Friday, July 27, 2012

And then... Connor turned 2!

Sweet Connor turned two on June 14th. June was such a crazy month. We had just gotten back from our anniversary trip and were also planning Erin's birthday and baptism. Luckily, Connor was the easiest one of all, due to the fact that he is only two. He said he wanted a car cake so this is what I came up with. Definitely not my worst cake. It was way easier and cuter than I thought it would be, and Connor loved the cars.
 Two round cakes with the ends cut off and then stand the ends up to make the bridge. Easy!
 He didn't quite know what to do with the candles and everyone singing to him. Plus, he was a little tired since he didn't have a nap. Oh, and this was right before he had his first real haircut. It was getting a little shaggy.
But after the candles he started pulling off the cars and playing with them. He loves playing with cars and got a bunch of them for his present.
Earlier that week Erin asked him what he wanted to do for his birthday and he said something like, "bah" to which Erin asked, "Oh, you want to go bowling?" So ever since that time he insisted he wanted to go bowling. A perfect activity for our family and something even he could enjoy. 
He loved pushing the ball down and then running back to his seat so excitedly. (Also, I love Jared's work clothes with bowling shoes. I guess I forgot to bring clothes for him. Oops.)
 More bowling fun.
It was actually kind of a rushed evening as well.  After bowling we got some Little Ceasar's, came home and ate as fast as we could, blew out candles, opened presents and then left for one of Alex's T-ball games. We didn't even have time to eat the cake until afterwards and Jared was at racquetball at that point. I hurried and fed them cake and put them to bed. It was a good day though.

In addition to the cars, he also got a dragon pillow pet...
 ...and, his favorite, a bouncy ball. See how easy this birthday was? He wouldn't let go of it, even at the game. And from the looks of it, we didn't even have time to wash the pizza off his face.
What a cute, happy kid!
 And just to remember what he is like right now, here are some facts about him.

1. He still loves balls and every kind of sport. He definitely has a lot of natural athletic ability. He runs with purpose, with his arms bent and throws like a 4 year old. He rides his little scooter around really well, especially for his age. He wanted to ride it in the ward 4th of July parade and I thought he would hold up the kids behind him, but he didn't. He kept right up with the other kids.

2. He has his own, self-proclaimed spot on the couch and on the bar stools and will get really mad if someone takes his spot. I have no idea why he thinks they are his, but nobody can argue with him about it. After all, you can't really reason with a two year old.

3. I let the kids each have one day a week to choose the shows they watch (since there were too many fights before), and Connor always chooses either Dora or Curious George--but mostly Dora. The older kids hate Dora and try to get him to choose something else, but he insists. And since it's his day, they have to watch it (it's either that or nothing). He even knows how to use the remote to select Dora and start it. Is that a bad sign at this age?

4. He loves to wear socks and shoes and constantly asks you to put them on or take them off when we get home. He absolutely refuses to wear any type of sandal. He won't even let you get close to putting them on. I guess he forgot about the whole living in Florida thing. He wasn't even walking when we left, so it's understandable. So socks and shoes it is. Whatever. He did start refusing to wear pants though. I don't know how I didn't have more shorts for him, since Alex only wore shorts in Florida, but he only had like three pairs and would always run out--and then he wouldn't wear pants. I finally bought him a bunch more, so he is happy.

5. He is starting to count to 10 but not always in the right order, and he always leaves out 6. He only knows one color and it's orange. He loves to color when the other kids do and plays with them, not just along side them. He LOVES Erin and she loves him. She takes care of him in a lot of ways and he lets her.

6. He is talking a lot and can really express what he wants. Sometimes he'll tell you a long story, which is mostly babbling, but his actions and the words he does say tell the story. He repeats the words of the Book of Mormon at night, when he isn't rolling, jumping or running around. Sometimes he gets mad and yells, "GO AWAY!" But he will always repeat the nice way of saying things too. He says thank you whenever you give him something and is learning to say, "Up, please" when he wants me to carry him. He can go up and down stairs really well, but if I am anywhere near him, he makes me carry him (which only makes this pregnant lady more winded than I already am just going up the stairs normally!)

7. He loved going to nursery, until about a month ago. His nursery leaders loved him and would tell us that he was their favorite every week. Then they got released and he started to hate going. I figure we'll just have to endure this one until our ward splits in a couple months and he has to get used to yet another change.

8. He loves his Diego back pack and makes me put it on when we go places. He pretends he is leaving somewhere and says, "Bye, mommy. I love you. Give me a hug." What a sweet, sweet little boy who is growing up so fast! That's why we have to have another one, because he isn't a baby anymore. When you ask him where the baby is, he will always say it's in his tummy.

9. He loves to be read to and to make sure I do it, he takes my thumb and inserts the book into my hand.

10. He is starting to refuse taking naps, much to my dismay. Sometimes I let him go all day, as long as he is happy, but sometimes he just needs to sleep. I'm not too mad about it though, because Marissa and he will have each other all day next year when the older two start school. And believe me, two playing together is way easier than one bored child.

11. When you ask him what his name is he will say, "Connor Daniels". Sometimes he says "Daniel Connors" as a joke. My name is Mommy Daniels, Jared's is Daddy Daniels, etc.

I'm sure there is so much more, but this is good for now. I love that kid so much and couldn't imagine our life without him. Happy Birthday Buddy Buddy!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Marissa's Birthday!

Since June was so busy, everything is kind of a blur. But I want to document my kids' birthdays, so next up is Marissa! She turned 4 on June 6th. The day before her birthday she was throwing up, so I was hoping she would be okay on her birthday. You have never met a child that was more excited about it than her. She kept asking how many more days it was and telling me exactly what she wanted to do and what cake she wanted and who would be there. I knew no matter what happened, she would be excited, but I also didn't want to let her down.

That morning I woke up early and made her cake. After that we went shopping. I kept telling her we would go buy her a new bike on her birthday.  But after going to two stores where I had previously seen bikes for her, we couldn't find anything. I was starting to feel like I was failing by not getting Jared a present on his birthday and then not getting her one either. Ugh.

Instead of a party, we met up with our next door neighbors and our across the street neighbors to do some activities together. We started at Thanksgiving Point where they happened to be giving out balloons for story time.
 For some reason, she hardly ever looks at the camera when I take her picture.
 Here they are playing on the structure they have there. I was sort of planning on them playing in their splash pad, but a cold front came through (notice the jackets).

 After Thanksgiving Point we made our way to Arctic Circle for lunch. They love this place because it has a great play place and they give out free mini ice cream cones. I could tell Marissa still wasn't feeling too well because she hardly ate any food (not that unusual) and she didn't touch her ice cream (unusual). Here are the three little neighbor girls. They are all only a couple of months apart and they get along really well. We are lucky to live by them!
Here are the other kids. I didn't get the other neighbor boy in the picture, but it just so happens that the same neighbors also have 5 year old boys with birthdays only a month apart from Alex. Nobody Erin's age though. She usually just hangs out with the boys.
After lunch, I went to one more store where I finally found a bike for her. I was so happy to find it and that it was already assembled. These were the only two pictures of the bike and they aren't great, but you get the idea. It's really cute. Probably my favorite kid bike we've gotten. I love that it is 14"--so not too big, but with room to grow.
We left for our trip to San Diego the next morning so I never got any of her actually riding it outside.

What she was most excited about was going to Trafalga. They have a bunch of rides that kids her age can do. Jared took the girls on the water blast ride where there is quite a potential to get really wet. And it was cold. But Marissa loved it! Even though she was still a little sick, she was not missing out on all this fun. I love these pictures.

Somehow, thanks to the negligence of the teenaged worker, Connor got to ride on the airplane one even though he is way too small for it. He loved it.
After Trafalga, we came home, ate pizza and cake, and opened presents. The cousins came over as well as the neighbors. It was kind of a long day. But, I didn't have to plan a party. The cake she chose was Hello Kitty. I have to say that this is a big improvement over the flyswatter cake. I thought it turned out pretty cute.
We had this cake and cupcakes that people decorated. Marissa didn't eat a bite of either. Poor kid. I know her stomach hurt all day.
 Opening presents.
 With her play jewelry. Too bad I was so rushed all day that I couldn't have done her hair any cuter. Oh well.

So, just to remember what Marissa is like at this point in her life... here are a few things about her. She is a middle child, but will never let herself be forgotten. When she wants something, she will ask and ask until she gets a response. She's a persistent child. And she always has a plan. If she asks to do something and I tell her to do something else first, she says, "and then can I do it?" I told her two days ago I would buy her some arm floaties and I cannot tell you how many times she has asked me when I was buying them for her and if it's on my list and if they are going to be Barbie ones and if we can go right now. It's been many. She is singing about it right now. She gets very excited about things. I love her excitement over little things. It's a good quality, even if it can get tiring for me. Now she is talking about what she wants to do for her next birthday... 11 months from now.

One thing she loves, is doing her workbook. She went through quite a few preschool workbooks last year because she wanted to do like 15 pages a day. I finally had to limit her to 4 pages because she is also kind of demanding of my help (see last paragraph--persistence). She is working her way through a giant kindergarten workbook and after that I am going to have to teach her how to read so that she can read the instructions herself. (Side note: I got Erin a cursive workbook and she loves it about as much as Marissa loves her book. Cursive is so fancy, you know.)
Marissa is very brave and will try things my other kids never would have tried at her age. She loves rock climbing, water slides, bike riding and anything adventurous. She is not afraid to get up in front of the huge primary or say things in front of everyone at story time. This may not be odd for other kids, but it kind of is for our family. I was always too shy to do any of that stuff, so it's weird to have a child like her. One day the "mean girl" came over and asked if anyone wanted to play on her swing set with her. My other kids just stared at her, but Marissa went over and played. I was amazed.

This girl is very, very social and always has been. Even at age one she was socializing with her friend Sam. Like really playing with him, not just parallel playing. Now she has so many little girls her age in our neighborhood and she loves it. I sometimes wonder what our future will be like with her.

In addition to being adventurous, she is also a girly girl. She loves princesses and jewelry. She wears a dress or skirt almost every day because she loves to twill in them, and I think it is so cute. She loves to watch me put on my make-up. She loves her dolls and Barbies, and she mothers Connor sometimes (when he's not whacking her).

She is sometimes sneaky and is still getting over her whining, but I think it's getting better. She doesn't like to look you in the eye when you are talking to her, which is another thing we've been working on. But, she is an eager helper. When I deliver door flyers for my calling, she is the best helper. She runs from door to door because it's just so fun. When we play games to clean up the play room, she has the most fun doing it and ends up being the best helper.

She still sucks her thumb. For months she told us she would stop when she turned 4, but nobody was fooled. This will be a hard habit to break.

Her favorite foods are pizza and rice with butter and salt. We will usually make gravy to put over it, but she will eat four servings of just plain rice with butter and salt.

Sometimes I feel bad for her because she gets picked on by Erin and Alex. Mostly Erin. I don't blame Erin for being annoyed by her because she is always following her around. But I can totally understand Marissa wanting to be like her and fitting in. I was a middle child after all. Connor and her get along pretty well, but there are definitely fights between them too. My one consolation is that she will always have many other friends besides her siblings.

I love my sweet Marissa and couldn't imagine what our family would be like without her spunky, sweet personality. Happy Birthday!

Worst Cake Ever

This is the post to say that Jared, once again, had another birthday (over a month ago). His family came over for dinner so this was round one of Jared's birthday celebration. Since we were eating cake with my family later, I made brownies for his family.
For some strange reason that I still cannot comprehend, I decided to make him a racquetball cake. You know, because he loves racquetball. Yes, folks, that's what it's supposed to be. Anyway, while I was working on it, Jared walked over and asked if I even had a plan as to how I would make it, which of course I didn't. I mean, I sort of thought it would just take shape on it's own. There aren't all that many google image examples of racquetball cakes anyway, in case you're wondering. And I really didn't have much time to even do a cake, let alone a themed cake like this one, seeing as it was before church.

When I finished and Jared came over to see it I said, "Well, it's not my worst cake" to which Jared responded, "Really? What was your worst cake?"

After much thought on that question, I finally realized that I have never made a cake quite as bad as this one. So yes, this right here is my worst cake.

Those cake-crumb-mixed-with-frosting-covered-in-blue-gel blobs are supposed to be racquetballs.

It is safe to say that everyone laughed at this cake, so go ahead. Laugh. There was some confusion as to what the cake actually was. It was mistaken more than once for our electric fly swatter (which is why I later added the fly), and once as a bunny with one ear. I can see it.
 Here we are with my family for round two.
 Cutting it only improved the cake, because it meant it would disappear soon. It was tasty though.
 All this talk about the cake and no talk about any presents. That's because there weren't any. I decided that his present should be a BBQ grill. We wanted one that could hook into the natural gas that we specifically put there when we built the house. But, as we soon found out, nobody sells natural gas grills. You have to buy a conversion kit, which is fine, but only the higher priced models have the option for the kit. So he ended up with nothing on his birthday, or for several more weeks.

I saw an ad for a grill for $80 off at Lowe's, so I decided to get it for him and surprise him on Father's Day. I had quite an interesting time trying to buy it, haul it in my friend's truck and then store it in our neighbor's garage without him knowing. When I pulled up, our garage door was open and Jared and the kids were outside in the back. I was lucky they didn't come out front, because that's where they usually are at night. My neighbor thought I was doing something illegal with how paranoid I was acting.

On Father's Day morning, we did a scavenger hunt for Jared. Along the way he found the grill cover and the conversion kit. Then he was led over to the neighbor's to find the grill. He had no idea. We have never had a grill before (besides a tiny propane on the ground one). It is so fabulous! We have used it many times since we got it. I love that we don't have to worry about running out of gas. Who am I kidding, I also love that I can just hand Jared some meat and I don't have to cook it. Now we want to put pavers where the grill is supposed to go. The projects never seem to end...
Happy Birthday and Father's Day Jared! We really do love you and all you do for our family!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Castle Bed!

THIS... is the infamous castle bed that we made. I'm not exactly sure why I thought it would be a good idea to build a bed, except that I knew I wanted something fun for the kids and I knew I didn't want to spend a ton on something cool. You could spend thousands on these types of beds. It ended up costing around $300 for all the wood, supplies, paint and tools. I could have gotten a regular bunk bed for the same price, but this was way cooler. I just knew I would have loved something like this as a kid.

I would love to say that I designed it all, but I can't. I got it from Ana White's website. Oh my goodness. Some people spend time on Pinterest, I spend time looking for new things to build on this website. It is amazing! She gives you step by step instructions as well as exactly what to buy and how to cut everything. We made some changes and saved one whole piece of 4'x8' plywood doing it, but overall, it was so awesome to have these free plans. I can't say enough about that website. Go check it out!
I didn't get too many shots of the beginnings of the project. All I know is that we think because we have a mini-van, that we can buy anything at Lowes and it will fit (thinking back to the time we bought a vanity and an 8'x10' shed on the same trip and brought it all home in one shot, including the double stroller and two car seats). Good grief. We had 5 giant sheets of plywood that we wedged inside of and on top of our car, and a bunch of other pieces of wood, while all the other kids rode in the smaller car. It was quite a sight. Mark my words, our next car will be a truck.

These were the first two pieces we put together. One tower is a bookshelf and the other is a window seat. My kids like to use it for a desk.

The next piece was the slide. This part was probably the most tricky, just because of trying to cut the ends of the white part at the right angle. It was also quite a little brain exercise because the instructions and cutting dimensions were meant for 3/4" plywood all over and we used some 1/2" and some 3/4" to save some money. Trust me, it is just as sturdy. But we would forget about that 1/4" inch sometimes, cut our wood and then have to adjust later. We ended up cutting a tunnel underneath the slide too just because I thought it would be fun.
Here is the other side, the steps (along with a couple of my scraggly kids). This thing is sturdy.
Another shot of the stairs with the two cubbies cut out. It was so nice to have the three car garage to spread out and work on this project. But, we did park at least one of our cars out of the garage for several months because of it.
This was one of the tools we bought for this project (the other was a jig saw). It is called a Kreg Jig and believe me, it is an awesome tool. Nobody at Lowes knew what it was, and Home Depot doesn't even carry it, so I suppose it's not that common. Basically you set it up so that you can drill your wood at an angle. Then you can attach it to another piece from the back or inside without seeing screws from the front or side. And I think it made everything really sturdy too. (I keep saying that, don't I? Mostly, I'm just surprised that we built something that isn't going to fall apart).
The close-up. We love this tool and will use it many times in the future. FYI-it was about $40.
Once all the pieces were assembled, we puttied and sanded. The next step was painting. Here is Jared doing the priming in my premier homemade plastic paint room in the basement. Don't be fooled though, I did most of the rest of the painting. We primed, painted it all in a light gray, taped off the brick pattern, painted the dark gray, then mixed the two colors and dabbed it on the bricks with a plastic bag. Since I didn't want it all the be bricks, I painted the steps and slide on the edges to look like worn stone--at least that was what I was going for. Last, I put a couple of coats of poly on.
We made all the rails with the Kreg jig and then put it together in the boys' room. We actually attached the back rail to the studs in the wall so it will not be moving any time soon. We also made the front opening wider so that we could build another twin bed to fit perpendicular on the bottom when Connor gets older. I cut out the sign on the front, painted it red and named it the Daniels' Kingdom.
The kids LOVE this bed! At first I was worried about them jumping on it and running across it, but now I'm pretty sure it isn't breaking. Connor can't get from the top step to the mattress, but he can climb up the slide and get on the bed. Alex is so happy to finally have something other than a mattress on the floor. He was on the floor for about 5 months so I kind of felt bad for him. But now... what a spoiled kid! Marissa keeps asking when we are going to build one for her. Not happening. They all play on this one anyway. It was a fun project, but it took us 4 months from start to finish. It shouldn't have taken that long, but you know, there were so many other demands for our time, like a full time job and kids and putting in the yard and such. Jared and I always worked on it together. I couldn't have done it without Jared, and he wouldn't have done it without me being so excited about it. We make a good team.  
Here is the inside. It's a great play house and storage spot for the books.
We've been reading scriptures here at night. Apparently none of the kids were paying attention though since they all have their own books. What else is new?
One of my favorite things is the lighting we added. We got two strings of LED lights at Ikea and it's perfect for the bottom. Then Alex wanted a reading light up top so we mounted his on the wall.
Everyone loves it (but probably not as much as me). I still can't believe we built it.
 And I am so glad we did!