Friday, November 7, 2014

It's been a while...

We got a puppy. It's a long story. I don't know if I like my life any better with a puppy, but I'm optimistic that when she's a bit older (ie less needy) I'll enjoy having her around. She's a cute fluffy black cockapoo (no shedding!) named Pearl. She was found abandoned at 8 weeks old in a cardboard box on a freeway off ramp in Williams.

In other news, life is good. Kids are growing and fun. Our family is growing too!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Camping and Catch up

We spent last weekend camping with my parents in Utah, at Cedar Breaks Natl Monument. It was at 10,000 elevation- even we Flagstaffers felt it!

I was filled with trepidation before the trip; I loved camping pre-children, but this was the first time we were going with three crazy babies, and I was not sure what to expect. The most common piece of advice I received turned out to be the best: Camping with littles is not relaxing, but it is fun. So true! I never even got to think about sitting down and picking up a book- the kids (especially Rad) required non-stop supervision. Our campsite was gorgeous but a little small, and it had a steep downward sloping hill surrounding it. Rory and Bash were pretty good to go, but Baby Boy was constantly into things. It was a long drive for a 3 day trip but we'd do it again, and we're hoping to get a couple local trips in before the snow!

In other news, a couple weeks ago I told Blake I had decided to give up my smartphone. It's something I had been resistant to for months; being a stay at home mom I discovered that having a phone with internet was my connection to the outside world! I could read the news, check facebook, and do a gazillion other things that seemed to make my existence less confined. However, I frequently experienced guilt; so many times I'd reach for my phone when doing something with the kiddos; I didn't want them to look back on these years and envision Mama scanning headlines on a little screen instead of smiling at their cute faces. I'm not disciplined enough to abide by self-imposed limits so the phone had to go. Blake and I went shopping for a new phone on Monday and I got a funny little Blackberry flip phone- ideally I still wanted email capability (mostly for MOPS stuff) but I didn't want to be able to browse the internet. The Blackberry has email and it has an internet browser but it's so crude and clunky that I'd only ever attempt to figure it out in an emergency. The Verizon people were so confused when we made the switch :) So far I'm three days in and definitely feel less connected to the world, but like I told Blake, we didn't make me a stay at home mom so that I can sit and read articles on mothering on my phone while the kids try to get my attention :)

The big kids were painting and I wanted this little man to get to do something fun too, so
I decided to open a random thing of jello from the pantry for him. I didn't realize that it was so hot out the jello was practically liquid! Despite his serious face here he had an awesome time splashing in it, and he made quite a mess!

Walking boy!

View from our campsite. It was so high up there were no bugs and it didn't get above 68 degrees!

Ready to go to the ranger program

It was chilly in the morning!

Blake got this cool stove for graduation- it burns wood and charges small electronics while it cooks!

Sliding down the hill!

Trailmix break

Alpine meadow

Rory was VERY proud to become a junior ranger :)

I cooked in a dutch oven over coals for the first time! I made up a cake recipe using pancake mix as the base and apple cider mix to sweeten and flavor it- it turned out great and was pretty healthy :)

Trucks up and down the hill!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Catching Up

I suppose summer's almost through, since schools start up here in the next week. It's monsoon season but we're getting very little rain; lots of awful, awful bugs though! Just to summarize because I'm lacking time and motivation, we went on a ginormous roadtrip through eight western states, saw lots of wonderful friends and family, saw lots of beautiful mountains, daydreamed our way through the cities we really want to live in one day (Bozeman! Coeur d'Alene!), and made it home with a looming transmission replacement (thanks for nothing, stop and go traffic in Reading). The following weekend Blake and I got to get away for three GLORIOUS nights for our anniversary! We rented a little place in Munds Park on a canyon. We figured we'd be close in case of an emergency but it still felt like a destination. We love vacation rentals; they're so much cozier than hotels and there aren't annoying people everywhere and we get to do our own cooking. And there was a dishwasher! We didn't leave the cabin the whole time! We stopped at our favorite Indian restaurant on our way out of town, then read, played Yahtzee, watched HGTV, watched a couple movies, and just relaxed for the whole weekend. It was heavenly.
At a park in Missoula
Playing in the Pend Orielle River
Enjoying the deck!
Pretty in her cowgirl boots in Bremerton on the 4th of July!

Updates on the kiddos:
Rory- four years old, affectionate and inquisitive, quite the little negotiator. She's also bossy as all get out :) Listening to her talk is both entertaining and exasperating! She's enjoying her little dance class and loves to play imaginative games; favorites are hotel, neighbors, getting married, and ferryboat. She is a terrific big sister and usually is a kind friend.
Bashy- He's definitely got some two year old whineyness going on! But he's grinny and tussle-haired and loves trains and dirt and tractors and balls and firetrucks and everything else boy. He plays with Rory a lot and amiably goes along with her little games but he also plays way better on his own than she does. He's a great observer and is so snuggly and affectionate! He's talking more and more, which is so fun. New words and phrases include: Awe-some!, What daaaat- what dat dere?! and Wuv you Mommy. He's the only kiddo that calls me Mommy- I totally get that mom-son thing that people talk about :)
Rad: Walking!!! Voicing his opinions quite loudly (We now call him the pterodactyl). Getting into EVERYTHING. Climbing on everything. He wants to be outside nonstop, but he requires supervision in our yard, so he has to spend lots of time squawking at me. He's got sweet curls in his hair and an expressive face and he thinks he's hilarious! He likes to do his "tricks" and then cracks up with us! He has different laughs for different events: a satisfied cackle when he escapes to the backyard, a hooty giggle when he performs his comedy routines, and a particularly gleeful laugh when his siblings bring him toys when he's supposed to be sleeping. At almost 14 months old he ways a meager 17 pounds and he's quite fair skinned compared to the others- fitting since he's named after my Scandinavian Grampie! He also loves the water way more than Rory and Bash do (and they love it too) and splashes joyfully in the bath.
That's about all!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Our Big Fat Disaster Graduation Party!

It is my duty to write this post to assist any poor people who may be attempting to plan a vintage emergency preparedness/disaster themed party. Surely I cannot be the only one. I found pinterest (and the rest of the world wide web) to be extremely unhelpful in the planning of Blake's grad party. I will pin this post so it will be a resource for you for time and eternity! If you have pinterest, help a stranger; pin it too!

Why the party?
Ever since Blake started college three years ago I knew I would throw him a huge party when he finished. It gave me something fun to work on while he spent the evenings doing homework. We had so many people we wanted to celebrate with! I knew I didn't want anything you'd find at a high school graduation party, but wasn't sure how to gear this type of a celebration to adults and their families. But I persevered and this is what I came up with.

Why the theme?
My first instinct was to do a woodsy beardy rustic lumberjacky theme for Blake (which makes sense if you know him). The problem is, the university he graduated from has a lumberjack for the mascot, and that's just too cheesy and expected for a grad party. Blake was studying to be an emergency manager, and that proved to be the inspiration for the focal point of the party: a disaster desserts buffet. Once I could envision a table covered in a lovely display of disaster desserts the rest of the party slowly came together. I knew I didn't want it to be a survival themed party so much as a disaster and preparedness themed event (I promise there's a distinction). It also wasn't going to be a fire/ems themed party. It was tricky trying to explain those exclusions to people. I ended up focusing it further into a sort of vintage emergency preparedness theme with the disaster desserts as a glorious highlight.

I ended up renting a party venue for the evening. I would have loved to have it outside, but Flagstaff is horrifically windy in the springtime and it frequently snows graduation weekend. I looked for a venue that would be basically a blank slate and found it at a fitness studio that doubles as an event venue. The party was in the evening.
Old crate for cards

I was thrilled with how the invites came out! I just did some doodling and came up with the general premise, then a friend who does graphic design created the finished product. She ordered them off vista print pretty cheap.

We served dinner at the party. It was more important to me that it tasted good and was fun than that it stuck with the theme. I also love DIY type entrees when guests get to build their own little something. Thus, we decided on a macaroni and cheese bar, with fun toppings! There was sausage, sauteed onions and mushrooms, little hotdogs, bacon, other vegetables, that sort of thing. We also had delicious little chicken sliders and a big tossed salad. Simple and crowd friendly! We got a lot of compliments on the food; a friend of mine is a caterer and did all the dinner and most of the desserts very affordably for me. We just had lemonade and water to drink. My favorite part was the Styrofoam takeout containers that people used instead of plates; we made labels for them that looked like MRE labels, to tie in the theme a little bit. They were really fun and easy! I just printed them on the sticky business card sheets from Office Max.

The start of the buffet

Decorations are not my strong point; I had an idea in my mind how I wanted things to look but I'm really rotten at bringing it to pass. I hired an event coordinator for the day (more on that later) and had help from our parents and a couple friends. They all did such a good job making it look nice! I ordered some vintage preparedness things off of ebay and ordered poster sized prints really cheaply off of snapfish of someWWII and Cold War era Civil Defense posters and placards. We also found a few things at the local military surplus store, and Blake got these amazing Cold War era sanitation barrels in the attic of the PD! I also made little preparedness quote posters. I made little "what is emergency management" signs in cute frames with pictures from the graduation ceremony from the day before in them. I am a sucker for cute favors at events but wanted them to be useful too; I ended up making containers of strike anywhere matches in baby food containers with sandpaper glued to the top. We scattered cards from the worst case survival game on the tables too in case anyone was amused by them; lots of people enjoyed them. I also ordered cute matching shirts for the kiddos. We had an area for kids to play in so they didn't have to sit with their parents the whole time if they didn't want to, with play tunnels and tents and balls and what not (crayons and bubbles were bad, bad ideas). As far as tablecloths and that sort of thing, we decided to do some tables with burlap runners and others with cutup maps. I like variety but also consistency :)
Baby girl in her awesome shirt!

Activities and Such:
I knew I wanted to engage our guests, but there were no obvious activities for an adult graduation party! After months of thought we decided prizes would be fun; who doesn't love a door prize? So everyone got a ticket as they entered (which also allowed Blake and me to greet all our guests). We drew fun preparedness themed prizes throughout the evening. We also taped some emergency ponchos under random chairs. We had several important thank you speeches to give, and Blake made a disaster themed playlist that we played all evening; I think it had around 15 songs on it. I really wanted to have a game of sorts that people could participate in as much or as little as they wanted. I spent months pondering ideas and ended up having to come up with it all on my own; all the tables competed for points against each other simply by answering questions and tallying up points (it was more fun than it sounds). They were preparedness type questions and were worth different amounts of points. One question was: Add three points if you can name three survival television shows. Add one million points if any of you have been on one." Blake's boss did SWAT for a long time in Vegas and was on a SWAT reality show a couple times. His table won a million points. It's never a bad thing for the boss's table to take home the prize! Blake had made paracord key chains for the people sitting at the winning table. One important thing: I hired an event planner to coordinate the whole evening for me so I could be by Blake's side and not running around like a crazy person. She discreetly made sure everything was happening on schedule, coordinated with the caterer, informed me when it was time to start the speeches and games, let me know when people were leaving...she was a life saver! She also helped set up and take down and was great at making my vision materialize in a way I am terrible at! I am so glad I got to enjoy the evening instead of running it.
Bash playing with a ball after the party
Bash tried to steal the show during the speeches
Friends playing the game!
Lucky winner of a door prize!

Dessert Buffet:
The main attraction! I saw lots of people taking pictures of the finished display, which made me feel so good! Blake also said it was the talk of the PD after the party :)
Once again, pinterest had nothing for me. Apparently "natural disaster dessert idea" is not a popular concept. I considered probably a dozen ideas before settling on nine for the display, thinking about a variety of flavors and types: 1. Tsunami cupcakes 2. Avalanche bars 3. Landslide parfaits 4. fire cupcakes 5. pandemic cookies 6. Bugle tornado mix 7. Killer bee pretzels 8. Volcano cake 9. Famine (just a plate with crumbs on it, haha). I made the labels on a template I found my googling custom hazmat labels or something like that.
We kept the table roped off with caution tape until we officially invited guests to enjoy it after our speeches. It turned out so great!!

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Things I wanted to do but didn't:
Other things I hoped to do but wasn't able to or decided not to for various reasons include having a sandbag tossing contest, incorporating a pinata because pinatas are awesome, having printouts as seismographs as table runners, and using a megaphone like all good emergency managers do :)

The party was so much fun! It was a terrific way to celebrate Blake's and his accomplishments and thank our friends and family for their support over the past three years. Now go and throw disaster parties of your own!!!