Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Girls' Retreat 2016

The first weekend of March found our girls' group heading for the wild outdoors of McCall where this became our immediate motto:
* unless Jana blogs about it hahahahaha.

Jana, Melinda, Paulina, Kara, Nicole, Emily, Nycole. 
Shari's [Pie Milkshake] Angels. The [Applebee's] Blondie Gang. The Magnificent Seven. The Banging Bang Alpha Mu Gamma Beta Tau Sisterhood. The jury's still out on our official group name (we're accepting suggestions!) but I feel like as soon as that's settled, we'll get matching t-shirts.

We met up at Nycole's house to divvy into vehicles and hit the open road. But first Jack T. and Gideon provided us with these darling shots. Sooo cute, right?
The drive up to our winter wonderland was excellent; we had 'Blueberry' with Nycole, Melinda, Nicole, and myself and 'White Hedgehog' with Emily, Paulina, Kara, and Gideon. Juggling the pregnant girls (not literally, of course...) was tricky - the windy road to McCall is no joke - but we made it!

And found this on the door of our cabin! Backstory: we went through vrbo.com and had the best luck ever finding an amazingly well-priced cabin to stay in for two nights. We worked directly with the owner... whom we will call 'Harry'. Super nice older guy who promptly and most likely unintentionally gave me, Kara, and Paulina nicknames hahahaha:
Once we got our things inside, Harry showed up - he conveniently lives right next door and was super nice and helpful and INSISTED he drive one of us over to the 'Ranch House' to show us the amenities there (despite me assuring him we could find it...). Nicole volunteered and Nycole and I both tagged along for propriety's sake ;). And thus began the longest hour of our lives. Harry took us over to the Ranch House - honestly like two blocks over. I feel good about our ability to have found it on our own. But we also had to GET OUT AND WALK ALL THE WAY THROUGH IT.

Legitimately that's Nicole and Nycole inside the sauna with Harry. I mean, when did we lose complete control of our lives?? We were basically all shaking with silent laughter and a decent amount of fear the entire time. Every time we got back into Harry's car we thought we were heading back to the cabin, only to have him turn a different direction. We drove to a special sledding hill - despite our telling him multiple times that we had three pregnant women and a baby with us and wouldn't be sledding - and also to another special sledding/tubing hill. Once we got there we had to WAIT UNTIL SOMEONE WENT DOWN THE HILL SO WE COULD FULLY APPRECIATE IT. And then we drove all through McCall, discussing the views and Harry's entire life story (which honestly sounded pretty interesting) and driving by good restaurants and the local dr office, etc, etc ETC, ETC.
At some point we texted the other girls who were getting slightly worried and eventually we got home safe and died laughing as we recounted the story. (Looking back, it's hilarious but also kind of thought-provoking. A friend pointed out after I got back and told her the story that women often go along with things that make them uncomfortable in an effort to be polite or not cause a scene - obviously Harry was harmless and there were three of us which was comforting, but in hindsight I wish we had been confident and firm and told Harry to take us back sooner. Life lessons, ya know?)

Once we were all safely reunited, we piled allll together into the White Hedgehog for a trip into town for dinner - I feel like this is when Paulina started proposing nicknames for Nicole and Nycole so that we could keep them straight... Danny and Tommy, anyone?? hahahahaha. We found a nice Mexican restaurant and had a swell time eating and laughing and watching Gideon try lemons for the first time and trying to figure out if I knew the girl in the booth next to us (spoiler alert: I didn't).
Then it was back home to retire for the evening, aka put on pajamas, snack, and laugh ourselves silly playing 'the game of Things' which I had never heard of, nor will ever look at the same way. "'Boobs?' 'No.' 'Yes! Always say yes if she asks you that!!'" hahahahahahahaha. We also formally met and named the creature whose head adorns the fireplace. We christened him 'Wooley' after Harry's favorite road in McCall and to this day we remain 75% sure Wooley's glassy eyes were watching us - hidden camera? Secret passageway admitting someone sinister to spy on us? Not completely sure...

That was probably the segue into the scarier part of the evening; someone started talking about an X-Files episode where someone uses an animal like that to spy... and then we looked around and realized there were no blinds on the windows... and it was dark outside... and Nycole was gone... and sure enough, that's when the noises outside started hahaha.

Happily we all made it through the night in excellent accommodations (Melinda and Paulina in the master bedroom downstairs, Kara and Gideon in one upstairs bedroom, Nicole and me in the other upstairs bedroom, Nycole on the fold out couch and Emily on the futon - a place for everyone and everyone in their place :) ) and then set out to explore McCall, starting with the Pancake House for some brunch. Not going to lie, I had been dreaming about this outing. And in my dreams I apparently have the appetite of, I don't know, my little brother? because I ORDERED SO MUCH FOOD. An omelet sounded divine so obviously I got one of those. And the crepes were a must. And then I think I thought I would seriously regret not getting a pineapple pancake with coconut syrup... which was def my downfall. Those things are the size of a dinner plate. But all in all it was great and I left with like two thirds of my food in to-go boxes hahahaha.
We found loads of fun stores to walk around in, favorites being the thrift store benefiting the local hospital, the candy store, and a random drugstore that had way cool stuff.

Nycole proved to be The Best at scoring amazing finds, including this black shirt which we definitely insisted she buy. Pictures don't do it justice. It's a masterpiece.
We also found the mid-40's version of our group haha! Somehow we started talking and established they were also having a girls' weekend out of town and had also stayed up way too late and also brought way too much food with them and also had consumed too much wine the night before - whoops, that was just them, not us ;). Kind of silly, but I loved the glimpse into the future, that we'll still be sneaking away for these trips in ten years!

At this point Nycole, Nicole, Kara, and I decided to trust Harry's assurances that the lake was frozen completely solid, giving poor Paulina a heart attack as she watched us walk across the ice to our certain deaths. Isn't this such a gorgeous picture of her though??
The good news is that Harry had not led us astray, and the lake was in fact frozen solid. Kara and I almost died walking through the snow to get there but grasping onto each other as we waded through snowbanks was a bonding experience and prepared us to be partners in workout class... partners that lean on each other... literally ;). The four of us 'skated' around a bit and broke out into 'Let it Go' and took a pretty stellar selfie and then climbed back up to the path, much to Paulina's relief.

We wandered in and out of a couple little tourist-y shops which I would pretty much buy out if I had a million dollars. Look at all this wisdom:
I definitely texted the 'sister' quote to my brothers and all the marriage ones to Chuck haha.

All that walking definitely built up an appetite... which I honestly thought would never return after my Pancake House stuffing of myself... so we headed home for more food and fun! We continued to eat our way through our snack table, holy moly. Paulina and Melinda made us a delicious pasta and sausage dinner and we lingered around the table forever as conversations starting with 'where do you see yourself in 10 years' and 'what kind of mascara are you wearing??' turned into legit girl talk - aka the best kind ;).
We played Taboo for a while and laughed and laughed until a spider dangled down and general mayhem erupted - was it landing on Paulina?? Did I dump the cards all over the ground jumping up or was that someone else? Oh man, good times.

Later that night the hot tub was calling so we headed over to the Ranch House and retraced the steps of the previous day's tour for everyone's benefit. Everyone was loads patient with my insistence that we get a picture of all of us - I'm not sure why I thought this was A) super necessary and B) going to be super flattering of all of us haha. But it worked! Also in the hot tub we made some random friends... some of whom got closer to us than others (was it Emily that got sat on? Nycole? this is why I should blog about stuff sooner...) and also after like ten minutes of counting and adding figured out that amongst the seven of us, we have 24 children with three on the way - so now 27!
Back at the cabin it was time for puzzles and Emily trying to recreate the dangling spider with her phone charger hahaha and hair-doin', of course! My favorite was Nicole recruiting a nervous Paulina to cut her hair over a confident Nycole ;).

And the puzzle. OH the puzzle. We had a real love-hate relationship with this bad boy - it looked SO pretty on the box. And it was SO insane to actually put together! Nycole was the MVP, the rest of us came and went (hoping all the terrible water pieces would get done in our absence) but Nyc toughed it out.
Oh my heck. This is Lloydia... Nycole snatched her up real quick earlier in the day at a thrift store and we immediately made her our group mascot. We have a variety of theories about the blue streak across her face - eyeshadow mishap? frosbite casualty of Elsa? but in the meantime she's terrifying and we made a rule that whoever went to bed first had to take her home to live with them for the next year until Girls' Retreat 2017. It was the scariest, funniest, most effective motivation for seven REALLY TIRED women to stay awake I've ever seen hahahaha. (PS, Kara, how's she settling in at Casa Walker??)

Oh, I don't want to forget our other little mascot of the trip - Gideon! Such a sweet, patient baby to be carted about with a gaggle of giggling moms.
Sunday morning dawned briiiight and early (especially considering our late night!) and we watched the snow fall and finally got our foosball on - turns out Emily is like lethal at that game, holy moly. I took it upon myself to fill out the 'guest book' downstairs :).

And brunch. Ohhhh brunch. Literally salivating a bit looking at the pictures. Emily made her 'special occasion' blueberry breakfast cake and we all vowed to show up at her house on every holiday and birthday from here on out. Kara made the most incredible fruit sushi because she's fancy and must love us a whole lot - soooo pretty! And Nycole went all MacGyver on the stovetop to make it work so we could have homemade breakfast sandwiches mmmmmm.
And then it was time to go home, single tear :(. Okay, multiple tears. Our plans to go to church were derailed by McCall's stake conference, whoops, but since the whole weekend was basically an exercise in sisterhood we'll call it even ;). Love love love these women! Can't wait for next year!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Pinetop overnighter

Once upon a time at the end of February we headed up to the snowy mountains for an overnight camping IN A CABIN trip. It was super fun and sooo pretty:
Our wilderness destination was a church-owned campground called Pinetop, which is actually where I went to girls' camp for several years back in the day! The cabin was a nice mix of luxurious (fridge, stove, lights, outlets to plug in our space heaters) and roughin' it (outhouse, no running water).

Sledding was the name of the game up there - an adventurous group went out that night and then the rest of us joined in on Saturday morning and afternoon. Clyde had all sorts of fun:
As did Will, including convincing Shelly to take him down with her ;). He also took a few breaks to do some snowy climbing.

The Swensons are hardcore sledders and Cameron even got a few runs in on his snowboard:
Jackers was initially pretty hesitant about snow... and cold... and sledding. He stayed in the cabin for quite a while before we lured him out - and even then he wouldn't put on his snowpants haha. But once we got him going, he (mostly) loved it!

Carma, on the other hand, LOVED the snow... and cold... and sledding. We were hard-pressed to keep her inside the cabin for any length of time:
And of course everyone should please enjoy my ridiculous facial expressions as I sled down a VERY SMALL HILL.

I couldn't help but find a picture of the Pinetop Lodge from my girls' camp days, that's me wearing my favorite dolphin shirt in front of the lodge circa... 2000 maybe?
(The top floor of the lodge was where all the junior leaders stayed and it had REAL bathrooms and REAL showers and was thus highly coveted.)

 Most of the gang (Carma and Jack and I stayed back) went on a little hike Saturday morning and got some super cute pictures at the top:
On the left is the view of where they hiked up to (you can see them posing for the pictures) and on the right is the view of back down at the cabin!

Inside the cabin = lots of good food and fun games to play together. We taught Swensons how to play Qwirkle and then Andrew schooled us all. Carma surprised us all by willingly sitting with Dan for a few minutes - she LOVES Shelly (her then-nursery teacher) so she must have decided he was okay by association ;).
And little kiddos running around and being yahoos :). The picture of Jack and Jaxen (drumming on the bed which made for a pretty horrific sound haha) makes me laugh - those two boys are one week shy of being a year apart in age, but since Jack is in January and Jaxen is December, they get to be in the same class all through primary and Sunday School. Heaven help their teachers if either of them ever emerge from their current 'shy in public' stage ;).

And pretty much everyone fell asleep on the drive home Saturday evening haha! I told the kids that they should all thank Daddy profusely for taking us on fun campouts like this because the windy drive from the main road to the campground terrifies me... especially in the stick shift truck... and there is a 0% chance I would ever drive it alone. So yay for Chuck!
I don't think I've ever been accused of being outdoorsy... but this was a perfect 24 hour escape from life (no cell phone service! or internet! Aren't we all proud I survived??) with excellent company and next year we'll remember the pizza cutter ;).

Friday, August 12, 2016

most o' February

Fun fact: in my recollection, February was a haze of dismal weather, too much screen time, surviving on veggie straws and gogurt, runny noses, and general malaise. I know, sounds like January, right? I thought screen-free January and #janasjollyjanuary would take care of all that dreadfulness, but it turns out it just bumped it back a month, whoops! The good news is that once I started scrolling through February pictures, I remembered that we actually DID leave the house a few times, hooray!

The Drapers nailed the 'bravery' characteristic required for all Cub Scout leaders and did some fire-starting with the boys. Clyde was obviously thrilled.
It makes sense that Clyde was super well-behaved with the fire (minus the torch-making...) because he was one of two students chosen from Miss Hill's class for embodying responsibility! Way awesome, especially since he'd been selected the month before for teamwork.Yay Clyde!

I had no desire to take Jack and a sniffling Carma to the assembly, so Grandpa came over to watch them:
And as usual he took darling pictures of them so I could see how much fun they had :).

The first weekend of February brought a quick road trip down to Utah for Clyde and Will and me for cousin Lily's baptism and HOLY MOLY traveling with only two kids that are older is amazing. They were champs and read and ate and got themselves in and out of the car when we stopped for food and were all-around delightful traveling companions. We stayed in Lehi with Quinner and his family and there was lots of fun cousin wrestling that night when we got in!
Things got a little hectic the next morning when we went to leave and discovered I had run out of gas, whoops! Pro tip: if you're super low on gas, don't park on a hill and then warm-up your car for 15 minutes haha. The good news is that Quinn and Eden are as generous as they are good-looking and promptly handed me the keys to their recently acquired Honda Pilot (fancy!!) and we were on the road, with an estimated arrival time of three minutes before the baptism! (spoiler alert: we got there by 9:50am. #winning)

Such a sweet experience to be there to support Lily - here's the '08 bunch in birth order: Lily, Will, Bri.
And here's some of the fun afterwards! Melissa and Kevin hosted everyone for delicious croissant sandwiches and some pretty epic Nerf battles... and selfies... took place downstairs.

And then I kidnapped Courtney and Mallory to drive back down to Quinner's with me to exchange vehicles. Somehow they got wrangled into babysitting while Quinn and I wandered around Walmart for a gas can and Super Bowl snacks and a quick brotherly intervention about me still nursing Carma hahahaha.
I also made them to go to Target with me once we were back in the ol' minivan. Love those girls! And Quinn and Eden - thanks again a million times for the loaner vehicle! You are awesome!

We got home late Saturday night, just in time for Super Bowl Sunday! I legit don't remember any details but here are some cute pictures of Carma's scowl:
For some forgotten reason I missed girls' night (probably why February stands out as so sad in my mind!!) but these long-suffering, indulgent-of-my-weirdness girls still took a picture and texted to me because they are The Best. I'm sure their smiles are forced though, since they couldn't possibly have laughed much without me there ;).

Random trivia: red is not my favorite color. Or even in like my top five. Or probably ten. So we had to get creative to find the boys red shirts to wear for their Valentine's Day parties at school - not coordinating was clearly not an option (speaking of people that put up with my weirdness).
Carma got to sport the adorable Snoopy V-day shirt that has been passed through all the boys - I feel like she loved it, her facial expression notwithstanding. She also loved her church outfit for Valentine's Day, again despite the apparently crying haha.

 In Sunday School we talked about reaching out to people in love and made Valentines for some class members. Brother Izatt and Bishop Swenson both stopped in to make Valentines for their wives so we were obviously happy to facilitate that ;).
After church we celebrated Valentine's Day by piling on top of one another a la layered jello. Does anyone else do this? Like all the time? Just us? Usually it's just me and the kids, this time we coerced Chuck into it and I'm pretty sure he loved it. On the inside.

 President's Day found us hanging out with Grandpa in Boise! First we hit up Municipal Park for a while:
and then we wandered around the outside portion of the MK Nature Center. I hadn't been there in a lot of years, and it was super fun! The kids were big fans.

This picture kills me - Carma loves Grandpa! Thanks for the fun adventure, Dad!!

February 15th lives in infamy as my first day at Kmart way back when and thus the day I was introduced to a super hot co-worker.
Sadly, Chuck had to work on our 'meetiversary' (I'm almost afraid to google it and see if that's a real thing. I feel like it is.) so I texted him and got a very gushy reply...

We went through a pretty intense Memory phase, my favorite aspect of which was Chuck teaching the boys to chant "Clear the board! Clear the board!" when someone was on a roll with only a few matches left. Jack was particularly obsessed with the game, sooo cute:
Random cute pictures of Carma including her first ponytail, her first clothing-related vandalism, commandeering her doll's stroller, her ridiculously adorable pout, and discovering a deep love for pomegranates.

I've decided instead of hassling my kids about journal writing, I'll just keep their spelling homework because the sentences they come up with are hilarious and usually true. Here are some from Will:
So I joined ward choir a few months ago because Raquel is the director and I would basically do anything for her, and it's honesty been way fun and I haven't been asked to leave yet so I consider that a success. Clyde started coming with me in February which I love - here's a mid-practice selfie to commemorate the occasion.

Cute pictures of Carma Junie on a visit to Sister Sherman's house; our usual MO was to show up and let Carma run around and entertain Betty and then quickly roll out at the first sign of a toddler tantrum :).
Couple more pictures from Jack's superhero dance class at Idaho Rhythm - his teacher was so patient with little sisters (aka Carma and Myla) sneaking in at the end of class.

One day Carma and Will did some Sunday afternoon piano dueting. Super cute. Funny story: when I was typing this I wrote Jack instead of Will. And Will is literally sitting next to me. So he corrected me, assuring me that he can recognize pictures of himself anywhere hahahaha.
Random shot of Carma encouraging me to get out of bed.

One night my mom and her good good friend Lyn (recently returned from a mission to California) got together for a concert and I insisted they take a picture because, you know, it's me :).
Literacy Night at Park Ridge! Such a fun tradition there. Chuck and the boys headed up and found a cute mouse and her cookie (Miss Overcast), the dad from 'Unfortunately, the Milk' (Mr. Eilers), and Piglet, Christopher Robin, and Tigger (Miss Weaver, Miss Hill, and Mrs. Aevermann)... and some cupcakes ;).

And we made good use of our Leap Day by hanging out a bit with Uncle Cody over at Grandma Pam's park - always a good time!

So it turns out February was pretty cool - especially when you factor in the fun camping trip we took that necessitates its own post because there are a million sledding pictures...