Wednesday, April 29, 2009

handy husbands are handy

Wanna fly somewhere for free?
Then marry a handyman like I did. When word got out that my husband built us a new roof and added a bedroom onto our house with his own two hands, people in our neighborhood began soliciting his services. A couple of months ago he helped some neighbors completely remodel their bathroom (since he had so much free time between working two jobs, going to school full-time, working to get a paper published, serving in callings, and you know, being a husband and dad), and in exchange they offered to give us some free buddy passes to go on a little trip. We have been trying to plan the perfect vacation for a couple of months now, but with J's schedule it is a tough time to get away for very long. So we finally just decided to go somewhere easy and spend as little money as possible. It kind of became a funny joke to try and figure out ways that we could get a completely free trip out of it, and guess what? We got pretty dang close. It was awesome. And it was totally a vacation, relaxing and enjoyable, but without the stress of spending crazy amounts of money. We flew on JetBlue (highly recommend, by the way-- in the era of airlines cutting out EVERYTHING and trying to get every last penny out of you, JetBlue was so impressive and their customer service was impeccable), and Baby G loved that he got his own seat and could watch cartoons on his own little TV (see picture above).

A huge way to cut costs on vacation? Go where you know someone and can stay in their house, have them drive you around to all the places you want to go, and eat their food :). 
Poor Uncle Steve. 
J's uncle, Steve, lives in Thousand Oaks, and we were flying into Long Beach, so we decided to just bunk up with him and make a family affair out of it. Steve was so awesome and we really do owe him big time. He and Baby G became fast friends, and for some reason Baby G insisted on calling him "Steven." We always just call him Steve, and I don't even know where Baby G would've heard "Steven," but it cracked us up. Steve took us to some really cool places that we would've never seen had we not been with someone who lived there. The first day we went to this beautiful park right near Hollywood. It was so green and had so many different kinds of amazing trees all through it. We had fun just playing frisbee and football, and using Steve's tree identification book to try and figure out what kind of trees were there.

Baby G liked sliding down this crazy tree.

Another perk to having someone else with you on a family vacation? 
You can have them take pictures so you can all be in them.
Isn't that tree awesome?

J and Steve spent hours engaging in testosterone driven activities like chucking footballs at each other as hard as they possibly could to see if they could catch them. They couldn't. They also hurled rocks at things on the beach to see who could get closer to a certain spot. Hours of entertainment, I tell you. I participated in one of these activities, but mostly I just let them be men and do their thing. Someone had to be the responsible parent :).  Notice the blurred football flying through the air in this picture.

A little hike up from the park is the batcave from the old Batman TV series. Baby G was in love with it because of all the rocks inside that he could throw.

I figured I should get a picture of the Hollywood sign just because I really was surprised to find this beautiful, secluded spot right there. 

More manly activities-- Steve taught us to play Call of Duty on the PS3 (or maybe it was something else, but a Nintendo-like box nonetheless). I wanted Mario Cart, but that wasn't an option. War games, shooting alien games, or hi-jacking car games were the choices. You would be proud to know that I totally held my own, and even beat them a couple of times.

Holy cow, Baby G is the next Tiger Woods. You've never seen a happier baby than him with a golf club and ball. I, on the other hand, am not the next Tiger Woods. I mostly just embarrassed myself on the driving range, but at least I didn't snap Steve's driver in half like my husband did. True story.

We went to the beach on a couple of the days. It was too chilly to do the whole swimsuit thing, but we had fun playing in the sand, throwing rocks, and watching a young couple make out. 
See Baby G's sweet little smile?

This is why he is smiling. He had been plotting this sand ambush for weeks, I'm sure.

Scary, steep, slivery stairs (do you like alliteration?). I like the sand on his little bum.

We had kind of toyed around with the idea of going to Disneyland while we were there, but had decided that since we had just been to DisneyWorld in January we would just save the money. But an anonymous donor (you get more blessings if you are anonymous, you know) generously offered to pay for us to go, and since Steve hadn't been in like 40 years (really), we decided to do it. It was so much fun, and we were so glad we went. Baby G still loved the characters and wanted to hug them all.

The family on Tom Sawyer's Island (which is now Pirates Lair or something like that). 

The highlight for Baby G was the playground in ToonTown. He loved this pumpkin, and I loved this picture except for the stranger in the background so I blacked her out :).

More ToonTown playground.

Such a beautiful, happy, fun day.

I adore this picture of Baby G and Steve. We were riding the tram back to our car from Disneyland and Baby G just cuddled up on Steve's chest. I was glad I saw it and could take a picture. I sent this picture along with a thank-you note to Steve-- that's why the writing is on it.

On our last day we ventured into Ventura (get it?) so Steve could fix a friend's sprinkler. We went down to the boardwalk and beach while we waited for him, and Baby G must've thrown 6 dozen rocks into the ocean. Seriously, his little arm had to have gotten sore. When he needed a break from throwing rocks he would come over to J or me and say, "Mommy, daddy, spin you!" and then we would do this:

Such a fun trip, and guess how much money we spent? Less than $75.00. And $35.00 of that was on parking at the airport. If you know me well you know that I LOVE a bargain, and truly, this may be the best bargain I've ever scored. We are so grateful for the people who made it possible, especially Uncle Steve. I am sure he has thoroughly enjoyed having his clean, quiet house back, but we just might have to make this a tradition :).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

earth right after rain

I am loving the sunshine today, but I actually really enjoyed the rainy days last week as well. We were able to put Baby G's raincoat and boots to good use, and I brought the camera out with us in case there were any photo-worthy moments. As I have looked (and looked and looked) through those rainy day photos I have had a song running through my head. "When I am Baptized" is my favorite primary song, and one of my favorite religious songs in general. The melody is simple and beautiful, and the words speak to me.

There is a quality in these photos that has caused me to ponder on the beauty of an earth made clean again and the symbolism in rain and baptism. I have thought about the absolute joy that playing in the rain puddles brought to my little boy. It is the kind of joy that can only be felt when you are free from the weight of mistakes and transgression. It is the kind of joy that God wants us to feel. Untarnished by the burden of guilt or sorrow, without regret of choices--big or little-- that have offended our spirits . I look at these pictures and feel so motivated to be a more pure and lovely version of myself. To let go of things that hold me back and to give up things that can keep me from the constant blessing of His spirit. The gloriousness (not a word?) of these thoughts lies in this sentence of the song: ...and I can be forgiven and improve myself each day. While there is such beauty in the "earth made clean again," how much more beautiful is the soul that is made new, clean, and fresh daily by honest repentance and forgiveness? I want my life to be as clean as earth right after rain. I want to be the best I can... I feel renewed today. Renewed to make my life more holy, to make my spirit brighter, to have days filled with the same pure joy as my little, perfect boy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

jesus is strawberry

I am not trying to be sacrilegious with that title, I promise. Let me explain. On Saturday our little family of three took a short drive to the store in St. George. On our way J started to talk to Baby G about Easter and Jesus. He was explaining that Jesus died and was put in a cave with a big rock over it, but that after three days Jesus was resurrected and wasn't dead anymore. I was chiming in with little phrases for Baby G to repeat. Baby G said, "Jesus died." And then I said, "Yes, Jesus died, but now he is risen!" and Baby G repeated, "He is risen!" So that was that. About ten minutes later I hear Baby G in the back seat saying, "Jesus died. Jesus is strawberry!" J and I looked at each other, a little perplexed about where he would've gotten that from. Pretty soon I realized that Baby G must've thought we had been telling him to say, "Jesus is RAISIN," not "risen." And then when he couldn't quite remember the right word he just plugged another fruit in its place, thus the "Jesus is strawberry!" We had a good chuckle over that one. We helped him say "risen" a few more times and then on Easter whenever someone would ask him about Jesus he would say, "Jesus died. Jesus is risen!" It was pretty cute.

Here are some photos from Easter Sunday:

His eyelashes kill me in this one (look closely). Praying that all my kids get their daddy's long, dark lashes.

We surprisingly got many cute photos of these two together all dressed up. They were very cooperative. Weird, I know.

His loafers. Nevermind that they are at least two sizes too big. I can't handle how much I love them.
This was the best family shot.

More and more people are starting to tell me Baby G looks like his daddy. Everyone always used to say he looked just like me, but he really is starting to have moments where I don't see me as much as I used to. I think he is probably just a pretty good mix of both of us and it is hard to distinguish. I love that I can see some of my features, but I also adore the thought of him looking like his handsome dad. What do you guys think now?
More like his daddy?

Or mommy?
I can't decide.

hint: we went to his name

Over Easter weekend we headed south to St. George to spend the holiday with lots of J's family. His grandparents and some aunts, uncles, and cousins live there and his parents have a house in Hurricane so it has become an Easter tradition in his family to gather together there. It was a quick trip, but so much fun for Baby G to be surrounded by so many kids around his age. 

Sadly Baby G now calls Logan "Ogan" and not "Elmie." I don't know exactly when he dropped Elmie, but I am kind of sad about it. At any rate, the cousins played great together and had fun making the air mattress flat by jumping on it.

They also dyed Easter eggs together, and, as you can see, had a hard time understanding the concept of one egg at a time. It was funny though, because the eggs they dyed ended up being some of the most vibrant and beautiful ones I've ever seen. I guess they knew what they were doing.

Grandma and Grandpa's backyard full of rocks is a complete dream come true for our little hurler. He could've stayed out there chucking rocks for hours. Love his expression in this photo.

Saturday afternoon was spent hunting for eggs with the other little ones. We let the smaller ones go out first. Here they are waiting to be let loose.

The bigger ones joined in and everyone got plenty of candy. Baby G loved finding and collecting the eggs, but really wasn't so much into eating the candy. While the other kids sat and devoured their loot Baby G spent his time gathering rocks and throwing them into the fire pit. He is definitely his father's son. You would've never caught me waiting even one extra second to dig in to my Reese's eggs.

Guess what else took precedence over eating? 
Now that is more like his mama. Kissing always was my weakness.
And check out little Prestley. I love a little girl who knows what she wants and goes for it!

There was also pinata smashing. Baby G was napping for this, but after rounds and round of the littles taking whacks at it, Kendall finally had to step in. Logan hadn't gone down for his nap yet, but it probably would've been better if he had. Once he saw Kendall smash the beautiful butterfly that had been his friend and companion for the past week, Logan burst into inconsolable tears. Hitting pinatas is one of those things that you don't really think of as being very strange until you look at it from the perspective of a toddler. We had just encouraged whacking something with a stick and then cheered when it broke. Kind of confusing for little brains.

While the kids napped one afternoon Lisa whipped out the nail polish and we decided to give each other pedicures. This was the part where four of us tried to fit into the tub to soak our feet at the same time.

Grandma and Grandpa's house is right next to Sand Hallow Reservoir (or is is a lake?). If the weather would've cooperated we would've spent lots of time playing, but instead we let the boys throw in some rocks before rushing back to the car to get out of the wind.

Luckily, the swimming pool and hot tub were warmer than the lake, so we still got to get wet. Baby G loves swimming with Grandma. He was freezing because he didn't want to get in the hot tub, but he wanted to stay in the pool and wasn't happy when I used my better judgment and got him out to get warm. 

The boys took a walk with Grandma early one morning so parents could sleep in. Sadly my sleeping in gene has been lost in motherhood, but it was very nice to shower and get ready without any small distractions running around. When they got back from their walk their shoes were full of red sand, so they got into the tub together before church.

I wasn't really planning on doing an Easter basket (horror!), but Baby G's daddy wanted to do one for him. We grabbed a couple of things at the store, but mostly filled up his bucket with stuff that Grandma had. Aunt Lisa crafted some homemade Easter grass, and voila! A perfectly lovely Easter basket. Baby G found his under the kitchen table.

Holding his goods.

The boys sat and examined the contents of their Easter basket while giggling at my husband.

Baby G was very focused on opening up a tootsie roll. One of his favorite phrases lately is, "Do it self."

After Easter baskets we got ready and went to church. I took a few photos of Baby G is his Easter finest, but I'll publish those in their own post. After Sacrament we went back to Grandma and Grandpa's for some hamburgers, (one of the best I've ever had, Grandpa. Seriously.) and then we hit the road. Baby G was exhausted and fell fast asleep with the beautiful red rock still rolling by. 

After his nap he woke up to a basket still full of Easter candy. I highly recommend keeping a fully stocked Easter basket in your car on road trips. It made the ride go smooth as silk.

We love our family and are so grateful for all the work people go to to create memories for our little boy. I think he'll remember it all. And if he doesn't remember the details, I am sure he will remember the feeling. It doesn't get much better than being surrounded by people who adore and love you. Baby G is a lucky little boy. Lots of people love him.