Thursday, November 30

thanksgiving break!

we kick-started our thanksgiving this year with the gifting (and consuming) of many caramel apples! we are so grateful for the many teachers at school and church that work with our kids on a regular basis, so we made a bunch for them. i also made a bunch for the young women that i work with too. when the girls read the tag "you are awesome to the core!" they didn't get the pun and i had to explain it... we all had a good laugh!

because both jack and owen had birthdays recently, it was time for well checks at the doctor. i dont normally make a record of this on the blog, but this particular visit was a sweet one. owen was in heaven when we checked jack out of school an hour early to go with him to the appt and couldn't stop smiling at him the whole time. he had to have jack read him books while we waited, had to sit next to him on the check up table, had to have his BP checked just like jack, and even wanted his shots when he saw jack get his. it was kind of a sweet experience to watch because jack is old enough that it doesn't bother him to have a little sidekick, in fact he enjoys it quite a bit.


one of our favorite holidays around here! 
chis and i try not to make a big deal out of the food, but somehow we start talking about our menu a few weeks ahead of time, i start printing off new recipes i want to try (which bugs chris that i would test a new recipe when we have guests), chris researches the best and newest ways to roast/smoke/grill/fry a turkey, and we start cooking 4 days before the big day. id hate to see what we came up with if we DID make a big deal out of it :)

the menu consisted of multiple bottles of sparkling bubbly down the center of the tables, one broken down smoked turkey, one smoked turkey breast, a ham, my homemade rolls, my attempt at making elder buhler's mom's recipe for garlic parmesan rolls, jello, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, mashed potatoes with turkey gravy, and cranberry sauce (my first time making it.. i hate cranberry sauce). for pies i made chocolate pecan, a chocolate nutella tart with a toasted hazelnut crust and bought a razzleberry and a pumpkin pie.

we had the missionaries over and two guys from the ward that are in residency whose families went home for thanksgiving because the guys were on call. they both made it, so we had a full table! it was great! chris, jack, and the elders had been able to participate in the ward turkey bowl earlier in the day so it was fun to hear about that, along with everyone telling their thanksgiving stories and traditions, during dinner. and owen covered his spot in red jello.

the next few days were filled with relaxing, running errands, playing lots of ball in the yard, and putting up christmas lights!

we stopped at a music store for some stuff and chris took the kids into the piano section so he could reminisce about his days working as a delivery boy at a piano store in idaho falls. he found the most expensive grand there and asked ellie to play a little diddy for us. it was cute and made her happy that he asked her to do it.

because jack is no longer a cub scout he gets to go on the boy scout camp outs. he went with chris a couple weekends ago and one of the other boys had a hammock. jack immediately searched all over fort smith for the perfect hammock with no luck. so he searched on amazon and used his allowance that he's been saving to buy the perfect hammock. the day he received it, he decided he was going to camp overnight on the back porch. he lasted two hours. it was cold.

monday night for fhe we went out to charleston to the christmas tree farm! the kids love this tradition!

we love this little mom and pop farm. 
chris' coworker's family owns it and they make it a fun little experience. they have goats, roosters that roam, pigs, sheep and even a friendly dog that runs around the farm. they have a candy cane tree that is hidden in a different spot each year and when you find it, you get to take a candy cane off a branch. they have a pig race between the three pigs, a huge hay mountain to climb on and you can crawl through tunnels under it. they even have hay rides and hot cocoa. its very much a small town, homemade backyard, kinda thing, but its so much fun and become special to the kids.

the kids always fight over who gets to wave the stick once we've found our tree. but they very quickly realize its not as fun as it looks, so i got stuck doing it this year

we always stop at Steffey's Pizza in Lavaca on our way home. the pizza isn't great, but we always seem to be starving, so it gets gobbled up happily.

the kids particularly love that they bring out bottles of ranch for the pizza... owen, ellie, and jack are huge fans. owen started out just dipping his pizza in the ranch, but quickly realized it was more efficient to just squeeze the bottle right on top of his slice.

our house is now dressed up and ready to celebrate this special month ahead!
this tree was particularly sappy and i was covered from head to toe after putting on the lights.

our elf (usually) shows up the day we get our christmas tree and this year was no exception! he's already been getting into all sorts of fun mischief

another tradition that we couldn't wait to start was grandma janie's christmas quilt! the kids look forward to this all year. last night when i got home from young women, owen and charlie were snuggled up together, snoozing under the quilt. heart melter!

we are so excited to start our christmas festivities, especially Light the World. we did this last year also. we would watch the video and read the scripture and service suggestions the night before and then have a prayer asking to have the spirit help us the next day to know what we can do to help serve those around us. it added a wonderful feeling to our month and we are excited to do it again this year, plus a few other service projects that the kids have helped plan. the kids have even invited their teachers at school to Light the World with their families and gave them a passalong card with the info on it. proud of these kids.

Monday, November 20

Bessie B. Moore Award Ceremony

jack was asked to attend the Bessie B. Moore Awards Luncheon in Little Rock on wednesday, the 15th! it was such an honor and an experience that he and i will never forget.
it was held at the impressive Clinton Presidential Library.

jack's 4th grade teachers were receiving this award from the Economics Arkansas organization for their 4th grade project last year, Woods Wondrous Wacky World. economics arkansas gives this award to 10-11 teachers each year in the state and it is quite an honor. beforehand, i really had no idea what a big deal this was for either the teachers or for jack. it was truly, a very special experience.

because jack was the manager of the project, his teacher, Mrs Howald, asked him (along with two other students with big jobs) to come and speak about his experience.
there were about 150 people at this prestigious luncheon, including the president and CEO of Arcbest Judy McReynolds, who was the keynote speaker. she is an impressive lady! there were members of the state school board present, plus the board of Economics Arkansas and many of its private funders. 

when we got there and were being seated, they realized they didn't have a seat for me at the same table as jack. i later put it together that one of the other students had brought his mom and sister and the sister hadn't rsvp'd and had taken my seat at the table. it wasn't a big deal although it would've been more fun to sit with jack instead of at the table next to him. I'm so bad at small talk, then add in the fact that i was about 30 years younger than the next "young" person at my table and it wasn't very pleasant for the folks around me I'm sure. sorry old man seated to my right for my lack of conversation skills!

i so wish chris had been able to be there. not only does he need a day away from work (they have been extremely busy lately because one of his coworkers was in a serious car accident a couple weeks ago so they are all taking on extra work to cover for him) but also because he knows how to work the camera... all of these pictures are so dark because the light was coming from behind and i had no clue what settings to change. chris would've been able to compensate for the back lighting. and he probably would've thought to take a picture of the room as a whole. its gorgeous!

i took these next two photos from google

each seat was $30, but as an invited speaker, jack and i didn't have to pay. the food was so delicious!

jack LOVED the chef's salad and talked about it a couple times on the drive home. we also had very tender rolls, herb roasted chicken breast with roasted garlic and parmesan whipped potatoes, agro dolce green beans, and brandy pan jus. for dessert they had either the salted caramel cheesecake (like in the photo i took) or a raspberry white chocolate cake. both jack and i sat at seats with the cake and thought it was very tasty. after i asked jack which fork he had used to eat his salad. he said "don't worry, i got it right". i pressed him to find out which one again "don't worry mom, i used the smallest fork first. the one above my salad plate". i guess we don't ever have fancy dinners with our kids haha! at least he was smart enough to know it was tea in the glass next to his water!

after a blessing on the food and speakers, we began eating while the speakers started. first up was Mrs Howald and Mrs Rodebush, along with the three kids.
jack and his two classmates were the only students invited to attend, so it was a room of adults. i was so impressed with all three of the kids, they did a phenomenal job with their speeches!!!

jack asked for some input before he wrote his speech, but besides that he wrote it all on his own. he told me afterwards that the other two kids had their parents either write it for them or help a lot. I'm grateful for an independent kid. I've got three others that aren't, so i really appreciate it!

i know its hard to believe, but these pictures are edited and lightened up. eek! they were so dark before you couldn't even see faces. i wish my brain could retain all the tips and info chris gives me about photography!

after the speeches, all the teachers were given their awards along with a brief synopsis of their class projects.

jack and ellie's 2nd grade teacher, Mrs Been, was also receiving the award for her 2nd grade project last year, so that was pretty cool to be there to celebrate with her as well. when we walked in the room she said "my jack is here!! i didn't know you were coming and now I'm so excited to hear you!" then she called her husband over and said "its our jack! he's here!". it was heart warming. Kim and her husband were kind enough to come to jack's baptism back in 2014.

Mrs Howald, Avi,  Lai'el, Jack, Mrs Rodebush

Jack and Mrs Been

Mrs Howald, Jack, Mrs Been

these two teachers have been very important to jack and as parents, chris and i are so thankful for them. they have both pushed jack as a scholar and have tried to challenge him, but have done it with so much love and encouragement. I'm sure he would've loved any teacher he would've had wherever we lived, but i feel like one of the blessings of being in arkansas right now has been the teachers that our children have had. they truly are amazing. out of the 11 teachers receiving this award, 4 of them are teachers at woods elementary! and our elementary won the blue ribbon award from washington dc this year as well. we have been very pleased with our school experience here.

tried to get a pic with bill, and jack snuck in a thumbs down at the last second. sorry bill.

we originally thought chris would have the day off because it was a post call day, but he didn't. it really made both jack and i sad that he didn't get to experience this day with jack. but we are so thankful for a great friend, jenny westcott, who was willing to watch owen for the day until chris got off work, so that i could spend this special time with jack. i was so proud of him as he walked around, shaking hands, saying hello, and speaking in front of 150 professionals. but my favorite part of the day was the 2.5 hour drive there and back. we talked about nothing important and did some silly dancing to some of our favorite songs, all while the rain was pouring down. it was something that i really enjoyed and judging but the smile jack had most of the day, i'd say he enjoyed it too!

Thursday, November 16


baking is my happy place

tried two recipes from king arthur flour recently and was really pleased with the results!
the crust for their blueberry hand pies was out of this world!

 jack is in the GATE program at school (gifted and talented education) and they recently went to the district quiz bowl and had a great time! they won the first round and then placed second in the finals.

ellie had basketball tryouts on the 7th and did really well. she is super happy with the team she is on because there are a couple girls from her class on the team as well and both their dad's are the coaches. looking forward to a fun season cheering for our favorite girl!

the school held an art contest for the k-2nd graders for veterans day. the theme they had to draw from was What Does America Mean To Me?
charlie won 1st place!!!

he's already used his winnings, a $15 walmart gift card, to buy books. he's really into Dogman right now.

sweet owen. 
still loving his b-day jammies and rocks them day and night. 

owen was playing the handbells the other night. he was ringing them quietly and then out of the corner of his eye he watched me as he gradually got louder and louder and louder. he was ringing his little heart out, and by this time everyone was watching him, when he got a little too pleased and excited and WHACK! he rung his own bell... with a handbell.

his eye lid is green now, but the swelling has gone down finally.

he had some pretty sweet bedhead the other morning. i desperately wanted to nuzzle it, but owen doesn't allow nuzzling.

he does allow hot cocoa on cold mornings when the big kids are at school.

its no secret that owen is stubborn. he recently asked me if he could eat a raw potato. i told him why that wouldn't be a good idea, but he wouldn't listen. after some tears i finally cut a chunk of raw potato for him. after two crisp bites he decided that maybe mom was right about raw potatoes.

there are some nights when we flip through the channels and nothing is on so we resort to... americas funniest videos. i detest that show. but the kids (and chris surprisingly) get a kick out of it. well, while jack was showering we saw this little prank that a guy did to his son where he "tested his son's reflexes". i of course said "chris! do that to jack when he gets out of the shower!"

jack is such a good sport and had a good laugh.
the little boys wanted a turn, so by the end of the night, we had 3 very wet-bottomed boys.