Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Checking Out Dallas (Our Trip in Pictures)

Before we make the final decision whether or not to uproot our entire life and relocate to Dallas, we wanted to go visit in person. As tourists, but also as possible residents. Coincidentally, it had been on my heart lately to take Ryan on a one-on-one trip, so I talked Mike into bringing him with us on our adventure. He. was. ecstatic.
We left on Saturday afternoon, knowing that we wanted to check out a particular church on Sunday morning. As we were boarding the plane out of Phoenix, Mike ran into an old co-worker from 10 years ago. As it turns out, he currently lives in Dallas and, after thinking about it, is quite literally the ONLY person Mike knows in the Dallas area, other than the VP of his company.  Things we discovered while chatting with him:

- He lives in the exact area we are considering moving. 
- After living in Phoenix his entire life, he and his family moved to Dallas 4 years ago and fell in love.
- He and his wife are in the process of relocating back to Phoenix because both of his parents have passed away and he felt led to move closer to his siblings and in laws. 

The only person Mike knows in Dallas was on our flight. Coincidence? I think not. We chatted all the way until we had our luggage in hand, then he offered to meet us for lunch the next day to answer any questions we have about relocating. 

We arrived at the hotel late, checked in, and crashed hard.

Sunday morning was very wet and rainy, but as Phoenicians, we love rain!  The first thing I noticed in the daylight was: leaves. Orange, yellow and red…and the leaves were thicker than an inch! I truly miss seasons. And trees with leaves that are more than sprigs.
After church, we had lunch with Mike's friend, then spent the gloomy afternoon driving around looking at new homes models. Our rental car was a 2014…neither Mike nor I could figure out how to open the trunk, let alone start the darn thing without a key, at 11:00 at night in the rental car parking lot. Our vehicles are so old…my van still has a (*ahem*) cassette player in it! It was fun to drive a new car with new features.
Sunday night, we were invited to eat dinner with Mike's VP. As we were leaving our hotel to drive to his house, Mike realized his wallet was missing. And that we had gone to a dozen different places since lunch. I called the restaurant where we ate lunch and they didn't have it. He left a message at the church coffee shop where he purchased a coffee at 10am. Other than that, we were at a loss.

The night was tense because Mike couldn't get his mind off of how he would get home without an I.D., let alone all of the cash and credit cards that were in his wallet. After we left the VP's house, I followed the GPS back to the restaurant that I'd called earlier. When we pulled up, I realized it wasn't the same location. ?!?!?  The guy at the front desk called the other location for me and, sure enough, the wallet was there. I have never seen my husband so relieved in my life! 

He tried to pay the busboy who found it, but he refused the money. We quickly figured out why: He had already helped himself to a $50 bill as a finders fee. We didn't mind, as long as we could fly home without a hassle!

Monday morning, Mike took Ryan and toured his would-be office building and met his would-be boss. Afterward, we met with a couple of homeschool girls for lunch. (I met one over the phone and she couldn't wait to get together in person - good ol' Southern hospitality!) One of the girls brought two of her sons and the boys all instantly hit it off. 

While we were there, I realized that the entire trip would be a waste if we don't choose to move to Dallas, so I suggested that we take the rest of the day to do fun things that would make memories for Ryan. 
I'd heard of a "human snow globe" at a mall nearby, so we took Ryan there first. It was a giant dome-shaped waiting room to see Santa. With fake snow falling. Quite anticlimactic, but it was still fun. Santa wondered why we stopped in the dome and had no interest in sitting on his lap. 
From there, we went to downtown Dallas and visited the site where John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  We did a cheap walking tour with a guy who told a very dramatic, animated version of the event, took some pictures, and hung out in the beautiful area for a bit.
X marks the spot where he was shot and the grassy knoll is on the other side of the street.
The building where Lee Harvey Oswold positioned himself for the assassination. 
Last, we drove to the infamous Galleria Mall to see the four-story Christmas tree. Ryan was so excited that he could ice skate around this monstrosity! 
After an AMAZING BBQ dinner at The Smoke House (can you say, "Smoked Gouda Mac 'n' Cheese with Truffle Oil"?) we drove up to downtown Frisco to see their lights-set-to-music. It was cold, Christmasy fun.
We stopped by a popcorn shop (that could be smelled for blocks) for a treat while we watched the light show from a park bench. It was the perfect end to our little vacation.
The popcorn shop had some crazy candy, including Bacon Candy Canes!
I'm hoping Mike will make his decision ASAP about whether we're staying in Phoenix or moving to Dallas. I am fine either way, but leaning heavily toward moving. We have no good reason to move, yet I really feel like it is the right decision. Time will tell! 
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Monday, December 8, 2014

#82 - Do something crazy with my hair (well, crazy for ME)

When I added this item to my 101 Goals in 1001 Days list, I fully intended to add pink peek-a-boo highlights for October's Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Or red for Christmas. Or purple to support K-State through the football season.

But then I brought it up to two of my best friends and they asked if I was going through a mid-life crisis. I know!  I was shocked, too! Isn't crazy hair something everyone does? I never have and I was FINALLY willing to give it a try. Not for long, maybe just a month or so.
I asked my hairdresser if I could do something fun and she immediately shot me down. She suggested a big, fun headband with a flower on it. Um, that was NOT what I had in mind!!! She all but refused to let me do anything crazy to my hair.

I thought it would be fun to have something colorful and different…just for a season…but I was talked out of it.

So when I saw Super Cuts temporarily dying people's hair red at the Cardinals vs. Chiefs game yesterday, I was in. Ryan wanted his hair all red and spiky. He looked like a cartoon character! I was sporting my Chiefs hat, so I just had them do stripes in my ponytail.
When we got back to our tailgating tent, Kaylin had returned from the bathroom and wanted her hair striped, too. She got red, white and gold…looked much more CHIEFS than Cardinals, which was just fine with this KC girl!

As far as I'm concerned, this item is crossed off my list. Because those closest to me won't let me do anything semi-permanent. (*sniff*)
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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Nostalgic, Excited, Unsettled

As we decorated the Christmas tree last week, I took time to appreciate the fact that this might be our last Christmas in this house. I'm not typically a sentimental person, so most of the discussions revolving around the option of relocating have been unemotional for me. It's just a house…we can build a home anywhere with our little family. It's just stuff inside the house…we can sell what we don't love and repurchase new furniture in Dallas, instead of moving it all more than 1,000 miles away. I look around at the life that I love and suddenly feel…unattached. 
But Mike got a little nostalgic on me over the weekend. "This is the pool where I taught all three of my kids to swim. And I taught them all to ride their bikes on that street. And we have spent hours in this backyard talking around the fire pit. And we built this garden together. And I taught all of the kids to ride their bikes…wait, I already said that one."

We have baked countless cookies in our kitchen together. Watched countless movies in our family room. Read countless stories in these bedrooms. Hosted play dates and Bible studies and game nights and birthday parties. We've watched first steps in this house, heard first words, transition from cribs to big kid beds, learned to tie shoes.

If we move in the spring, we might never get a chance to swim in our beloved pool just one more time. (*sniff*) This all feels so sudden!

We bought this house 10 years ago and moved in almost nine years ago. I have never lived anywhere this long…ever. This is a long time for me.

We stayed in the same city when I grew up, but I called more than 8 locations "home" by the time I was 11 years old. Honestly, I think I'm more resilient as a result. 

Mike had a different experience: his parents owned the same house for 25 years. He is a creature of habit. He is used to having roots. I'm used to having pen pals and reasons to go "back home" to Kansas City to visit. And it all ends up okay in the end.

I have obviously felt a bit of an itch recently, like I'm ready for a change. Hence the painting, redecorating, decluttering, and "sprucing up" I've been doing to our home this year. I love the changes we've made to freshen things up around here.

Yet something about relocating intrigues me. Not forever, necessarily, but just for a bit. There's something exciting about a new adventure in a new city with new people and new possibilities and…four seasons!

Until we visit next week, I'm expecting to continue feeling unsettled and a bit disengaged. I'm going through the motions of working my business and finishing up this semester at our Homeschool Co-Op. I'm attempting to soak in the Christmas season. But it's an unfamiliar feeling to be so torn between the life we have and the new opportunities presenting themselves to us. 

In the meantime, I need to enjoy the day to day as we know it, because I certainly don't want to take it for granted by being distracted!
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Monday, December 1, 2014

25 Days of Christmas, 2014 Edition

I almost didn't put this list together this year, knowing that we have a lot on our plate this month. I'm in major declutter-mode in anticipation of relocating to Dallas and downsizing our house substantially. BUT, I decided that I didn't want to break tradition just yet. This is the 6th year in a row we're doing a 25 Days of Christmas activities list! (to see past activities, here are the lists from 20092010, 20112012, and 2013)

Day 1 - Christmas Camping
Day 2 - Make homemade cocoa with whipped cream and marshmallows
Day 3 - Christmas Cookie Workshop
Day 4 - Shop for Adopt-a-Family
Day 5 - Kaylin's first Christmas dance performance
Day 6 - Go to Celebration of Christmas production with Grandma
Day 7 - Cardinals vs. Chiefs game
Day 8 - Create Christmas cards for friends and family
Day 9 - Family movie night - Elf
Day 10 - Wrap Christmas gifts for co-op teachers and neighbors
Day 11 - S'mores by the firepit
Day 12 - Homeschool Co-Op Christmas party
Day 13 - Glendale Christmas Parade
Day 14 - Make a Gingerbread House
Day 15 - Christmas Craft Day
Day 16 - Snow at Desert Ridge
Day 17 - Drive around looking at Christmas lights in our PJs with cocoa
Day 18 - Kaylin's dance recital
Day 19 - Go to McCormick Railroad Park and ride the train through the Christmas lights
Day 20 - Horse-drawn carriage ride at Kierland Commons
Day 21 - Bake Christmas cookies and deliver to neighbors
Day 22 - Family movie night - Polar Express
Day 23 - Drive around looking at Christmas lights in our PJs with cocoa
Day 24 - Bake a birthday cake for Jesus
Day 25 - Read the Nativity Story from the Bible
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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Big News. Prayers Needed.

We got some pretty big news last week and would love your prayers: Mike's division is being transferred to Dallas in March. He has the option to take a severance or to uproot and move our family to Dallas. No one is more shocked than me, but we're considering moving. 

Mike has always wanted to live in Texas, but has never had a reason to relocate, until now. After 40 years in Phoenix, he's ready to try something new. And if the grass isn't greener, we'll reevaluate in a couple of years and return home. 

In the meantime, they're sending us out there to check it out in a few weeks. If nothing else, it will be a free vacation. But it could very well be much more than that.
We have every reason to stay in Phoenix. Our home is beautiful and organized. I've been repainting and fixing up the house to make it feel fresh and "new". We love our home. Thousands upon thousands of memories are inside these walls. Two of our kids were born in this home. (Well not IN this home, I'm not that brave.)

Our family is in Phoenix.

Our friends and church community are in Phoenix. 

Most of our closest friends live in our neighborhood.

We recently joined the most amazing homeschool co-op.

There is a park on our street with tons of kids and parents everywhere, making it a safe environment for my kids to roam freely. I hear envious comments all the time about the way the kids on our block play together, all ages, both genders, very little drama. 
As I type this, Jason has two friends over in our playroom and Kaylin has three friends upstairs coloring pictures of Santa. Ryan is playing football and there are fresh cookies baking in the oven to feed the masses. 

My business is crazy busy right now. CRAZY BUSY. My team is wonderful, my parties are ridiculously profitable, I am consistently in the top 50 for sales in my company and have been in the top 10 for many months in a row. Leaving Phoenix would essentially be walking away from my business and starting over.

We love Ryan's football league. Kaylin loves her new dance tour group. We have a great little shopping area up the street where we can escape for an appetizer or meet friends for coffee with 5 minutes notice. I finally found a dentist we trust and an incredible hair dresser. Wait - I'd need to find a new hair dresser!?!? Not good.

But the fact that my un-spontaneous husband is willing to take a risk this huge is a very big deal, so I'm on board! I realize people move across the country all the time, but this is a first for my husband. And when I left Kansas to come to Phoenix, most of my family had already relocated over the course of my four years in college. So this move would be a big deal for both of us.

Please pray that we don't make an emotional decision, in either direction. The safe thing is obviously to stay here, take the severance and look for another job. But there are so many new, exciting possibilities in the idea of relocating, even temporarily. 

Decisions, decisions.
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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

#57 - Clean out the paperwork in my file cabinet

#57 is completed from my 101 in 1001 list. Exciting? No. Done? YES!

Since it's been so long since I cleaned out the paperwork in our file cabinet (at least 3 years), it wasn't much effort to grab entire folders of past insurance information, tax documents, receipts, and other things that we no longer need and dump them into a bag to recycle. Don't come running to my house to steal my identity, though…we're definitely shredding the tax documents. ;)

I did have fun flipping through old college papers I wrote (why I kept them, I'm not sure…maybe because I spent so many hours researching and writing them?) - and even found a story or two that I wrote when I was Kaylin's age. I can't wait to show the kids in the morning. Hilarious! My mom is not a pack rat (like *ahem* apparently I am) so I don't have many elementary keepsakes left. I might have to hang onto these two, just because I can!
Goodbye, unnecessary paper clutter!
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Monday, November 24, 2014

#17 - Go Roller Skating as a Family

This item on my 101 in 1001 list was perfectly timed. Ryan recently discovered that my roller blades fit him, his old roller blades fit Kaylin, and Jason has some starter skates of his own. As the first week of crossing off #55 (Plan something fun every family day for a month), after church and lunch yesterday, we headed to the skating rink. 

Turns out, this is the same skating rink where Mike and his friends came 30 years ago - and I'm not sure much has been updated since then!

Jason wasn't sure about this whole experience, proving to be oppositional before we even went out to skate. 
Until we rented him one of these new contraptions. Genius for a 5 year old! But honestly, for all of the older kids who I saw clutching onto these make-shift walkers, I felt sorry for them. Kids older than Ryan…I even saw an adult with a death grip on hers! I guess it's better than not skating at all, which I saw plenty of people doing…walking around on the skating rink with their kids or talking to friends. I even saw someone with a double stroller…what has skating become, people!?!?
Afterward, we ran by Costco and someone was beyond exhausted. He almost fell asleep using the napkins as his pillow. 
We all had fun!  Even Mike, who started the day a little rocky, was turned around after our family skating experience. At $8-9 per person, I'm not sure we'll do this again anytime soon, but it was fun while it lasted!
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Monday, November 17, 2014

My Little Turkeys Need to Stop Growing. No, Seriously.

I love the ages of my kids right now. They are far from perfect, but it's so nice to have them all still "kids" - not yet pre-teens, but no longer "pre-schoolers". For the moment, they can all still crawl onto my lap, they'll all hold my hand in public, no one is yet my height or asking to borrow the car keys.
My Three Turkeys
Jason is so self-sufficient (almost too much, sometimes) and has made his own little friends on our block that come over and ask if he can play. He comes home sometimes and says, "Mom, I know you're not going to like this, but they offered me a PB&J sandwich while I was at their house and I ate it. With pretzels. And gluten."
Such a ham
I told him that when he turned five, he wouldn't have to take naps anymore. I worked myself up to the fact that I wouldn't get a mid-day, Mommy break, until I realized I could still give him a quiet time in his room with toys and books for an hour. Whew!
On one of "those" days, Jason got the feeling he should stay quiet for a while and covered himself with stickers.
The problem is that this kid still rises with the sun, so he's not napping anymore, yet he has trouble falling asleep when we put him to bed earlier than Ryan, so he's an overtired, whiney, cries-at-the-drop-of-a-hat, whirlwind of emotions all day long. When I just can't take it anymore and wonder if he'll live to see the the age of six, I think back over the last few days, realize he's gone to bed late and woken up early, and, sure enough, when I send him for his quiet time, he passes out cold.
This is Jason "not tired"
Kaylin has also made a new group of friends in the neighborhood. They're like a little pack of 7-10 year olds who ride bikes, put make up on each other, do each other's hair and have lemonade stands. Kaylin used to have just one friend at a time in our 'hood, but since she joined a new dance class, we carpool with several families in the neighborhood and they're all adorable friends now. Most of them are Mormon and go to church together, but they graciously accepted Kaylin into their little circle. Even though we have different beliefs, I know she's playing with kids who have integrity and morals taught in their home on a very regular basis. 
She's been trying a bit of an attitude on for size, but recoils when she realizes that the sighing and eye rolling don't fly in our house. It seems that she's causing trouble with Jason, but when I listen more carefully, she's learning to stand her ground and not let her alpha-male brothers take advantage of her. Thankfully, the eye rolling and sighs is as far as it's gotten with her. If it were only that simple with the boys, I would be thrilled, but they're arguers. I'm expecting their negotiation skills to take them through law school someday.
Ryan is officially taking on the roll of a responsible tween. He babysits the other kids on a weekly basis while I run errands, get my hair done, or go to Bible study. I make sure my neighbor is home in case of an emergency, but he seems to have figured out the line between being in charge without lording over his siblings. 
The other day, I called him with my hair full of foils while at the hair dresser and asked how things were going. "Well," he said, "Jason wouldn't stay in his room for his quiet time. I told him to come downstairs and we had a little talk, I gave him a little milk, and I explained that he was grounded from screen time for disobeying. Then I told him that he needed to go back in there until 2:00 and he finally listened."
Cracked. Me. Up. 

Ryan loves to cook and bake like his mama. He helps in the kitchen quite a bit and even made us homemade turkey and wild rice soup last night for dinner. All I did was toss some celery and onion into the pot and he followed a loose list of directions to finish it off while I was out with Kaylin. 
Making batches of meatballs to flash freeze for later.
When we woke up yesterday, it was windy and cold out, so Ryan had to pull out the jeans I bought him a couple of months ago. The poor kid had to wear high-waters to church. He is growing like a weed! And he had his first zit the other day, so puberty might be just around the corner. Oy.

If you were a fly on our wall this weekend, you would wonder where all of this nostalgia is coming from, because this wasn't a great weekend. There were tears, bickering, frustrations, grounded kids…it was a tough weekend, to say the least. But I've been wanting to capture this moment in our lives for a few weeks and sometimes the timing isn't ideal, but the sentiments are the same.

I remember a few months ago when I still thought of these kids frozen in time from 2011, but that is definitely no longer the case. My kids are all kids…no teens, no toddlers, just kids. And I'm really enjoying this phase. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Don't they look innocent…?
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