O Christmas Tree

Growing up in the desert meant that you went to a parking lot to pick out a pine tree for Christmas.  I didn't know any different, and it was one of my favorite Christmas traditions.  The trees were tied up into bundles, and the tree guys threw them down from the back of a huge truck.  They'd cut the strings off and the branches would bounce out in a jolly reveal of it's perfection.  We'd spend forever choosing the fullest, tallest, most perfectly shaped tree.  {We always wanted the tallest one on the lot and Dad always had to talk us down.}  After we finally made a selection the tree guys would tie it down in the truck for us and we'd take it home.

Those tree-filled trucks came down from Oregon, though they might have come down from the North Pole for all I knew.  People only got to cut down their own trees in old movies, I thought.  Meanwhile, my future husband and his family in Oregon were cutting down their own Christmas trees most years!

Magical, right?  We don't live in Oregon, but we do have naturally growing evergreens around here.  So Roy got us a tag and we headed into the forest as a family.

Problem was... we didn't really know where we were going.  The US Forest Service gave us a really sorry excuse for a map that was supposed to tell us where it was legal to cut down a tree.  We got lost real fast.

We finally stopped in the middle of nowhere, and we were pretty sure we were allowed to cut down a tree.  Camden and Roy stomped around through the wood looking for something roughly the right height while Hallie and I watched from the road.

Funny thing is that as soon as Roy put the blade to the tree trunk the tree hugger in me wanted to stop him.  But Camden loved the whole process.

Except for the part where he had to share his personal bubble with pine needles.

Hallie, on the other hand, rather enjoyed having something to play with.

O how I loved our Arizona Christmas tree in our living room, sparse and lopsided and awesome.  This year Camden really liked decorating it.  He wanted to hear the story behind each of the ornaments we put on our tree.  And the gaps in the tree were so huge that the ornaments were extra visible, haha!

Hallie liked the lights and trying to rip apart all of the ornament boxes.

The rest of our Christmas prep was wonderful.  There was the 6th annual Grammy Camp, where Camden got to decorate a ginger bread house.  He was really much more concerned about when he would be allowed to eat it.

Hallie got to meet a lot of her relatives for the first time at Grammy Camp.  I took this picture specifically for those big, chunky legs.  She's too cute.

And it's always fun to spend time with Grammy, who is surprisingly competitive with Candyland ;-)

Camden had his preschool Christmas program, which just about melted my heart.  When he came onto the stage and caught my eye I thought my heart would burst at the sweet, proud look on his face.   The songs and the poems were so cute.  Unfortunately he spent most of the program with his back to the audience, checking out the kids behind him, but he was still the cutest little dude up there.

Hallie kept me company while Cam was at preschool.  She loves being tickled, exploring, and ripping my air out.  It was fun taking her Christmas shopping because she's a good secret keeper, plus she so enjoyed all the sights and sounds of the holidays.

And I absolutely love how Camden crawls into her crib to sing her the "good morning" song almost every day.  They are the sweetest.

We went to the Christmas Lights Parade with friends and these little guys were having a blast.  They got lots and lots of candy handed to them, but were disappointed that most of them were peppermint. Seeing Santa made up for it.

Another day we baked and decorated sugar cookies with other friends.  Camden decided he wanted to give them to some of his friends, so he was quite liberal with the sprinkles.  Because "kids like sprinkles."

Dude, she's gonna be so cute with hair.  I mean, she's cute bald too, but can you just imagine tiny pigtails on this cute head?

Last but not least, Roy and I got to see a Christmas play together.  It's a Wonderful Life made the season feel all the more special.  As did our nights of driving around looking for Christmas lights, mornings finding our elf Buster, and nightly Christmas books.  Definitely a favorite time of year.

Cam Turns 4

Camden's birthday eve was, in reality, his actual birthday.  But he didn't know that.  We celebrated a day later to give a little time cushion between the Thanksgiving pies and the birthday cake.  So that "birthday eve" I had Jake doing a fantastically preposterous wrapping job on Camden's big gift from us.  {Bet you'll never guess what it was!}  I had Alexa blowing up balloons and I had mom setting up the table.  Meanwhile I spent a painstaking hour creating streamers from oversized confetti, little poms, and ribbon to put over the bedroom door.

In the morning I awoke to the sound of Camden's muffled voice amid the swishing streamers.  "What is this?  I don't like it!"
Awesome.  So far so good.

Roy managed to keep Camden distracted downstairs until the rest of the house awoke.  We all hid upstairs and waited for him to come up.  You see, Camden's one request was that on his birthday people would be "hiding."  In other words, he wanted people to jump out and say "Surprise!"

We did just that, which startled him at first.  But the smile slowly spread over his face when he took in the birthday table surrounded by some of his favorite people.  He had a really fun morning.  He even got to eat chocolate for breakfast.

A few hours later Cade and Danny Jay came over for cake.  We played pin the nose on Mickey, and even got the grown ups to play.

Camden sampled the cake to be sure it was good enough to serve to everyone else...

And then we sang happy birthday.  He told me later that his favorite part of his birthday was blowing out the candles.

Now my boy is FOUR!  Although we are so clearly running headlong into kidhood, he's still young enough to love Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  Still young enough to be out-of-his-mind excited that he would be spending his birthday with his family in Utah instead of with his friends back home.

So I'm determined to spend the year soaking up four, enjoying all those last little bits of toddler that are evaporating every day as he grows.  Even though three years of Mickey's high-pitched voice has permanently damaged my nerves, I know someday I'm gonna miss it.

Before Camden went to bed that night I ran back and forth under the streamers until he joined me, giggling his head off.  Worth it.

Love you, Camden, my sweet boy!

The Thanksgiving Deer Miracle

You know what they say about journaling?  They say that if you fall behind in your record-keeping you should not try to catch up.  Simply pick up from where you are.

But who are they and who made them the experts?  With my memory, what doesn't get written down gets lost.  The more time passes the more details fall through the cracks, so this will be a post made up of mostly pictures with a few wisps of memories written down.

I remember we drove up to Utah with Mason in his nice, new car.  I remember I hit a deer with that nice, new car at 1:30 in the morning coming through the canyon to Mom and Dad's house.  I remember that deer was a complete idiot and threw itself into harm's way and it was a miracle that slamming the brakes didn't wake the baby in her carseat, and only after I was sure she was still sound asleep did I worry about whether the deer was still alive.  {Priorities of a mom at her wit's end.}

The deer looked around in alarm and then got to its feet and ran off into the woods.  I breathed a sigh of relief for it.  That is, until Roy scoffed and insisted that it went off into the wilderness to die of a broken hip.  Thanks babe, you sure know how to make me feel better :-P

Luckily no damage to Mason's car, but Roy and Mason conveniently decided that neither of them would be comfortable sitting in the back between the car seats on the way home, so I didn't take a turn driving on the trip back to Arizona.  Side note, isn't it weird that when you fall asleep sitting up it's impossible to keep your mouth from hanging open?  Or is that just me...?  Awkward.


Despite the deer and driving in the middle of the night, we made it safely to my parent's Utah home.   There's never enough time to do everything and see everyone when we go to Utah, but we tried to squeeze in some fun.

One favorite was the snowfall.  It wasn't much.  Not even enough {or of the quality} to build a true snowman.  Fortunately Roy is creative.

And all Camden really needed was enough snow to make shoe prints.  He loved looking back at his own tracks.

Roy, Uncle Jake, and Papa decided the snowman could use a little color.  Grammy gave them this snow paint stuff and they went to town.  

Then Camden decided to give the snowman some "rosy cheeks."

Apparently the guys couldn't resist "helping" him.

Poor Frosty!  It was all over Camden's head, thank goodness, but I still had to scold some full-grown men about it.

Roy, the kids, and I all took a trip to see Aunt Leah and cousins up in Murray.  Danny and Camden are really able to play together like kids now, it's so weird and awesome.  Nap schedules kept the visit somewhat brief, but it was great to see them and their crazy temporary dog.  Only a couple days later the Carpenter Clan, along with their friend April, came up to my parent's house to join us for Thanksgiving.
Everyone helped with the preparations.  Dad and I had a mashed potato cook-off, and not to brag but my potatoes kicked his potatoes butts.  Leah brought her famous sweet potato casserole, aka sugar with a teeny layer of sweet potato in the bottom, haha!  So good.  And Mom made the tables look like they were stolen from the fall edition of a Martha Stewart magazine.

Obviously my expectations were ridiculous, thinking that with only two kids at the kids' table we'd be able to get a picture where they are both looking and smiling.  Scoff.  Clearly out of my mind.  But I promise they were cute.  And also Camden ate almost nothing, all he wanted to do was play with Danny Jay.

For Hallie, on the other hand, it was all about the food.  See, up to this point that pureed baby food had been met with cold, hard rejection.  She simply wouldn't eat it.  It got to the point that she'd get frustrated just at the sight of a high chair.  So on Thanksgiving we tried a new approach and gave her normal food.  Just threw a turkey breast at her.

And that's when we discovered Little Miss Independent loves food.  She just wants to feed it to herself, thank you very much.  She sampled a little mashed potatoes, chewed up a green bean, but then dominated the turkey like you wouldn't believe.  From that moment on it's been clear that she is a meat lover, and I'm honestly a little baffled.  Guess I better start learning how to prepare meat!

Meanwhile Jaxon was rolling around the room having a great time.  Throughout the week I would occasionally feel something bump into my ankles and look down to see this little adventurer.  He is so smiley and fun.

The only pictures I got of the twins were blurs, I'm not even kidding.  Those two are on the move, busy discovering the world.  Had I known I would have taken a picture of them in their high chairs, where they were forced to be stationary for a few minutes.  My favorite moment with them was playing with the low lights by the stairs.  When you press of the little squares they light up.  Both Luke and Zoey loved going up and down the steps, pressing the little squares as they went.  Luke was honestly too busy to pay me much attention but Zoey and I had a lot of fun together!  As long as mama Leah wasn't in the room.

It was a Thanksgiving I don't want to forget.

Before we left Utah we managed to squeeze in one night of fun with the Tietjens and the McAffees.  We went to an arcade/jumping castle place that Camden still talks about almost daily.  Nothing like the smell of sweaty feet and pizza!

I'm including this picture of the mamas 'cuz even we need to be documented sometimes.  Yes, we are there!  We are the ones taking pictures and kissing owies and checking to make sure no one needs to use the potty.  It's kind of amazing watching your friends transform into mothers.  I learn more about being a good mom and wife from these two than anyone else.  Ah, I just love them.  Always wish we lived closer.  {The caption was for Andrea's InstaStory, cuz Kenny was away on business.}

Have I mentioned that I really love them?

Oh, what else?  Roy took Camden on a few excursions.  I stayed close to home-base with the frequent napper.

This is the perfectly captured moment that Hallie and Jaxon became aware of each other's existence.

These two are gonna be buds!

Finally it was time to go home.  Surprisingly the ride back went even more smoothly than the ride up.  It helped that there weren't any idiot deer trying to end it all, but also the kids slept most of the way home.

When we arrived home there was still a focus on thankfulness.  Camden had just received a lot of really thoughtful gifts for his birthday, and so we made thank you cards.  The boy may not be into art, but he sure caught onto writing his name quickly!  I helped him sign the first two and then he did the rest himself!  So proud of my boy who is growing up so fast.

I've got so much to be thankful for.  And so does that deer, who I'm sure is totally alive and well.