Sunday, December 27, 2015

Another Colorado Christmas

While we are able to visit KC for our Christmas with them, it was not until January. I'll take it. I'll take whatever time with our family I can get! But it meant another Colorado Christmas. I'm not complaining. It was pretty wonderful.

This year it seemed we didn't quite do as many Christmas Season “events” but we still got around to doing some of our favorite holiday activities at home. A lot of people do gingerread houses but we started a tradition a few years ago decorating Christmas trees instead. We use upside down sugar cones and green frosting, plus lots and lots of candy. It's a pretty good small children alternative to the laborious gingerbread houses.

Of course Dash came back this year. Only, he waited to make his appearance until we had our tree up and decorated instead of right after Thanksgiving. He did some wacky stuff like make a flour snow angel, hang upside down from the hallway chandaleir and get stuck in a mason jar on a very tall shelf. And get stuck. For THREE days!!! Poor Dash! On his last day (Christmas Eve) he hung out on the rungs under Aaron's bed right above Ethan. I heard Ethan singing Christmas songs to him and talking to him before Dash flew away that night until next year.

We drove around and looked at Christmas lights on Christmas Eve after the evening church service. I wish I could say church was amazing but this year was a bit caotic! They didn't have child care as they wanted families to experience the service together. I get it. I just wasn't prepared and our kids (along with others) were not prepared either. They were pretty wild and a bit embarassing. Luckily there was a nursery for babies so we didn't have to wrangle Chloe too!

John and I were up until Midnight getting everything ready as usual. We left homemade cookies out for Santa (which he throuroughly enjoyed!) I even caught a picture of Santa as he was setting out gifts!

John got some great pics from his buddies at Flight For Life as they gave Santa a lift!

Christmas morning was pretty magical. This year Chloe was much more excited and aware of what was going on and the boys are at a sweet innocent age which makes Christmas simply wonderful. The boys were up and ready at 6:30 but had to wait until 7:15 when Chloe bean woke up to open anything. We had our coffee maker set for 6:15 so armed with our own excitement and our joe we were ready.

The kids got some little things from Santa – a few games, stocking full of goodies and sleds. Santa doesn't bring big gifts at our house – that's for us to spoil our kids with! : ) Chloe bean got a baby stroller and a block set. Our big gift to the kids this year was new bikes! All three got one though Chloe's is a Jr. Big Wheel. The boys were excited but it stinks because they can't fully enjoy their bikes yet. John and I had a pretty great haul too. For some reason, this year it was way easier to shop for eachother than for the kids! Haha.

We had biscuits and gravy and mamosas for breakfast and a nice ham meal for dinner with a few snacks in between. The day was spent playing with new toys, sledding, eating, sledding some more, and enjoying each other's company. Perhaps the best part was the beautiful white snow that came down all day long.

It was a great day and we are looking forward to doing it all over again in Kansas City!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Our First Real Christmas Tree

This is John and I's 13th Christmas together.  In all those years, we have never had a real Christmas tree.  I truthfully never had much of a desire to.  Then we moved to the mountains and have real Christmas trees in our very own back yard!  Now, we would likely not cut down a tree from our humble 2 acres, but we might decorate one outside someday! Tons of people travel up to our neck of the woods (literally!) each year for the chance to go tromping through the forest in search of the perfect tree.

A few weeks ago Matt and Jacquelyn applied for permits for both them and us.  We found out when they got home from Thanksgiving that they were approved.  There are two areas near us that you can go to cut down a tree.  They are in the National forest and permits are limited but only $10!

Last Friday Matt and Jacquelyn met us at our house and we followed each other just a little ways up the road just past Kenosha Pass.  Aaron was so excited to get out of school early.  We pulled him out on the way up just after lunch and recess.  Armed with hot chocolate, hot cider, and snow clothes, we made our way there.  It was fun driving around looking for a good place to get out.  Well, fun for the adults as we maneuvered through snow!  The kids were very anxious to get out!  The snow was surprisingly deep in some areas.  It had mostly melted at our house but another 1500ft elevation makes a difference.  The boys were excited to get out and explore but their excitement wore thin after a little bit of walking!  They had fun but they were also a little cranky.  Sort of like on Christmas Vacation, it was more fun for us adults!

Matt and Jacquelyn found their tree first.  We all watched while Matt cut it down and hauled it up on his shoulders all the way back to the car.  Then we found ours - actually we spotted it early on and came back to it.  By this time Aaron was DONE so we were not able to get that perfect family picture I wanted.  Haha!  Big surprise right?!

 (My favorite selfie)

Our tree pre-cutting.  At least Bubs was a good sport!

Back at the car Matt and John got the trees all situated and we all enjoyed a hot drink and amazing views.  I still can't believe we live here.  LIVE here!  I'm constantly blown away by the beauty surrounding us.  I will never get tired of it.

Tiny Tot

I'm excited to make his an annual family tradition.  The kids will appreciate it more when they are older I'm sure!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Egg-citing Chickens

After almost 8 months of waiting, our chickens have FINALLY started laying!!  Woohoo!  Free eggs!!  Kind of.  I love what one person wrote on a chicken page we are on.  They said the first egg is the most expensive - cost of the coop and food.  The rest are free!

We are so excited.  The downside... they were frozen.  As in, completely solid!  Haha.  From what we have read online they are still perfectly edible but maybe not good fried.  We have not tried them yet.  I'll probably save these first ones to bake with.  One was cracked so we pitched it.  It's hard to tell how long they were down there because it had been a few days since we checked on them.  But from here on out there will be a daily chicken chore of checking for eggs and making sure the water is full (and not frozen even though we have a warmer).  They go through water so fast now!  We have two warmers on all the time in their coop.  The night before we discovered the eggs it got down to -3 outside!  Poor chickens!  They like to cuddle and they are pretty resilient.

Here's a few pics of our girls.  They are not sure what to think of the snow.  They peck at it and eat some here and there.  For the most part they stay in the coop.  We try to leave it open during the day to let them roam and then close everything up at night.  This last snow storm though we left them in there for days and just made sure they had food and water before the storm hit.  That's when we discovered their water froze.  So yesterday we picked up a heated water container for them to make sure it doesn't freeze.  Can't wait to start eating our farm fresh eggs!

 Gathering eggs in my pjs and snow boots.

The Beauty of Snow

I love snow. LOVE snow. Some people think I'm a little crazy but the anticipation of a snow storm gets me all giddy. It's a similar giddiness I used to feel back in my high school days when I thought I wanted to chase tornados or be a meteorologist. I take pleasure in the hype the media portrays as it gets closer and all the crazies who run to the store to stock up on milk and bread. It might be a disease! Often I'm let down living in the banana belt that we do. When the forecasters say 12 inches it usually means less for us because of how we are situated against the continental divide and two fourteeners, as we call them. (14 thousand foot mountains)

But it's not just the anticipation. I love the magic of snow. Yes, I said it. Snow is magical! Or supernatural maybe. To me it's God's built in "rest" days. Days we get to watch it come down and take in the amazing beauty. Days we get to cuddle our family and be thankful for what we have. It forces us to stay put and pause. And because it's cold, it makes us build fires or put on soft fuzzy jammies and slippers. To me it's comfort.

It has draw backs but even those can be beautiful if you let them. Take driving. Driving in snow can be very scary and dangerous. Especially on 285 hwy here. I pray for safety each time one of us has to drive in it. But it's also kind of exciting. Challenging. Exhilarating even. And beautiful. Even stuck in traffic it can be beautiful. Another way God makes me pause and take in the amazing Glory all around me. One of my most memorable snowy drive moments was back in Kansas City. We had just celebrated Christmas Eve with John's family at his grandma's in Overland Park. Our drive back to Spring Hill was "magical." It was Aaron's first Christmas, music was playing on the radio, we had to drive very slow, and the road was silent. I remember thinking "this will be a moment I will never forget" as John and I recounted all the ways we were truly blessed.

Proverbs 31:21New International Version (NIV)

21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.

It's also clean. (OK bear with me, there are probably chemicals and such in it but that's not my point!) It's white, the color of purity. Ps 51:7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. It has a cleansing feeling to it. Especially in the morning. A reminder that each day is a clean slate with no dirt or footprints or noise. Just a blanket of beautiful grace.

This is why I love those tiny frozen puffs of magic that fall from Heaven. And in part why I love Colorado so much. I hope you all get to enjoy at least one snow storm this season where ever you are!

Isaiah 55:9-11New International Version (NIV)

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Friday, November 27, 2015

My first 5K!

A huge shout out to my friend Kelly for inviting me and encouraging me to run this 5K with her! Thanksgiving morning was more than just sitting around waiting for the turkey to cook this year.  I wish it would have been a little nicer outside but I promised myself no excuses in November.  And as a result I not only ran the whole thing, but I also lost over 10 lbs while training for it.  No diet needed.  I also may have become addicted to running...  or maybe it's just my addiction to fitness accomplishments.

The whole family came to cheer me on.  The day started early and very, very cold.  It was 14 degrees when we left the house and warmed up to a balmy 23 by the time the race began.  Kelly's son, Andrew, was a real trooper and ran with us.  We started slow as the crowd was large but it evened out eventually and we found our groove.  I can't wait to do another one.  I'm already looking at upcoming races and trying to decide which ones to sign up for.  I would love to try a 10K or 15K next fall.

John was so great taking care of the kiddos while I ran.  The boys decided it was way too cold and ended up watching a movie in the car with the heat on.  Chloe Bean was super snug in her full body snow suit and new water proof stroller blanket.  She actually slept the whole time.

 This 5K benefited Flight For Life.  Bonus!  Plus, I love this shirt.  It's so soft.

My race results.  609th place!  Haha.  My average mile was 13:48.  Not bad.  It's a starting point!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

We were by ourselves this year for Thanksgiving but our hearts were with our family. We really miss spending holidays together.  Especially when we call and everyone is gathered together but us.  It makes it especially tough.  Skype has been hard for us to embrace as our kids have such short attention spans and our connection is not always great.  So this year we decided to make a video to share with our family.  We could not be together in person, but we were together in spirit.

We had fun making our own "jibjab" inspired dance video and just being silly all day. The food was great too.  Well most of it! Haha.  I botched a few things but no matter.  It was a day of firsts for me.  I ran my first 5K in the morning which I'll blog a separate post for that.  And I made my first pumpkin pie ever!  With as much as I love to bake and cook, it's kind of crazy that I've never made a pie in my life!  The inside was amazing but the crust needs work!  I don't buy Crisco and it's just not the same with only butter so I need to do some research on how I can improve it.

Overall, we had a great day.  Miss you all.  Christmas is less than a month away and then we get to come visit!  We are planning for January 3rd through the 10th as long as all goes well with John's schedule and requests off.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Let's try this again

You've heard me make excuses and promises before.  But this time... this time I'm trying to catch up so I can print the books of 2013 and 2014 before I have to finish my 2015 book!  Really, I just want Chloe to have the same memories in print that the boys did.  I basically have to go back through this whole year and write posts.  2015 will be a slightly different format.  Right now I'm going through all of our pictures and important facebook posts and compiling them.  I'll try to post chronologically but some things will be lumped together into one post. i.e. family hikes or park dates.  So if you are still following - if I have any followers left! - make sure to look back as I try to fill in gaps in 2015.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Church, God, and Kids

I'm not sure if there is anything more exciting and rewarding than seeing God move in the lives of your children.

When we first moved to Colorado we quickly found a church home in Red Rocks Church and loved it.  We loved the messages and the music - especially me - and our kids enjoyed Kids Rock.  Red Rocks is a very large church that now has 5 campuses.  We really didn't mind the size so much at first.  I mean, big churches mean LOTS of opportunities to serve and to make big impacts on the community around them and the world abroad.  I loved this about Red Rocks.  But it also makes it very difficult to plug in.  We hosted a life group and that was awesome.  We love the people that were in the group very much and we had fun with them.  We both also served on the "host" team in different areas.  But still, it was hard to get to know people and with so many services to choose, quite often we found ourselves lost in the crowd longing to be known and to know others.

When we moved to Bailey we decided we wanted to find community up here in the mountains.  We tried to make Red Rocks work but the drive was tough and for the most part, there weren't any people up in our neighborhood who we went to church with.  We wanted our children to grow up with friends in the church and to be part of others lives.

Enter Aspen Ridge.  We have been attending there since January now.  The community there is amazing.  Our kids LOVE the AWANA program, the cub scouts meet there, and I am co-coordinating our MOPS group now.  We see the same people every Sunday and Wednesday and the kids are actually making friends and learning about Jesus. I am constantly impressed by what they understand and repeat.

I had a moment yesterday at AWANAs pickup when Ethan said hi to our Pastor and he affectionately said hi back remembering his name even.  Our kids are known not only by their AWANAs teachers and Sunday School teachers but by the Pastor as well.  That's really important to me.  Of course, knowing people doesn't make you a great person or follower of Jesus but it sure helps to feel loved and accepted.

Today I was going through papers in Ethan's backpack.  He had drawn a picture of Jesus on the cross and wrote in his adorable 4 year old miss-spelled way, "God died for our sins."  He's learning.  And he's thinking about it even when he's not at school.  He's even applying and exploring his relationship with Jesus.  Today the DVD player in our car seemed to stop working.  It had a crack down the middle of the screen.  Not the actual glass but underneath in the pixels.  I know it's silly but I was really upset and figured the kids had destroyed yet another nice thing that we own.  We went to the Y for my Zumba classes and when we got back in the car it worked just fine.  No crack.  Ethan's response?  "Man God, you're awesome!"  When I asked if he had prayed about it, he said yes, inside the Y.  I was blown away that he would credit God with fixing his DVD player.  It seems trivial but to him, he genuinely was thankful and in his sweet four year old mind, gave glory to God in that moment.

I pray that these sweet moments keep happening.  God continues to use my little people to teach me and convict me to be a better mom and a better person.  I don't say all these things to brag.  Just where I'm at right now and I thought it important enough to blog about.  I hope to get this blog fully updated soon.  I know I keep saying that!  But I'm serious.  It's important.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Chloe Elizabeth

There's no better way to get into blogging again than to just do it right?  So many times we've gone to do something fun and I think, I should just go home and blog!  But then you know, life happens and somehow this blog has been put on a back burner.

So yesterday I was feeling troubled because when I think about the boys being babies, I only seem to recall Aaron.  It's like I remember everything about his babyhood but Ethan has always been at least a toddler right?  I know that isn't so and maybe it is because Aaron WAS a toddler when Ethan was born and a lot of my attention was focused on his "destructor" phase.  So I sat down with my blog book from Ethan's birth year and the memories came flooding back.  I flipped each page remembering the moments and reading stories I had since forgotten.  And I realized...  what if in 5 years I cannot recall baby Chloe's babyhood either?  And that's when I got super motivated to return to the blog.

I am 2 years behind in print.  The posts are written for 2013 and 2014 but have never been published in a book.  The process is very time consuming.  The program converts my blog to a book but it's very choppy and not very nice on the eyes so I end up doing a lot of editing to make it just right.  Last night I went to work on 2014.  (2013 has been converted but not edited and I don't want to forget the details of Chloe's birth year so I'm tackling it first.)

So this morning I sit here with my cup of coffee, rain pouring down, windows open with a nice breeze, and my little Chlo-ster attempting to put Cinder's dog food in her mouth.  Just this week she has finally mastered crawling on all fours.  For about 2 months she has been army crawling everywhere.  She was very good at it and went super fast.  I think that's why she didn't care to learn to actually crawl for real.  It was hysterical to watch!  But she has discovered her knees now and if I thought she was fast before...  look out world!

We have sort of baby proofed the kitchen and living area.  Ok, Mostly.  We have decided instead of worrying about the stairs we would just block her into the kitchen and living room by putting up gates at the entrances to the hallway.  It's like a giant play pen.  We've covered the fireplace stone with a quilt, blocked the bottom shelf of my mason jar cabinet and have been trying to stay on top of vacuuming and sweeping both areas to rid them of small choking hazards.  She's a pro though.  She will find the smallest of things and put them in her mouth. Having a dog (who chews things up and leaves a trail) and older brothers (who bring in their legos even though they are not supposed to) keeps us on our toes for sure!

And speaking of being up on toes, Chloe has been pulling herself up. I had seen her do it on the outside of the pack and play and also trying to crawl on top of an empty box (did you know boxes are more fun than toys?!) but John had not seen it yet.  Then just yesterday we look over and she is standing at the fire place!  It's time to lower the crib again!  It won't be long before she is walking.  I know I say it all the time, but I cannot believe how fast time is racing by.  She's getting so big.  I ask her everyday to slow down a bit.  I want to remember every detail.  She is likely our last baby and I find myself paying extra attention to EVERYTHING.  We love you Chloe!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Criger's Visit for Spring Break

My BFF knows that I love surprises! She and John had been planning for her to visit with the boys for a while when John let it slip a few days before she was coming.  We were out to eat at the Olive Garden when I got the call saying she was coming with the boys for their Spring Break.  I was over the moon excited!

Job wasn't able to make it so Amy packed up the boys for a road trip and headed to Colorado.  While they were here we played in the back yard; zip lining, racing down the grassy hill on big wheels, swinging on the swing set and jumping in the trampoline.  We also took them to our favorite winter indoor hangout - Evergreen Rec Center.  We did some rock climbing, swimming, and then rock climbing again!  I think we sufficiently wore out the kids while they were here.

The kids had sooooo much fun.  Ok so did the adults!  I love hanging out with my Bestie.  I think we killed two bottles of wine one night!  Good friends are so good for the soul.  I was having some baby blues.  I feel very blessed to have a husband and a best friend who look out for me and do so much to lift my spirits when I'm down.