30 January 2015

Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015

As a graphic designer, Christmas cards are something I look forward to and plan far in advance. 

This year's "timeline" idea hit me in July when I was driving home from swimming lessons one day and was contemplating what an unusually eventful year we were having. I literally pulled the car over and started jotting down notes on my phone so I wouldn't forget the ideas that started pouring into my brain.

Fast forward six months. Troy and I had a rather devastating (in my mind) discussion in December about how we simply couldn't send out Christmas cards announcing our big move before he quit his current job. He didn't want to risk the information being out in public too soon and leaking back to his company in an unforeseen way. While I completely understood where he was coming from, and even knew he was right, my Christmas card vision came to a crashing halt.

My choices were to A) send out a picture only in December with no information about our upcoming move, which drastically contributed to our whirlwind year, or B) wait until January to send out a card that was not only an efficient way to spread the relocation news but could also include our new moving address.

In the end, I settled for plan B even though it meant that I looked like one of those lame people who couldn't get her act together to send out a card in December. I got this text from one of my friends on December 26th:
No Christmas card this year? It's totally understandable, with all you have going on (how's the house sale going?), but I'm bummed. I always love seeing your designs.

That right there made me second guess my decision. I mean, I knew I was being melodramatic for caring so much about a silly little card, but it broke my designer's heart a little bit to know that there were people out there that were anticipating and relying on the annual gesture.

However, waiting until January to design the card actually freed up some time around Christmas for other pressing tasks like getting our house in market-ready condition and focusing on everything else that came with holiday prep.

I was thrilled when I finally got the green light from Troy to get the cards printed and sent out the third week of January. I'm sure holiday cards were packed away long before our friends and family received our card but I just couldn't let the annual correspondence go altogether.

And so, with that incredibly long disclaimer, I present our 2014 Christmas New Year's card.
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(Click to Enlarge)

A good friend of ours recently posted these words:
I want you all to know that, although it would have been too personal, raw, vulnerable—and probably would have brought intrusive but well-intentioned efforts to help—I wouldn’t love you any less if your Christmas Card letters had fessed up to the hard things in your life—that last year you felt lonely or infertile or inadequate, doubted your faith or marriage or self, that you grappled with a miscarriage or depression or debt or unemployment or parenting or addiction, and that, while you had many, many joys to celebrate and triumphantly overcame much adversity, there’s still an abundance out there with no end in sight. Just so you know.

I loved that so, so much. Christmas cards are a great opportunity share everything that is going well in our lives. I love pouring over cards and celebrating others' achievements. But without going into a ton of personal detail that wouldn't fit on a 5x7 card, I tried to be a little more real this year about our trials and blessings. 2014 was undoubtedly the hardest year of our lives. We suffered deeply and we were also blessed beyond our grandest expectations. While we are looking forward to the fresh start of 2015 and exciting changes ahead, we are putting all of our faith into the unknown. There are a lot of question marks about how it is all going to work out. 

But we are ready to take it on. We are so grateful for the support, dear loved ones and blog readers. Let's do this, 2015!


29 January 2015

House Hunting Trip

The day after New Year's, Troy and I hopped on a plane to explore our new state. With our house in the mountains under contract after only a few days on the market, we were eager to find a new place to call home. We spent six days in beautiful SoCal with Finn in tow.

I can hardly explain the euphoria we felt as we cruised along the Pacific Coast Highway with our relocation guide. We started at Newport Beach and made our way down the coast, passing through Balboa Island, Corona Del Mar, Laguna Beach and Dana Point.

We learned all about the non-tourist beaches, attractions for young families, popular local restaurants and California culture. I covered every inch of my map with notes about each area. We've both spent plenty of time in Orange County but it was as if we were taking it all in for the very first time.

Troy and I exchanged countless glances with each other with the silent expression, I can't believe we're going to live here!
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There were many moments during our stay when it all felt like a dream. And then there were other moments when reality hit and we came to terms with what the price tag would be for that dream. It was one thing to look at tiny houses with no yards online, but seeing what we could get for our money in person was discouraging.

In addition to walking through many houses, we spent hours in our hotel room working and re-working the numbers. We made spreadsheets. We listed risks and benefits. We had some heated, stressed-to-the-max discussions. We second guessed our decision to leave everything we knew behind and move at all. We went from the highest highs to the lowest lows in a matter of hours. Each day was a roller coaster of emotions. 

On our second to last day there, we took a break from the house hunting headache and spent a few hours poolside. It was not a bad way to spend an afternoon in January. I think California and Finn agreed quite well with each other.
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I could just squeeze that little belly hanging out.
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It was "fall" in January and the colored leaves could not have been prettier against the green mountains.
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We settled on a community and home on our last morning there, just hours before we flew out. We decided to line up a rental house so that we could have more time to explore the area and get used to the shock of the California housing market before purchasing. After working out the details with our agent and relocation company, we walked around the park on a gorgeous afternoon in our soon-to-be-neighborhood. 

When I showed Blake and Nash pictures of the neighborhood after we got home, Blake's first reaction was, "That will be a good place for pictures!"

Ha! Blake knows me all too well. I secretly love that he is catching on to my grand photography visions. And I could not agree more with the picturesque quality of the surroundings. In fact, I mentioned how perfect the park would be for photos to Troy that afternoon and I received a giant eye roll from him. You can be certain that there will be plenty more where these came from. Especially when we live in a climate where we can be outside twelve months a year.
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We walked back to our rental car and were greeted with the first of which I'm sure will be many parking tickets. We're going to have to get used to all of the bizarre parking rules.

It was so much fun to have Finn along with us and give him our undivided attention. He was an angel through hours spent in the car and going in and out of countless houses. I love that we've been able to take each of our boys on a special individual trip as babies. I didn't think that Finn would be able to follow suit until this opportunity presented itself. 
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Reality sunk in once again as we flew out over the ocean and coast of Southern California. We realized that the next time we would see this place, we'd have one-way tickets.
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27 January 2015

Moving On

We're moving! Next week, we're packing up and heading westward. 
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Troy was recruited to a new company that just so happens to be in one of our favorite places in America.

Every single time we've visited Southern California, we've said to each other, "Why don't we live here?" We can hardly believe that one of our dreams is becoming a reality.

Change is always bittersweet. It’s hard for us to think about leaving our great friends that have become our family. I'm sure that many tears will be shed in the upcoming days as we say goodbye to the only home our four boys have ever known. We're leaving loads of memories behind as we close the door on this chapter of our lives.

But we're also thrilled for what lies ahead. Throughout the entire interview and relocation process that has spanned over the last four months, I kept referencing these insightful words:
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This move is our "packet of sunlight" in so many ways. Too many things have fallen into place and we feel calm and peaceful about going forward. 

It has come as an answer to prayers after some pretty intense trials, not the least of which was Troy's unsustainable long work hours. We're looking forward to a better work/life balance and feel incredibly blessed to have been given such an amazing opportunity.

We are happy and excited about the way our lives are headed. It’s a little crazy and we're okay with that.

Sunny SoCal, here we come.


26 January 2015

First Grade Spelling

Lately, Blake has been bringing home books that he writes during his free time at school. They are usually about his family and I love them so much. 
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Translation:
Finn smiles a lot.
He is a good baby.
I love him.
I make him smile.
I play with him everyday.

Chapter 2
Crew loves Finn.
He hugs him all the time.
Nash plays with him a lot.
My mom feeds him a lot.

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Translation:
Nash sucks his thumb a lot.
Nash has a great smile. I love it.
He goes to preschool.
His favorite food is macaroni and cheese.

Blake
Blake goes to 1st grade.
I love going to 1st grade.
I have 3 recesses!
I have 3 brothers!
I read to mom.

First grade spelling is the best.


20 January 2015

String Art World Map

I have a knack for picking the busiest, most chaotic times for big projects. Somebody explain to me why I do this.

I had the vision to make a string art world map a year and a half ago when we finished our basement. I saved the wooden planks from another project and bought the nails and string. And then it all sat in the garage for over a year.

For some unknown reason, I decided to finally tackle the project during the month of December while the craziness of Blake's birthday and Christmas prep was swirling around us. 

After staining the wood and securing the planks, I printed out an enlarged map and pieced it all together. I vastly underestimated the amount of time it would take to hammer in tiny nails at each geographic turn. It took me weeks since I could only pull out the hammer while no one was napping. Once I had all of the nails in place, I ripped off the paper template and strung away with rolls and rolls of string.

I was hoping to complete the map as a birthday present for Blake but I didn't wrap it up until the following week. He beams with pride at the creation that now hangs in his room. He told his classmates about it and he brings everyone that comes to our house down to his room to show it off. 

A completed project is much more exhilarating when you get a nod of approval from your seven year old.
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18 January 2015

Christmas Break Wrap-Up

We're only 18 days into 2015 but it already feels so ancient to write about the end of 2014.

It was so nice to spend the week between Christmas and New Year's at the cabin. If we would have been at home, I would have found a thousand things to do. But being away forced us to relax. We bowled, we swam, we watched movies, we built new toys, we played new games on repeat and we avoided going outside in the below freezing temperatures. 

Grandma gave all the boys matching shirts for a photo op, which ended up being incredibly tricky to squeeze in. With four babies on different nap schedules, there was rarely a time where everyone was awake. I knew we'd have higher quality photos in the daylight but it just wasn't in the cards. We made do late one evening with as many indoor lights as we could find. 
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We had Troy's aunt and uncle and cousins over that evening, so at least there were lots of extra helpers to encourage the little ones to cooperate. Somehow, Finn slept through all the commotion.
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We stayed up late playing the game Quelf with cousins. There was one point where we had to use sign language to communicate (which none of us knew) and we were laughing so hard it brought us to tears. 
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It got too cold to play in the snow so we ventured out to the hot tub instead. 
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It took 7 people, 3 days and 1700 Lego pieces to complete the Salt Lake temple replica. 
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We finally got to the gingerbread house and gingerbread cookies once Christmas was over. 
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It was so cold on New Year's Eve that when Troy went out to the car, he found that a bottle of sparkling cider had frozen and exploded, sending tiny pieces of glass all over the vehicle. 

We opted to take the family to an indoor aquatic center to avoid the cold. 
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Blake let Crew push him into the pool over and over and over. 
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Finn slept through the event as usual. 
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We kicked off the New Year with takeout and watched fireworks from the hot tub when the clock struck midnight. 


13 January 2015

Finn | Four Months

Finn is quite possibly the happiest baby I have ever known. He just smiles nonstop; at anyone and anything. He is quite the little flirt.

At four months, Finn is rolling all over the place. And just like all of his brothers at this age, he gets pretty mad when he gets stuck on his tummy. 

He gave up the binky and traded it for his thumb. That means that three out of our four boys are thumbsuckers and I kind of love it. Thumbs never get lost or dropped out of the crib over and over. They don't need to be taken away before two years of age. And, let's face it, it's adorable to watch Finn become coordinated enough to keep his thumb in place while clutching his nose with his remaining fingers. I'm a fan of thumbsucking. Especially when the self soothing means more sleep for me.
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12 January 2015

Cowboy Night

Once we were through with Christmas festivities, we lingered for another week at the cabin. One of the highlights was a cowboy themed night that Troy's mom put on for the grandkids. There was barbecue, games and a much anticipated piƱata. And you can't forget the faux moustaches. 
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