Friday, January 31, 2014

Flashback Friday - Spring 2012

From my journal:

Spring 2012

Spring Break started off great...
we enjoyed the MACfest and all of the creative people who operated it
of course we visited Fountain Hills on St. Patrick's day
we played Qwirkle
we sipped mojitos (by Crystal Light)
we got a new couch!!
Then, I got a new calling
Primary Secretary
this new calling kind of took over the remainder of the Spring
as I had to learn, with no real training, how to do this calling
how to be organized
how to be flexible
how to work work with others
how to deal with criticism
how to love the children (that came fast)
how to love the teachers
how to love the parents
I am grateful for this opportunity to grow
although I have experienced growing pains
I think I am getting the hang of things is hard work
this has taught me the importance of
organization:  mentally and literally
I have learned that life just will not go the way I want it to without working for it
I love learning from the ladies I serve with – they are great examples

As far as family moments, this Spring went by in a blur.....
I do remember Harrison's Academic Night
Harrison and Todd's Grand Canyon Field Trip
Fathers and Sons – Mothers and Daughters
Alyssa's class party
Alyssa bridging to Brownies
One big thunderstorm on a half day
Alyssa wanting a gold tooth!

My life is good
I am a work in progress
I am learning to enjoy the little moments

I am learning to enjoy myself

The City of Mesa does a festival every spring.  I love them, as most of the events and activities are free.  I took the kids on the day school got out for spring break.  The funnest thing was the building of a life size saguaro cactus - with legos.  The kids got to make bricks that would be made to build the lego cactus.  We had a really fun time!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Temple Sunrise

I quickly snapped this picture with my phone one morning while entering the gym.  I wish this picture could adequately express the beautiful red of this sunrise.  I wasn't the only one in that parking lot taking a picture of this striking sight.  Seeing the temple underneath that magnificent sky was amazing to behold.  It felt holy.  We see the temple on a daily basis while out and about.  We are pretty lucky to be so close!  

Friday, January 3, 2014

Flashback Friday - Winter of 2011-2012

This winter was great, a literal winter wonderland!  From my journal:
We kicked winter off with a two day stay at The Montelucia Resort and Spa in Paradise Valley.  It was frigid, for the desert, and rainy.  Under the beautiful wintry sun's rays, the kids played at the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park.  We also took a ride on the train and then the carousel, I joined them too.  It was super fun to do something out of the ordinary, even if we were shivering!  We then checked into the fanciest hotel I have ever been to.  The Montelucia is gorgeous.  Located directly under the famous Camelback Mountain, the resort is a perfect respite from the city.  Since we visited in December, it was decorated for Christmas.  The room we stayed in was basic, but had nice finishing touches and gives me ideas for our home's future.  We took the kids out to Sweet Tomatoes for dinner and they loved that place!  I guess you can't go wrong with all you can eat!  In the morning, Todd and I traded working out and watching the kids swim in the hot tub.  We then came back to our side of town for a delicious brunch at Cracker's and Harrison's last soccer game of the season.  Brennan joined us at the resort later that afternoon, sadly the drizzling rain wasn't going away, so we went to the Scottsdale Fashion Square mall and then Goodwill - mismatched shopping trip if I say so.  We finally braved the cold air and went to the hot tub in the pitch dark night!  We played "Would You Rather" and had a good time.  The next morning we checked out and drove back to Gilbert through fog, a true rarity here. 
The rest of December was filled with festivities large and small.  We had lots Cub Scout Christmas parties - a den one where we painted ornaments, another where we decorated cookies and watched Mr. Krueger's Christmas, and then a pack meeting where we sang carols.  For Daisies, we painted ornaments too.  For Smith family home evening we watched part of the First Presidency Christmas Devotional.  Alyssa had a fun class party and I got to volunteer.   I love volunteering in her class!  We invited our friends, the Monroe's over for dinner and a little Play Station Move.  December 23rd my family got together for yummy Mexican food and Christmas gifts with Gavin and Karly, since they went to California for Christmas this year.  Christmas Eve we had our usual party with Dad's side of the family and a Christmas Eve brunch with Todd's family.  Christmas morning was just the four of us, then church, which was great, and then opening gifts at my mom and dad's.  Later on, the Monroe's joined us for a baked ziti feast.  It was a crazy couple of days!  Even though I was so tired, I do realize how lucky I am to have so many people to celebrate with.  Honestly, all I remember about New Year's is that the kids and I were in my bed and Todd stayed up late and came to kiss us at midnight!  New Year's Eve, we spent with Gavin, Karly, and Tanner, and Karly's brother's family at the park.   The weather was perfect, the kids and adults had fun, and Gavin let us play with his helicopter!  Then we came back to our house and played four-square with Brennan in our drive way.  I remember lots of teasing and laughing.

These pictures were taken Christmas morning.  My mom made Alyssa's dress.

January came too soon and the kids had to start school again.  Some great things are happening this new year.  We are being more diligent than ever in reading scriptures as a family.  As a result, I have noticed Alyssa has become a better reader and Harrison is soaking the words right up.  He makes connections between the ancient prophets and how their words pertain to our day.  He doesn't care for the Isaiah chapters though.  We are also doing Family Night better.  Todd makes it a point to come home earlier on Mondays and plans the meetings.  Our kids really like it.  Harrison smiles when we get together.  He likes to get his agenda out when we calendar our week so that he can write our schedule in his agenda.  Alyssa loves to lead the music.  They are learning the Articles of Faith too - and we are relearning them!  I credit this to Todd's influence.  I am so happy and proud of him for taking initiative.  The spirit in our home is sweeter than before.

Alyssa's Daisy Girl Scout Troop joined a World's Fair.  We represented Germany.

All smiles after getting her ears pierced

Alyssa received "The Secret Garden" for Christmas and the two of us read it together.  We then watched the movie.  It was so awesome to read with Alyssa.  She reads with such cute intonations.  It was even better to watch her watch the movie.  It is a slower movie, less flashy than anything on Disney or Nickelodeon, but she was enthralled.  She really knew the story.  This is so exciting to me.  I love seeing her relationship with literature blossom. 

We went "hiking" on President's Day.  We visited Hole in the Rock and "A" Mountain.

Harrison is a great helper.  He makes lunch for himself and Alyssa nearly every school day.  I don't even have to remind him anymore.  He is also so smart!  He is getting straight A's.  He still loves Legos.  He does his best to choose the right.  He goes home from Cubs with Zach Berrett until I am done with my den.  I am so glad that he can make friends and be a friend.  I still can't believe that he is 9.  When did that sweet, tiny baby turn into this brainy boy who loves to listen to Coldplay?  In the blink of an eye, that's when.
Sibling love
Todd is doing very well at work.  He is the 1st Counselor in the Elder's Quorum and is doing a good job.  He is ever studious in the scriptures and is currently in The Old Testament.  He is a good example to me, I need to be better!  He is starting to get into biking, which is fun.  We went to a Suns Game VIP style and met Jerry Coanglo.  Sometimes I can't believe that we are experiencing the things we are!  We still go out once a week for lunch.  There is a blond girl that works there and is always so happy to see us!  Todd took me to see "Wicked", which was fabulous.  He got us 10th row tickets!  Super fun, even though we were both getting over the stomach flu!  I feel very content in my relationship with Todd, it just keeps getting better.
I am a work in progress.  Admittedly, I see my family through rose colored glasses and/or forgive them for their flaws more easily than I do mine.  I see me needing to eat better, run faster and stronger, read my Sunday lessons every week, be a better mother, wife, etc.....BUT, I have made progression these past few months.  I have been doing better at Weight Watchers and am 5 pounds from goal.  I am running longer distances, even if slow, and I really enjoy my runs.  I am biking long distances and am loving those bike rides too.  The endorphins can not be replicated any other way!  I have attended the temple.  I have read some of my lessons.  I am making it to church on time.  I genuinely love my cub scouts and girl scouts.  We sold cookies for girl scouts.  We are doing more fun family activities, like hikes, games, Superbowl parties, and Astronomy Nights at the Planetarium.  I am trying my best to really listen to my kids.  I am so in love with my kids.  I miss them when they go to school.  I think they are so great and I am trying to find ways to help them develop into what their Heavenly Father wants them to become.  I have a great partner in Todd who balances me out.  I will use the word content again, that is how I feel most of the time with my life.

Nothing spectacular happened this winter, but it was a spectacular winter!  We enjoyed each other.  We have learned with and from each other.  We have loved each other.  As this season ends, another is beginning, and with it are a multitude of opportunities for growth, learning, fun, and love.  Good-bye winter.  We will miss you!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Harper Lennon Smith

Harper Lennon Smith
August 4th 2013
10:21 am
8 pounds 5 ounces
21 1/2 inches 

Harper has been an amazing addition to our family and we are so grateful to have her.  We named her after Harper Lee, who wrote my favorite book, "To Kill A Mockingbird" and John Lennon, one of the Fab Four.  I pray she can be as thoughtful and thought provoking as those two artists were.  Harrison and Alyssa love having a baby sibling and were such a great help to me when I was pregnant and now that she is here.  We are a happy family of five!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Well, we did it, we survived another holiday season!  Having this little bundle of joy along for the ride this year made it crazy hectic, but crazy fun too.  She is the best thing that happened to the Smith family in 2013 for sure!
Harper Lennon Smith
Born August 4, 2013

To celebrate the new year, we went to the Phoenix Zoo.  It was a beautiful, sunny day and the animals were more active than I've ever seen before.  Most notably, the cobra was dancing around his glass case and the magnificently beautiful Mexican Wolf was prancing about his enclosure.  We stopped by Jimmy John's for some lunch on the way home.  Todd and Harrison went to see "The Hobbit" later in the afternoon while the girls and I napped.  We rounded out the day with a simple dinner home.  I can only hope the rest of 2014 will be as wonderful as today!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Good Bye to Thailand

As I was looking through the entries in the journal I keep on my computer, I came across this entry I wrote shortly after we returned from Thailand.  For posterity, I have to include this entry, even if it repeats much of what I shared before:

Thailand July 1-11 2011

Long layover in SLC overlooking the gorgeous Wasatch Mountains, excited and weary for the long flight ahead.  Watching movies together on plane, pretty good airplane food.  Layover in Tokyo - it is surreal being in my ancestors homeland.  Another long flight to Bangkok.  So excited to see Todd's parents in the middle on the night in Thailand.  Our first view of Thailand is in the pitch black, it looks like a metropolis, not a jungle.  Their home is large and nice, our bedroom is nice and cool.  I read until 4am, can't sleep, Todd can.  We have church at 9am.  Met Noi, very nice.  We went to church and got the first real view of Thailand.   It is wet and green.  A city in the jungle.  Our glasses automatically fog up when we exit an air-conditioned building or car.  The church is in a small building where sacrament meeting, Sunday School, and Relief Society all taking place in the same room.  The families are all so cute.  We had missionaries translate for us and then members for the other meetings.  The lessons were great and the same lessons being taught back home.  I felt the spirit.  I also felt how much Janis loves the people there and how much they love her.  We got home and snacked on cheese, crackers, and delicious Thai fruit.  I needed a nap and while I napped it poured heavily.  Todd woke me up for a yummy dinner with the whole family.  I am jet lagged. 
The next morning we went to the Floating Market, the Snake Farm, and the Rose Garden.  The sun in Thailand is much closer to the Earth than in Arizona.  It is warm and humid!  We met Italian tourists at the Rose Garden and it was fun to see Todd talk with them.  We rode and fed an elephant, held and kissed a snake, and watched an elephant and Thai cultural show.  The people here seem so nice.  The snake performer - you pay with your money, we pay with our lives.  
We went to an enormous mall where we bought some souvenirs.  It is amazing how huge this mall is, Bangkok is swarming with people, cars, traffic.  We went to the beautiful Jim Thompson home.  The gardens and his home are beautiful.  The restaurant was delicious, but Noi's is just as good!  Noi showed me how to make Coconut Soup.  We went to workout at the gym, went on walks with Noi and Janis.  We got manicures and pedicures at a nice salon.  It was so relaxing, a nice treat.  Went to the Big C, like Wal-Mart, which has a food court in the bottom floor.  The street food trucks serve drinks in plastic bags, and they eat a ton of pork.  We went to Que Pasa's for "Mexican" food.  
We went up to the mountains, road trip!!  We saw wild deer and a wild monkey at the state park, although no wild elephants.  Thai girl took a picture with us, I guess Americans are a rare picture opportunity.  The country has beautiful green, rolling hills with giant, golden Buddhas sitting atop of the mountains, or fields.  It is eerie looking to me.  We went to a meeting house, which is similar in size to our seminary buildings.  We spoke to missionaries there.  Their enthusiasm is inspiring.  Janis knitted a blanket, Todd snoozed on and off.  We went to chok-tai - hamburgers.  These were delicious.  It was funny how American West it looked.  We heard there was a "haboob" back home, it made the Thai news!  
We went to the Grand Palace with Mike, it is overwhelming, so intricate and beautiful, but it is a lot of information to take in.  We went to the reclining budda, huge and again, eerie, not my favorite thing.  There was a grade school on site, and I loved seeing the students in their adorable school uniforms.  I love school!  We went on a boat across a muddy river to the Temple of the Dawn and climbed the stairs to the top.  It offered a beautiful view of Bangkok.  The weirdest thing about Bangkok, to me, is how flat it is.  We could see out forever it seemed. (It was a really long road trip to the mountains the day before).  
We went to a park in downtown Bangkok where President Hinckley dedicated Thailand for missionary service back in the 1960s.  The park was beautiful, very similar to what we have at home, except for the free exercise equipment!  It is like gyms in the middle of the park, free to the public.  There aren't heavy people here in Thailand. 
The traffic is crazy and the drivers are defensive, Janis doesn't drive here.  Being in a taxi is like an amusement park ride at times.  
We went to Ayyutia, which has ancient ruins.  It is cool to look at, but also sad, because they are in ruins due to war.  It was extremely hot this day and we stayed anyway to watch an Elephant show.  The best part happened before the show though, an elephant kissed Janis on the cheek and then grabbed her chest!  They have cute personalities, yet I can't forget that they are huge animals, some with sharp tusks, and they are roaming right next to us.  How can that be safe at all?  One tourist, Australian I think, asked Todd to video her dancing with an elephant.  She fed it bananas, soda, and kept hugging and kissing it - this massive animal.  Yet, a bee was swarming around her and she got so scared of that bee that she dropped her drink and ran away from it.  I couldn't hold back my laughter.  Sure, I wouldn't want to get stung by a bee, but being trampled by an elephant is way more scary to me!  The show was great, elephants make great dancers.  They have better rhythm than I do, that is for sure.  
After we sweated almost to death and were dirty and smelled like elephants, we left Ayyutia to go to a shopping mall.  Getting to the mall was fine, no real traffic, but finding a parking space was another story.  It seemed like there were at least 20 levels in the mall parking garage.  It was worth it though.  When we got to the mall, Mike treated us to ovaltine and a pastry.  It doesn't sound good, but it was great!  First, watching them making the ovaltine was a great show, second, it was absolutely delicious.  We came home and started packing up to get ready to go home to our kids in Arizona.  I was sad to leave, but ready to see my kids again!  We had pizza for dinner and we tried to get some sleep before leaving in the middle of the night for the airport.  
We left Thailand the way we came, in the dark.  It is a beautiful country, with even more beautiful, gracious people.  I can see why Mike and Janis love it so much.  This was a trip of a lifetime, and I will be forever grateful to Todd's parents for treating us to a fabulous time.  Most of this country flooded shortly after we left and that makes me so sad.  I often wonder what beautiful sites I visited are now ruined.  

Autumn Appreciation 2011

From my journal:
 It's bizarre, I get anxious when the school year starts.  I worry about the kids, about their school work, the routine, the good-bye to lazy summer days.  Yet, these things are exactly what we need after a few  months off.  That is the wonderful, amazing thing about life.  The cycles it brings.
I took this selfie right after I got the phone call that I was an aunt again!  My brother, Gavin and his wife, Karly, have an adorable little boy, Tanner.  We were so excited!
Actually, autumn doesn't come until school has been in session for about 9 weeks, but in Arizona, we create our seasons instead of the weather!  This "autumn" started with a fun  visit from my good friend Marsha and her family.  We spent the entire last day of summer at her hotel's poolside.  It helped keep my back to school blues away!  The first and second day of school, I volunteered in the kindergarten class, with Alyssa's old kindergarten teacher.  I saw "The Help" with Marsha, which was a great movie, as good as the book it was based on!  The second day of school, we had a pizza party with Marsha's family and the NFL football season officially started.  We finished off the week with a girl's night - with Marsha and Stephanie, and another pool party. 
Harrison is in fourth grade, Alyssa in first.  They love their teachers, Mrs. Clifford and Mrs. Doutrich.  Harrison is also in ALP for math and language.  He is doing quite well, as is Alyssa.  I have enjoyed volunteering in their classrooms through art masterpiece, parties, and just helping with centers. 
Harrison has entered the exciting  world of soccer this fall.  His coach, Brother Whaley, is a great motivator.  I am happy that Harrison is having fun with it.  Harrison is continuing in Cub Scouts and is a Bear this year with Sisters Moody and Schmidt.
Harrison's Fourth Grade musical - "Arizona"
Alyssa is a Daisy Girl Scout and I am her leader along with Tamara Noel.  She loves it and we have had fun together.  This fall, we participated in the Veteran's Day Parade along Mill Avenue in Tempe.  She turned six this October!  I can't believe how grown up she is becoming.
We had a few trips this season.  Todd and I took a last minute trip to Vegas for Todd's 5 year Law School reunion.  Vegas was just how I remembered it.  We stayed in our old neighborhood and it was sentimental to see our old haunts.  Law School was a wonderful time for us.  We learned and grew a lot.  My babies grew up there!  Vegas will always have a special place in my heart.  The strip, however, does not! 
A few weeks later all four of us went to Salt Lake City for the ASU/UofU football game.  We stayed with Trevor and Whitney.  It was a fun, relaxing trip.  We had great food, enjoyed cold weather, and saw extended family too.  The best part was lying in bed with Whitney watching reality tv and totally relaxing.  It was just what I needed!  On the way back home, we stopped at Cove Fort and The Mountains Meadows Massacre site.  We drove through St. George and Vegas - again!  It was nice to get away for a few days as a family.
swinging at Liberty Park
anytime we take a picture of Harrison he loves to flash "Go Devils"
what a cute playground
with my sweet boy
with my sweet girl

climbing around

  Todd read about Mountain Meadows and wanted to pay his was very a very solemn visit.

Fall Break was fabulous.  It kicked off with the Utah trip.  After our return, we had an Apple Store field trip with Wolf Cub Scouts - of which I am still leading - and made music videos.  We enjoyed a park day, a movie day, and other relaxing days.
The cute Wolves dressed up to rock and roll!
This fall, Todd and I have been having fairly regular lunch dates on Tuesdays.  We love it.  We are boring and generally go to the same place, Rubio's.  They know us there now.  It is a great time in our life to have the freedom and ability to spend time together in the middle of the day.
Halloween was celebrated in mass abundance.  I think we had a total of 9 parties!  Overkill?  Absolutely!  The best part was Halloween night.  We set up a monster laboratory in our driveway, BBQ-ed hot dogs and had macaroni and cheese - Karly's family tradition.  We met our neighbors thanks to the "lab".  It was a missionary attempt, but we were blessed by having fun meeting the neighbors.  Karly and I took the kids trick or treating, while Gavin and Todd manned the lab.
My birthday was celebrated in mass abundance too.  It is a little embarrassing.  I am a lucky, lucky girl to have so many family and friends who want to celebrate with me.  The best birthday gift was the cooler weather that finally graced us! 
Do you want to know what else was celebrated in mass abundance this fall?  ASU football.  Todd has gone to the majority of their games, and for awhile I thought he was their good luck charm.  The luck has run out though as their winning streak has fizzled.  I won't go to a game while it is still ridiculously hot, I don't like football or the heat.  I did accompany Todd to the Homecoming Game, and enjoyed the free food and limitless supply of Diet Coke....One of the benefits of being a Sundevil Sponser! 
Thanksgiving was wonderful.  I love how we focus more on our blessings this time of year.  We have so many.  After some health problems I have had in the past, I am especially grateful for my body, my health, and the ability to exercise.  Thanks to my friend, Stephanie Pratt, I have been inspired to run again.  We started by meeting at Tempe Town Lake and walking its perimeter, 5 miles, every other Saturday.  She signed up for the turkey trot, a 10k, on Thanksgiving.  I decided to do it too.   I ran every step and felt great!  I had a runner's high all Thanksgiving Day.  I am thankful to be running again.
I am so grateful and appreciative of my life.  I have so much.  My family is my greatest joy.  Todd is a great husband and so supportive of me and my endeavors.  He loves me and loves our children and isn't afraid to show it.  Harrison is so smart, funny, and a great help to me.  He is a deep thinker and has caused me to think of things differently.  I enjoy spending time with him.  Alyssa is a diva with a heart of gold.  She is smart and thoughtful.  She is learning to read and write.  She writes copious notes in  her notebook all the time.  I always wanted a family and the family I have been blessed with is more amazing than the one I dreamed of having.  I couldn't ask for anything more.  As we move from Autumn into the Christmas season, I plan on carrying with me my thankful heart. 

My sister-in-law, Janette, and I took our kids to a pumpkin patch before Halloween.  Oh boy, it was fun, and super hot and sweaty.  I think that pumpkin patch farmers should stay open all winter.  It is just too hot to really enjoy fall festivities in October!

"Riding" horses

Cute, sweaty kids

Enjoying the petting zoo

Going on a ride

Cousin fun!