Category Archives: Friends

Maddie’s Homecoming

Welcome Home Maddie

It was an all out parade. Neighbors and church friends lined the street as we finally pulled the car into the driveway.

Maddie was home.

Welcome Home Maddie!!


She was overwhelmed by the party. Cheers, balloons, cookies, popsicles, streamers, clapping. What a joyous commotion but definitely a change from the constant but subtle beeping sounds of the hospital room.

After a few minutes of breathing space in the house, and once the new Elsa costume her friend Charlie had given her was fitted properly over the rest of her clothing (despite the 70+ degree weather!), Maddie was ready to join the block party.

Princess Elsa

Oh, what a fantastic homecoming. Just one more example of the tireless support we received during this long ordeal. We are so extremely grateful for the love and support of these dear friends.

It’s good to be home again.

It Takes a Village…


When we bought the Pig House, we had no idea how much of a blessing that decision would become. You can view the home’s structure and the landscaping and even the layout of the street before you close the deal, but there’s no way to really know what your neighborhood will actually feel like.

It took me most of the winter and even the early spring of last year to work through the grief of leaving our last home, but when I did, I emerged to find a set of neighbors that I now call friends.

Our children feel at home not only in our house but on the entire street.

Light Sabers on the Street

There are kids everywhere. They pour out onto the street every afternoon as soon as school is done. In the summer, they hardly go inside at all. Age makes no difference. The older ones look out for the younger ones and the little ones look up to the older kids. They are creative and active and enjoy running around exploring the world together. When squabbles arise, they work it out themselves.

I’ve never known all of my neighbors before. It’s both a foreign feeling and one so easy that I can’t believe it’s taken us this long to find such a sense of community. One neighbor opens her garage to the best playroom you can imagine. Another neighbor holds weekly Friday/Saturday night garage movies. Others let Jake and Joe follow them around in their gardens, “helping” them water and dig up worms. Conversations are frequent and easy and there always seems to be some excuse for a party.

Labor Day BBQ

When we told them all that Maddie would need this surgery, every single one of them immediately offered help. They’ve provided meals, babysat the boys, come to visit in the hospital, given numerous gifts, prayed for us, and have otherwise been an unbelievable source of support.

Warren, Jake, and Joey are feeling the stress of this situation and miss both Colin and me when we are gone but they are able to find peace in the normalcy of life on our street. Our good neighbors have looked out for them and cared for them throughout these last few days and everyday. We are so grateful to know that they are happiest when they are home.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” the old adage says. Or four, in our case. And we couldn’t have found a better one to raise ours.

Tough Mudder

Colin meets the Tough Mudder

Joe talked Colin into participating in one of the most insane-sounding events around: the Tough Mudder. That’s 13 miles of army-like obstacles taken to the extreme. We’re talking ice water tanks, electrical wires, tubes, barbed wire and, of course, mud. All of it is meant to play on your fears and weed out the tough from the wuss.

Colin was up for the challenge. He trained hard in the month’s time he had to prepare, once we moved to Washington.

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The boys did a great job. Teamwork is the motto behind the event, which they took to heart. They worked together to complete the course, but not without injuries. Joe broke his nose and Colin bruised his rib. But they finished strong. Tough.

I couldn’t be there to witness the thing. Besides having four wiggly kids, they charged admission to be a spectator. So, Tami took these amazing pictures to capture the day.

Way to go Colin, Joe, Luke, and Aaron!

Memorial Day 2012

Memorial Day, like last year, was spent with Julianna’s family, only this time there was new baby brother Garrett to enjoy. We had a fabulous time at Zuma Beach, our favorite on the SoCal coast.

More good memories were made catching up, boogie boarding, digging in the sand, and eating lots of food.

To top it off, we ended the holiday at a BBQ with friends here in town.

The sun was shining non-stop, it was over 75 degrees, and we spent the afternoon with loved ones.

It was a perfect day.

6 White Balloons

My kind, thoughtful, amazing friend, Nanci, dropped by with a surprise gift for our family. Six white balloons– one for each member of our family– and sugar cookies cut into the shape of a temple for our Family Home Evening treat. Just because. Just to celebrate our recent happy events.

Such a simple gesture but one that made us, especially the youngest four, very happy.

I hope someday to be as giving and compassionate as Nanci.

Tami and Joe Visit Again

When we told our good friends, Tami and Joe, that we had a date for our temple sealing to Jake and Joey in mind, they started making plans to come down here to attend. We go back many years, back to the days of newly wedded-ness, and no kids, and late night cookie and ice cream study breaks. They’ve been there for us for so many ups and downs. They’re like family. Having them with us at the temple meant the world. And the fact that they’d be bringing their darling children along for a family vacation made the idea even better.

As usual, we spent long hours at night talking and eating delicious food, mostly cheese. 10:52PM on the microwave clock. We were just getting started.

We took a night out on the town to eat tapas after tapas at Milk & Honey, until we stuffed ourselves silly. But not enough that we couldn’t enjoy the Louisiana Bread Pudding Soufflé for dessert at the Palace Grill. To. die. for. I can’t remember a better evening.

And the rest of the time we looked for simple adventures.

We went to the Santa Barbara Mission. The kids ran around in the rose garden and enjoyed the warm sunshine.

We had them join in our Family Home Evening Easter Egg Hunt where the plastic eggs are filled with symbols that explain the purpose of the holiday. (Don’t worry, they still got some candy!)

Most walked away satisfied, except for Jake who felt slighted by a chocolate-less egg.

The big kids even planned their own activities. Like a backyard carnival, complete with popcorn, lemonade, games, and prizes. Below are the signs and tickets they created. These are imaginative kids, I tell you.

We’re so glad you came down for a visit– all of you this time. Come back soon, friends.

Double Birthday Bash

While our good friends were here visiting, we held a small birthday party for the two seven-year-olds, Warren and Mason. They are exactly 20 days apart, Mason being older. They’ve known each other since birth but have never had the opportunity to celebrate together. It was time we rectified that.

I made a vanilla Batman-themed caked with yellow cream cheese frosting. I cheated a bit both with the cake (used Trader Joe’s mix) and the Batman symbol. Tami did an excellent job of cutting the thing out of black construction paper. No one seemed to mind too much.

The dads wrapped the gifts and added their own drawings to the plain paper bags.

Both boys were sung to and blew out candles.

Then we dug into the cake, even after eating a ton of cinnamon rolls that morning.

And they each opened a super hero Lego set.

It was a good party.

Happy Birthday, Warren and Mason! You’re sure growing up fast. It seems like only yesterday you were little babies. Wish we could celebrate like this together every year…

General Conference Viewing

Though we missed the morning session on Saturday because we were driving back from the temple, we spent the rest of the weekend watching General Conference.

Tami and Joe and their three kids came down for Jake and Joey’s temple sealing, so we got to enjoy Conference with them as well.

We went traditional and had homemade cinnamon rolls for Sunday morning breakfast. They were quite tasty and rest assured we did add cream cheese frosting. I just snapped this picture before they were complete.

To keep the children (and adults) focused on the talks, we played the key words game with an obscene amount of M&Ms. Later we played Conference bingo, again with the plethora of candy. Sugar can really be a good motivator, or bribe. Take your pick.

Maddie had to resist devouring the entire contents herself. It was a test in self-restraint, I tell you.

What a powerful conference. I think that every time, but I really appreciated the topics and the spirit I felt while listening. I love how the apostles and prophets speak to us in ways that make us laugh and make us ponder. They are clear and straightforward. One of my favorites was by President Uchtdorf called, “The Merciful Obtain Mercy,” given Sunday morning:

“I don’t know exactly how to articulate this point of not judging others with sufficient eloquence, passion, and persuasion to make it stick. I can quote scripture, I can try to expound doctrine, and I will even quote a bumper sticker I recently saw. It was attached to the back of a car whose driver appeared to be a little rough around the edges, but the words on the sticker taught an insightful lesson. It read, ‘Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.'”

As always, I felt uplifted by the end of the weekend. Like I was ready to tackle the craziness of life again. Thank goodness we get this bi-annual spiritual recharge. And thank goodness we had good friends with us to enjoy it and discuss it together. Another form of spiritual recharge, for sure.

Cinnamon Roll Making Day

We spent a wonderful day down with our “extended family,” friends that I have loved for years and years and years. Julianna’s sisters (Tara and Wendy), Wendy’s son’s (Ashton and Aiden), and her mom and dad (Sharon and Robert) all came down from Utah to be with Julianna’s family for Christmas celebrations. If Julianna is my pseudo sister, that makes Sharon my second mother and all the rest pseudo-relations, as well. And that’s just how I think of them. It was one big, happy reunion.

The time was spent eating, and chatting, and catching up. All of the kids had a good time together. Laura was a great helper with all the younger ones, especially with Jake.

The day unfolded without any planning or particular agenda, other than to consume chocolate in all its various forms.

We had an indoor picnic.

Some spent most of the day hard at work…

While others were hard at play.

Then Julianna decided to take advantage of her mother’s fantastic cooking and baking skills and enlist her in a cinnamon roll making tutorial. Recently receiving this KitchenAid from generous sister Wendy helped seal the deal.

It had to be properly broken in. Plus, what was she to do about those pregnancy cravings?

I documented the experience.

We’re always laughing. Always. Didn’t you know baking was funny?

The tried and true method for cutting the dough: using thread. Way better than using a knife.

They are phenomenally good! Better than Cinnabon, I promise you!

I think I discovered the beginning of my holiday decorating obsession. It all started in 1st grade with Mrs. Fugate’s tissue paper projects. This is Julianna’s that she (like the rest of us) labored over, rolling each square of tissue paper into a tiny ball and then gluing it just right onto the particular pattern. Hundreds of tissue balls later, you had yourself a Santa or an angel tree topper. Somewhere, in my parents’ garage most likely, is my own Santa creation that looks similar to hers below.

Speaking of decorations, check out this cute Snoopy gingerbread house Julianna’s kids decorated. One of 5 Peanuts-themed houses they made. Adorable.

Aunt Tara and Aunt Wendy met Jake and Joe for the first time. There was mutual love.

After a great day of baking and eating and laughing, I was reminded how blessed I am to know this family. They are wonderful people that I love dearly. I’m glad I got to grow up with them. And I’m grateful that my kids get to now, too.

Cookie Exchange

Invitation designed by Punchbowl

Christmas is a time to eat. And what better way to celebrate the season of endless goodies than by hosting a cookie exchange– my first ever.

For some sad reason I did not take one single picture of this wonderful event, but rest assured I had a good time.

It was quite the cookie feast! Each gal who attended brought 2 dozen freshly baked cookies that were absolutely delectable. Chocolate, chocolate mint, lemon, raspberry, caramel and chocolate… What a spread! We sampled some there and took some home for later. I compiled the recipes into one collection that you can see here, if you’re looking for some tasty cookie ideas.

To make sure we had more to eat than just sugar, I served veggies and hummus, mini quiches (from Costco), herbed goat cheese and crackers, wassail, hot chocolate (that turned into pudding because I forgot to turn the crockpot to low!), and the recipe find of the year: Cranberry-Jalapeno Cream Cheese Dip and crackers. Please trust me, you must try this. I know this post is about cookies, but no one should go without trying this dip!

I wanted to have something for the many young children that would accompany their mamas to this event, so I put a table outside with flat gingerbread cookie houses, like this one, that they could decorate with cream cheese frosting (made by my friend, Rebecca, at the last minute as I was scrounging to finish setting up before the party started) and tons of candies. I’m pretty sure that most of the kids just licked the frosting and candies off the cookie, but I think they walked away satisfied.

My goal was to spread Christmas cheer and gorge on eat as many tasty cookies as possible. Mission accomplished, as far as I’m concerned. I loved spending time with friends as we munched on all the fine food the party had to offer.

I think I’ve found a new Christmas tradition.