Sunday, November 25, 2012

Chena Hot Springs & Northern Lights

From the Santa House, we left and drove another hour out to Chena Hot Springs. There's a small resort there, and we had a family suite booked for one night. We didn't get there till 1 p.m., but our room wasn't going to be ready until 3 p.m. So we passed the time at the indoor swimming pool! Kenny and I took turns going by ourselves into the hot springs outside. It was crazy cool! The hair on everyone's head would turn white and icy, but the water was so hot, so you stayed warm even though it was negative something degrees. It was clear and you could see the sand/rocks you were walking on. It was really neat, I just wish we could have gone in together! But you had to be 18 or over, so obviously one of us had to stay with the kids. I was still glad we got to experience it, though.

This is one reason I don't like vacationing in the winter in Alaska. This is how we had to dress in order to step outside the door. So even though the walk over to the restaurant for dinner was less than 5 minutes, it takes a LOT of preparation, and then dealing with coats/hats/gloves/scarves once you do get indoors.

We pushed the two small beds together and turned them so these 3 could sleep together.

One of the hot springs. The one we got to go in was actually behind those rocks where those people are standing. This is just the view from our room. I wish we would've (or could've) had our camera out earlier when we went.
 Later that night after we put the kids to bed, we saw the Northern Lights!! It was the most amazing thing I've ever seen and I hope to never forget it. It was probably 10x as cool as the one time we saw them here in Anchorage. They just covered the whole, big sky and it was so breathtaking. Kenny was able to take a few pictures of them. Taking pictures of them was actually a lot harder than it sounds. They don't like cameras. Tyler hadn't fallen asleep yet, so we grabbed him out of bed and brought him outside with us to look at them. He described them as green glow worms in the sky!

Can you see me?

I know it's very blurry, but I'm in this one, too.

We had a good time there, but it really wasn't as family-friendly as we were hoping. I doubt we'll go back (at least with kids), but I'm still glad we went. We left the next morning to get back on the road and use what little daylight Alaska has to offer right now. We were grateful to make it back home safely to our warm, cozy home. We definitely had our fair share of bumps along the way, but overall it was a great family vacation and we made some good memories :).

The North Pole & Santa Claus House

Friday morning while the rest of the United States was shopping their eyes out, we packed up and drove out to the North Pole. Quincy and Jen were nice enough to come along with us and show us around. I thought it was pretty neat that we got to go there. I still can't believe people live in these places for real. I feel like it would be such a miserable existence, long term. But hey, to each his own!

Once we saw that, we went over to the Santa Claus House to check it out. It's basically just a glorified gift shop, with Santa there and some reindeer behind a big fence outside. Madison refused to go near Santa, and Kelsey cried once we put her on his lap. But Ty and Bryn thought it was fun!

Yes, that's an ice sculpture

And we couldn't leave without getting some DELICIOUS fudge! Oh my gosh it was so good and looking at this picture makes me want some more. Right now.


We had a fabulous Thanksgiving day! It was so fun to be with family, since we were so far away from everyone. The Andelins had a nice, big home with space for all of us. They were very accommodating and we just really enjoyed their company. We had great conversations with them, and they taught us a fun, new game called Dominon that we played once all the kids were asleep. The best part was that our kids match up SO well in age!!
Tyler and Joseph are 6 months apart, Brynlee and Mary are about a week apart, Madison and Samuel are about 4 months apart, and their twin boys and Kelsey are about 3 months apart. They all had so much fun together.
Here's Quincy with the spread. He did an awesome job on the turkey! All the food was so, so good! I was bummed we couldn't stick around longer for leftovers :)

One of my favorite parts was before eating, we filled up goblets with sparkling cider and everyone went around the table saying one thing they were thankful for. Then we did a toast for it. With all these little kids, it went a little something like this:
"What are you thankful for?"
"I'm thankful for Dora."
Then we all said, "To Dora!" Clink, clink go the glasses, and we all take a sip.
Next child. "What are you thankful for?"
"I'm thankful for bathtubs."
"To bathtubs!" Clink, clink. Sip.
Next child. "What are you thankful for?"
"I'm thankful for candy."
"To candy!" Clink, clink. Sip.
You get the idea. I thought it was pretty cute :).

The pies: Chocolate, banana cream (my personal favorite) and pumpkin!

These two are so much alike and got along very well!
It's been a really good year. It's neat to reflect back on our lives and see the Lord's hand in everything. To feel like we have been guided each step of the way to get us to where we are now. We are so very blessed, and I love that Thanksgiving takes the time to celebrate that. We did a "thankful jar" as a family this year. Every day we would each say one thing we were thankful for and write it on a slip of paper. For family home evening this past Monday, we had a lesson on gratitude, and talked about the first Thanksgiving. We pulled out all the slips of paper and read each one to remember what we had said for the month of November. I hope to continue that tradition in the future.

Denali National Park

We were invited by my cousin Quincy and his awesome wife, Jenny, for Thanksgiving up in Fairbanks, Alaska. They live on Eielson Air Force Base. We left on Wednesday around 9 a.m. and drove up to stay the night at their house. On the way there we drove through Denali National Park, which we had never been to before. It was a beautiful drive with hundreds and hundreds of miles of nothing but mountains and COLD. Seriously, the temperature never got above zero the whole weekend. Negative double digits were not uncommon. It's been a while since we've done a road trip...and now I remember why. :) Really though, it wasn't so bad. We always love seeing new things and going new places. We really lucked out with it being such a clear day, there's normally lots of clouds so not many people get to see Mt. McKinley, but it was very clear for us. I'm too lazy to put these all in order, they're just pictures from the drive there and back.
This is Pioneer Peak close to Wasilla, not Denali
This is Denali behind us

This is Denali from the other side

This was a random, cool igloo on the side of the road. Kenny and Ty just had to go check it out.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Life Changing

I wrote this last week, and never finished it so it never got posted. But I'm trying to get all caught up before this big weekend ahead of us.
It was a pretty big week for us! The biggest thing that happened was that Kenny got a new job!! He had been sending his resume out just to see what came of it, and hoping for the best. He got an offer from another company, but didn't accept it, and we were starting to try to get used to the idea that he would just continue working for this company. But then the most amazing offer came along and we got so excited! He had his interview for it last Thursday, and thought it would take a long time to hear back from them. He felt really good about the interview, and in our best laid plans, he would get the job, finish off the year with URS and give them a chance to hire a couple new people that he could train, then he could just start fresh at the beginning of January. But it turns out they are very short-handed and let us know on Monday that he got the position and want him to start asap! That was so fast!! We are beyond grateful and feel so incredibly blessed by this great opportunity. He put in his resignation letter the next day, so he's had a hard week dealing with the negative reactions that came with that. He is excited to start working at BP the day after Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 26th. I am so proud of him!! He is such a hard worker and makes a big difference wherever he goes. I know he will do great no matter where he's at! The Lord is so good to us. I feel almost bad that he has been so successful when I know that these are hard times for a lot of people to even find a job. We feel undeserving, but oh so grateful.

Another thing that happened this week was Young Women In Excellence! I am glad to have that behind us! :) It went really well, even after lots of original planning fell through. But I think it all came together nicely and I hope the girls and their parents enjoyed themselves.
made these invites with my cricut

and these were the programs

This weekend is stake conference. Last night we got our regular babysitters (the Hickenlooper sisters) and enjoyed a nice evening together at the adult session of stake conference. We even snuck a little grocery shopping in afterwards before heading home. There were some great talks. It made me want to recommit to being a stronger woman and raising the standard in our home. These are the last days, and there is no room for lazy parenting and half-hearted efforts. The Lord needs strong men and women to move His work forward and raise righteous children who KNOW the gospel.

 Brynlee was so excited to wear her new dress! She cares a lot about clothes and likes to tell me what I should wear, and pick out Kelsey's clothes as well. Hopefully she'll have a little more fashion sense than her mom :).

Speaking of Brynlee, she loves to watch the roller skating ladies. I'm not sure what it is they do or what it's called, but they are there every Tuesday night when we're there for Ty's soccer. They are a bit wild, heavily tattooed, oddly dressed women. Here's Bryn looking longingly at them, asking me again if she can have some roller skates.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Taste Test/Tea Party

Somehow the stars aligned (or more like curriculum's aligned) and Ty and Bryn were both learning about senses this week, and more specifically, the sense of taste. So today I told them we were going to have a tea party! The girls were thrilled, of course! They were already in their princess dresses and crowns for the day, so they didn't even have to change :). Tyler started making plans for what he could do instead, since tea parties are so not cool for boys. But when he heard that cupcakes and other food would be involved, he decided that he could join us after all. So they helped me make some mini cupcakes, and we set up all the cute, porcelain, tea party dishes that my friend Lisa Bowerman had given us. I got a plate of random food (turkey, carrots, grapes, mini choc. chips, peppers, tortilla chips, mini-marshmallows, goldifsh crackers, celery, mushrooms, and pepperoni) ready for taste-testing so it would be somewhat educational. They had such a fun time! I had them close their eyes and open their mouths and I put food in their mouths. Then they described the texture/taste/etc. and identified what it was. They loved that game! Then I just cut up their sandwiches small and they had a little picnic lunch with cupcakes for dessert :). Meals are always so much more fun when you use teeny, tiny dishes!


#1: The kids were eating a fruit smoothie made mostly from frozen fruit, so it was really cold. Madi had eaten too much, too quickly, and got chest-freeze. (Which is like brain freeze, but in your chest). Then Tyler says, "she must have smoothie all over her heart."

#2: In the middle of a meal Brynlee randomly says, "The more I grow up to be a mom, I shout for joy!"

#3: I just downloaded the instagram app on my phone last night. I told Kenny that I am so behind because everyone's been using it for so long. Then Kenny says, "what's instagram?"

#4: The kids play house. A lot. Tyler is usually the dad, Bryn the mom, and Madi either a child or a doctor. I went downstairs this morning to see Brynlee at the play kitchen "washing the dishes". I asked her where Ty and Madi were and she said they were in the other room sleeping. This was all pretend play of course, but I couldn't help but laugh at the real life scenario they were re-creating. :)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

First Sled of the Season

Poor little Kelsey has croup. It is no fun. The days are hard and the nights are awful. But I've had some nurses recommend bundling her up and taking her outside, because the cold, dry air is good for it. So I took the kids sledding this morning. The small hill we sled on is conveniently located just outside of our neighborhood at OSP (our special place). It sure would have been handy to have another adult there. Tyler and Brynlee just have so much fun and can run up and slide down as much as they want without any assistance.
Madison, however, cannot sled down the hill without help. She can't do it without help, because she can't hold on to her sled. She can't hold on to her sled, because she doesn't put her thumbs in the correct hole in her mittens. SO. You see the predicament we are in. I have to take her and her sled up the hill, then pull her back down again. ButKelsey doesn't like to be left alone at the bottom. Nevertheless, we managed and everyone had a good time. Tyler commented: "I could do this all day long!"
I believe him.

See the tear-stained cheeks? Like I said, she doesn't like to be left alone at the bottom :).