Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Piano Recital

The girls participated in their second piano recital on December 15th.
Bella has been taking piano lessons for .....3 years now (?) and her progress has been amazing. Sister Bell only has good things to say about how she is playing. After almost every lesson, she tells me she's awesome. She even made mention of it before Bella played at the recital. One thing she's mentioned specifically is that when they are practicing flash cards, Bella can't necessarily tell her the name of the note... but she can look at the note and then go right to it on the piano. I guess that's a really good thing. I've noticed she can sight read really well and will practice the song a ton and will get where she plays it really well.
So, we are very proud of her as always!
 Aubree has been taking lessons for about a year and a half. And she definitely has an knack for playing, too. She's like her momma, tho... doesn't like to practice all that much. But we are working on that! Aubree is a very musical child... she loves to sing and can remember lyrics and tunes very well. She got a guitar for her birthday and keeps asking for lessons to learn how to play it!
Love that girl.
I especially love that they love music so much... music is so important, it's calming, it brings the Spirit into our home, and lesson taking helps them learn the beauty of practicing and how practicing really does make perfect.
Now, this kid...
We should put him in lessons soon..., maybe it will help him sit still.
We are very thankful for our piano teacher, Sister Bell.
She's kind and encouraging. I couldn't ask for a better person to teach them!   
Bella played The Ukrainian Carol of the Bells and Silent Night
Aubree played Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and Angels We Have Heard on High
Hopefully I can post the videos soon.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Aubree goes to State

This summer, Aubree qualified to go to a Regional A swim meet. At that meet, she swam 3 events. Out of those 3 events, she was DQ'd (not Dairy Queened...tho that would be nice... disqualified) for 2 of them because of a kick issue... but she qualified in her 50 free to move on to STATE.
So, we drove down to the State games in College Station. What a fun experience for our lil Aube!
It was overcast, thank goodness... if the sun would have been out, we would have been toast!
College Station is just a few hours drive... Grandma and Grandpa joined us for Aube's big day.
And San Antonio was only a few hours drive, so Emily, Jed & Ollie came to see her swim, too!!
It's crazy awesome having family so close!
Since she was only swimming one event (there she is in the green suit, right in the middle!) we were there for maybe an hour! And her swim time was less that 40 seconds! But hey, we were so proud of her, we would have been there to watch her swim for 1 second.
You could tell she was nervous... but she did such a great job.
Her final standing was 22 out of 45.
She's the 22nd fastest girl in the state of Texas. How cool is that??
Especially since this is the girl who didn't want to be on swim team. Go Aubree, go!
Afterwards, we spent some time exploring a nearby park. Uncle Jed disappeared for a good chunk of time and came back with this beautiful flower crown for Aube. So sweet!
After the kids played for a bit, we found a fun little pizza place that had all different kinds of pizza and was super yummy!
Then we said goodbye to family... and kept driving south to Galveston Island.
We got to our hotel on the beach after dark.... just in time to see some fireworks in the distance.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fitz & the Tantrums

James has a weird (but awesome) knack of winning things. Over the years of our marriage, he's won random things, including Cowboys tickets and concert tickets. This summer, on July 24th, we headed to the House of Blues in Dallas to enjoy a concert with tickets he had won.
We went early to get some dinner at the restaurant part of House of Blues.
The waiter suggested we try this shrimp diablo yumminess from heaven. It was truly divine. The picture, as always, doesn't do it justice.
Since we were so early, we were able to take our time and enjoy our meal. It's always nice to have time to just hang out with your spouse.
I had only vaguely heard of Fitz & the Tantrums. A few days before the concert, I downloaded an album of theirs so I'd be familiar with their music.
I love that album. It's catchy, fun music... not the regular ole stuff you hear on the radio. If you want something upbeat and fun to listen to ....go take a listen to More Than Just a Dream.
You're welcome.
Our tickets allowed us to line up early and get a good spot. They were general admission... which meant we stood the ENTIRE night. I'm a little too old for that, but the music was so great that it was worth it! We stood RIGHT in front tho.... like at the barrier in front of the stage.
There's something magical about being so close to the artists at a concert... seeing their facial expressions, their mannerisms.... their sweat, holy gross. It makes it so fun and so real.
The opening act was Matt (or Max?? idk) Stone.
He was showing off some mad skills... playing 2 guitars at a time.
Fitz did not disappoint. I didn't know what exactly to expect going into this concert. But I don't know when I've had so much fun. It wasn't just good music and the lights and whatever... it was FUN. Seriously... their music is so upbeat....Fitz & Noelle, the leads, put on a fantastic, high-energy show.
It's safe to say this was, by far, my most favorite concert I've been to.

Fitz....Michael Fitzpatrick is the lead... he's just fantastic with that white stripe in his hair and his hipster jeans. He started the band in 2008....at 38 years old. For some reason this is so crazy to me.... in my mind, bands are started by teenagers in their garage. But this dude was older than James when he purchased an old electronic organ and wrote a song, then formed a band. What luck, right? Made me think that our "dream" to have a family band isn't so far-fetched because we're so "old". heh.
Such a fun, memorable night. So so glad James won these tickets!
Now I'll forever be singing in my head....
Give me a sledgehammer and give me strength
Watch the world come crumbling down
Cut me loose I seek the truth
I bet the freedom, the freedom will carry me
Hey! Break the walls!!!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Grammy and Papa visit.

When Aubree made Regionals, Papa and Grammy booked a flight to come see her (and possibly Bella) swim. They said they invited themselves... but of course we were SO happy to have them come spend time with us! It had been awhile since we had seen them, and we were all SO excited! Since the girls are in school, swim, and so many other things.... we don't make it up to Minnesota as often as we have in the past.
We all still fit in one car!
The night they arrived, we went to dinner at Benihana....seems to be a tradition (nice and expensive tradition, ahem). We went there the last time they visited.
On the way home, someone noticed this place of business.....CHIN hair design (not just year regular ole hair design!!!) I've driven this road hundreds of times.... and have never seen it, tho you know it's been there for ages!

On Saturday, we all got up super early.... some earlier than others ;). And went to watch Aubrey swim in McKinney. She was in the very first session.... started at 8am and so she was done by 1130! It's custom for the swimmer who shaves the most time off her swim to pick the place to eat. But either way... both of our swimmers ALWAYS pick Golden Corral. I keep hoping they move on to somewhere like Olive Garden or Texas Roadhouse.... or even Chili's! Ha! Buffet's are great.... but then not so great at the same time. Swimmer's choice, tho..... James says if I beat them in a race, I can pick the food.... so since that will never happen..... Golden Corral it is!
Later that day, we went to see Maleficent. Daddy, Grammy & Papa hadn't seen it, and the girls & I were more than happy to see it for a 2nd time. We love that movie!
Jax, however, either had too much excitement that day.... or just doesn't think Angelina Jolie all that interesting. Or maybe Papa's lap is just that comfortable!
We spent Sunday afternoon/evening playing games... the kids joined in this time, which is a first. It's odd having older kids who can actually COUNT and keep up with the game. The girls just love being included, too. I hope we can instill our love for games in our children and that they'll pass on their love to their kids!
Jax joined in on our Yahtzee game.... he had a blast throwing those dice! Or maybe it was the "YAY!!!!" he got after each roll. heh.
We played a grueling game of Racko (my fave game.... tho I always lose!)
The competitive crew:
Monday..... Grammy & Papa's flight didn't leave till later that day... so we decided to take advantage of a discount ticket day and take them to Six Flags.
Probably not the best idea to take 1 Minnesotans out on a humid, hot Texas day! They melt!! (I kid, y'all were great troopers.... tho I did think you might die a few times, just pass out right there!)
The weekend before had been SO NICE. The weather had definitely shifted by Monday tho.... hot with a kickin' side of humid.
But we made the best of it...

A morning routine....I may have brought out my ittybitty surface just to take this picture. I mean.... do "work" like them. James' face totally looks like he's "working". I don't see any stapling going on, m'dear!

After Six Flags, we made a quick stop at our favorite Sno Cone place....Steph's Chillville. When I say favorite, I mean FAVORITE (the other day we were looking around some neighborhoods in Aledo- 45 mins away from home- and I tried to convince the girls we should stop at this other sno cone place, and they refused! Wanted to wait for our favorite one! Crazy kids....I digress....)
The kids wanted to show Grammy & Papa their fave place.

The morning after Grammy & Papa left, Jax brought me the photo book with Papa on the back corner.... he had already asked 5 times if we were driving to their house that day.
Then he says to me: Papa has to wear floaties like me, that's ok, he can swim with me.
His little voice gave away that he was a little sad they weren't here anymore.... it's hard to not have everyone you love around you at all times.... it's so hard to understand WHY that can't happen.
At times like these, even tho there's only 16 hours separating us.... it's good to know we are a forever family. Such a small moment, made eternal with the knowledge we have and covenants we've made. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Practically perfect in every way

I love downtown Ft Worth. I'm so glad James works there and not in Dallas anymore. I feel like Dallas is sleek and shiny but busy and crazy complicated. But Ft Worth feels more down-to-earth. And I can actually navigate there and get where I need to go with only a little help from James.
At Sundance square, they are having a Summer Movie Night every Wednesday. You bring your chairs and blankets and settle in for a fun movie projected on a big screen.
We were scared we'd get rained out on this particular Wednesday, but it passed us by and we were able to enjoy unseasonably cool weather! At one time the girls even said they were cold. Which is absolutely unheard of in July in Texas! Cold, ha!
The only downside to our excursion is that Jax's fever came back. He's had a virus... Took him to the doctor on Tuesday and she said there's nothing that could be done... just Tylenol and wait it out. It was the weirdest virus, too. He'd be fine all day, even without a dose of medicine... then the next moment, he'd be down for the count, high fever and lethargic.
We left for Sundance square and he was feeling just fine... but by the time we got there, 30 mins max... he was burning up and just wanted to sleep. And of course, I had forgotten the Tylenol. MOTY award goes to *this gal* right here... cause what did I do? Turn the crazy bus around, no. Make James go find a Walgreens, no. I took a picture and propped him up in a chair with a blanket and let him sleep. Of course, when you have a sick kiddo... all you can think about is them... it's hard to enjoy anything when you're worried.
Before the movie started, Leroy and the Jubilettes from the Jubilee Theater in Downtown performed some fun songs for us. They had the crowd up and dancing, doing the twist... such a fun way to pass the time, waiting for it to get dark!

They started the movie right at 9...the sun had finally gone down.
Every time I watch this movie, it brings the feels. The happy feels.
So many lines.... spit spot.... You are the father of Jane and Michael Banks, are you not?
Mary Poppins: practically perfect in every way.
She really is, isn't she?
I wish we would have been going to these every week. Of course, we have to skip swim practice, but the girls don't mind. We would be going tonight to see The Muppets. But Bella has Activity Days...and I promised myself, in all the things we have to do, we'd put church first. But next week! They're showing Back To The Future, another classic! Can't wait.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Let's go Rangers, let's go.

James switched jobs semi-recently.....his new boss is part owner of the Rangers. Actually, ever since he's worked at XTO, he's had a boss that has been an owner of the Rangers. But this new company is smaller, so the good ballpark seats are easier to come by! When he has the chance... he scoops them up! That chance came a few weeks ago and we were more than happy to take them!
Especially when they are 2 rows back from home base. SO CLOSE!
We were so close.... yet right in front of the 1st row there was a monitor with ESPN's coverage of the game. And every once in awhile, we'd see a glimpse of ourselves on TV! I got a few texts that night "I think I just saw you on TV" Faux-lebrities.
Speaking of REAL celebrities.
Hey there Jason Whitten.
Hey Dirk Nowitzki, one section over sitting between the dudes with the blue hats.
*star struck*
OH and HI cranky Aubree .... heaven forbid you don't get a pretzel. Or whatever it was.

No complaints from the parents!
It's such a different experience watching baseball closer than the nosebleed section. I love baseball, always have.... along with basketball, it's the sport I actually know what's going on. When you're sitting so close, you actually feel like you're a part of the game. Cause Beltre is totally going to turn to me and say "hey girl.... my shoulder hurts, want to bat this one for me?" Heh.
You never know.
We only had 4 tickets.... so Jax spent the evening with Gramma.
The girls ended up having a great time, just a few little hiccups. 
The Rangers may not be having the best season... but we love them anyways!!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Aube goes to A Regionals!

Through-out the swim season, swimmers are trying to swim faster at each meet.... not just to win their heat, but to improve their time.... shaving seconds off can mean so much! Aube is 7 this year, so she swims against 6-8 year olds. Bella is 9, so she swims against 9-10 year olds. And for each group, the times to qualify for regionals and state are completely different. Aube qualified for A Regionals this year in the 25 Fly, 30 Free and 100 IM. Bella swam hard, but her times were just under the qualifying times, so she gets to go to B Regionals instead. The difference between A & B....your A times can qualify you for State. Which Aube did! She qualified for State in the 50 Free. Her time for the 100 IM also would have qualified her, but she was disqualified during that race because of her kick. Stink! Obviously it happens... but it's so frustrating because through the whole season, at every meet, there is no disqualifying going on... they just mark it down and tell the coach, then the coach is supposed to work on the issues with the swimmer. Well... these kids..... my kids... have been WINNING races and thinking all is well. Yeah, their coach may say "work on this, work on that" but all the kids are seeing are these 1st, 2nd, 3rd place ribbons stacking up. And to a KID, that means they've won..... am I the only one who see's a problem with this?
I digress....
The A Regional meet this past Saturday, the 19th, was held at the McKinney High School Natatorium. Smallish place... but I guess they take turns hosting events like this. If it was up to me, all the meets would take place at Frisco.... their natatorium is HUGE with ample seating and a/c!

Swimmers write their heats on their arms somewhere. Some kids go quite crazy, drawing fish or bubbles, writing "eat my bubbles" or some such thing. Sharpies are a swimmers friend.
We had some special visitors fly in to see Aubree swim in Regionals! 
Swimming runs in the family, I've mentioned that before. Papa swam the back stroke in high school.... Daddy swam & was a diver in high school.... and Uncle Topher went to state his senior year of high school (we get to rub it in....Aube went to state at 7 years old!
What took you so long, Uncle Topher???)
 Gramma & Grampa came with us, too! (And John.... he never likes to take pictures, nice photobomb)
We are so thankful for all of our families support!
Swimming isn't an easy sport... it takes alot of dedication, and I'm so proud of my sweet girls for doing their best and trying to hard and most of all... sticking with it!
This next weekend is B Regionals in Allen for Bella... then the weekend after we drive to College Station TX for State. Aube is quite excited... especially since she thinks that if she wins at State, she will then "get to go to another country and stay there!" Oh don't we wish, sweetheart!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Just keep swimming....just keep swimming....

So I totally thought I would be able to sway my girls into playing softball or basketball like their mother. We gave it our best effort... but only boys play basketball in our city (picture 5(?) year old Bella on the basketball court with 9 boys.... can you see it? Yeah.... Bella just stands there, no surprise that we only went to one game!) and softball is one of those super competitive sports, the coach had us practicing three times a week, with at least 2 games a week. AND if your kid didn't show initiative, they got put out in the outfield, picking wildflowers.
But we wanted them to be active, so we tried several different sports and a few years of dance. A kid from church was on the GP swim team and I'd thought it might be cool..... my kids have been swimming for forever... Bella was almost 3 when we moved into this house and Aube was just over a year. They're practically mermaids. So putting them in swim lessons, to learn the correct strokes, just seemed natural.
They both started out in like Level 2 or something like that... and quickly progressed, tho they repeated level 3 a few times and Aube decided she didn't want to swim anymore, so she sat out for awhile, but gladly went back to it when we started sitting at swim practice for over an hour... boredom wins!
When they made the team the team was practicing for their Winter Season. Swim practice was 2 hours, 2 days a week with meets on Saturdays. Bella & Aube participated in the Winter Games in Frisco and several other meets thru out our Region.... which is mainly Plano, Allen, McKinney.... nice little drive!
In May, they moved practices to an outside pool and with school being out, they practice Monday-Thursday for two hours each night. Monday and Wednesday they swim the 2 hours, practicing technique and their coaches help them correct bad form and what not. On Tuesday and Thursdays, they do an hour of landwork....exercises, woot! (you can bet the girls LOVE those days) and then the last hour is spent in the pool. Holy hard work, y'all. I'm so proud of my girls for not putting up a fight, or at least not that much of a fight, when it comes to swim practice. They have such a knack for it.... and are both different in their technique. Turns out, Aube has quite the competitive streak. At the Carrollton meet a few weeks ago, she just turned it ON.... I'll never forget that moment.... and if you saw the video, you can tell by my reaction that I was one proud momma.... proud and shocked!
And then on the opposite end of the spectrum, we have our Bella... she perfects her strokes and is so strong.... but she will swim the same speed in a meet as she does in practice. We have yet to find her trigger to make her use that power we know she has! She's such a strong swimmer.... she just doesn't get that you have to put everything you've got into your race, that she's only up against herself.
It's so wonderful to see them swim, to put themselves out there like this.... every meet I go to I'm simply amazed.
Their daddy is quite amazed, too.... he swam in high school, his brothers swam (Uncle Topher was quite the swimmer - the girls were able to go to some of his meets when he was a Senior) and their Papa was a swimmer, too. So, it's pretty neat. Daddy is able to give them some great advice, too!
There's our Aube in lane 6. This is at the Summer Frisco meet.... they have a fabulous facility with bleachers and warm up pools. (FASST - Frisco Amateur Summer Swim Team - nifty)
Frisco also has it together at these meets.... it's so organized, I don't ever feel worried that the girls are going to miss their heat. (Swim team also comes with new vocab: heats and events and such&suchthoseareactuallytheonlytwoicanthinkof)

Other meets are not so organized.... for example: Plano. Whoa: crowded, hollering, swimmers walking around everywhere.... and not to mention, hot. H.O.T.
Plano did have a cool splash pad that they kept running the entire night... so the kids had a ton of fun!
Aube's very last event was the 100 IM....she swam a 25 of each stroke: breast stroke, back stroke, butterfly and freestyle. This event took place at like 10:45 pm (Did I mention that swim meets are LOOOOOONG??? Ohmyword. They started the meet at 4:30pm. Uh yeah. And when we left at 11:30pm, they were still going) But since it was so late, the youngest kids and kids that only swam certain events had already left.... so I got a front row view of Aube swimming. Probably not the best idea, I could tell she saw me and would smile bc ....of course.... I was hollering like a banshee. The lil girl in the lane to the right is Katy... she's one of Aube's best friends and since they're the same age and skill level, they race against each other a lot. (Side note: Katy's a coach favorite, the team sweetheart... so James and I are even more competitive when they're swimming against each other...I probably shouldn't admit that... it's more of our little inside joke... but we like to point out that Aube is a few seconds faster, heh)
Aubree & Katy....
Did I mention that our swim team is made up of like 85% Vietnamese kids? It's the strangest thing...I knew our city is very diverse... but there's just so many! Yes, I know, I know.... racist Sarah strikes again (I'm not racist, I promise!!!) but I'm just intrigued, that's all. And the parent's bring the tummies egg rolls to our team swim parties! (heh..... need to put a quarter in the jar)
This weekend is the A Regionals meet and next weekend in B Regionals. These two meets mark the end of summer swim season (the girls are ecstatic.... they don't realize they only get August off, then we start back up for winter swim! Jokes on you, fools!)
Aube is amongst the oldest in her swim category (girls 8&under) so she is one of the fastest. Her time have qualified her to compete at A Regionals. Grammy & Papa are even flying in to watch her swim... it's a pretty big deal (esp for a little girl who started out not wanting to be part of the swim team). If she swims fast this weekend.... she could qualify for STATE. Whodathunk.
Bella kicked it into high gear at this last meet in Plano last weekend... but it was just a little too late. She shaved 6 seconds off her butterfly.... which is AMAZING. (Seriously, seconds are SO important) But it just wasn't enough to qualify for A Regionals. So she will be swimming at B Regionals next weekend. She's been asking questions about A vs B and whatnot.... and I think it's sunk in that she's got to push, push, push (or pull, pull, pull in swim-verbiage) to get the time she wants. I know she can do it..... so I really hope it's clicked and she can keep the momentum. The girl has an a-MAZ-ing starting dive.... in every race, she is farthest out and in first when she comes up out of the water. It's so neat to see.... but then when she starts the stroke, she's swimming like she's in practice.... so we've been telling her that she's got to puuuuuulllllll.....put everything into it. Being tired and winded at the end of the heat is a GOOD thing. Bring on that strength. I know she has it.
Swim has been so great for our girls.... we hope one day Jax will finally pass swim level 0 (he's on his 5th time failing it bc he won't listen, lil punk) and put all that energy into zooming down the length of the pool.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Fiesta Texas

For James' birthday last year, we purchased Six Flags season passes. We use them quite regularly, since we live maybe 10 mins from Six Flags Over Texas.
One of the things James wanted to do while in San Antonio was to go to Six Flags Fiesta Texas. The man loves his amusement parks, that's fer sure. As we were driving there, he was all "how cool would it be to go to every Six Flags in the country?" So rad, man. So rad.... I'll be sitting over here with my popcorn and Slurped, dreaming about the beach.
It really was a beautiful, hot, humid day.
We gave Fiesta Texas a thumbs up....
Looking back, we should have skipped the disaster that was the water park and just stayed and found more rides to ride. It was probably a bit too busy a weekend to go.... we (and by we I mean they) only rode maybe 3 rides, the dang lines were so long. But we had fun, nonetheless.
And James had a crazy fast coaster buddy in Emily.... so they got to ride at least one big kid ride!  
Around 2, we thought we'd hop on over to the water park.
Uh no.
The first warning sign should have been the mile long line that we had to CUT INTO.
(sorry folks)
But we went in anyways.
After a few minutes, we could tell it would take some luck to get a chair in a shaded spot. And with poor Ollie getting hotter by the minute, Emily & Jed said their goodbye's for the day.
We finally found a chair to stow our stuff on.... and the kids played and rode some smaller slides.
The kiddie pool you see behind Aube.... yeah, well.... they had it closed because they couldn't see the bottom! Too murky! Omyword....that's so gross. So, while James and the kids went to ride a bigger slide...I sat murky-poolside and people-watched. Wowza. Nothing like an amusement waterpark to keep you amused.... maybe that's what they meant by amusement! heh.
And to check the clear-ness of the water....a lifeguard would walk out to the middle of the pool and submerge a life-size baby. I found this ridiculously hilarious for some reason.... tho others, if not knowing what was going on, might find it horrid. That dang baby looked REAL, yo. Real.
 James and the kids came back from that water slide AN HOUR LATER. I was sitting there, watching the baby drama, eating popcorn and sippin' on a Slurpee, thinking YAY, they got to ride more than one.
Uh, nope.
Just one.
In line for an hour.
What were we thinking???
Then to top it off....a storm rolled in. And it was a-rollin' fast!
The lifeguards cleared the area and ALL the waterpark occupants exited.....
Then it poured.... as we were squeezing ourselves out of the waterpark.
Good thing we were already wet and in swimsuits.
But oh my-lanta....I've got some claustrophobia issues. But what can you do, other than just fast to yer chirrens and let the crowd push you???
We made it out in one piece... and as soon as we were in the car, the rain stopped. Nice.
 So we got Popeyes Chicken and called it a night! What an adventure.... of sorts.
Emily and I ended the night on a good note.... we made dreamcatchers!
Something we've both pinned on Pinterest and have been wanting to make for yonks!
We glittered some feathers, wrapped some hoopty-hoops.
 Instead of tying the middle... we used doilies I'd collected from various estate sales/thrift stores.
And not only do they catch dreams....
they catch crazy bald men, too.
Win win.