May 28, 2013

We Remember

A full day was planned for our Memorial day activities, so we visited the Provo cemetery on the Sunday before to visit the grave sites of grandparents and great-grandparents on Jason's side of the family.

 Brevin and Spencer posed by the headstones of 
some of the namesakes of their middle names.

Ella made sure that all potted flower within the 
vicinity were properly saturated, while Garrett tested
 out the jumping height of several of the headstones.

Monday morning we traveled north to Logan to visit my mother's grave.  We also took the children by the Logan temple and the Brigham City temple.  They were closed for the holiday, but we were still able to get some pictures near the grounds. 

On our way home, we were invited to Clark and Lisa's home for a barbecue lunch and for a chance to shoot some hoops, dig around in the sandbox, and jump on the trampoline with cousins.  Grandma and Grandpa Gilliland were also there, and we had such a nice visit.

Our final stop on our trip was the West Warren Cemetery where I could pay tribute to my brother, Brad.

After a full day of activities, I returned home with a full heart.  I'm grateful for loving family relationships, and for the temples that allow those relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave.  Those are certainly reasons worth celebrating.

This post authored by Amber

May 25, 2013

Visits from the Grandparents

Whenever we have an opportunity to host Grandparents in our home, we are excited about the visit.  Grandma and Grandpa Funk stayed with us for some time when they traveled from San Antonio, Texas to attend Tyler's high school graduation.  Grandpa brought along his personal journals and Brevin and Spencer loved hearing him read to them stories of when I was a toddler.  I think the boys thought it was funny to hear how similar my behaviors were to that of Garrett and Ella.  He also had digital copies of all the images (converted from slides) of photos from my childhood, including our travels in Europe.  It was a most enjoyable stroll down memory lane.

I love, too, that Grandpa and Grandma Funk got to create some new memories with the children.  While the older boys were off at school, Grandpa played Frisbee with Garrett before moving on to a game of croquet with both Garrett and Ella.

A visit from Grandma and Grandpa Gilliland is also a welcomed treat.   When they travel from St. George to events up north, they always make a point to stop by our home, often bringing dinner to share with us.  They never leave until a board game is played, a puzzle is assembled, or Lego tower is constructed.  When it is time for them to leave, they make sure we have a brand new bag of peanut M&Ms and a package of Oreo cookies to go into our pantry.

What a blessing it is to have the love and continued support of such remarkable family members!

This post authored by Amber

May 24, 2013

Final Days of School

It seems funny that I am writing about the final days of school, but all the pictures are of carnival games, rock wall climbing, and talent assemblies.  I guess once the end of level assessments are completed, the last few days of school are a time for teachers and students to unwind and ease into the lazy days of summer.  I'm glad that some of the last things my children did before the break were memorable and fun.  The lasting impression left  upon their minds is that school is an enjoyable place to be, and it's somewhere they are eager to return to when the three months of leisure are up.

The whole family enjoyed a night of activity at the school carnival.  We couldn't have asked for nicer weather, too.  Brevin and Spencer especially enjoyed being with their friends Victoria and Jocelyn.  The four were so funny to watch on the gladiator-style bounce house.  They really took it to each other.

Ella followed Garrett on a handful of the bounce house slides, but then she spent a majority of the evening playing on the school playground equipment. Go figure!

Spencer had a blast with his friends trying to squirt each other with the not-so-invisible invisible ink, while Garrett and Brevin both stood in line to take on the rock climbing wall.  Jason and I took turns just following the children all around, enjoying watching them having such a good time.  We really love the school carnival.

Art City Elementary also holds a two-day talent show at the end of the school year.  They allow for 50 performances between two assemblies, and entries range from magic tricks, to singing, to playing musical instruments.  It is amazing just how talented all of the children are, but (of course) my favorite performance was a duet that Spencer and his friend Gabe did.  They sang Anything You Can Do from the musical Annie Get Your Gun, and they were as cute as can be!

I got to return to the school for yet another assembly.  This time it was the awards assembly that is held each year to honor the achievements of students in third grade and up.  Jason and I were able to attend and watch Brevin perform a song on the recorder and be presented with the "Music Recorder Black Belt."  He also came home with a handful of certificates from his teacher which included the Presidential Physical Fitness Award, Excellence in Reading Award, a Spelling Award, and Perfect Attendance Award.

The final bell rang, the secretaries played the Hallelujah Chorus over the intercom system, the boys handed each of their teachers a parting gift, and I snapped a few pictures to capture the moments.

They even got a good-bye hug from the principal. that all the children have left the building, I wonder how the teachers will possibly cope.  I gather, from this video they made, that they will be alright.

Once we left the school, Jason and I took the boys out to lunch at The Brick Oven to celebrate an amazing year completed.  We got home and I had each of them pose for a last-day-of-school picture that, through the magic of Photoshop, I was able to insert a picture from the first of the year. that all the children are home full-time, I wonder how I will possibly cope.  I gather that I will be alright.

This post authored by Amber

May 12, 2013

My Thoughts on Motherhood (Mother's Day 2013)

Photo taken on Mother's Day 2013

For many years, my mother had in her possession a handmade jewelry box that was proudly displayed centered on top of her bedroom dresser.  It was a simple cardboard box about the size of two bricks stacked on top of each other with a lid that folded closed inside the top opening.  It was covered in uncooked wagon wheel-shaped pastas that had been glued over the entire surface of the box with what I imagine must have been Elmer's glue, and it was finished off with a glaze of glossy red spray paint. This jewelry box had been handcrafted by my younger brother during his elementary school days, and I'm pretty sure it was given to my mother as either a Mother's Day or Christmas gift.

For some reason, I have thought a lot about that box as Mother's Day has approached this year. I know it wasn't the prettiest of things, and it didn't match the color of the room's d├ęcor or the bedspread.  Truth be told, it was kind of clunky looking and, well, it was made of cardboard and noodles.  But if you were to open it up, you would find all of my mother's nicest necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and rings.  I know, because as a young girl, I loved to open up that box and play with my mother's jewelry.

What's impressed me the most as I reflect upon that jewelry box is the fact that my mother treated it as a fully functional piece of furniture and she didn't stash it away somewhere unseen; she graciously accepted the gift as it was given and proudly used it for its intended purpose.  In so doing, I would guess that she sent a message to the giver, my brother, that she was grateful for his efforts and that she loved and appreciated him for it. Because she used it over such a long period of time, she sent a message to me.  Now that I think about it, there must have been a certain amount of humility involved in giving up owning an actual, store-bought jewelry box in favor of one that was awkward and, needless to say, looked nothing like a jewelry box.

I've recently been thinking of that box as a metaphor for motherhood.  I once had expectations for myself and what I thought my life would be like as a mother.  Then I became a mother.  I know I never anticipated that motherhood would be so awkward at times.  Like a misplaced pasta noodle that didn't line up in perfect symmetry on the box, I've had many moments where I've been a bit "off" as I've tried to navigate my way in my responsibility and role as a mother.  There has been a certain amount of humility involved in giving up my ideals of perfection in favor of accepting myself and my life with all of its imperfections. And maybe motherhood doesn't always look quite exactly as I once thought it would, but I gratefully accept the gift given of God, and I love and appreciate Him for it, because I know that just like my mother's jewelry box, some of my most precious possessions and experiences--my family, my children, and the good and bad times that we share--are safely contained within the "cardboard box" that is diaper changings, endless laundry, interrupted sleep at night, a sink full of dirty dishes, messy floors, etc.

Truer words were never spoken:  It's what's inside that counts!

This post authored by Amber

Shiver Me Timbers! Garrett is Five!

This is my third son, Garrett.  He is one of those people who does not require any introduction, however.  His dynamic personality has allowed him to develop quite a reputation 'round these parts.  People know him to be spunky, animated, energetic, and feisty.  I get to witness first-hand his intrepid, fearless nature as I try to keep him relatively "reigned in," a task that requires unusual amounts of energy on my part.  His conquests are not for the faint-of-heart-mother.  I have watched him scale perilous heights, jump over treacherous terrains, and forge on into the unknown without a thought of looking back.  He wants to explore the world, and he does it in his own high-spirited and self-determined way.  Garrett lives life on his own terms--he lives it.  I'm telling you, this kid lives life.   And we...well...we love it.  We love his passion, we love his exuberance, and we love his big, giant heart.  And let's face it. This kid is a total crack-up to be around. Don't believe me?  Just watch this:

Garrett's Pirate Party

I can't tell you how thrilled I was that Garrett wanted to have a pirate theme for his friend birthday party.  I'd already done one for Brevin, and I had all of the invitation designs, the treasure hunt clues prepared, the palm tree decorations, and I even saved the sails that I used on his pirate ship cake.  Recycled parties are the best.

The invitations were such a hit the first time around, there was no need to change them. The party information was made into an authentic-looking treasure map that was printed off on postal packaging paper that had been cut to fit through the printer, the map's edges were burned, and then it was rolled and placed into an empty IBC root beer bottle for delivery.

Having a second shot at making the cake proved to make a big difference in the end result.  I was able to find a really good tutorial online with detailed step-by-step instructions and photos.  As I was baking the cakes according instructions, I realized that the cake example I was following was intended to feed a massive group of people. I decided to cut the cakes in half and saved the left-over cake in the freezer for my next child's birthday, so no harm done.  Let the party begin.

Garrett oppened gifts just after guests arrived.
A quick game of Pass the Skull was played (similar to Hot Potato).

We went outside to participate in a number of tactile activities.

The last game we played was a treasure hunt that had clues
 leading everyone to the party favors and cake and ice-cream.

This picture makes me laugh because I realize that I don't 
look like a pirate quite as much as I look like Bret Michaels.

"Drink up, me hearties!  Yo ho!"

Each of the children got a handmade pirate hat, bandana, and eye 
patch in their favor bags. One of the girls didn't want to wear hers just yet.

For our final activity, we let each child take a whack at the pinata with a 
pirate sword.  When that didn't prove too successful, we switched over to a bat.

When the last buccaneer "shipped out" at the conclusion of the party, we were left with a sight that would have made someone think they were on location in the island of Tortuga.  I think that is a sign of a really good time, don't you?

Garrett's Birthday Dinner #1

Garrett had told us he wanted to have his birthday dinner at Sonic, and he wanted to eat outside on the restaurant grounds. We were confident that his reasoning had everything to do with the one airplane toy that was out on the grass in between the tables.  Our suspicions were confirmed when playing on the toy was about all he did while we were there. I did manage to get him to sit down for a bit of eating. When I asked him how his hamburger was, He gave me a thumbs up and flashed a food-filled smile for the camera. We took him on the night of his friend party so I wouldn't have to worry over dinner that night, and his request would be acknowledged.  Jason convinced him to have a second birthday meal on a different night at a slightly nicer location, and we'd invite Grandma and Grandpa Park to come along.

Garrett's Birthday Breakfast

It just so happened that Garrett's birthday fell on Mother's Day this year, so both of us were treated to breakfast in bed.  Jason made Belgian waffles, and Ella joined in on helping me eat mine. 

After breakfast, Garrett got to open his gifts, which included books, Hershey chocolate bars, Pringles chips, a fishing pole, a golf frisbee game, and a jumbo plastic blow-up ball that three small children could fit inside.

Garrett's Birthday Dinner #2

Pizza Pie Cafe has quickly become the restaurant of choice for my children on their birthday.  I think it might have something to do with the Oreo pizza.  Garrett's birthday dinner seemed to be a perfect Monday night activity, and it was fun to have Grandma and Grandpa along for the meal as well.  It was a delicious meal and a fitting conclusion to the week-long celebration of Garrett's birth.

Happy 5th Birthday, Gare-Bear!

This post authored by Amber