We had the best Christmas. I have lately resolved to get out and do more things as a family. I’m a huge homebody, but I want to take better advantage of all the fun to be had around us…starting with a festive trip to Temple Square!

We love to visit Temple Square with our friends from our Orem days. Brooke and Emma hit it off as if no time had passed…except time has passed and now instead of running off to play with stuffed animals they take selfies when they see each other?! They’re growing up!

I forced the family to humor me on a two-hour roundtrip road trip to look at Christmas lights. They grumbled the whole way to this office building which had lights set to music:

They complained a little less when we saw the magnificence of the Tree of Life in Draper (though in spite of the fact that I hollered ten times for the kids to get their coats before we left, Caroline apparently didn’t get the memo):

We hit up the Christmas streets in Taylorsville and South Jordan and ended at this house:

The kids were completely awed at the unbelievable number of decorations and lights that this house had and finally conceded that they were glad I had dragged them out on an adventure.

The kids’ favorite holiday tradition is making candy houses:

We always get together with Dallas’s cousins for a Christmas party. Brooke got a good hug from Oma during the party:

We lit luminaries at the cemetery and sang to Opa and Great Grandma and Grandpa Stadelbauer:

Christmas day came and the kids were super excited:

We had a couple Santa mishaps this year which threatened to ruin Christmas. Santa got Caroline a Lego set she already had and he also got Brooke a Lego set that ended up NOT being a Lego set but a knock-off Lego set. Oops. Get your act together, Santa. Sheesh.

 

The girls got socks and underwear. I jokingly asked them to hold them up for a picture and they surprised me by complying immediately. Ha!

I’ll end with a sweet Spencer story. My parents went to Jerusalem a few years ago and brought all the kids back a nativity. When I was putting it out this year Spencer was sitting on the couch quietly watching me put each piece in its place. When it was all set up he peacefully sighed and said, “That’s my favorite Christmas decoration.”

You know me well enough by now to know that I can’t seem to post about events until months after the fact, so what do you say we relive Halloween?

Brooke was a vampire:

Caroline was a fairy:

Madison was “fever Elsa” as she called it. I guess this is the dress Elsa wears when she is sick in one of the Frozen movies:

Spencer was a dinosaur. He would probably want me to specify he was an Indominus Rex:

Dallas went to work as Russell from the movie Up in the hopes that he would win his work’s costume drawing. Better luck next year.

Brooke’s actual costume on Halloween was a Minecraft character:

Our trip was drawing to a close. We wanted to spend one more day at the beach. Oceanside is so close and nice, so we went there again.

Brooke found this bird that wouldn’t move. Turns out if these birds are on the beach, they’re usually injured, so someone alerted the lifeguards. They came and scooped him up and took him to a wildlife refuge center.  This is how you know you’ve had a successful day at the beach:The next day was Sunday. Elder Christofferson was coming to speak at a stake conference in my parents’ mission, so we went with them to go hear him speak. It was only 8:30 AM, but our week of fun had apparently exhausted Madison, so she used our drive as her nap time: We knew we’d need to get their early to get a seat, so after claiming a row we went outside to attempt family pictures again for the millionth time.  After church we went back to the house for puzzles and dinner prep: I wanted a picture with just me and my parents. My kids had other ideas:
Boom! Got one!The two missionaries from Madagascar joined us for dinner. We talked to them all about the plague and about life in Madagascar. As they told us about the plague, I could feel my hypochondria kicking in. Was I feeling feverish? Did my stomach hurt? Were my lymph glands swelling?

Of course I wasn’t coming down with the bubonic plague. It was all in my head. Or so I continued to tell myself that night as we played Qwirkle and I couldn’t seem to get warm even though I was wrapped up in a blanket.

“I’m completely fine,” I told myself as I rifled through the candy cupboard and nothing looked appealing.

“I’m not getting sick,” I tried to convince myself as I lay down to go to sleep and my stomach started churning.

Am I sick?” I wondered at 2:30 in the morning when I couldn’t sleep.

“I have the plague!” I thought at 3:30 AM when I ran to the bathroom…and then threw up.

After that I had a lot of time to think the rest of the night as I couldn’t go back to sleep. We were supposed to wake up bright and early to drive home. How could I drive for 12+ hours if I was dying of the Black Plague? But we couldn’t stay because chances are someone else would get sick and no way did I want kids barfing all over my parents’ beautiful mission home. Nor did I want to get my parents sick.

When it was time to get up and go, I actually felt okay. Maybe I wasn’t dying from the plague after all. Maybe we could make it home. We got all packed up. We said our good byes.


I grabbed some barf bags. We left.

An hour into our drive I received a text from my mom. We had forgotten something at their house. It would have been so fitting if we had forgotten Spencer’s shirts, but no! We had those three cheap shirts packed away safe and sound. Instead, the thing we forgot was our largest suitcase which contained all of my and Dallas’s clothes and shoes and trip supplies. How is it possible for two grown adults to be so horrible at keeping track of our stuff?!

We started to turn around to go back for the suitcase, but my parents forbade us from driving back and adding several more hours to our trip. They agreed to ship the suitcase to us. They are the best! Forever rescuing their children from their ineptitude.

It was at about this time that Dallas pulled off to the side of the road because I thought I was going to be sick again. False alarm.

I got back in the car and fell asleep. I woke up abruptly knowing that I was about to lose it, and this time for real. Dallas pulled over. I got out and was slapped in the face by a gust of wind. Wind! I had just enough presence of mind to quickly tie my hair back in a ponytail and position myself in such a way so that when I threw up the wind wouldn’t splash it back at me. I doubled over, retched, and watched my vomit take flight in the violent breeze. I felt sorry for the poor drivers and passengers who happened to pass us at just the right time to witness that picturesque scene.

Then I turned to the car and saw the horrified faces of my kids and husband and realized it was they who would likely be scarred for life by what they saw. Sorry, family. Not my finest moment.

The drive home was interminable. I just wanted to be able to hold still and lie down in a bed. The hours passed by so slowly. I never thought we’d make it. Finally, at long last, we arrived home. We unpacked the bare minimum and then I crashed in bed.

Miraculously, no one else got sick. How that is possible, I will never know. We were trapped in a car all day long breathing the same air and no one else got my germs. I am so grateful for that!

I knew I was feeling better when I felt like I had the energy to tackle cleaning up the car. Before:

And a very satisfying after:Look what arrived just as I was finishing the car – my suitcase!We had such a fun time on our trip! I’m so glad we were able to visit my parents. Hopefully we’ll be able to make it out at least one more time before they’re home!

The next day we decided to go to the beach again. We went to the Oceanside Harbor beach. This is a great beach for playing in sand, boogie boarding, and collecting shells.

After our day at the beach, we bathed the kids, sent them to bed, and then Dallas and I played Qwirkle with my parents. Me showing off my high score and my slightly burnt face:Finally we made it to Friday! We had been looking forward to Friday because this was the one day that my parents had no plans and so they were set to spend the entire day with us.

That is, until they got a call from Salt Lake telling them the Black Plague was running rampant in Madagascar so they were evacuating the missionaries from there, so could my dad please go pick up a missionary from the airport and welcome him into his mission right in the middle of the day on Friday ruining all our plans?

We were disappointed that it looked like we wouldn’t be able to spend the day with them after all, until they got another call saying the missionary that was supposed to be there at noon was now lost, so they didn’t need to pick him up yet, but just stay tuned for updates.

A lost missionary was a little disconcerting, but hey! It meant I got my parents back, so we went back to Plan A.

Plan A began with Grandpa…

…transforming into Super Grandpa! Dallas had gotten my dad this shirt one of the times he went to Walmart to get shirts for Spencer, and he also got himself and Spencer a superhero shirt. Typical of how our trip was going regarding Spencer’s shirts, when it was time to wear his superhero shirt…we couldn’t find it.

My mom had told us about a trail she and my dad found. She said there were millions of bunnies on the trail. Bunnies! I couldn’t even imagine! Wild bunnies? That you can just see? Hopping around in nature? This seemed like the funnest thing ever. I told her she had to take us there. If there’s something I need more of in my life other than organizational skills regarding my son’s clothes, it’s bunnies.

We went to the trail:

We walked and walked and walked. We saw cool trees, poison oak, ducks, and geese. Guess what we DIDN’T see. That’s right. Bunnies. Not a one. I’m still crying about it.

Other than the disappointment of not seeing any bunnies, the hike was really enjoyable. We sat on the bench watching the ducks and geese for a long time.
If you ask Madison, we stayed a little too long. She got a present on her leg from a bird and wasn’t too happy about it:After our hike we got ready for the day. We still hadn’t heard anything about where the missing missionary was, so we decided to go to the Birch Aquarium with my parents as we had planned to do all along:
This was another kids get in free museum. Hooray!

We started off at the tide pools:Then moved inside:Some of us needed a nap to make it through all of the aquarium:They had kinetic sand that you could mold and shape and a computer above would scan it and make the topographical lines on the mounds you created. That was a fun display:

They had turned trash into fun Halloween decorations: Madison was about ready to leave at this point and let us all know it by going crazy:However, we hadn’t visited the seahorse exhibit. We went there before leaving and I’m so glad we did because seahorses are really amazing to look at. They had so many varieties.They also had a video showing a seahorse giving birth. Caroline had some strong reactions to that video:
We finally learned that the missing missionary had been found and now instead of receiving just him, my parents were going to be getting a second missionary and to expect them in two days. We were glad to hear the missionary was safe and sound and that we could continue our day of fun without interruption.

We ended the day at this buffet:

Madison was thrilled to get a bowl of sprinkles:The chocolate covered strawberries are always a hit with my kids: We ended the evening with more Qwirkle. My mom was the champion this night. 

The next day of our trip was a beach day. We went to Treasure Island Beach. We got there and had the entire beach to ourselves.

We soon found out why. The waves on this beach were huge!I had expected to be able to relax and watch the kids play from a dry distance, but the waves were so big that I had to hang on to Madison the entire time.

Brooke found some tiny crabs: After a few hours of getting hammered by waves at this beach we remembered the beautifully tranquil baby beach at Dana’s Cove that we had visited the day before. We decided to go back there to play some more.

On the way, Spencer surprised us by saying he lost his first tooth! I didn’t realize it was that loose! I also am shocked at how bloody his mouth got during the tooth extraction:
Showing off his new smile. (Not much different from his old smile!)
Madison loved playing in the sand at the baby beach. She and Dallas were making cupcakes and cakes for a party:
The big kids tried out the boogie boards that my parents bought: The kids were excited to get back to the house early enough to take a bubble bath in Grandma’s big jetted tub and have popcorn and watch a movie with Grandpa.

Spencer showed off his tooth:
And then the popcorn party commenced!The next day we went to the New Children’s Museum in San Diego. We learned last year when we went to California that in October many of the museums and theme parks allow children to get in free with an adult. Yay! This museum was one of the participating museums, so we decided to give it a try.

It was different from other children’s museums I’ve been to in that it didn’t have a lot of little toys per se, but it had other things to keep the kids busy.

There was an area with cardboard boxes, rope, and wooden structures that the kids played in:
They had an art area. The kids got lumps of clay and made creations:There was a covered wagon structure. The color of the day was yellow. The kids could grab an apron and a brush and go to town slathering yellow paint wherever they wanted adding to the many, many, many other layers of paint:There were tracing activities:There was a big car track that Madison and Spencer enjoyed:This was a really tall house that you could explore and climb all the way up:There was a fun aquarium room. One huge wall was a projection of an underwater scene. You could choose a fish or a shark or a jellyfish outline. You used crayons to decorate your fish. Then you scanned your fish into a computer and your fish would immediately show up on the screen swimming around. The kids loved decorating their fish and watching them swim:We made block towers:We selfied: Madison liked playing with this air tunnel:They had a big play area with stairs and tunnels that you could explore. It had really unique things to find such as a room that had a million spoons hanging from the ceiling:It also had an area full of ropes to climb up:It was a really fun museum. We were glad we went there.

The girls decided ending the day with another bubble bath was a good idea:
And then to bed: