Sunday, September 25, 2016

Trip to Texas!

I promised my good friend Erin I would post every Sunday until the end of the year, so what better way to start than with our trip to see her and her cute family! I was really nervous to fly alone with the kids and be away from TJ for a whole week, but I worried needlessly. The kids were awesome and we had such a fabulous time. I'd do it again in a heartbeat! 

We flew out early in the morning, but the kids having their own seats and their own kindles really helped them stay still and calm on the flight. I also brought a stash of suckers, fruit snacks, granola bars, the whole deal. We were prepared! The only issue was the lack of internet on our flight - the kindle isn't really set up very well for use without wifi. So the kids got bored after a little while, but they still did alright in the end. 

Once we landed, I had to ask for help with the carseats and four bags I had brought along, but people were more than willing and I was so grateful. People of Dallas, you have my respect and love! We got upgraded to the SUV for free (score) so once we were all buckled in and ready to go, we were off to San Antonio. I didn't realize it was so far to drive, but it was totally fine because the kids slept most of the way there! They were exhausted from our flight, and I don't blame them. I was too. 

This McDonald's had such a fun play area castle thing, so we had to stop and grab some food along the way. I'm so glad McDonald's exists, especially on trips! It's such a reliable place to take a pit stop, go potty, and get some food I know the kids will eat and like. Call me a white-trash mom all you want! 

Once we got to San Antonio, we saw MiLinh and Tyler! It was sooo much fun to catch up with them. I've known MiLinh for over eight years, and she's been such a special person in my life. I don't think we've ever gone more than a few days without texting or chatting! She's so special to everyone she meets, really. She's sweet and considerate and kind, she loves my boys and they love her, and Tyler is just as sweet. They make a really cute couple and I'm so glad we're such good friends! Totally worth the drive. :) Plus they took us out to get the most sensational fish tacos on the planet. Man, Texas sure knows how to do Mexican food. Come on, Utah. 

Then it was off to Temple to see Erin and Jonny. I've known these guys for what feels like forever! Way back in our Belmont days. Erin served with me in the Relief Society presidency and was one of my very best friends in the world, and Jonny served as the Elder's Quorum president while I was Relief Society president. All of us were friends back in the Belmont ward, right along with TJ, and it's just so funny that we are all still friends with little kids now. Friends forever! (Just like the Saved by the Bell song!)

We ate a delicious dinner of shredded pork tacos as soon as I arrived. I ate like a king the whole time I was there, since Jonny and Erin are fabulous cooks, and it was just heavenly to not have to cook for myself or the kids for a whole week. I was so spoiled by these guys! I know they went above and beyond to make us all comfortable, and with their fun personalities and delicious food, I can definitely say it was one of the best trips I've ever taken. I still can't believe all the work they must have gone to, especially when they're so busy. 

We stayed up late in the night chatting (which we did every night I was there - so much to catch up on and so many years to make up for!) and then got up the next day ready to head to Chuck-E-Cheese! The kids had never been and had a blast, needless to say. Pizza and games? Yes, please! 

Calvin climbed all the way up here and didn't want to get back down, so he cried until Erin went up there and convinced him to go down the slide. Haha! Erin taught school for years and years before she had kids, and she's an absolutely fabulous teacher which means she's just magical with kids. So sweet to my little guys and knew just how to talk to them or convince them to cooperate, something that is definitely not easy with my stubborn boys. Love her for that. 

That night, after another delicious meal and once the kids were in bed, Erin came downstairs in her Harry Potter robes and announced we'd be having a trivia contest. This took place mostly between me and Jonny, since Erin's not nearly as nerdy as we are. I must say, I thought I knew absolutely everything about my favorite books of all time, but Jonny was a really tough competitor. He's also a doctor and super smart, so that makes me feel slightly better about losing. The questions were really, really hard and really specific, which made it both challenging and super fun. After 200 questions over two nights, I only lost by three. I'd say that's a pretty close call. Jonny, you have my respect. But also, I hate you. :)

On Sunday, Erin planned a fun birthday party for Calvin after church that involved games and presents and cupcakes, the whole nine yards. It was so thoughtful and so fun! The kids had a blast and Calvin felt so special. Again, these guys knew how to make us feel absolutely loved and spoiled. Couldn't have asked for more! We love you guys!

Cupcakes and Legos! What little boy could ask for more??

These four formed such a cute bond over the few days I was there. They just played together the whole time, no fighting, no hitting, just sweetly played with toys while Erin and I talked. Heaven! It probably has more to do with her sweet-tempered boys than with my own little guys, but still. I'm so grateful they had so much fun. From the moment they woke up to the moment they went to sleep, they played. Cuties.

We all piled into Erin's car the next day to head to Magnolia Market in Waco, as made famous by Chip and Joanna Gaines! We also drove by their house and fangirled a little bit. I just love them so much. Can Fixer-Upper come do my house please?? We had a great time checking out the products in the market and eating delicious bakery goods. 

Nom nom nom nom! A giant chocolate chip cookie and a ham, bacon, chive, and cheddar biscuit. Oh, and I got two cupcakes... just absolutely delicious. I told myself I was going to share with the kids, but I ended up eating them all. Oops...

After that, we grabbed some food for the kids (McDonald's of course) and then headed to In 'N Out for us grown-ups, obviously. Then to the train park next to the train station for the kids to play their hearts out. 

Can you tell it was hot outside? Texas is HOT HOT HOT. Humid-hot, so like hot times infinity. I was perpetually sweating any time we were outside, but I'm naturally a kind of sweaty person anyway. Gross! Sorry, Teeje.

Poor Calvin got stung by a wasp while we were at the park! He recovered pretty quickly, but this was his hardest day yet. I think all the excitement and lack of his usual sleep was getting to him. But we put them to bed early, grabbed some dinner at BJ's, and chatted the night away again while watching Cinderella (the live-action one). All our nights in just chatting reminded me so much of Belmont, when I would just ask Erin to come over at all times of the day or night. It was so fun to have that again! We talked about everything and anything, and I just can't articulate enough with words how wonderful it was to have my dear friend back. And then, just as I was getting used to it, it was over. 

We had one last pit stop at Sips to get a soda and cookie before heading back to the airport. I don't do well with goodbyes, so I'm glad Erin had to rush off to get Ethan from preschool so I didn't have enough time to get emotional. Baahhhhh I miss my friend! Come back, Erin! 

Hooray for play areas at Dallas Love Field! The trip back was easy peasy. I bought wifi for the kids this time, so it was smooth sailing all the way back to Salt Lake. 

Calvin insisted on wearing his Batman glasses at the airport and while handing his ticket in to the agent. The agent looked at the ticket, then looked at Calvin in his Batman gear, and said, "I'm sorry, sir, this ticket says Calvin, not Batman." Calvin got a really concerned look on his face, then pulled up his glasses and said insistently, "Oh! No! I'm Calvin!" His serious little expression and the earnestness with which he said it made everyone in line and nearby laugh. So cute. I wish I caught it on video, it would've gone viral. :) 

Since coming back, I've been so bummed that Erin and her sweet family don't live nearer. It was just the best time! I'm so glad I got to see my dear friend, though. We had so much fun and I honestly didn't want to leave. It probably has something to do with the way they spoiled me and my kids the entire time. :) Erin, we're definitely coming back soon! You're going to regret being so good to us when we show up at your door every other month. Thank you, thank you, thank you for hosting us and making us feel so at-home. We love you guys and can't wait to see you again soon!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Salt Lake City Marathon 2016

All the pics TJ took were horrifyingly bad. :) At least to me. So I took some selfies that were Ashley-approved, and here we are!

I can't believe I really did it. I ran the Salt Lake Marathon for the second time in my life, and I lived to tell the tale! 

I'm about to go into excruciating detail about my experience. If you get bored easily, move along! I just want to remember every step of this race because it meant so much to me to cross that finish line. 

In the days leading up to the race, I wasn't too nervous. I was excited. I had put in a lot of training, and I was really confident in the miles I had covered. Most of my training runs, because they occurred in the winter, involved snow, ice, hail, rain, and bitterly cold temperatures. I was excited to actually run in relatively warm weather! I began my carbo-loading three days before the race, mostly just making sure I ate 80-90% carbs. Not a hard task for me! Bread, pop tarts, and pasta? Sign me up! A couple of cute friends and neighbors put cookies on my doorstep and decorated my porch with chalk wishing me good luck before the race. So sweet. I got all choked up! I'd done quite a few training runs with these ladies, and they cheered me on all throughout my running schedule. I'm so lucky to live in such a great neighborhood. TJ and I pinch ourselves daily - is this real life?? 

Anyway, the morning of the race came and I was ready. It was TJ's birthday (sorry, Teeje, worst birthday ever!), so I left out a note and some of his favorite cereal and grabbed an Uber to head up to the starting line. I had to leave at about 5 AM, so I didn't want TJ to have to wake up the boys to take me. Uber is seriously awesome! I had a promo code for $22 off my first ride, so the trip only cost me like $7. Worth it. 

It was FREEZING at the starting line. I was there quite early, since the race started at 7 AM, so I had to shiver and walk around until it was time to start. I didn't want to wear any more layers than I needed to, so I only had on a light jacket. It was worth it later on in the race when I got hot, but in the beginning, I wished so bad for a big winter coat. Brr!!

Before I knew it, the starting horn blared and we were all off. I was so ready to start running at that point! Get some blood moving to my freezing legs!

To prepare, I had packed five goos - one for every five miles - along with a $20 bill and a plastic baggie for my phone in case it started to rain. I had prepped my music playlist with all my faves. I was ready! 

We headed up a big, steep hill initially before starting on some serious downhills. I had not trained for downhills very much, assuming they would be easy, and that was probably my biggest mistake in my training. Uphills are hard, sure, but downhills may be even harder in the long run. But I'll get to that. 

I was having lots of fun from the get-go. I felt great, my pace was steady, and I pretty much just wanted to stay ahead of the 4:15 pace group. I knew at about mile three I was going a little too fast (8:30 min pace on average), but I was feeling great, so I just let my energy carry me.

We snaked through a bunch of pretty neighborhoods near the capitol building and then headed straight into downtown Salt Lake around mile seven. I discarded my cheap little light jacket (I hope someone who needed it picked it up!) and prepared myself for less than 20 miles more of running. The only hitch was my left quad - it was feeling pretty sore, and I wasn't that far in. Uh-oh. I knew it had to be from all those downhills. Your quads take a beating when you go downhill for so long, as I discovered too late, but there wasn't anything I could do about it now! I knew the pain would get worse, but I just pushed through. I guess I would just have to see what I was made of!

We continued on our way through some really pretty parts of Salt Lake. Sugarhouse Park is one of my favorite places in the world, and I knew I would get a boost just running through it around mile 10. I downed another goo pack (they're so gross, by the way, but they work!) and cruised through the pretty green lawns and beautiful, overarching trees. I should add that I had a Gatorade at every single aid station, and I'm glad I did. I needed the calories to get me through.

While I was in Sugarhouse Park, I pulled out my phone to try to take a pic to send TJ, but decided the effort was too much and I should stay focused on the task at hand. My $20 must have slipped out about then, and luckily a runner behind me grabbed it and gave it back! I tell you, runners are the best kind of people. :)

Both quads were hurting quite a lot at this point. We had split off from the half-marathoners a while back, and the crowd of runners had thinned out considerably. Every time I passed people who stood on the sidelines, I raised my arms and smiled, and they would cheer for me. It was an awesome feeling! Once, on a little bit of an uphill, I passed a house with a big, rooftop balcony filled with a bunch of twenty-somethings having brunch. I raised my arms in their direction and got the biggest cheers of my day. It was so fun. It's not often in life you get to be cheered on by a crowd! I decided to be a total ham and play it up. I must say, it really gave me a boost every time I heard a cheer or slapped a hand. 

My quads just hurt more and more after a while. Around mile 15, I had to start visualizing and practicing my mental toughness. I wasn't fatigued - I felt great energy-wise - but my thighs hurt a LOT. All that pounding, I think. I just started to tell myself, "Well, my arms feel great! My shoulders feel great! My stomach feels great!" I had to focus on what didn't hurt. And I quickly learned to never stop at the aid stations, because stopping at all made it that much harder to start up running again. My average pace had shifted to a little over nine minutes, which I was happy with, but I was feeling the too-fast times and downhills in the beginning of the race. 

At mile 18, I started talking to Jesus. "Hey, help me through this uphill, okay? Can you let there be a downhill soon? Why is my app telling me I'm at mile 19 already, but the course is telling me I'm only at mile 18?? I just had to keep digging deep. I could do this, I told myself! Just keep moving!

Miles 20-25 were a little bit of a blur. I was in quite a bit of pain. My quads were screaming at me. My legs felt like they were locking up. This nerve between my shoulder blades felt pinched and super tight. My head began to ache. I kind of wanted it all to be over! But my energy was still good, thanks to the goo packs, so I kept moving one foot in front of the other. I would tell myself that my legs were going numb, and that was a good thing because soon I wouldn't feel pain! It was a lie, of course, but in the moment it helped. 

It was then that the 4:15 pacer group caught up with me. In my mind, I began to scream, Noooooo! I really liked being ahead of them! Come on, Ash, you can do this! My pace had slowed to over 10 minutes per mile at this point, and nothing I could mentally tell myself could step up my pace at all. I was going as fast as I could, and that was that. I tried my best to stay with the pacing group, but I knew I couldn't keep up. I just let it go and decided I was proud of myself no matter what time I got. 

TJ called me at mile 25 to ask me where I was. He had gotten a babysitter to watch the boys so he could meet me at the finish line without distractions, and he wanted to make sure he didn't miss me. "I'm. At. Mile. Twenty. Five." I gasped. He said I was doing great and said he was waiting for me at the finish. It was coming up! I downed another goo pack and felt a fresh surge of adrenaline. After four hours of running my hardest, I was minutes away from crossing the finish line. 

And then, there it was. I turned a corner, and I could see down the road the huge banner indicating the finish of this long, merciless run. Ed Sheeran's "Thinking Out Loud" came up on my playlist as I turned that corner, and the first line of that song is, "When your legs don't work like they used to before..." Ha! True indeed! My legs were in agony. But I had a smile on my face as I saw TJ and ran as fast as I could toward the finish. And, luckily for me, the time still said 4:15! The pacing group must have been a few minutes ahead of their time. I had officially beaten my 2007 time by over an hour. Go me!

Once I stepped across that finish, TJ gave me a huge hug and told me he was so proud of me. I told him I had so much fun and I was so glad I did it. Then the adrenaline began to wear off, and the pain began to take its place. OUCHIE. I could barely walk. My quads felt like knives were stabbing into them with every step I took. My intestines felt like they had been blended by our Vitamix. TJ suggested we sit down, but that turned out to be a huge mistake. I almost couldn't stand up again! I had not anticipated this much pain. I walked like I was 90 years old, holding TJ's arm in a vice-like grip while we shuffled to the car. I thought I would have enough energy to grab lunch with TJ after the race, but nope. I felt super sick to my stomach. Nothing sounded better than a hot bath at home. 

By the way, I have to say the finish line at the Salt Lake Marathon was quite lame. They had some Kodiak Cakes to hand out, which aren't all that exciting, and a bottled smoothie thing that tasted like socks. The San Francisco Marathon finish line had fresh Jamba Juices, free massages, buffets, goody bags, you name it. Come on, Salt Lake!!! Step up your finish line game!

Anyway, the days after the race were quite painful. Bending over to pick something up off the ground just didn't happen. If the boys dropped a toy or their food, too bad! It stayed there until TJ got home. Walking up the stairs was agony. Walking down the stairs was worse. It took about six full days before I started to feel somewhat normal again. Now, I'm back to running every day and I feel great. 

I'm so glad I did this! It's one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. All the early mornings, the training runs, the day-in, day-out consistency I've had to have was completely worth it. When I crossed that finish line, I felt like I could do absolutely anything in life. Take that, marathon! I honestly can't wait until I get to do another. Even though it was painful, it was so much fun. 

Running is such a blessing in my life. Those early mornings where it's just me, the lake, and my thoughts are some of the best mornings I've ever had. I feel so peaceful when I run, like all my stress is working itself out and pounding away into the ground. I come back feeling fresh, alive, and happy. My problems seem smaller somehow. I am so glad I've found something that helps me work through hard things, because without it, I'm not sure where I would be in life. 

Next up, Boston! (Not really... I don't think I'll qualify for that race until I'm 70 years old.)

Smoothies With Cuties

One of Calvin and Graham's favorite things in the world is a smoothie. Graham will run to the locked cupboard where we keep the blender and shout, "Smoovie! Smoovie!" It's super cute. I think he likes swinging the blender stick around like a sword as much as he likes the actual smoothie. :)

Anyway, we make smoothies almost daily, and I have one go-to recipe I absolutely love. I drank it all throughout my marathon training and continue to drink it to this day. It's one of the only ways I can sneak fruits and veggies into the boys' diets.

Here's the recipe!

Ashley's Power Smoothie:

Fresh-squeezed juice from four navel oranges (fresh-squeezed is a must! using the bottled stuff makes the smoothie horrible and bitter, trust me)
One frozen banana
1 cup frozen peaches
2 cups spinach/kale/whatever green you want. I use spinach. :)

Blend it all up until smooth and enjoy! Another variation on this smoothie is to use yogurt and milk if I'm out of oranges, but I like the orange juice better.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

All About Graham

I love him so much!!
My little Graham is the kind of low-maintenance kid every mother dreams of. He's super easygoing and sweet. Everyone falls in love with this kid. The teenage girl who helps her mom in nursery told me Graham is her favorite baby. :) I don't blame her!

Grahammy-bear is so tender-hearted. He loves people and radiates joy all the time. He's soft, squishy, and doesn't mind being cuddled and kissed all day long. He and I play a game where he toddles across the room and then runs back to me with open arms for a huge, belly-laughing hug. All I need to do is crouch down, hold my arms out, and we're playing his favorite game. So cute!

He has a sweet laugh and smiles most of the time. Sometimes, he can throw tantrums and be emotional, but he calms down pretty easily as long as he's distracted by something. He likes to end his sentences with "mommy." For example, he'll say, "Look, airplane, mommy!" or he'll say, "Oh, a treat, mommy!" I guess he likes to make sure I know he's addressing me. :) 

He went through a spell of throwing his food that was not fun, but he's mostly over that now. He will not sit in a high chair anymore - only the stool! He sits like a big boy next to his brother whenever they eat meals together. He drinks from a big boy cup and eats with a fork and spoon. Such a big guy! He likes to copy his brother. 

Graham is really helpful around the house. He will put his dish in the sink, he'll throw his diaper away when I ask, if I tell him I need to change his diaper, he'll go lay down for me. He's really obedient. He'll even clean up his toys when I ask him to. What?! I know. He will be a calming influence on his brother, I'm sure. 

He loves the cartoon "Bubble Guppies" and sings the song when I'm not looking. He also knows the ABC song, Hot Chelle Ray's "Tonight, Tonight" (at least the chorus), and the Sunbeam song. If you try to join in and sing with him, though, he'll say, "noooo" in this little sad voice, like he doesn't want you to ruin it for him. Haha! He knows almost all his ABCs by sight. He is talking a lot more than Calvin did at his age, but it's probably because he's copying his brother. 

This little angel is such a blessing in my life. I do not know what I would do without him! He's such a calm little spirit. He brings me so much joy. I really want him to stay my little baby forever. I can't handle the fact that he's getting older. My two little guys keep me busy, but they sure are fun. I can't wait to see how these two continue to grow and play together! 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

All About Calvin

Little blueberry face!
Oh, Calvin. My sweet little stubborn guy. 

I'm not sure even what to say about this kid. Let's start with the good stuff. He's so funny! He likes to imitate people and tease his younger brother all day. He sometimes talks baby talk and thinks it's hilarious. He's also really smart. He catches on quickly to most things, but only when he's 100% ready. Otherwise, watch out. He knows all his ABC's and their sounds, all his digraphs and blends, all the numbers, all his sight words (about 100), all his colors, and how to count. He still resists potty training which makes me insane. I honestly want to go crazy!! He sometimes tells me when he needs to go, but when I ask him to pee before naps or at night, he always puts up a fight. It goes something like this: 

Me: Calvin, it's time to go pee, then we'll read a story!
Me: Either you go sit on the potty, or I will have to put you on the potty. 
Calvin: NOOOOOOO (runs away)
Me: Calvin! I will count to five, and if you don't come to me, you're in time out! One! Two! Three!
Calvin: (running to me) Stop counting!!
Me: You need to say, "yes, Mommy," when I ask you to go pee. Ready? Calvin, you need to go pee.
Calvin: Yes, Mom.
Me: No, I said to say, "yes, Mommy." Say, "yes, mommy."
Calvin: No, mommy. (Runs away.)
Me: (head exploding) Calvin, you need a time out for not obeying. 
Calvin: NOOOO! (As I carry him to time out.)
Me: Okay, are you ready to do a pee now? 
Calvin: (defeated at last) Yes, Mommy.

This little interaction gives you a snippet into my day with this strong-willed little guy. He resists almost everything I ask him to do. Don't be fooled by his "yes, Mom," response and how it seems close enough. Nope. He knows exactly what he is doing! Anything he can do to wriggle away from my rules or standards is what he's after. He likes to test me at every turn - at people's houses where he thinks I won't be as strict, at the park, at church, etc. He's an "aggressive researcher" as one book calls them. All this means is I have to be 100% consistent with him at every turn, and I would be lying if I said I didn't lose my patience sometimes. It's really hard to constantly have to reinforce rules and obedience. Really, really, really hard! I've tried the more lenient and flexible route, and his behavior becomes even worse because he now thinks he's in charge. It's really exhausting!

I love him with all my heart. I know he's going to conquer the world someday! He must have a really cool plan on this earth, but like an untamed stallion, I think he needs me to help him control his emotions to achieve his best. And I know he can achieve spectacular things. He's so smart and he already reads people so well. I can't believe a three-year-old can already grasp the mood of a room and when he can take advantage of a laid-back setting versus when he can't. He'll sure test, though. Over and over. Even if there's a firm consequence, which there always is, he still tests to see if I'll crack just once. 

Calvin is very social. He loves his friends so much! Every day he asks to see Sally, Rowan, or Finley. He's really good about playing without as much of my supervision, something I couldn't have said a year ago. He jumps at the opportunity to be responsible and lead. Any time I ask him to help me throw away a diaper or get a snack for Graham, he does it. I've even asked him to go into the bathroom to get the lotion or help put toothpaste on the toothbrushes, and he'll do it. He likes responsibility. Cleaning up his toys, not so much. But as long as we do it together, he seems willing. It's taken months of time outs and consequences to get him to clean up his toys! But he's finally doing it without too much complaining these days. 

He's really creative in his play. I'll hear him doing voices for his toys and reenacting episodes of Dora or Diego. It's so cute. He isn't great at building with his legos, but he will build train tracks and seems pretty into that right now. He also likes to color, play Candyland, and do our reading lessons. But once he's bored, there's little chance he'll come back around. It's on to the next thing. I probably need to work on that with him.

We love him so much. I know some days can be trying, but I also know he's a really special spirit who has lots to do in his life. I only pray I can be the right mom he needs to guide him! 

I Haven't Blogged in a Long Time

Oh, hey! I haven't been the best blogger, I know. (It's been over a year since my last post!) A lot has been going on in our lives, like two crazy toddlers, selling our home, and moving to the beautiful neighborhood of Daybreak, but in reality I've just been a lazy pile of garbage. Many nights, I would just rather watch reruns of "How I Met Your Mother" than write about my day. Let's change that!

The kids and I are doing great. We could not love our new neighborhood more! It's so beautiful and the people are incredibly friendly. Sometimes we feel like we're in Mayberry! There's a park right behind our house (we don't have a yard), the elementary school is just down the street, the pool is two blocks away, and the temple is a half mile up the road. We scored the perfect location!

Sometime last year, I sat in our old home and couldn't believe how hot it had gotten already - and it was only March! We had so many huge, west-facing windows that any direct sunlight at all brought our house to above 80 degrees. We found out too late that our air conditioner wasn't powerful enough to cool all the square footage, no matter how long we had it running. Nightmare. We ended up putting these huge reflective insulation sheets in our windows just to keep some of the heat at bay. It worked, but it made our house dark and gloomy for six months out of the year. It was totally depressing! 

Sitting on our bed in the already too-hot house, I called TJ and told him we needed to sell. He put up a fight at first, but once I told him my online research had shown me a Trax station was scheduled to be built right behind our house in the next 5-10 years, he agreed it was time to sell. We weren't too crazy about our street, either. There were some really nice people, but more than half the houses were renters, which meant few cared about their lawns or gardens and our ward had 70% turnover every year. It was time for a change.

I told TJ we should just look in Daybreak since we had had our eyes on it for years but were initially turned off by the HOA fees. Living in a non-HOA area, however, did more to sell us on an HOA than anything else could have! The reason Daybreak looked so nice was because the HOA forced you to keep up your lawns, bring in your garbage cans, and not park your RV on the street. We just loved the look and feel of that neighborhood and decided to go for it.

We had our eye on this exact neighborhood, so anything that popped up for us within a mile or so radius, we looked at with our realtor. We were also preparing our old home for pictures and viewings, which took so much more cleaning and organizing than I could have imagined! Tons of work. One day, we looked at a house that had already been on the market for a few months, and we soon found out why. The renters who lived there did nothing to show the house well (it was a dirty mess every time) and said everything they could to talk us out of it! Leaky showers, cracked walls, houses that had been "slapped together," Daybreak's rules - they did whatever they could to tell us how awful it was and how we should look elsewhere. I wasn't buying it. Something told me they weren't being honest. Despite TJ's misgivings, I persevered and we put a low-ball offer on the house - $20k less than asking price and closing costs paid by the seller. The seller took our lower offer (miraculously!) and we proceeded with the homebuying process. 

We were nervous about the inspection because of all the bad things we had been told by the renters, but our inspector told us this was one of the most fantastically in-shape houses he had seen in a long time. HA! We couldn't believe it! Clearly, the renters just didn't want to move. The place needed some new carpet and a little TLC, but TJ and I took care of that the first few months of owning it. Our old home was sold just five days after putting it on the market by a retired couple moving from out of state. Another miracle! It seemed like we were supposed to move to Daybreak. 

There are still many things I want to do to update the house, like change the counters, paint that striped wall, put some pictures up. In the meantime, though, we feel really blessed to live here. The first week of moving in, every single neighbor came over with treats and introduced themselves. Our ward is so kind. The kids absolutely love the park, pool, splash pad, and lake. The lake is only a half mile from our house, so I've made it part of my jogging route and it's just a dream to run around. Sometimes I worry God can't bless us this much and something bad has to happen to compensate, but I try not to think like that anymore. We just love it here!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Updates from the last few months...

It's been a really, really long time since I've blogged. I am just the absolute worst! I will admit it. Honestly, I haven't had the time. Things have been crazy busy around here, and I just haven't been diligent about keeping track of all our fun activities. What I'm going to do, then, is just post a bunch of pictures and talk about what happened in each of them. They'll probably be completely out of order, so just roll with it!     

Calvin loves his little y-bike he got from Aunt Melissa. It's so fun to wheel around the house! I can't wait for when it's warmer outside so he can use it on the sidewalk.

Sometimes Calvin and I make brownies and eat the batter together. He's my little sous chef! I love it. Both my boys will absolutely learn how to cook food. I'm not talking about how to follow a recipe - I'm saying they will know how to cook. Their wives will totally thank me one day. :) 

Our little Graham is just the smiley-est little man in the world! We love him so much. 

I'm really grateful to have been able to be in touch with the Zinn side of my family this past year. My cousins are pretty great! Tim and Katherine, in particular, have inspired me to be better than I am and extend myself to a cause that I am so honored to be a part of. My other cousin, Jessica, and her husband, Brian, couldn't be sweeter people. I have a lot of cousins in the area that I didn't even know about until recently. David and Nick Grant are also really fun to hang out with - I've known them since I was a geeky little middle school kid. Anyway, Tim's foundation is called Operation Underground Railroad, and you should really check it out ( TJ and I were invited to attend the premiere of their documentary, The Abolitionists, and were blown away by how incredible this movie is. Go see it when it comes to a theater near you!! And it will soon. :)

The kids and I sometimes go to the Dinoland at the South Towne Mall, mostly because it's free and because it's indoors. Well, this particular morning, their little train came by and Calvin freaked out. "Train! Train! Train! Ride train!!" I couldn't resist. I shelled out the $3 for all of us to take a ride, and it was worth it to see the excitement on his sweet little face. Presh!

I love this cute kid. He's a dream. His schedule is pretty much the same as before: two naps each day, bedtime at 7pm, three bottles and three meals. I make sure he and Calvin go down at the same time so I get an afternoon break. :) 

TJ and I got to have a night away on our anniversary thanks to Jordan and Cristal Smith. They were so sweet to sleep over and watch our kiddos for us. I felt SO BAD because Graham woke up twice that night, and he never wakes up! Poor Cristal was 38 weeks pregnant at the time. They were sure sweet to give us our first night away in over two years. We owe them big time!

TJ and I splurged on breakfast at the Grand America the next morning. It was delicious! We went back seconds and thirds... and fourths. I was a heifer and I don't even care!

Just keep being the cutest little thing ever, Graham!! He started crawling one day before reaching 10 months. Now he is everywhere... Everywhere! I forgot what it's like having a crawling baby in the house. Looks like we're going to have to re-baby-proof everything.

I got a year pass to Thanksgiving Point last week. Totally worth every penny. Calvin and I will have many, many adventures at the Museum of Natural Curiosity! He loves it there. Have you seen it?? It's seriously amazing. Hours upon hours of fun. I love having things to do in the mornings after Graham's nap. We usually pick between an errand/grocery shopping, Thanksgiving point, story time at the library, or Dinoland/park. He needs to get out before his afternoon nap or he doesn't sleep well. 

Bath time with my cuties! I love seeing them play in the bath together. So adorable.

Afterwards, it's story time with Daddy! TJ reads the kids lots of books before bed. Because I've been working so much lately, I've been heading to the library with my laptop while TJ bathes the kids and puts them to bed after he comes home from work. It's been kind of nice, actually, to get a break at 6pm every day. Who would have thought I'd call working a break?! But it totally is! Taking care of these two kiddos is super hard work. The hardest job ever. I don't care what anyone says! Anyway, I work from 6-9 at the library, until it closes, and then come home to work some more until I can't keep my eyes open. Then I repeat every day. :) I don't mind, though, because I'm actually really enjoying this project. It's been nice to use the "adult" part of my brain in the evenings. 

Well, that's it for now. I know I have lots to catch up on, but I'm just taking it one day at a time right now. :) I will post about Christmas soon! Or maybe it's been too long for that... I may just scrapbook about it privately and call it good.