we saw the views from Chicken point and saw that there were multiple trails that you could link up with that would take you all around the rocks (one giant loop) we decided to press on.

I will say by the time we made it around to the Chapel of the Holy Cross I was so thankful that they had a gift shop that sold water… I needed it!

What I like so much about this collection of trails was not only the sites along the way, but the nice people who would show you offshoots to other trails, warn you about certain areas or just stop and have a conversation with you. Let’s face it I liked to stop and talk because I got to catch my breath.

One thing I saw that just blew me away, was the number of mountain bikers out on the trails. There were places that were only 4-6 inches wide with huge drop offs, places I was a little nervous to walk and the bikers just whizzed on by like it was no big thing. I guess that’s why they call it extreme sports.

While we enjoyed hiking the trails to hit the high points and scenic views, there is another way to get around if you don’t have as much time, have small children or have elderly folks with you. The Pink Jeep Tours will take you all along the red rocks to see some pretty amazing sights. Although they cannot go quite as high as the walking trails go, you still get a pretty view and don’t have to worry about navigation and a 7.5-mile hike. I will say if you want to hike like we did… start out as early as you can, because once the pink jeeps start coming, they don’t stop for most of the day!

This was our final hike in Sedona before we made our way out-of-town. Thanks to Miss Jackie Sherwood for telling us to take the scenic route back to Phoenix, through Jerome and detour through Prescott… that experience will be a post for later!!

Travel, Uncategorized

I Got This…

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This is exactly what I looked like when I was on my own in Phoenix last week.

The first couple days of our trip, Daniel had a conference in Phoenix so I was on my own to explore the city Sunday-Tuesday. Now, being raised in Birmingham Alabama I am not skilled in public transportation but had to rely on it if I wanted to go anywhere other than our hotel.

Planning an outing for myself last week entailed 30 minutes of pre planning on the Valley Metro website to ensure I knew where I was going, what rail or bus I needed to take and how long it would take me to get to my destination. Now just because I planned 30 minutes ahead of time does not mean that it was flawless. Nope, in fact it was the opposite. When did directions stop saying “turn right” or “turn left”? Why did they change it to “go Southwest” or “walk Northeast” I mean I was willing to look at my device for directions but not about to pull up the compass on my smart phone to figure out what direction I was going… All I could think of was the Friends episode where Joey has to “step into his map.”

For those of you that know me, I do not like to stick out AT ALL. I think it has something to do with being so tall. Growing up I was always a head taller than everyone and I felt like I was always slouching in order to not stick out in the crowd. I did not want to stick out as a tourist who needed help, or more so just a pathetic individual who didn’t know wich way was North.

I quickly learned the difference between 7th Ave and 7th Street when I got off the bus too early and had to walk about 15 blocks. Yes, some of you that are more skilled with public transportation are probably thinking that I should have stayed put and just waited for the next bus to come. While that would have been the smart thing to do, I didn’t want to look like I didn’t know what I was doing.

I finally learned from my three-day adventure that it’s okay to not know what you’re doing all the time and asking for help from others who do will not kill you. In fact, when I finally realized that, I was able to have a lot of fun interactions while riding on both the light rail and bus systems. Conversations ranged from a gentlemen asking me if I could see Jesus coming back on a white horse right behind my head to people asking me where I was from and telling me all their stories and experiences from time spent in Arkansas…some included stories of outstanding warrants they had in my home state, for some pretty interesting things. I met one girl, Brante, who rides a combination of buses and trains to get to school, work and then home again 6 out of 7 days of the week. Brante is a special young lady. She knows what she wants and she is not letting anything stand in her way to get to it. I hope I can teach my kids to pursue their dreams with the drive and passion that was overflowing in Brante’s voice during our conversation.

So, while I started off with my shark fin on, determined to not stand out in the crowd as a tourist who had no clue what she was doing, I’m pretty sure my goldfish started showing through as people began to ask me if I needed help. I’m glad I finally accepted the help as it led to some fun, memorable times with strangers that helped round out my Phoenix experience.

Exercise, Fitbit, Travel, Uncategorized

26,700 Steps

Sedona, AZ has over 84 known hikes in and around the area. While we weren’t able to hike them all, we did look up a list of the top 10 and hit as many as we could.

Our first day of hiking we started out on the Devil’s Bridge trail.

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Devil’s Bridge is probably the most viewed red rock arch in the Sedona area. It is situated at the edge of a wide valley on the north side of Capital Butte and although its named Devil’s Bridge, the formation is actually an arch rather than a bridge. It was created by wind and weather erosion and not by flowing water.

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The main path ends right beneath the arch and another small trail continues to the top. The views from the top of the bridge are amazing, looking up and down the canyon, over the red and white rocks at either side, and westwards across the valley of Dry Creek to the more extensive canyons and mesas of the Red Rocks.

The trail leads up a valley, over red rock terraces, surrounded by typical Sedona vegetation of juniper, pinyon pine, yucca and agave. The trail climbs about 300 feet pretty quickly at the end to the base of the bridge, which you can only see when it is right overhead. The bridge or arch is composed of Supai sandstone in a deep shade of red.

Devil’s Bridge is well worth the moderate hike. If you are not fond of heights, like my husband, then you may be a bit uncomfortable out on the bridge. However,  it is an amazing feeling to walk out to the middle and look back over the valley and mountains around you.

Our second hike for the day was to Doe Mountain.

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This trail, while a short 0.9 miles, is straight up. It provides big views and scenery that will take your breath away. Once you reach the top, the drop off is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I’m not sure we would take our children on this hike unless we talked to them ahead of time about sticking close to mom and dad.

The Doe Mountain Trail switchbacks directly up the north side of this low, flat-topped Mesa. As you start your climb, you’ll want to make sure to turn around and see the views on the way up too. If you’re like me, the stop to turn around and see the scenery can also provide a much-needed time to catch your breath. A layer of erosion resistant cap rock is what gives Doe Mountain its mesa shape and provides hikers with a wide area at the top to enjoy the panoramic views.

From the top of the mesa, you can see a number of the Sedona Red Rocks Country’s prominent landmarks . You’ll see Bear, Maroon, and Wilson mountains, Loy, Boynton, and Secret Canyons, Chimney Rock, and the Cockscomb.

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Our final stop that day was to Oak Creek Canyon Vista. Ah, finally somewhere we could drive to… my legs were done for the day!

Oak Creek Canyon vista is only around 14 miles from Flagstaff. The drive to the vista was filled with hair-pin switchbacks that drop about 4500 feet off the side. Daniel was clutching the wheel of the car pretty tight on the way up, but again, it was well worth the drive.

Once at the vista point you can walk along a railed pathway, take photos and shop for gifts at the many Native American artisan vendors set up along the pathway. There are wonderful displays of authentic made Indian crafts, jewelry, and art as you take in the scenery around you.

Overall it was a great, full day of adventure. I will say that after hiking that much I had to take a picture of my step count from my fitbit… I hit 26,700 steps!!

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That many steps called for some celebration! We sat and watched the sunset with a glass of wine from our balcony at the lodge…

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And then traveled down the mountain for a little more celebrating at the Javelina Cantina