Sunday, December 25, 2011

And To All A Good Night...

I can hardly believe Christmas will be over in approximately 1.5 hours. My, but this month has been a whirlwind. A good one. My blogging has fallen by the wayside, and I'm excited to have a little more time in the coming weeks to pick it back up again.

I just have to say.... what an amazing, unforgettable Christmas Season this has been. I have learned a lot and I think I have changed in many ways. For the better. An explanation will have to wait for another day, but in the meantime, from our family to yours.... Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Collette Family Christmas Letter (I only sent out a handful of cards this year, for various reasons, so don't feel slighted if you didn't get one! I love you just the same, and you can read it here if you care to!)

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

A home that’s warm and cozy… We are still living in Fredericksburg, VA and loving it!

Two missing teeth… Daphne has lost her first two teeth and we can hardly believe how grown up she’s becoming. She started kindergarten this past fall, experienced her first year cheerleading (she loved it, of course!), and also joined a Girl Scout daisy troop. She loves life and makes everyone around her happy with her bubbly personality.

Three different jobs… This year has been quite a roller coaster ride as Andrew has gone from 1 to 2 to 3 different jobs. He thinks he has finally found one that he loves at AVS (still in the audio/visual industry) and we hope he’s happy and settled there for a long time.

Four weeks in Utah… We were privileged enough to be able to go see family and friends in Salt Lake for 4 weeks this past summer. While we were there, we were able to go from the top of the state to the bottom and back again. We visited St. George, and Bear Lake, and had a great time visiting, playing, and relaxing. It was a wonderful vacation.

Five sizes up and growing… Our little baby Magnus isn’t such a baby anymore. He has grown and grown and is now in size 2T, weighs 30 pounds, and is off of the growth chart for his age of 13 ½ months. He has been crawling for awhile, but has yet to make his walking debut (this has since changed! Yes, the chunkster is finally walking!... most of the time :). We all love and adore him and can’t ever seem to get enough of our chunky little monkey.

Six days in Las Vegas… Sarah was able to go and visit her sister in Las Vegas, NV while Andrew stayed home and played Mr. Mom for a week. She had a blast, but it was a long time coming, as Andrew has gone to visit family in Utah twice, and California once this year, for various reasons. They both enjoyed their time away, but were ecstatic to be back home with the family.

Seven years old and counting… Jonah was thrilled to turn 7 last summer just because then he’d only have one more year until he turned 8! He is really looking forward to Cub Scouts. He started 2nd grade this year, and he also played flag football in the fall. He starts basketball soon, and he cannot get enough of his Nintendo DS (even though mom forces him to put it away once in awhile!) Jonah always has everyone around him laughing with his hilarious jokes and quirky personality.

Eight is special and great… our Laylah girl turned 8 years old in May and was thrilled for 2 things: to get her ears pierced, and to be baptized. We were able to do it while visiting in Utah this past summer, and it was a wonderful occasion with family and friends surrounding us. Laylah started 3rd grade last fall, and loves to stay busy and have fun. Her many activities include piano lessons, Spanish club, Activity Day’s, and Girl Scouts. She was able to do cheerleading during the fall as well and loved every minute. Laylah is such a sweet spirit in our home and we all adore her.

Nine more months to go… Baron is counting down the days until he gets to go to preschool next fall. He will turn 4 in April and is just a tiny bit bored at home with only his mom and baby brother to keep him company. Luckily, he gets to go to playgroup twice a week, and has lots of friends to keep him busy. Bear continues to dote on his older brother and loves anything that Jonah loves. He likes to pass his days at home by reading books, playing games with mom (Go Fish is his favorite) and playing computer games. We love our big cuddly Bear.

Ten year old cub scouts… Andrew went from being the 10 year old scout leader in our ward to the 1st counselor in the Young Men’s presidency (for the second time since being in this ward!). He has enjoyed his calling there, and he fits right in with all of his 14 and 15 year old Teachers Quorum boys…

Eleven miles of biking… This past April Sarah took part in a sprint triathlon where she swam 1/3 mile, biked 11 miles, and ran a 5k. It was an intense experience, one that she thinks she just might like to have again. On top of enjoying exercising, Sarah has many hair clients that she tends to, and stays very busy with a home, a husband, 5 kids, and a dog to take care of. And of course, there’s the laundry. The never ending laundry…

Twelve months of joy… Even though this year has had many ups and downs, we are very grateful for our many blessings, especially all of the tender mercies our Heavenly Father sends us. Most importantly, we are ever blessed by the atoning sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas! Much Love, The Collette Family
Andrew, Sarah, Laylah, Jonah, Daphne, Baron, and Magnus

Monday, December 12, 2011

Because I Love You

I've just been thinking about my husband a lot lately, and how great he is. He does so much for me, puts up with so much from me, and makes sure I know that he would do anything for me. He can always make me laugh, and nothing makes me happier than one of his giant bear hugs that completely wrap me up. I just really think he's awesome. He is just fabulous. Really really fabulous. And I sure love that guy more than I can say.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I'm Too Old For This

So, I know I'm not old or anything. But see, the thing is, I feel older than I am. All of my friends are quite a few years older than me, and when they find out how old I really am, they joke that they can't hang out with me anymore, because I'm just a baby. I think everyone just figures I'm older because I have 5 kids. But see, that's what makes me feel old.

I have 5 kids.

I'm quite an exhausted mama at times. But I still love to have fun. And I've been having lots of it the past few weeks.

Jean is one of my very best friends. She is always up for anything and she has more energy than anyone I've ever met. We went and saw the midnight showing of Breaking Dawn the night it came out. We had SO much fun. It was only a few days after my sleep-deprived trip to Vegas, so I was pretty much a fixture in my bed that weekend catching up on lost sleep.

A couple of weeks ago was Black Friday. I didn't have a lot to get, but I still wanted to go. I just love the excitement, the fun, and the commaraderie. I called up Jean at 9:00 PM and asked her if she wanted to go. She told me she was in jammies and in her bed, but that yes, she would go. See why I love her?
We were lucky enough to get Lauren to come as well (Lauren is the daughter of an old friend of Jean's who is living with her. She is also my main baby-sitter and my kids completely adore her. She's like a little sister to me)
We had SO much fun. We were out all night and could not stop laughing. That's about the only way I burn calories these days, so it's a very good thing that I laugh at anything and everything so easily...Tired of waiting in lines...
We needed to stop for a re-fuel at Ihop where apparently, everyone else in town had the same idea. We had to wait for 20 minutes to get a table. By that point, we were a lost cause. The word "hysterical" comes to mind...Do you see that girl glaring at us?! The one behind us with the long blonde hair? Hilarious.

I'm sure we were annoying everyone else in the restaurant, but you know what? Who cares.

I love life, I love to laugh, and I love to have fun. And you're never too old to have fun.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Think To Thank

Ahhhh Fall. My favorite season, the best time of the year. It's time to wind down and start to take things slow. Life is coming to an end all around, getting ready to rest for a season before re-appearing and coming back to life in full. I am ready for the rest and will be ready for the new life to begin.

There were approximately 4 leaves left on my tree when this photo was taken. The next day we had a storm, and then it was naked. I love naked trees. It makes me eager and excited to see them in their full bloom and wonderment in only a few months from now. Thanksgiving is one of my most favorite holidays. I love the hustle and bustle of the day, the incredible smells of food roasting and baking. All of this work done for one special day in celebration of Thankfulness.

We had our feast with our dear friends the Sharp's. We dressed up, and went all out on each and every dish. It was such an enjoyable day. It's so nice to sit back and reflect, reflect on the goodness of God and to realize the daily tender mercies He is always sending us. Little things, along with the big things. He gives and gives, even when we aren't paying attention, or are completely oblivious to the special things in our lives. It's nice to celebrate.
Our little indians and pilgrims putting on a show for us, and of course, Thanksgiving football in the background :)

It's nice to celebrate life, love, and happiness. It's even nice to celebrate times of trial, because without those trials, how would we know what true appreciation for the wonderful times is?

I am truly thankful. I am thankful to have a day of Thanksgiving. I am thankful for my God, my life, and my liberty. After all, life is good.

A Day For Parents At SS Elementary

The day after I got home from Las Vegas was Parent's Day at my children's school. Could the timing have been more perfect? I think not.

I headed over there to spend a half hour in each of their classrooms and then I got to eat lunch with each one of them.

There was a check-in table when I arrived and I got a sticker and location for each of my children I was visiting. I was supposed to wear them the whole time I was there. I got many, many comments because I had (gasp!) THREE stickers on my shirt! I didn't dare tell them that in 2 years on I'll actually have FOUR kids in elementary school. Just call me Mrs. Duggar. I started in kindergarten with Daphne and we were able to work on a little art project together. I met her table friends and then we packed up for lunch.

We ate and then I got her a treat, an ice cream sandwich (seriously, the kids' school has ice cream available for purchase in the lunchroom. Whaaa..? Crazy to me)

I then headed over to 3rd grade to visit Laylah. We played a fun game in her class and all of her friends told her I was a "cool mom" because I actually scored a point for my team as opposed to most of the other parents visiting. Awesome, my life's mission is complete. 3rd graders think I'm cool :)

Ice cream for Layah as well, except not a sandwich. She chose a chocolate ice cream bar.

I headed over to 2nd grade last to meet up with Jonah. We got to play a game in there too, and it was fun to put a face to the name's of the kids he is always talking about.

Jonah and his best friend Jayden

Jonah chose a super sour ice cream treat in a cup. He didn't even have time to finish it (it really was SO sour. And nasty) and I took it home for him and saved it in the freezer.

I love going to my kids' school and being involved and getting to know their teachers and friends. Fun fun stuff.

3 More Days That Flew By

Wow, I'm doing my vacation in only 2 posts?! That means it was way too short. 8 days isn't long enough. Especially when you spend 2 whole days traveling.

Anyway, back to my play by play.

We got home Saturday night from St. George and had to pick-up Outback because we were ravenous from all of that shopping we'd been doing. We also tried to watch a movie, but I fell asleep after like, 1/2 an hour. Exhaustion and lack of sleep was setting in. Luckily, the next day, Sunday, is a day of rest. Except, it really wasn't, because Rachel and I can never just relax when we're together. We always have big plans, big plans.

After church, we started the first thing on our list of "projects to complete" while I was in town. This has definitely been a rough year, and most of my gift recipients are getting a home-made Christmas from me. The only problem is... I'm not much of the "home-made" type. But I'm learning. Which is where Rachel comes in. She's amazing and can pretty much do anything she puts her mind to. I think that's my problem. I'm lazy? Or scared to fail? Or scared to start? I don't know. All I know is, I couldn't have done any of my little "projects" without her.

We made toffee all afternoon. I have made this delectable treat a couple of other times with my mom, and I use it as teacher gifts, neighbor gifts, visiting teaching gifts, you name it. It always receives rave reviews and requests for the recipe. It isn't complicated, but definitely time consuming.

It usually takes about 1/2 an hour for the candy to turn from this butter yellow color to a light caramel color before it reaches the right temp. And you have to stir it constantly.

Ethan and Ella were enthralled with the whole process, and they were also excellent "tasters".

We made 6 batches and it took a little over 4 hours from start to finish, and that's not counting grinding the nuts and grating the chocolate.
Don made fun of us for listening to Christmas music. We sure didn't care though :)

Monday morning dawned bright and early and we were up, completeing other tasks and projects. I can't name all of the awesome things we did/made because many of my gift recipients read my blog! But, oh man, it's good. We took a break to head to lunch:

Part of this trip was just an excuse for me to get my favorite food fixes in that I cannot otherwise satisy in Virginia. Isn't that what vacation is anyway? Food and fun? It definitely made my tummy happy. We ran a few errands (one of which was to See's candy. Oh See's, how I miss thee) and I did another handful of haircuts. We finished up many of our little projects just in time for FHE on Monday night. To U Swirl we went! Another one of my favorites. It definitely did not disappoint.
Uhhh, blurry much? Rachel was laughing at my happy "yogurt face".

We got home in time to get another project started. Project "Paint The Gigantic Mirror".
We washed, we primed and we painted. From gold to dark grey she went. A masterpiece (except for the part where we got some paint on the actual mirror. Whoops. We're not the pros we thought. Did you ever figure out how to get that off Rach?)

We practically sleep-walked to bed. Definite lack of sleep at this point.

My last day there was pretty easy-going. We just had a few odds and ends to finish up and just enjoyed the day. We stopped by Old Navy and I found a few more thigs that I might (possibly) be able to sqeeze into my already stuffed-to-the-over-flowing-brim suitcase, and then we headed home. It took me almost 2 hours to pack and I ended up having to borrow a suitcase from Rachel. I only had to leave one thing there that my mom will bring out to me in February when she comes to visit me for my birthday (which I'm already super excited about! Yay for visitors!). It was hard to say my goodbyes to everyone because I just love them and miss them all so much.

My flight didn't leave until 10 PM and flew through the night. I can never sleep on planes, no matter how tired I am. So, when we landed at 6 AM in New York, I was like a dead person walking.

My flight home to VA was supposed to leave at 8 AM, but due to a few problems, I didn't end up leaving until 5 PM that night. Another whole day in the airport, just lovely.

This is what kept me busy for the most part. That and snoozing in those seriously crappy airport chairs. When my eyelids would get droopy fom reading, I got really good at cuddling right up and falling asleep for an hour or so at a time. Then I would wake up and feel like I had been put through a torture device.

View of Vegas through my window

I was thrilled to see my kids and husband waiting for me at the curb when I walked out of the airport. It was seriously a fun trip, but I really missed them. And apparently, they all survived without me :) Good to know, maybe in 5 years I'll get the opportunity to travel by myself once again!

Thanks for the absolutely wonderful trip Rach! Love you!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Viva Las Vegas With Some St. George Thrown In

I arrived in Vegas late Wednesday night. I didn't sleep a wink on the plane and by this point had gone about 40 hours without sleep, minus the few catnaps I had sneaked in. I was so so tired, but completely wired. Rachel is pregnant and just getting over the first trimester yuckiness, so she had sent Don to pick me up since my flight came in around 11 PM. When we got back, I was able to tour their lovely new home that I had yet to see, and then I headed to bed. I didn't sleep well, but it was SO nice to be in a bed instead of a chair!

The next morning was really fun to see my niece and nephews and get to play with and love on them. I had really missed them. Rachel had set up a bunch of hair appointments for me, so I cut hair all morning and then we headed to Cafe Rio and met Don for lunch. It was yumminess in a tin. Love that place. We headed home where I did more hair (I think I ended up doing 8 people that day. Yikes!) and then Rachel and I ran a couple errands, made dinner, and put the kids to bed. We headed out to Claim Jumper, one of my most favorite restaurants ever, and got dessert (which they are well known for. Delish with a capital D). It was great to finally get to sit, relax and chat with my sissy. I sure love her.

The next morning (Friday) we were up early to get ready to head up to St. George for a couple of days. Rachel had gotten a baby-sitter for her kiddos for the day (and then Don would be home, of course) and my parents were driving down from Salt Lake. We were staying in their vacation home, just the four of us. On the way up, we talked about how this might be a once in a lifetime chance and we'd better take advantage (just kidding mom and dad :) But seriously, we were excited to be able to spend some time with our parents without our other siblings or spouses, or grandchildren. It is a rare and cherished opportunity (because there are 6 kids in my family).

We met up with them at my sister-in-law, Jenny's, new sugar cookie shop, The Sugar Cookie. It was the grand opening (the timing of this trip was planned a bit around this particular weekend of her opening, 11-11-11) and I was excited to see my in-laws, all of which had come down to support and help Jeff and Jenny in their new business venture.

I got to see all of my cute nieces and nephews on Andy's side and all of my wonderful sibling and parent in-laws. It was so much fun and so good to see everyone. And the cookies were terrific. Jenny's shop is really great. If you're ever in St. George be sure to stop by, you won't be sorry!

After we were done visiting at The Sugar Cookie, my mom and Rachel and I headed off to start what I like to call Power Shopping. We are very good at it. It's where you just shop and spend and shop and spend as fast as you can. I think we shopped for about 5 or 6 hours and then met my dad at The Olive Garden for dinner. It was really fun to talk, just the 4 of us over soup and salad and pasta. I love when my dad is in a chatty mood, I always learn something new that I didn't know before. Then we headed back out, and shopped for another 3 or 4 hours. Let me tell you, it was fun stuff. I got half of my Christmas shopping done, and I don't know if I've ever laughed so hard. Ahhh, mom and Rachel? I looooove you.

I was making fun of this vest at the time, but now that I look back at it, I think it's kind of cute, and I kind of want it....

After we were finished shopping (let me rephrase that, after all of the stores were closed and no one would let us in anymore...) we finally headed home to the house and watched a movie and talked and Rachel and I slept in the same bed just like the old days. We laughed.... and laughed.... until it turned into cackles and we were practically hysterical and we finally fell asleep.

The next morning, my mom and Rachel and I headed to the temple. It was lovely, as always.

After that we shopped some more (duh, what else?) and then we went to Pizza Factory for lunch.

WHO did we happen to meet there? Why, my best friend Cristan of course, who drove down to St. George from Salina JUST to see me. What a gal.
We laughed some more (seriously, I probably burned a million calories this weekend just from laughing) and recounted the good ol' highschool days and old boyfriends and funny experiences. I think my parents were enlightened to a few things I had done that they were unaware of. Hey, it's been 10 years. That's long enough, right?

We said our goodbyes to Cristan and then Rachel and mom and I headed out to do more.... you guessed it. That naughty little S word. After we were finally finished (but not really, when can you ever be finished shopping?!) we headed back to the house and cleaned up and packed up, said our goodbyes to my lovley parents, and then headed back down to Vegas. It was such a fun and fabulous weekend. Can I go back now?

More trip to come...