Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas surprises...

 Our kids were exhausted from Christmas Eve.  So on Christmas morning, they slept in.
Andy and I woke up around 7am.  The house was silent.  We showered and got dressed.  The kids slept on.  We started some breakfast.
Finally, around 8:30 we heard some giggles and whispers.
The girls gathered on the steps, just waiting for the go-ahead.

Present-opening was very orderly this year.  The girls took turns opening all the packages.
 June did lots of celebratory dancing.

 The girls got special heart-shaped painted rocks from their aunt Jen (among other things)... these were favorites! Here they are admiring a heart-shaped rock...
 We had a delicious breakfast that included cream soda floats.
 Andy's sister's family came in the afternoon.  Hooray for cousins!
 Not long after the cousins came, Grandma Utah called to see if the kids got her Christmas package.  The package hadn't come, so Grandma said she would make a phone call.  Minutes later, there was a knock at the door... and Santa came in with the gifts from Grandma!
 Oh what fun!
 Grandma had made stuffed animal travel pillows for each of the grandkids.
(If you look closely at the picture above, you can see the top of Grandma's head peaking in the window.)
Then Santa had to go.
 We decided to Skype with Grandma and Grandpa to thank them for the gifts.  Grandma told the kids that Santa left two presents on the porch.  The kids ran to the door and threw it open.
Grandma and Grandpa were waiting on the porch!

Best Christmas surprise ever!

Christmas Eve with the Mars clan

On Christmas Eve, we loaded up the car and headed up to Brimfield to celebrate with my family.
We always have a big family gathering with my mom's side of the family... plus a bunch of friends and extra relatives.  This year was super exciting because my brother Ben proposed to his girlfriend Hannah... at the family party.
We gathered for a Mars family photo... and Hannah was asked to take the picture.  We were holding letter signs that said, "Merry Christmas!"  The photo countdown came, and at the last moment, the letter signs were flipped to reveal a new message, "Marry me Hannah!"  (Ben was holding the "ME" sign.)
Here is Hannah letting it sink in...
And then Ben got on one knee...

 It was the most romantic family reunion ever.
 And Santa came to the party!  He gave each of the kids a present.
 My cousin Dawn painted nails.  There was a bounce house.  And a movie room.  And a craft table.  And an x-box thingy.
 We know how to party.

Then the Mars clan headed back to my parents' home for our gift exchange.
There are so many of us that we do not all fit in one room.  There were also people in the dining room and foyer.
 You cannot imagine the Christmas chaos... presents being passed around, crinkling paper, excited squeals and lots of laughter...
 Alli got "peppermint coal."  Not sure if that means she was good or bad... maybe some of both.
 Seriously, there is no place to step in my parents' living room on Christmas Eve.  Wall to wall family.
 This year for our sibling gift exchange, we made ornaments for each other.  I made this beauty for my brother David.
 And after all that, we had to make our kids hop back in the van so we could make it home and get them in bed. 
It was a very fun and full day.  I am so glad we can celebrate Christmas with my parents and family!

Friday, December 14, 2012


For well over a year, the girls have been dropping not-so-subtle hints that they want a dog.  Ruby leaves dog drawings around the house.  There is one on her bedroom door.  Alli has asked for a dog for every gift-giving occasion.  They always pick library books about dog breeds.  So we have been thinking about getting a puppy for a while. 
Andy has had dogs throughout his childhood.   I have never had a dog  before.  
I researched different breeds and asked advice from lots of friends.  Ultimately, I picked a breed called Chinese Crested and I picked the powder puff variety.  I found a breeder near Cincinnati and when she sent me pictures of the puppies, I was smitten.  
We picked up our puppy last Saturday.  We got to pick between two puppies.  We picked the little girl.  She was spunky and sweet.
After trying out a few names, we settled on Pepper.
 June has been afraid of dogs for a while.  She is not afraid of Pepper.  (And Pepper is not afraid of June.)
June loves that she gets to come home from school and have "alone time" with Pepper.

 Pepper will stay fairly small.  She will get more fluffy.  And hopefully soon, she will be more potty trained!
 She has been very well behaved so far... even with those tempting gifts under the tree.
I had to stop by the school today and drop off something for Ruby, and I took Pepper.  Ruby said it was the best day ever!
I'm glad we got her!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My goodness! Where did the fall go?!

 Once again, I find myself playing catch up.  This fall was a whirlwind, and I know this post doesn't do it justice, but here goes...
School started in August.  It is tough for me to wrap my brain around the fact that I have a third grader.  And a first grader and a preschooler.  Am I a grownup or what?  (At least June still thinks I am a teenager!)
 Alli made an amazing home for her American Girl Doll.  We used a bookshelf that is turned on its side.  Cuteness.
Andy's Grandma Norma passes away in September.  We were blessed to be able to see her in July and August when she was still feeling well.  She was a lovely, cheerful woman and she will be missed.
I tried to get an early start on our Christmas card.  I took the kids out to the park for pictures on several occasions.  Usually, I ended up with something like this...
Or this...

I thought I would be all prepared for Halloween, so I asked the kids well in advance what they wanted to be.  June said she wanted to be a pumpkin.  So I got the costume.  I was going to be Miss Piggy.  About an hour before the Halloween party at the church, June decides she would make a better Miss Piggy... and she did.
I had to scramble for a costume.  I went as Dorothy.  My shoes were shiny, not sparkly, which was a bummer.  And there were two other cuter (and much smaller) Dorothies.
On Halloween night, this is how they dressed for trick-or-treating (plus rain coats)...
So glad I bought a pumpkin costume.

And suddenly, it was Thanksgiving...
 We had a low-stress Thanksgiving.  Ruby made the centerpiece (a turkey made out of a paper bag).  Andy's sister Betsy and her family came.  We made steaks, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, two game hens, and salad for lunch.  The little hens were so cute.  We weren't going to make turkey, and Alli felt strongly that we needed turkey.  This was the compromise.  Alli was delighted... after all, they were the perfect size for an American Girl doll Thanksgiving.  We had pie and cheesecake for dinner.

And now December is upon us.  There is a new park by our house.  It is great because there are sticks there.  We have been to the park several times.  The girls are working on a project with sticks...

Every time we drive past the park, the girls check to see if their fort is still up.  It is.
Lastly, you should see this girl climb.  Unbelievable.

Oh wait, one more thing...
We got a puppy.  More on Pepper soon!

Friday, August 3, 2012

A long post (with lots of pictures) about Cousins Camp

 The Mars family does a Cousins Camp every other summer or so.  This year, with the wedding and 100 other various activities, we had to settle for a quick weekend Cousins Camp.
We kicked it off with a trip to Wingfoot Lake to sail with Dan.  Not only did we get to sail, we also saw the Goodyear Blimp come in for a landing!
 Playing at Grandma and Grandpa's house is always a treat.
 And cousin Asena make the cutest sad face ever...  she was faking the sad part.
 On to the main event...

 On Saturday, we all boarded a tour bus at 6am.
 Can you feel the excitement?!
 Our first stop was Niagara Falls!
 Did I mention we all had matching shirts?  We were easy to spot.

 Grandma and Grandpa took all 50 of us on the Maid of the Mist! 
 Emily rocked some sort of upward wind in her hair.
 Dad's signature pose... I give up.

 My man. 
 It was very misty.  And quite beautiful.

 The closest thing we got to a group shot...  who is that guy in the plaid?  Hmm.  Not a Mars.
 Feeding frenzy #1...

 In Palmyra, NY we stopped for a while at the Sacred Grove on the Smith Farm.  This is the place where Joseph Smith prayed about which church to join and saw a vision of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  The forest is gorgeous and there is a peaceful spirit there.
Don't you love family pictures!?
Attempt #2...
Alli and Ruby with the temple in the background.
Feeding frenzy #2 involved pizza!

We spent the evening at the Hill Cumorah Pagaent.  It is an amazing show with a cast of over 700 people!  They tell the story of the Book of Mormon, and it is performed right on the hill where Joseph Smith was given the gold plates.
 The actors come out and greet the audience before the show... which our kids loved!
Uncle Tevita got into it... with a few towels and scarves, he had a (somewhat) convincing costume.
The pageant was spectacular, and after the pageant ended, we got back on the bus and drove through the night.  The kids slept and the grownups did not sleep at all.  Overall, it was a great time for everyone.  Alli ranked it among her top three days ever.  Not bad.
Read more about Cousins Camp on my sister Emily's blog or on my sister Marissa's blog.
More to come on our summer adventures...