life as of late

To say that life has been busy the last three months would be an understatement.  It's been so much more than that.  And at the end of the day, the last thing I want to do is sit down and blog.  I'd much rather sip a cup of hot chocolate and go to bed - not edit pictures and type up coherent sentences to go with them.

The Mr. & Carter are on a boy scout campout tonight.  The other kiddos are all asleep.  This is the first little bit of time I've had to myself in such a long time.  It's the perfect time to jot down thoughts about the last couple of months and all of our little adventures and accomplishments.

Birthdays were celebrated for the boys in January and February.  A little piece of my heart breaks as my children get older.  Like many mothers, I wish they could stay young forever.  But I know that growing up is what we must all do.  I'm watching my boys grow into young men and I hope they hold on to their childhood as long as they possibly can.

Carter, who celebrated his 12th birthday in February, was ordained a deacon the Sunday after his birthday.  (In my church, boys receive the priesthood at age 12.)  Nana flew in from Arizona to celebrate this special day with us.  I could hardly keep the tears from flowing as Mike offered the blessing.  My heart is full.

January and February also brought a lot of snow.  The kids spent a lot of days at home.  The flu was passed from Tatum to Noah to Carter over a two week period.  We watched a lot of movies and played in the snow once the fevers were gone.   The snow was a kind reminder that I need to slow down.  I am learning that I can only do so much.  I am learning my what my limits are.

For the last year, I have been working hard to get a cub scout pack established and running in my ward (church).  Somehow, being the Cubmaster fell into my lap.   We have a small group of boys that keep me on my toes and leaders that are willing to do whatever I ask of them.   Shortly after we started up, it was Pinewood Derby time.  The Mr. & I sanded and repaired a 30 year old track that worked just enough to run a successful derby.  Just one month later, we held a circus themed Blue & Gold Banquet.    It was another successful event.  It felt so rewarding to get our scout program off to a good start.  But my mind has turned into mush.  I'm still serving as the 1st Counselor in Primary (for children ages 18 months to 11 years) and have had to keep up with those responsibilities too.  To say I've been working my butt off would be an understatement.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed, I am learning that sometimes I have to stop and take just a little time for myself.  It's tough to balance both of my callings and my home life too.  I try to keep up with chores but the piles of laundry and dishes never end.  I won't lie and say that the last few months have been easy.  They have not been.  But my heart is full and I see the blessings Heavenly Father is pouring out on my family.  We are happy.  We are healthy.  We have everything we need.  We have each other.  That makes all the hard work worth it.

Somewhere among all the hard work, we managed to sneak in a lot of family walks when the weather was warm.  We are trying to make small changes in our health habits and are working toward a healthier lifestyle.  We have learned that Noah should never ride a scooter when we go on family walks.  He rides all over the place and has had several near misses with parked cars.  He's dangerous stuff.  Oh, & the Mr. managed to plan a sweet little Valentine's dinner sans kiddos.  It was a perfect date.  I'm so in love with him.



We told our parents.

We told our kids.

And everyone at church knows too.

So I can finally share a little secret we've been keeping for just under a year now.....

We are moving!  Yep, you read that right.  Moving.  Again.

Honestly, this came out of the blue.  We had been making plans to buy a home here in Virginia and stay for the rest of our days.  Or at least stay here until all of our kids were grown and done with high school.  And then we talked of retiring in Arizona (because we left a large part of our hearts there and would love to go back).  

But that is not the plan Heavenly Father has for us. 

The Mr. was driving home from work one day in April of last year.  He called me at home, which he never does unless something is up.  Something important.  He told me I should sit down.  That work was shutting down several offices across the country and relocating all the employees to 13 offices HUD was keeping open.  

Really HUD?  REALLY???!!!

Several months later, the Mr. called me again.  He had instructions regarding our relocation.  We had to submit a HUD office that we wanted to relocate to.  A lot of prayer and fasting was involved.  We had just 2 weeks to make our decision.  So we submitted our choices.  And one of them had to be the Mr.'s assigned hub office in Manhattan, New York.  We were certain that is where we would be assigned even though it was our fourth location on our submission list.  We were looking at homes online in Pennsylvania and New Jersey because we most certainly could not afford a home in New York.  We waited for months to find out where HUD had decided to relocate us to.

And then the Mr. called me from work.

HUD decided to wipe the slate clean.  They decided to keep 3 more offices open and we were no longer required to submit our assigned hub office in New York as one of our relocation choices.  

I was frustrated.  We had start all over.  More research online.  More praying.  More fasting.

We submitted our new choices and waited.  Waited.  Waited.  

And then one day about two weeks ago, Mike called me.  Again.  Only this time it was good news!

The hub director from the Forth Worth, Texas called him earlier that day to welcome to the office and was excited to meet him.  Fort Worth was our first choice.  We were so excited!

So for the second time in 2.5 years, we are going to live in a state where we don't know a single sole.  We are not familiar with the state in general.   We are starting from scratch and it's kind of exciting.  We'll be just a full days drive from from both our families.   We've had no official word yet, but word is we should be out there some time in June or July.

Moving to Virginia has been a pitstop full of blessings.  We've grown so close as a family since we've been here.  We love our ward (church) and have made good friends here.  We chose to move to Virginia.  When the Mr. applied for his job with HUD, my heart just knew that he would get it.  I knew without a doubt that we were supposed to move to Virginia.  We had to move here.  It took a lot of faith to believe that we belong in Texas.  I didn't feel the same way about Texas that I did about Virginia.   Until church one Sunday, weeks before we knew where we'd be moving to, we sang "I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go" in Sacrament Meeting.  I could barely get through the song.  My eyes were wet with tears and I had a strong feeling in my heart that the Lord was going to send us where we are needed.  That's when I knew it didn't matter where we went.  All that mattered was that I knew that He trusted us enough to go and do His work.   I've felt at peace ever since.

So here's to Texas, ya'll!

Do you live in the Fort Worth area?  What fun places should we check out?


Science Museum of Virginia

After rummaging through old photos on my computer late last week, I realized I never shared a little day trip we took last fall to the Science Museum of Virginia.  The kids had a day off of school and so we made plans for the Mr. to take the day off work too and we took the kids to explore a new fun spot in Richmond.

I fell in love with the museum as soon as we drove up.  The building was once a train station and there are hints of that vintage era everywhere.  I imagine it was quite the busy station, with well dressed travelers passing through its halls to go to New York or other such places.  I appreciate that the history of the building is incorporated into the design of the Museum.

The Museum was a perfect place to spend the day.  The exhibits were interesting enough to keep our seven year old occupied (he is now 7) and fun enough to keep the Mr. & I interested too.  Most of the exhibits are hands-on, which is great for my kids who want to touch everything when we go to places like this.  We enjoyed a few demonstrations too.  I just love it when grown ups are excited and borderline nerdy about science because it rubs off on my kids.

A Museum employee clued us in to the fun exhibits on the bottom floor.  We made sure to save a good chunk of time to explore it before we left.  You get a little square card when you enter that has a barcode on the back.  You can scan your card at each exhibit in the room and it keeps the results of each activity on your card.  Cards can be kept and used any time you visit the Museum.  How cool is that?!  We did yoga, made a music video, tried to balance on a rope and watched a cooking demonstration.  The bottom floor far exceeded my expectations.

If you're looking for something fun to do for the family, the Museum is a great place to explore the world of science.  I wouldn't mind going back with just the Mr., but I'm sure our kids would be jealous.


Busch Gardens Christmas Town

We managed to throw a fun little mini vacation into our Christmas holiday.  Grandma and Grandpa Buis sent us a little money to buy the kids some gifts.  The Mr. & I decided it would be better to purchase one large gift with it than individual gifts.  A friend had told me about Christmas Town at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg and how much our kids would love it, so we decided put the money toward two-day tickets to the park.  We used our Priority Club points toward a hotel stay at Holiday Inn Express and only had to pay for one of the two nights.  The park wasn't open till 3pm each day, so we ate our free breakfast at the hotel and brought a cooler full of food for lunches both days.  So we only had to pay for dinner at the park, which can be crazy expensive for six people.  We had burgers the first night, ordering 3 meals and splitting them in half.  It ended up being plenty of food because the burgers were huge.  Dinner for day two was a simple corn dog for the kiddos and the Mr. & I split a ginormous turkey leg.

I snapped pictures whenever I could.  I shoved my iPhone and a video camera in my coat pockets & got the kids to pose for pictures throughout the park.  The kids got sick of it halfway through day two so I was happy just taking pics of them on the rides when I wasn't riding them too.

It was in the low 30's both days, so we splurged for hot chocolate after the sun went down because it was the only way we could keep warm.  We cozied up in our winter coats, hats & gloves to fight off the chill.   The kids got smart and wore 2 pairs of socks on day two to keep their toes cozy.

The kids braved rides I thought they'd shy away from and the Mr. rode VerBolten all by himself - in the dark, in the front row and all by himself.  I don't care much for roller coasters.  I prefer my feet on solid ground.  So does Hailey.  She is not much of a thrill seeker either.  Carter and Tatum were much braver and wanted to ride everything in sight.  They remind me that sometimes I need to be brave and just do things even if it scares me.

Noah was just tall enough to ride most of the rides we went on and if he didn't meet the height requirement, there was a kiddie version of the same ride so he went on those instead.  It worked out perfectly.  He was my partner on most of the bigger rides and we had fun yelling "wooohooo!" together.  There were times when I knew he was scared but we were already on the ride and it was already going so I acted like I was having a really fun time so he'd feel more comfortable.  It totally worked.

This was such fun little trip for us.  We had the best time.  Thanks Grandma & Grandpa Buis!


bits of Christmas

Christmas seemed to have passed quietly this year.  Gifts were all bought and (mostly) wrapped the week before.  We played our favorite  vintage holiday albums on the record player every day while I baked cinnamon rolls and made pizzelles for a few friends from church.

Christmas is never really a big production in our home.  When the Mr. & I were just starting out, we could only afford just one or two gifts for each person in our family.  It started out as a necessary thing, but is now just how we do our gift-giving.  Keeping things simple reminds us that our focus really should be on the Savior and that all the things that we have are gifts from our Heavenly Father.

I took more time this year to ponder the meaning of Christmas - what it all entails and why we really celebrate it. My thoughts were focused on Mary and her role as the Savior's mother.  What an incredible amount of faith she must have had to know that she would bring Jesus into the world.  That she cared for Him and loved Him and supported Him in a way only a mother can.  Even at such a young age, she was entrusted with so much.  I have a great amount of respect and deep gratitude for her.

I hope your Christmas was all you hoped it would be.  I am counting this one as one of my favorites.


Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from our crew to yours!  We hope you are filled with love and joy on this very special day.


family fun//ice skating

We woke up last Saturday with an itch to do something fun with the kids before Monday rolled around and they were back in school after a very welcomed Thanksgiving break.  The Mr. suggested ice skating and everyone was instantly excited.  An outdoor rink is set up in downtown Richmond every year in an empty lot right across the street from the Mr.'s work.  It was a perfect day - chilly with clear skies.  We arrived shortly after noon and skated to our heart's content for as long as we liked.

The Mr. was a bit of a natural and didn't need to hold on the side of the rink like the rest of us.  After a handful of laps, Carter and Tatum let go of the side rail but never ventured too far from it.  Noah was brave and skated right into the path of the faster skaters, going as fast as his six year old legs could go.  He fell so much I thought for sure he'd have broken some part of his body.  But by the end, he was as happy as could be.

My first few times around, I clung to the side of the rink too.  I felt like my feet were going every direction but forward.  All the other moms were hanging on for dear life too & I felt like I was super cool when I got brave, let go of the side and skated around them just to grab on to the side again.  It was all pretty hilarious but I got the hang of it after a bit and decided to let go.  Much to my amazement, I didn't fall once! (insert happy dance - off the ice - here!)  I skated with the kids, wiping them off after falls and laughing with them about how awkward skating was.  I have a whole new respect for anyone who can ice skate better than me (which is just about everybody, ha!)

Hot chocolate and s'mores were the perfect way to end the fun.  There was a fire pit on the site for roasting marshmallows and warming our freezing hands.  This is definitely going on our list of Thanksgiving traditions permanently and can't wait to do it all over again next year!