Love Where You Live | Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

May 31, 2014

Way back at the beginning of March, Sunshine had Spring Break and we decided we wanted to do something fun as a family, instead of sitting around the house the entire week. We actually tried to do something fun each day of Spring Break, and Monday's activity was a day trip to Tucson to visit the Sonora Desert Museum.

First thing Monday morning, we picked up Bruce Wayne's grandma and headed south to Tucson. It was a really pretty (for the desert!) drive, with one of the highlights being when we spotted a crop duster at work. The wee ones were so excited thinking they had just seen the real Dusty Crophopper from the movie Planes. Eventually, we rolled into the parking lot of the Sonora Desert Museum and our adventure began.

I wasn't sure what to expect of the museum, but within minutes of walking in, we knew it was going to be a hit with the whole family. Along with the 2 miles of walking paths that take you through 21 acres of beautiful plants and trees, there were also animal exhibits, an art gallery, a few gift shops, a small aquarium, several restaurants (the one we ate at was very tasty) and a fantastic bird show. We spent a good 6.5 hours exploring the grounds and never once felt bored. Bruce and I especially enjoyed the chance to see the variety of plants that can handle the harsh desert conditions as we are in the process of adding some curb appeal to our house in the form of flowers and shrubs.

Our first stop for the day was the hummingbird house. We got to see lots of hummingbirds up close, including some mamas who were sitting on nests. The nests were tiny and the eggs inside of them were itty-bitty. This was definitely a highlight of the trip for the girls. They still talk about the hummingbirds often, three months later.

After the hummingbird house, we headed to the bird show where we watched some amazing birds in action. I especially loved the owl.

We played on the statues near the tortoise exhibit then spent a good amount of time watching the big horn sheep walk up and down a steep incline and we could hardly pull ourselves away from the otter who was putting on a real show for my wee ones as they stood with their faces pressed against the glass of his underwater viewing area.

But hands down, our favourite part of the entire visit was the mountain lion. We originally started our visit to the mountain lion by standing down by the fenced area of his enclosure. We couldn't see him, so one of the volunteers pointed out a smaller viewing area near the top of his enclosure where he liked to hang out and she made a comment about how he was known to hang out there, especially when small children were around.

We headed to his viewing area and sure enough, there he was. We stood around watching him for some time and the girls were being silly, hoping they would catch his eye and he would move around a bit. He just lay there looking at us all and Man Cub finally decided he was bored. He ran from the viewing area to the bench where Bruce's grandmother was sitting and the cat jumped to his feet and ran to the glass to watch where Man Cub was off to. Bruce went to get Man Cub and then proceeded to help Man Cub play hide and seek with the mountain lion, which really riled the cat up. He was all over the place trying to find Man Cub and at several times, he jumped right up against the glass, so he and Man Cub were nose to nose. The girls were going crazy watching this. They thought it was the best thing ever to see the mountain lion going nuts over their brother. I hope the cat got a good meal later in the day, after all of our teasing!

We snapped a couple photos of the kiddos then ended our trip to Tucson with a stop at Eegee's... a restaurant I had heard so many people rave about. I wasn't impressed. I thought the food was severely lacking and their signature treat- an Eegee (some kind of slushy type desert) wasn't anything to get excited about. Bruce and the girls, however, were in absolute heaven as they enjoyed their Eegee's fare. Just goes to show who in our family are true Arizonans and who is the outsider. Ü

We had such a blast at the Sonora Desert Museum and cannot wait to go again. We actually bought season passes when we were there, as it ended up being cheaper than buying us each a ticket to get in for the day, so we are planning to make another trip that way in the near future... you know, once the heat is gone and it is bearable to be outdoors once again!

Life Lately

May 29, 2014

I have a lot of blogging to catch up on. I made a list of 13 things I need to blog, and soon, before I get even more behind on documenting the happenings of our family. I'm going to attempt to catch up, and I may even double and triple post, which is something I never do. But I've got to get caught up!

Before I go on to the posts filled with pictures, here are some tidbits of life lately that don't really warrant posts of their own. 

* Bruce and I completed a "40 bags in 40 days" spring cleaning/decluttering challenge in April. I was inspired by posts from a favourite blogger, Sarah at Clover Lane, who often does this decluttering challenge during Lent. This year was my second attempt at doing the challenge, and my first time actually completing it. It. Feels. WONDERFUL! Over the course of the 40 days of Lent, Bruce and I got rid of 40 large garbage bags of stuff from our house. Some of it was trash, some was stuff that we somehow had ended up storing for other people, but a lot of it was from going room by room and evaluating just how much we needed (or didn't need!) each object in the space. We got rid of so many things that we hadn't used in ages, or that we no longer loved. It feels awesome to have unloaded so much unnecessary baggage from our home. I still find myself picking things up and thinking "do I find this useful or beautiful?". If the answer is no, I have another bag of donation stuff in the garage that I am constantly adding to. I'm planning to attempt the challenge again next year, but probably with grocery store sized bags this time around. I certainly hope we won't have acquired so much stuff over the course of one year that I need to fill 40 garbage bags again.

* The last time I blogged about running, I had just finished my first 7 mile run and was anxious to kick things up a notch. Well, during that 7 mile run, I apparently injured my knee and for the past 5 weeks I have really struggled with running. I haven't been able to go more than 3-4 miles at a time and I was not enjoying my runs at all. (The increasing heat doesn't help with that!) I started doing some strength training, hoping to build up the muscles around my knees. I also gave myself plenty of rest time and started stretching a ton. It paid off, and last Saturday I was once again able to do 7 miles. It felt good and I really enjoyed the run. But what I enjoyed even more is that on Monday I was able to do 5 miles with no knee issues, and I did another 3 on Wednesday. I think I am back on track to train for my half marathon! 6 weeks till race time and I've got an 8 mile run scheduled for tomorrow. I hope it goes well!

* I had kidney stone surgery mid-May. I've had (and passed!) kidney stones 3 or 4 times now. They are awful! My most recent stone was too big to pass but was causing issues and needed to be taken care of. Enter surgery. It was super scary for me as my only surgery experience was my emergency c section when Beebs was born. Needless to say, that was beyond traumatizing and I am realizing now, that I still haven't quite processed the trauma from that event. I was pretty worked up over the kidney stone procedure, but it went off without a hitch. Seriously, it could not have gone better. I had no pain or side effects from the surgery, other than it taking almost a week to feel "normal" again after the anesthesia. I was absolutely exhausted for about 6 days post surgery, but that was the worst of it. The stone was blasted into oblivion so there was no pain passing it. Now we just have to figure out why my kidneys aren't filtering correctly, thus making me a little kidney stone manufacturing plant. Luckily, my Urologist is amazing and he is very proactive. He is determined to figure things out so I can hopefully avoid surgery in the future.

* For as successful as our garden was last year, this year has been a disaster. We have a ground squirrel infestation that is causing all kinds of issues. It has been really depressing, especially when I look back at pictures from this time last year and we were enjoying a great harvest of homegrown veggies. We have tried every humane way of taking care of the problem... Bruce is getting pretty determined to take care of this issue for good. We'll see how exactly that ends up happening...

* Summer is in full swing. Beebs finished up her swim lessons today, Man Cub has one more session. Sunshine is on swim team and has her first meet on Saturday. Bruce and I leave to be Ma and Pa for our Stake's Trek in 2 weeks. I'm nervous as can be about it... I'm sure it will be a great experience and I'll love it once we are in the throws of it, but right now, I just feel stressed as we try to make sure we are prepared. After Trek, the wee ones and I will head to Utah for several weeks, during which I will acclimatize to the high mountain air, and then run my half marathon. Bruce and his dad will continue working on our kitchen facelift. Once we are home from Utah, we have a camping trip planned and then school will be back in session! Summer only just began, and it already feels like it it almost over!

Despite being crazy busy, life really has been good lately. I feel like we are running non-stop, but we are getting a lot done. And over the next week or so, hopefully the lots I am getting done will include catching up on blogging. Prepare for a posting overload! I'd really like to be caught up before we head to Utah, because I'm sure three weeks up there will give me plenty more to blog about.

Mini Monet | Faith Ringgold

May 22, 2014

In April, the Mini Monet girls and I studied the work of Faith Ringgold, an artist known for her painted story quilts. We looked at photographs of many of Ms. Ringgold's quilts and talked about what story we thought the quilt might be trying to tell. Then, it was time to create our own story quilts.

Each girl got a 12x12 piece of muslin and they set to work creating a picture story on their square using fabric markers. I originally toyed with the idea of using paint, but I am so glad I did markers. Much easier to for the girls to handle and far less messy.

Once the girls were done creating their picture, I had them tell me the story of their quilt, which I jotted down for the future. Then I had them leave their story squares with me so I could sew strips of fabric around the edges. Once that was done, I stitched their squares to a piece of felt and serged the edges to give it a quilt-like feel. They were far from actual quilts, but they definitely looked the part!

When it came time to do our end of the year art show, I typed and printed each of the girls stories and set them beside the quilts. The quilts and accompanying stories were a huge hit at the art show.

Easter Portraits

May 15, 2014

My amazing friend and fellow photographer, Mary, recently moved into a beautiful new home, complete with a gorgeous studio. Mary loves me so much that she let me borrow her studio a few weeks ago to snap some photos of the wee ones in their Easter clothes, and she even took one of me and my wee ones together. Photos like that are rare! Man Cub was a real stinker during the entire session and I am not kidding when I say I do not think I have even one picture of him smiling. That is so unlike him. Usually he loves having his picture taken.

As much as I love all the shots we got in Mary's studio, I do have to say that my most favourite of our Easter pictures is the very last one... I set up my tripod after church and snapped a couple of pictures on our doorstep. They turned out really good, especially considering there was no one to call Man Cub's attention towards the camera! It is definitely one of my top 5 favourite photos of our family, right under our beach family portrait and above our family shot from Bruce's Coronation Day Ü


Spring Break {As Told By My iPhone}

May 14, 2014

I've fallen behind again. Surprising, no? One day I'll have the time to keep up on this thing the way I would like to. But now is not that time.

Let's rewind shall we, all the way back to the very beginning of March when Sunshine was on Spring Break. I have a love-hate relationship with Sunshine being in school. I am so glad she is making lots of friends and learning all kinds of new things and becoming more independent, but boy do I miss her when she is gone! So any chance we have to enjoy time off school, we do our best to make the most of it. And Spring Break 20-14 was no exception.

Each day of Spring Break, I attempted to find something fun and exciting for us to do. It ended up being a really fun week and we were all sad when it came to an end and Sunshine had to return to school.

We started our week of fun by taking a drive across town to attend the Aloha Festival. Going to the Aloha Festival has been on my Arizona to-do list for about 7 of the 9 years I've been here. And we finally made it happen. And, to be completely honest, it wasn't nearly as wonderful as I had hoped it would be. It was fun. Don't get me wrong... it was just a long drive followed by a long walk to get to the actual event (on a very hot day, mind you). It was extremely crowded so we struggled to find a good spot where the girls could watch the dancers. Most of the souvenir booths were EXTREMELY pricey (I'm talking $100+ per item) and did I mention it was super hot? But we did have a good time regardless. We shared a Hawaiian shaved ice (the good kind, with sweetened milk all over it) and enjoyed the music and what we could see of the dancing. The girls did manage to find some cute parasol style umbrellas for just a few dollars each that helped keep the sun off of them, and it definitely helped us all get excited about next year's trip to Hawaii that we are not so patiently counting down to. Overall, I am glad we went, but I don't think we'll be going again in the years to come. But it was a fun way to kick off our Spring Break Week o' Fun.

Sunday was exciting because Man Cub went to Nursery for the first time... he was still a few weeks shy of turning 18 months old but Bruce took him in there to start getting him use to the idea of going, and he did so well that the Nursery leader told Bruce to leave. Sounds good! Don't have to tell us twice. Ü

Monday we drove down to Tucson and went to the Sonoran Desert Museum followed by dinner at Eegee's. The museum was incredible and we absolutely loved it. Eegee's... well, I am not a fan! Bruce loved it, the girls talk about it all the time, but I thought it was pretty gross. Just another indication that I am not a true Arizonan. I have tons of great pictures to share from our day in Tucson, but those really do deserve a post of their own. Look for that soon. And by soon I mean, hopefully before summer comes to an end Ü

Tuesday we spent the day cleaning out the garage which was not so fun, but that afternoon the girls and I ran away for a few hours and went out to lunch and then shopping for Easter dresses. Our cleaning efforts were well rewarded. We had some Pita Jungle and then spent a few hours at the mall where we found the perfect Easter dresses. It was a fun afternoon of girl time.

Tuesday night we made one of Sunshine's dreams sort of come true. That girl has been dying to go camping forever and we have yet to make it work out so that we can go, so Tuesday night, Bruce set up the tent in our backyard for a family sleepover. We made our first dutch oven meal for dinner (pizza) and then the girls laid down in the tent to fall asleep. It took Sunshine about 10 minutes to fall asleep which totally shocked me. I remember backyard camping as a child and never being able to fall asleep until my parents came out. Sunshine did not have that problem. The problem came when Bruce and I finally went out around midnight, taking Man Cub with us. He decided very quickly that he was not a fan of camping, so we ended up bringing everyone back in around 1:30am. We'll have to give it a try again in the fall.

Wednesday, Sunshine went to the zoo with one of her best friends from school, so Beebs and Man Cub had the first "pool party" of the year in our backyard. Thank goodness for little paddle pools. They bring so much joy once the temperature starts to rise.

Thursday Sunshine asked if she could spend a few hours with Bruce's grandma to "help her around her house". No way we are denying Sunshine the opportunity to serve, especially when she is asking for it, so we dropped her off for a few hours and she helped GiGi to clean her patio and make brownies. Bruce and I took the two wee ones to Freddy's for ice cream, then hung out at my father in law's for a bit, until it was time to pick Sunshine back up.

Friday was the air show at our local Air Force Base. For two days every few years, they open the base up to the public and they hold a massive air show. The Friday before the event starts, they invite friends and family of the soldiers, as well as of the local police departments, to attend a private viewing. We love to go and watch the air show, without all the crowds of the actual event. The kiddos enjoyed playing in the gravel while we waited for the show to start. We all loved seeing the Thunderbirds fly, and Man Cub has been OBSESSED with planes ever since. I have more photos from the air show on my camera... I'll add those to the list of things I need to blog!

After such a busy week, Saturday and Sunday were pretty low key, but Monday was Saint Patrick's Day and as luck would have it, the leprechauns stopped by the house with a breakfast treat for the girls. They loved the green milk to pour over their Lucky Charms, and Beebs still talks about the leprechauns on a regular basis. We had our traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner with Bruce's dad and with that, we called our Spring Break Week o' Fun finished and successful.

It was so much fun having Sunshine home during Spring Break. I think we definitely made the most out of our time together and it has made me so anxious for school to be out for the summer. I love having my wee ones all to myself.

Bruce's Coronation, I Mean, Graduation Day!

May 10, 2014

May 9th, 2014. A day for the Wayne Crew history book... Bruce graduated!!!

This has been a long time coming... 13 years of on and off classes, three different schools, two different associate degrees (which don't equal one bachelors, in case you were wondering!) and now this...

As Beebs kept saying, Coronation Day! Or, the day Bruce received his degree in Public Administration.

We are so, so proud of Bruce! To finish up school while working full time (and more than full time when he was a homicide detective!) and still making plenty of time for projects around the house and spending time with us... that is no small feat. We were all grinning like idiots during the ceremony.The girls were giddy with excitement as they watched him walk into the ceremony wearing his cap and gown, then walk across the stage as his name was read. It was a very exciting night and the wee ones were on their absolute best behaviour, meaning we all got to enjoy it.

I am grateful for Bruce's example to our children, of hard work and determination, of following through and finishing up what he starts and of the importance of higher education. I hope the girls always remember the excitement of their dad's graduation day and strive to enjoy that same excitement again in the future, when they graduate from college.
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