Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Best of 2013

Happy New Year! Are you glad that 2013 is over, or sad that it is leaving us so soon? Personally, I am glad that its over and extremely welcoming to 2014. We had a very rough year with losing our house in court, becoming homeless, losing Great Grandpa Louie, and with Anna's dog bite. 2013 was quite hard on us, but there were lots of good things that happened too. Benton was born, I became a certified gymnastics instructor, Lon was promoted to manager at the Village Inn. It was just another year for us, but we sure are ready for the next one! Bring it on 2014! I hope this year brings us a new house among many more positive things!

We aren't doing anything too special today, Lon and I both work in the morning. We will probably celebrate with my parents later tonight, but will most likely turn in before midnight like we always do lol. This is why we had our date on Sunday! :) Alan and Anna are still totally stoked that its a holiday today though. I am hopefully going to take them to the mall either today or tomorrow to play in the play area for a bit, then go spend their gift cards at Build-A-Bear. I haven't told them yet, it will be my little surprise! Alan knows something is up for sure though lol. He said to me this morning, "Mom, is it Christmas again?" lol! They don't really understand what the New Year is, but are still excited regardless.

Since the New Year is coming up, I figured I would do the typical thing and write a review of our 2013 year. Last year, I posted a Top 12 posts of 2012 which was fun. I didn't want to do a Top 13 posts though this year. I thought and I thought and I decided to just do a month-by-month review of this year, since so many things had happened. So I hope that you enjoy!

2013, in Review

January:

Alan caught Influenza A and was sick at his New Year's Day craft party.
I break my phone by dropping it twice. Sweet.
Alan started gymnastics at the Billings Gymnastics School.
Aunt Natalie came to town for a visit.
Aunt Natalie and Uncle Jake announced their pregnancy with Benton.


February:

CHD Awareness Week!
Alan had his Preschool Screening which determined he would need glasses. 
                                                    Swan Lake date with Mom and Aunt April.
Anna's friend Karter was born!
Aunt Natalie and Uncle Jake announced that they were going to have a boy.





March:

The car is in and out of the mechanics several times with various issues.
Lon was rushed to the Emergency Room one afternoon, where it was discovered that he had a severe ulcer in his stomach.
I finally get a new phone and join the smart phone community.
Alan got his first pair of glasses.
Lon and I attend our first YMCA staff party.

April:

Alan, Anna, Uncle Kalvin, Aunt April, Grandma Melanie, Grandpa Kevin and I all went to the Shriner's circus!
We celebrate Aunt April's birthday and all of her amazing accomplishments in dance.
Lon and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary with a sushi date!
Alan had his first professional hair cut from Sports Clips.
Anna learned how to pull herself up to standing and cruise around.




May:

I twisted my ankle mere days before my first big dance showcase. Nice.
The Billings Family YMCA held their first Spring Dance Showcase for the hip hop and jazz classes.
Uncle Kalvin celebrated his birthday with a bowling party!
Aunt Natalie celebrated her birthday and first Mother's Day with her baby shower.
Alan had his cavities filled and was knocked out for the first time.


June:

Anna's second tooth came in with a fire!
We celebrate Uncle Jake's first Father's Day.
Alan and I explore the Rims with Aunt Ariel.
We celebrated Alan's friend Tatum's fourth birthday with a potting party.
Uncle Cameron came into town for a visit.




July:


Alan started taking swim lessons at the Billings Gymnastics School.
Great Uncle Greg and Great Aunt Clare are married at Zoo Montana.
Anna celebrates her first birthday at Rose Park.
Alan, Anna and I volunteer with the YMCA at Relay for Life.
Benton is born to Aunt Natalie and Uncle Jake!




August:

Aunt Natalie and Benton come into town for Benton's first visit.
We enjoy the week long Montana Fair and all its local attractions.
I join up with Diversity Dance to take their Summer Intensive classes.
The YMCA holds their first ever dance workshop.
I help coach the YMCA's gymnastics camp and officially join the coaching team.



September:

Alan has his first day of Preschool at the YMCA.
Alan celebrates his fourth birthday with a superhero party at Veteran's Park.
Alan starts hip hop classes at the YMCA.
I volunteer with the YMCA at Color me Rad again.
We lose our house in court and become homeless.




October:

Great Grandpa Louie passes away in his sleep.
Aunt Natalie and Benton come into town for a visit.
We pick our pumpkins out at Sartorie Farms with Aunt Ariel.
Anna suffers a dog bite and is rushed to the Emergency Room.
We celebrate Halloween with the Green Power Ranger (Alan), Elmo (Anna) and Zombie Lon.




November:

April goes to her first formal dance, Senior High's Twirp.
We celebrate cousin James' first birthday.
Aunt Natalie, Uncle Jake and Benton come into town to visit.
We celebrate Thanksgiving with Lon's family and Great Aunt Carolyn's family.
The kids and I attend the Holiday Parade with Aunt Ariel.


December:
The kids and I go to Seasame Street Live with Grandma Melanie, Uncle Kalvin, Aunt April, Aunt Natalie, Uncle Jake and Benton.
We support Aunt April and her dance studio at the Festival of Trees performances.
I received two certifications in Gymnastics instruction through USAGymnastics.  
We celebrate Christmas with both of our families.
Aunt Natalie and Uncle Jake are engaged to get married!!




This past year was wild! Full of love, happiness, hardship, obstacles, family, friends, and loved ones. I wouldn't change any of it for the world! I hope that 2014 brings us better things, but will always remember those who helped us through the rough times. Love you all!

Please don't drink and drive tonight, don't ride along with anyone who does either! Its so not worth it! Please if you are drinking, call this number: 1-800-222-4357! Its the Tipsy Tow by AAA, you do not have to be a member of AAA to use this program this holiday! If you are drinking and need a ride, just call it, its free. I hope that everyone has a safe and blessed New Year's Eve! Here's to 2014!

Monday, December 30, 2013

The New Year Date

Last night, Lon and I treated ourselves to a nice dinner at Olive Garden for our New Year date this year. It had been a little over a year since our last date, it was definitely due time for one! Aunt Sam and Uncle Tyler had given us a giftcard to OG for Christmas this year and made us promise to not take the kids with us lol. And my mom offered to watch the kids for us last night. Aunt April helped style my hair for me, it was so curly and pretty! Thanks Mom, April, Tyler and Sam! It was a great date night thanks to the four of you! We both had a wonderful time together!

I haven't been to the Olive Garden in some time, they have gotten quite a bit fancier since I had last gone. We tried some delicious red wine, a compliment from our waitress. I don't usually like wine, but this was amazing! I almost regret not getting some more with my dinner but instead I decided on an amazing strawberry smoothie. It was made with an Italian yogurt that was to die for! Even Lon had some of my smoothie lol, I love sharing meals and drinks with my man. :) Lon had a marshmellow Christmas-y sort of drink, layers of chocolate and marshmellow and liquor. It was surprisingly good too! I tried it, even though I don't like marshmellows. It was still yum!




We had salad, breadsticks, an Italian dumpling soup and a flatbread pizza for our appetizers. Oh my word, there was so. much. food! We had a little bit of everything, everything tasted like heaven! The flatbread pizza had goat cheese, portobello mushroom, sundried tomatoes and basil leaves. So wonderful, those are like my four favorite food ingredients. I could have just had the pizza and been as happy as a lark.




But we didn't. We had another full course as well. Lon had a Parmesan crusted Talapia with aspheragus, I tried some and seriously the parmesan melted in my mouth! So yum! I had a chicken pasta with Monteray Cheese sauce. It was so delicious and very filling too. I had only a few bites and was already almost full. So much yumminess! Lon and I felt like we were in food heaven! And we shared our courses with each other, so we were able to try a little of everything and have some for later! I took so much leftovers home with me! The kids and I will be having yet another amazing Italian meal today!




I also get to share some AWESOME, FANTASTIC, AMAZINGLY WONDERFUL news today! I have been waiting a few weeks to share this and have literally been exploding at the seams to tell someone! Aunt Natalie and Uncle Jake are engaged!! Jake proposed after he had graduated from college and of course she said yes! I am so excited for them and for my nephew! The wedding will be sometime late next summer, we will all probably be in the wedding party too. Yay!
Congratulations guys! Love you Aunt Natalie, Uncle Jake and Benton!

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Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Through the Years

This Christmas was the sixth Christmas Lon and I have spent together. Since our first Christmas in 2008, quite a lot has changed with our family. In 2008, it was just Lon and I spending our first Christmas together. We had a small tree with only a few gifts each. I was pregnant with Alan, but did not know at the time. Now in 2013, its not just the two of us. We are married, have two children now and have been through our share of hardships. But our Christmases are still similar, still very important to us. We make a point to spend them together and spend them with our loved ones. There are still only a few presents, but they don't really matter to us. Its being together, Lon and the kids and I, that matters to me.

For funsies, here is a review of the past five Christmases my family has spent together. I am only leaving Lon and I's first Christmas together out, because I don't think there were any photos of us taken that year. But starting with 2009, Alan's first Christmas and going until now, 2013 Benton's first Christmas. So much has changed!

*2009*

Alan was only three months old this year, it was his first Christmas ever! Lon and I were still so young too, a newer couple embarking on this new journey of parenthood. We were still so scared lol! We had just moved to our second home together earlier that month. Lon had started working at the Village Inn again that September, but I had just stopped working for Chuck E. Cheese's and was a stay-at-home mom. It was our first Christmas as a little family! So perfect!





My favorite part of this year was the fact that we had our little Alan. He was so young back then, our little ball of fun! He was the cutest, sweetest, chunkiest little baby ever! And a Mister Baldy too lol! Oh how I love looking back at pictures from those days.

*2010*

Alan was fifteen months old this Christmas. We had just moved to a newer place the summer before, our third house we had lived in together. I had just started working at the YMCA and Alan had started school. Lon was still working at the Village Inn too. This Christmas was so much fun! Alan was so interested in everything, he was so happy to see all the lights and colors. He wasn't too into Santa though, I remember lol. Had to sit on Aunt Natalie's lap that year. Silly boy!



My favorite part of this Christmas was buying Alan all his big boy presents! This was the year we bought him his first car toy set and his training potty! He loved each gift too!

*2011*

Alan was two years old this year, Lon and I had also just found out that we were expecting our second child the previous month. We told everyone on Christmas Eve, they were all so shocked and excited for us. It was also our first Christmas as a married couple. We still lived in the same apartment we had the previous year, I was still working at the YMCA and Lon at the Village Inn. Alan actually sat on Santa's lap this year, but he had Mama right by his side.




My favorite part of this year was everyone's different reactions to our pregnancy. One aunt screamed, another almost fainted, both of my grandmother's almost started crying. We were embraced with so much love that Christmas, it was so special to us.

*2012*

Alan was three years old and Anna was five months old this Christmas. It was Anna's first Christmas, our first as a whole family too. We had just moved into our fourth house together the month before, I was still working at the YMCA and Lon at the Village Inn though. Alan took his own photo with Santa that year, Anna wasn't interested in even getting in the picture with Santa so Alan went solo. I was quite proud that he did too, he grows up a little more each year!





My favorite part about this year is the fact that it was our first Christmas with Anna. Everything was all new for us with a girl this time around, she made it all the more special for us. I loved watching her open her first few presents, discovering the Christmas tree or lights, snuggling her first baby doll. It was a great Christmas for our family!

*2013*

Alan was four years old and Anna was 17 months old this Christmas. It was also my nephew Benton's first Christmas ever. He was just five months old, like Miss Anna was the previous year! We may have been homeless this year for Christmas but we still made the best of it and had a wonderful holiday. I was still at the YMCA and Lon at the Village Inn. It was a holiday of reflection and love this year for us, we are so blessed to have all these people fighting on our side. It warms the soul.





My favorite part of this year was the kindness in people's hearts. Our family received so many donations from our friends and family, to make our Christmas special. We originally were planning on having near nothing for Christmas but with the help of others, ended up having one of the best Christmases yet! I hope to someday repay those that helped us out by paying-it-forward to another family in need. People can be so wonderful sometimes.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Review 2013

Our Christmas was a blessed one this year. There are so many things to be thankful for, so many people who have supported and helped us. Thank you all! To the YMCA ladies that donated a ton of gifts to my family: bless you. To the WTE mamas who also sent our kids gifts, sometimes even from across the country: bless you too. To the friends and family who gave us presents, gave us money, helped us out with food, sent us a Christmas card, helped us find a place to stay for Christmas morning: bless you all so much. I can't even begin to put into words how endlessly grateful we are for all of you, you are just amazing people. You are who made our Christmas special this year. Not the gifts, the money or the food, but YOU. I don't know what our Christmas would have been like if we didn't have our loved ones. We are so lucky to have them!

We spent our Christmas Eve with my family at my parent's house and with the in-law's at the Village Inn, as per tradition. Uncle Cameron came into town from Spokane for the holiday, it was wonderful seeing him! Miss Anna was spoiled with a couple of babies and lots of cute clothes from Grandma Melanie. She loved her baby so much! She packed it around everywhere with her, insisted on rocking her baby and did a great job feeding her a bottle! Our little girl is a natural!

Anna also received her first pair of real hard-soled shoes, a pair of snowboots! She walked everywhere like a baby deer lol, it was so cute! I will try to get a video of it soon. Until she is fully used to them, I bring her soft soled shoes along to switch out after a while. Both kids got snowpants too, which is also awesome. We weren't able to afford much winter gear this year, just coats and boots and gloves and hats. Snowpants were a luxury we couldn't afford. Thankfully Grandma Melanie got a new pair for BOTH kids!

Anna with her baby from Great Grandma Marcia
Alan was also spoiled by his grandparents. He received a cool pirate ship bath toys, some books and a few clothes from them. He loves his new bath toy and can't wait to take his next bath! Although I have a feeling Anna might try to steal his ship from him while bathing lol. Thanks everyone, for spoiling our wonderful children!

Alan with his pirate ship from Great Grandma Marcia

Uncle Cameron, Alan and Anna on Christmas Eve

Christmas morning was also very special for us. We still aren't living in our own place or even together as a family right now, but Lon's family let us still have our own private Christmas morning together. It was complete with a tree, fireplace, traditional breakfast and gifts from Santa. It was perfect! Thanks again to everyone who helped make it that way!


We kept the kiddos in their Christmas pjamas so that Lon could also enjoy them this year. Miss Anna's pjs are so sweet!

Santa brought so many presents for our good children! Both Alan and Anna received about six gifts each! Dolls, Angry Birds, Legos, hair bows for Anna, we were so spoiled! Thanks again to the YMCA ladies, you guys are so good to our children. Bless you all! :D Even without all the amazing gifts we received, our day was very special because we were all together. Alan told Lon at one point, "Dad, I am very happy today at Christmas because all I wanted for Christmas was you!"

We have the sweetest children ever! Here they are opening their presents.


After spending our Christmas morning alone together, we went over to Grandma Amber and Grandpa Steve's house for lunch. They had ham with scalloped potatoes and green beans. Yum! Almost all of Alan's aunts and uncles were there as well! Uncle Cameron, Uncle Tyler, Aunt Sam, Uncle Chase and Aunt Ariel. We were only missing Uncle Aaron and Aunt Nikki otherwise we would have had a full house! The kids loved seeing all of their family members. They showed them their new toys and tried them out for the first time together. It was perfect! We also watched a Christmas Carol (the new one with Jim Carrey in it) and Anna's new movie from Santa, Monsters University. If I didn't love the first Monsters movie so much, darn it this one is so sweet too! The little Mike Wazowski is just the cutest! And Sully with his teenage angsty hair flip? It was such a cute little movie!

A big thanks to my Uncle Tyler and Aunt Sam for their Christmas gift! They know that Lon and I never go out, especially to restaurants to eat lol, we just can't afford to. Its paying a sitter, using gas to get there and then buying food when we could make it at home lol. If we do go out to eat, its with my family and the kids are with us. Its just a luxury we usually don't get. So for Christmas this year, they bought us a gift card to the Olive Garden and made us promise to not take the children with us. We have our first date in six months planned for this Sunday. I am so excited to get all dressed up and do my hair real nice! I love getting gussied up for my man lol! Thanks again guys!

Once it was starting to get dark outside, we headed up to Great Aunt Carolyn's house for Christmas dinner. They also had ham with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, Great Grandma Carol's Snicker Doodle Salad and various yummy veggies. The kids were more interested in playing with Uncle Kalvin and Sophie then they were with eating lol. Oh well, they had had chances to eat all day long. We let them play all through Great Aunt Carolyn's house and Anna even tried the big stairs out on her own a few times (with Mama watvhing close by, of course). She is getting quite good at stairs now! Still climbs up and down on all fours, but she is getting there.

Alan, GI Joe and Dad all having a good time lol

Sophie was even nice enough to share all of her new Christmas presents from her grandparents with her cousins too! We didn't bring too many toys up to Great Aunt Carolyn's house and it was so sweet of her to let Alan and Anna play with her toys too. We love her so much! Thanks Miss Soph! Man, family is good. We are so blessed to have all of these people who we love all around us, all the time but especially on the holidays. Not everyone is so lucky to have almost all of their family members so close by. I personally know lots of people who go without seeing their loved ones this Christmas or those who are spending this holiday alone. We are very grateful to not be in that situation, our lives are hard but we are blessed enough to have lots of love and support from family. We love that we can have our cousins' kids grow up with our own children, sharing together similar experiences that we did as kids. That is very important to me. One of the big reasons we will never move out of this city. 95% of our family lives here, it is perfect for us!

Anna and Uncle Kalvin sharing Sophie's gift from Great Aunt Carolyn

Here's a funny story about kids lol: So Sophie and Alan were being quite wild upstairs alone, jumping on the couch and running around the Christmas tree. I went up to investigate and after trying for several minutes to convince them to come back downstairs, I thought I would try a little distraction trick lol. I changed the subject to the five Santas in front of the tree. We talked about them, counted them together as a group and even took this picture with them. After that, they willingly went downstairs with me, no fight at all! Lol, love kids and how they just sometimes need to be distracted!


Man, this post probably could have been two posts! Its so darn long, sorry! For those of you who stayed for this long, I will leave you with two AWESOME photos. Our two attempts at getting our family Christmas picture was a bit of a bust this year, the kids just weren't having it. But after looking at these now, I begin to love them more and more. It is just Our Family, just who we are. If there was ever two pictures to sum up how wild and wonderful our life is, these would be the two! Enjoy! These may be on the front of next year's Christmas card lol! Classic!


So many blessings, so many things to be thankful for! We had such a great Christmas, when I was wholeheartedly convinced that it would be awful just a few weeks ago. I have said it several times in this post but we wouldn't be anywhere without our loved ones! Thank you all so much! Hope that your Christmas was just as full of love, family and happiness as ours was. We love you all!

Was your Christmas a blessed one? I sure hope so!