Monday, December 24, 2012

Took some effort, but it feels like Christmas around here...

I've been terrible about updating our family blog. It's been such a whirlwind year with so many comings and goings and changes and craziness that I simply haven't been able to keep up on everything. I think I feel paralyzed by the idea of playing catch up on the blog so I don't do anything on it and it just keeps getting farther and farther behind. I need to just start back up and keep at it, without trying to catch up on the events of the past months. Hopefully I'll be able to back track a bit and fill in some gaps, but in the meanwhile I need to just live in the moment and move forward.

We're in a rental house here in Louisiana. Three months ago we found out that the house we're in has been foreclosed and is now owned by the bank. We found this out when the bank rep knocked on our door and handed us a "cash for keys" offer trying to get us to vacate the home within 30 days. We simply couldn't do that in the time offered, and instead we're riding out our legal right to reside here for 90 days from the time they notified us that we need to leave. Our 90 days is up on December 29th. So 4 days after Christmas, a little less than 5 months from the date we moved into this house, we'll be moving again.  It's getting old. It's getting old fast. But it is what it is, and we feel fortunate to have found another home to rent within the boundaries of the kids' schools so they won't have to be uprooted once again so quickly after our big move this past summer.

Moving so close to Christmas time posed a real dilemma. We weren't sure if we wanted to be in a new place before the holiday or move immediately after. We opted to stay put in our current home so we were able to put up a few decorations and try to get in the spirit of the season. When we were deciding what things to bring with us from Hawaii to Louisiana, we had to make some hard decisions about which Christmas decorations to keep and which to let go. We kept all our special ornaments. We kept a few other special decorations. I had to let go of some large stuffed carolers that I'd had since I was a little girl. Willy and the kids hated them. They were content to see them go. But I cried when I opened the two measly boxes of Christmas decorations that moved here with us and remembered that I'd left my long-time, memory-filled Christmas carolers decorations behind. It didn't feel like Christmas without them and without so many things that I thought I was comfortably letting go of in Hawaii, only to realize on this end how important they had been to me.

We didn't have a tree. And with the costs of a move upon us we couldn't really afford to buy a new one. But most of our treasured Christmas decorations are ornaments and we needed a tree to hang them on! I had kept one lighted garland as box filler when we packed up our ornaments and so I thought maybe I could hang the ornaments on the garland. But I really wanted a tree. I saw an idea on Pinterest and got it in my head that since we had moved plenty of books with us to Louisiana (media mail is cheap!), perhaps I could pull off a personal version of the Book Tree I'd seen. It took me four builds and rebuilds before I got the dimensions correctly resembling a tree. I feel like it was well worth the effort. It was a fun way to start getting in the Christmas spirit!

Well worth the effort... we love our special Christmas tree!

Despite loving the Book Tree, I found that we couldn't realistically hang our special ornaments on that one strand of garland that wrapped around the tree. We NEEDED a Christmas tree. Fortunately someone on Freecycle offered one up and I snatched it quickly! It's a simple 6' artificial tree, but it's pre-lit which made things easy and our ornaments fit on it perfectly. It felt like a wee Christmas miracle to plug in those lights and see our ornaments on display.

Not as clever as our book tree, but this one holds our special ornaments
and that's helping us enjoy the holiday!

Next, I excitedly opened a box that I'd wrapped at the end of the last Christmas season. It was our box of wrapped Christmas books, ready to begin our December tradition of opening one book each night and reading it as a family. Because I re-wrap all the books at the end of each season, busting out the books and kick starting our annual tradition required no effort at all. Gratefully, as expected, when we opened the first book on December 1st, we started to feel that itty bitty excitement that comes with the holiday season. Admittedly I've gotten weepy a few times as we've read some of our favorite books collected while in Hawaii (The Christmas Gift of Aloha, The Hawai'i Snowman, etc) but the continued tradition helped us enjoy the beginning of the season and has carried us through the month. Tonight we'll read The Forgotten Carols and listen to some beautiful music as we prepare for Christmas!

We open one wrapped gift each night starting on December 1st. The gifts are all Christmas books that we read
as a family each night leading up to Christmas.

Finally, I decided to tackle a loooooooooooong overdue task. As a child I had an amazing Christmas stocking made by my mom. It was an advent calendar of sorts with 24 little pockets on the front that my parents would fill with candies or trinkets. Years ago my mom gave me my stocking as well as stockings for Willy and the boys! She knew I enjoyed cross stitching so she didn't put their names on the top, leaving that little labor of love for me to handle. A few years later Molly joined our family and for Christmas that year my mom gave her a stocking as well (with her name stitched on it.) For the next three Christmases Molly's and my stocking were the only stockings with names on them... I'd never gotten around to stitching the boys' names on theirs. It was embarrassing each year to hang the stockings, fill the pockets, but not have them identified by name. I finally decided that in order to help me feel more satisfaction in this Christmas season, that it was time to tackle the task and stitch those names on once and for all! I'm happy to say that the stockings have been hanging WITH names this year... and I was only a few days into the month when I got them done :) I'm SO happy to see them hanging COMPLETED by the fireplace this year!

The COMPLETED stockings were hung by the chimney with care!!

We did add one new fun decoration to the mix this year and it makes me grin every time I see it! It's a nearly lifesize burlap wall hanging of the "Major Award!" from A Christmas Story, which is one of our favorite movies to watch as a family each holiday season. My local friend here made it and I LOVE it!

So, it took some effort, but we're officially in the mood for Christmas! We went and saw a beautifully decorated square in town, we saw Santa, we attended a holiday party at church, we watched Elf, we went to church yesterday, and tonight we're hosting the sister missionaries in our area for dinner and Christmas Eve festivities. I'm so grateful for traditions that have helped us feel some sense of normalcy this holiday season. I'm excited about our Christmas Eve tradition of opening new pajamas (for ALL of us this year! Even Willy and I!). We'll watch A Christmas Story as a family. We'll enjoy the excitement and anticipation of Santa. And in the morning we have a whole bunch of other traditions to enjoy! I can't wait!

Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Three Little Thankfuls

It started six years ago with a little writing assignment. We were instructed to write about three little thankfuls. Not the obvious things like family, faith, health or wealth. We were required to think about the little things in life that we're thankful for and share them in our writing assignment. I've enjoyed reflecting on those little things each year and trying to identify a few to share, and I'll do the same this year.

1- This is embarrassing. But this is as real as it gets. This year I'm thankful for the insanely catchy, absolutely ridiculous, make-me-move song of the year... Gangnam Style. Apparently 790 MILLION of us can't get enough of this song according to the views count on You Tube. I've actually wanted to blog about this song for a couple of months but have felt silly every time I consider it. If this doesn't sound overly dramatic I don't know what will, but I honestly give credit to this crazy K-pop song for pulling me out of my depression. When it comes on I can't help but smile. When it comes on my kids and I dance. Every. Single. Time. Nothing else was able to pull me out of the funk I found myself in after leaving Hawaii and trying to find my center in this new home of ours. But when this song plays, I'm genuinely happy. The first time the kids and I heard it on the radio in the car we flipped out we were so excited! We pulled into the driveway, cranked up the car stereo, leapt from the car, and we danced and danced and laughed and danced. Happy memory. Happy song. Definitely one of my three little thankfuls this year. I dare you to watch this ridiculous video and try not to crack a smile.

2. This year I'm thankful to experience seasonal change once again without having to deal with hard-core winter temps and snow. I loved the year round moderate temperatures in Hawaii and the constant and consistent beautiful weather. But I forgot how good it feels to warm your body up in a nice hot shower, or how comforting it is to cuddle in a blanket. I like my new fuzzy socks that help me keep some feeling in my otherwise icy toes. I LOVE the feeling of running outdoors in the chilly air. I'm thankful for seasonal change.

3. I'm not sure if this really counts as "little" because it has felt pretty huge, but I'm really grateful for the way our move played out. I'm thankful that all of the boxes we shipped from Hawaii containing the things most important to us arrived more or less intact and safe. And I'm grateful for my dear Louisianian friend Karen who graciously accepted our mountains of boxes and stored them for us until we had a house to move them into. And I'm really grateful that despite having no furniture whatsoever when we arrived in Louisiana, we quickly had a fully furnished home thanks to the generosity and kindness of people here in our area. We put the word out at church that we'd moved here with basically nothing and we were completely provided for. The generosity was amazing and overwhelming. We have a mix-and-match assortment of furniture to be proud of. We felt the love and we recognize the enormous blessing. I'm so thankful!

What three little things are you thankful for this year?


Because I didn't want to repeat things I've shared in the past, I figured I better re-read some of my old writings. It was fun to take a little trip down memory lane. And I figured I may as well link 'em all here for kicks and easy reference next year when I need to be reminded again. Please ignore the weird color formatting on my old blog. I used to change it up a lot...

2006 Part One
2006 Part Two
2006 Part Three
2006 Part Four (I may have gotten a little carried away that first year LOL)
2010 Part One
2010 Part Two
2010 Part Three
2011 (That's the year I got a little over-enthusiastic and went for Thirty Days of Thankful, before doing a month full of "I'm thankful for..." posts was the cool thing to do.)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hallelujah! Major milestone!

It finally happened. After four and a half months, I finally heard this song without bursting into tears. I only welled up a little and then sucked it up and kept my cool. It's a huge milestone for me.

If you listen to the words and you know anything about me and this year of change for our family you'll perhaps understand why it moves me so much. I secretly always imagined Willy singing it to me (y'know.. if he had a Phillip Phillips kind of voice.) I'm not sure if it's the increased air time that the song is getting on the radio these days, or if I'm actually adjusting and getting comfortable in my new home, but I'm grateful that the tears didn't fall today when I heard the song in the car because up until today tears were the natural consequence of hearing the tune.

Other sure fire ways to make Angie burst into tears these past few months include:

  • Having to change my shipping address for online orders and billing address with various financial accounts
  • Hearing the word "aloha", especially when friends in Hawaii say it to me as a farewell when we're hanging up the phone
  • Catching myself and writing "Thank you" at the end of my notes instead of "Mahalo"
  • Seeing a photo of a familiar Hawaiian place (Facebook has been fairly brutal since I have so many friends in Hawaii who post pics of their day-to-day... May I take this moment to apologize for sharing so many Hawaiian pictures in the past. Now I understand how it may have been perceived as rubbing paradise in your face. I promise it was never my intention, just like I know it's not my Hawaiian friends' intention to make me weep when they post a picture of Ko'Olina or a rainbow or a sunset over the Pacific.)
  • Watching Hawaii Five-0 and recognizing streets I've driven down, beaches I've played on, familiar landmarks and locations.
  • Having a Hawaiian business call me and listening to familiar Hawaiian hold music
  • Hearing about friends who are going on vacation to Hawaii and wondering if I'll ever get to go back
  • Getting email newsletters from Hawaiian businesses that I subscribed to for special deals and not being able to use them
  • Thinking I look kind of sickly and then realizing that I'm just paler because my tan is fading
  • Seeing my two best friends in Hawaii dancing hula together
  • Hearing fighter pilots at the air show we went to a couple weeks ago (The military presence on O'ahu is huge and we would have F-18s and F-22s fly over our home frequently. When we'd hear them roaring overhead we'd almost always run to a window to see if we could catch a glimpse of them and identify what kind of plane they were.)
  • Hearing "WHY would you leave Hawaii?!" for the gajillionth time in a day

The reality, thank goodness, is that the tears come less frequently now. For the first couple months I sunk into a pretty deep depression. I tried to cover it up and keep it bottled inside, but I think it's fair to say that I was miserable and holding myself down. I finally clawed my way out of the pit I was in, started exercising again, gave socializing with new people a half-hearted attempt, and faced the things that hurt me the deepest instead of avoiding them (like dancing hula... it took me almost two months after leaving Hawaii before I could emotionally handle turning on my hula music and letting it move me again.)

This particular move has been one of the biggest trials of my life. I suppose that probably sounds pretty dramatic, but it's my reality. It's been hard. Plain and simple. But I'm so grateful to be finally coming out of the funk I've been in for a good chunk of this year, and I'm grateful that my family didn't give up on me as I've gotten through this. They've all thrived here. I've felt like I'm barely surviving, let alone thriving. But I've been able to "hold on to [them] as we go. As we roll down this unfamiliar road."

And I know I'm not alone. We're finding a way to make this new place our home.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Family, family and more family (and friends!) in Utah (part 2 of 2)

Here we go again! The rest of our Utah trip which was dominated by time spent with family and friends. We do love our time in Utah for the simple opportunity to reconnect, face-to-face with so many people that we love. We're grateful for things like Facebook, texting and video chatting for easily keeping in touch, but my goodness a real life hug beats all!!

After Willy headed to Louisiana, the kids and I hopped from house to house, loving and appreciating all the different welcome mats being rolled out for us. I think I spent a total of three nights at Sarah and Adam's, three night's at Ashley and Jed's, a night at Mindy and Damon's, a night at Kari's and a couple more nights at Willy's folks'. Also, Brady got to spend a couple nights at his cousin Cole's house, and Ben got to spend a few nights with the teen cousins, Cameron and Courtney. We all had a BLAST!! Late nights, lots of games, lots of go-go-go as well as lots of sit-around-and-gab. It was perfect! Here comes the rest of the Utah picture parade!
We spent the first night without Willy staying at Mindy and Damon's. We "treated" the kids
to an Ikea excursion (that ended badly with Molly falling off a chair and earning herself
a doozy of a goose egg on her noggin.) We made sure to do other fun stuff with the kids though
like going to the pizza buffet and playing at our old favorite park. Molly & Ellee made great
roommates for a couple nights. Molly LOVED Ellee's sassy dancing and little girl haven of a bedroom.
Best buds Cole and Brady
Best buds Toby and Luke
Wanna know how to easily entertain 5 boy cousins? Turn on Minecraft. Good grief! Look at their focus!

We decided that the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon without our own ward to attend was to
visit my parents who are volunteers at the Conference Center and take a tour of the amazing building! We all really enjoyed the Arnold Friberg gallery of Book of Mormon stories paintings, the sky lights, and the fountains. It was really special to hear my parents share so many neat stories about the Conference Center and church
history. I love that they're having such a great missionary experience and seem to truly love doing it!
One of my fav pics of the day! Grandma taking the kids to the roof of the building where we got to see the
fountains and rooftop gardens. I was having a wee panic attack because of the height, but Grandma was great about enforcing the hand-holding rule for my benefit :)

View from the top
After visiting Grandma and Grandpa at the Conference Center we headed to
Temple Square and explored the Visitors Centers.
When we were leaving Temple Square the kids looked up and spotted Grandma
giving a tour to a group of visitors!! She's the shortest one in the group of
five people on the roof to the left of the Conference Center tower :)
I promised my kids a trip to the movies. We went and saw Brave which was super fun! Cousins Ruby and Emma came along for the fun! (And I loved cuddling Emma when the movie got a little intense for her taste.)
We had a great time visiting the Hogle Zoo with all the Campbell cousins!!
We all rode the train together at the zoo
Watching the elephants
Ignoring the elephants LOL (Kiki, Molly and Layla)
Best buds, and almost birthday buddies (just 6 days apart), Miller and Toby
All the little Campbell girly cousins at the zoo
Brady and best bud, Parker rocking the carousel at the zoo
This picture makes me giggle. Kari was such a sport to go on the  carousel with her Bubbas hehehe.

After the zoo my parents invited us to a mystery location... which turned out to be Bruges Waffles!! I'd heard
that a true Belgian Waffle place had been opened in Salt Lake City but I forgot about it when we got to town.
My parents apparently visit there frequently and just knew I'd be in heaven with the authentic Belgian Waffles and "frites" (fries). Oh. My. Gosh. They were soooooo right!!! Talk about blast from my past. There's nothing
quite like a hot gauffre with creme fraiche. Yum yum!!!
Ahhhhh. Heaven!
The frites were amazing too! With Andalouse sauce, of course :)
One of the fun activities we did while in Utah was attend the Pioneer Days Parade Float Preview Party. Gave us a chance to see all the cool floats up close and personal, without having to actually go to the parade LOL. There were clowns and giveaways and treats and all sorts of fun. The best part for me was meeting up with my dear friend Kim and my sis-in-law Kari. Kim and I know each other from college and have reconnected in the last few years. It was GREAT to see her! (And she and Kari had met online through my little weight loss competition so it was fun to introduce them to each other face-to-face for the first time!)
Brady and Molly getting to play on this crazy zeppelin float with cousins Kiki and ... uh... one of the Bubbas LOL
The kids were all about the balloon art!
All about the balloon art... until they found the Lego inspired float. Ben volunteered to wear the Lego minifig costume and drum up some interest for the float (there was best-in-crowd float voting going on and Ben told them he'd voted for them so they let him try on the hat and costume). Within moments crowds of kids were gathering and Ben hammed it up BIG TIME! He was shaking hands with kids, posing for pictures, dancing, etc. It was a riot! Brady got to get in on the action a few minutes later, too, and together they really drew in the crowds and had a blast!
They kind of felt like rockstars with kids wanting pictures with them LOL.
The theme of the parade had something to do with dreams. The kids liked this children's parade entry.

Got to go to Zumba with Ashley, Kari and Sarah. This is one of those forehead-slap moments when I realize we didn't get Sarah in the shot! I wanted a pic of Ash, Kari and I working out together since we were all competing in my weight loss competition and Sarah wasn't at the time, but it was still such a fun sisters/sisters-in-law night that I definitely should have had Sarah in the picture too, duh!!
One of our trip highlights was discovering a park in Saratoga Springs and spending a bunch of time there (We went back three times!). The first time there was meeting up with ALL of the Romig cousins (except Courtney who was at v-ball camp)! They're not all pictured here since we snapped the shot after a few left but here's almost all of them :)

There were some REALLY fun playground equipment pieces at the park! Here's Ben spinning a whole lotta kids on a variation of a carousel. (Looks like Brady, Emma, Ellee, Ashlyn, Whitney, Alyssa, Ruby, Toby and Luke are all on it... plus a bunch of strangers LOL)

Have to share this one because how stinking cute are my twin nephews Brevin and Brock? I mean seriously!! Way to grow 'em Teresa!

Grown-ups did a lot of chatting and visiting. And then we temporarily lost our minds...
See the giant climbing pyramid (With Ben and Brady up at the top?)
Yeah... my sisters and I decided to climb to the top. We look happy and calm here.
This is a better representation of how we felt. We were all sorta basket cases climbing up. We were all having major second thoughts about letting our kids climb up it any more LOL. The experience was a little terrifying (plus the photo caught me in a really horrifying pose ... uh. Oh well.)
It's crazy how the kids just zipped up and down this thing like it was nothing. It was no small task making our way to the top!! Coming back down was no picnic either.
Got to have a Girls Day Out with all the Romig ladies at Zupa's (I think? Maybe that's what it was called... it was yummy regardless! LOL. And FUN!!!)
Last time seeing Teresa on this trip since she was heading out of town that afternoon. So good to see her!!! (Can't tell we're sisters at all, can you?)

During a different visit back to that same park (LOL) I got to meet up with one of my dearest friends, Tanya, and her lovely family. Heavenly Father meant for Tanya and I to know each other. She's a great blessing to me! It was fun to see her and her growing belly... surprise! Her #4 is on the way! YAY!
Also got to meet up with Sara and her kiddos at the (same) park!! Toby and Max are really close in age and Sara and I met in an online expecting club when we were pregnant with the boys. We've been friends for about eight years now and  I just love everything about her!

I'll never hear the end of it if I don't include the picture of Kari meeting up with Sara and I LOL. Last time the three of us got together I had Kari take a shot of Sara and I and didn't get one with her... d'oh! Way to snub family, Ang. Way to go!
Toby and Max may be the same age, but Molly and Ruby
had a great time playing together at the park too!!

Another highlight of my trip was meeting up with a few of my Scrap Girls friends! It's always great to see Joann, Ro and Wendee! I was so thrilled that they could take some time to get together for lunch while I was there! (And even more thrilled that they were still at the restaurant when I got there a full hour late because I'd completely botched up my calendaring and had our meet-up time recorded wrong. Whoops.)
We stayed one night at Kari's place. The kids all packed into one room... there wasn't an inch of extra space to be found LOL. Two on the bunkbeds, one on the luv sac, Toby on a queen size airmattress (folded in half so he was raised up high LOL) and poor Molly abandoned on the floor. It was pretty hilarious how they managed the space on their own.
Toby on his high rise air mattress while Molly sleeps on the floor hehehe.
On our last Sunday in Utah we got together with most of the Romigs one more time for a family dinner at Josh and Kami's house (T and Chase and their family were out of town). We ate and jumped on the trampoline and played the Wii and celebrated Ashley's birthday and just had a great time together as family. The kids did NOT want to leave. (So Ben stayed the night hehehe while the rest of us headed to Sarah's for one more night. We didn't get much sleep that night! Ashley came over and she, Sarah and I had a very VERY late game night! Such a blast!)

This picture cracks me up. Cameron, Courtney and Ben were all trying SO hard to be the tallest.
Court climbed on Josh's back, Ben jumped, Cameron climbed on the arm of the couch. In reality, Ben has
grown taller than them both now (last time we visited he was the shortest of the three.)

All on tip toes LOL

Molly couldn't get enough of Uncle Josh during our time together!

And Grandpa, too. Pretty sure she was missing her main male squeeze (Daddy)
and was finding a way to get her fix!

Saying good-bye to Grandma and Grandpa (they were leaving town the next day).
Love my parents!
And then I got a little snap happy and needed shots with my sibs, too! My "little" brother Josh.
Me and Mindy. Sisters? What makes you think that? *eyeroll*
"Baby" brother Jed

"Baby" sis Sarah (the next morning... after a really late night of crazy game fun). I also have a picture of me and Ashley from the game night, but my sister hasn't sent it to me yet... hint hint!!
Toby and Ruby... inseparable for days! On our way out of town we had to swing by their house one last time to say good-bye so I hurried and snapped a shot of these two best buds!
We visited GG one more time before leaving town. The kids were delighted to get more Tootsie Roll Pops. I was delighted to watch my children lovingly interact with this woman who means so much to me!

The kids and I also went and visited G-Pa's gravesite for the first time.
We missed being able to visit with him on this trip.
In keeping with my goal of participating in one race a month for all of 2012, I talked Kari into joining me for the Deseret News Pioneer Day 5K. It wasn't a timed event, which was good because oh-my-gosh I thought I was going to die when I tried running. I was only able to do a handful of running intervals because the altitude tried to kill me. I had NO idea that the 5K route would go right down the center of the actual parade route before the parade started. So we unwittingly found ourselves running (or mostly walking in my case) down the middle of the road with thousands of parade watchers lining the streets waiting for the parade to start. I felt like such a spectacle. It was pretty cool to have people cheering for us the majority of the distance though! At one point I heard someone yell "Keep it up lady in red! You've got this!" It was pretty sweet. It was also extremely emotional for me, to see so many Polynesian families camped out for the parade. Made me miss "home".
Nana had trained the Campbell cousins in advance of our arrival that they were going to have to help her "take Ben down" since he's grown so big she didn't think she could do it on her own. The last morning we were in Utah the cousins that had slept over (Parker and Miller) helped her take Ben down indeed!
We all love Nana and Papa! It's hard to say good bye knowing it may be a while before we spend face-to-face time together again.
Molly couldn't get enough Papa love before we left!

I originally planned to stay with the kids for two full weeks and then make the road trip to meet Willy. But after just a day on his own in Louisiana, I could hear the stress and loneliness in Willy's voice and it made my heart ache to be with him. It wasn't logical to leave too early because we hadn't budgeted for hotel costs for the whole family so soon, but we did end up leaving several days earlier than originally anticipated. It was a long time apart, and even harder for Willy than for us. We at least had family and friends distracting us and keeping us busy. He was all alone and felt really disconnected from us and was feeling all the stress of trying to find us a home to rent or buy all while settling into his new job and a new town. We didn't have a laptop with us (he took it with him) so we couldn't video chat daily like we did when he business traveled. So our contact while apart was limited and it made it especially hard to be apart. It did, however, make it easy to make the decision to leave a few days earlier than originally planned. We packed up the car on July 24th and hit the road early the morning of July 25th! Just me and the kids on the open road for 2000 miles. Wheeeeee! A small entry with pics from that trip coming soon :)

Hitting the road! Look at that Tetris packed van!!