We love having family come stay with us. It is stressful (mostly because we don't have a ton of room and I always feel bad offering an air mattress crammed into our office space as their lodging), but the time is also always full of fun and new memories.
This last week, Andrew's brother, Jeremy; his wife, Stacey; and their two kids, Clara and Truman, stayed with us. It was so fun! Even now, just 24 hours after they have left, Grace tells me that she wishes she could play with her cousins again. She says that her favorite part was playing make believe princesses with Clara.
We started the visit off with a sketchy experience in downtown Los Angeles. We went to Milk Bar (spoiler: don't waste your time; it's not good). Then we went to Olvera Street. While there, Jeremy and Stacey noticed this sketchy guy totally following us. I noticed him a little while later. He was clearly following us, and would especially get close when the kids were out of the strollers and walking on their own. This guy definitely gave us all the creeps. Stacey saw a security guard and told him about her suspicion. The guards and we were able to eat some dinner, but the mood was already tense and we were all just ready to go back to the safety of our home.
The next day called for a bit of relaxation. Stacey and I went to a Mother's Brunch hosted by one of my friends. It was a fun few hours to sit with new friends, eat delicious food, and chat and laugh the morning away. When we returned, it was time to go to my parents' house to use their pool. The beautiful 82 degree weather and my parents' gorgeous backyard was the perfect setting for some relaxation. I was especially happy to see my kids practicing the swim skills they have mastered after a year of swim classes. After enjoying the pool, the kids played on the trampoline and ran through the grass as the adults sat on the swing and chatted. It was a truly lovely evening.
On Sunday we went to church and then took a trip to the beach.
And then the sickness hit...throw up, direa, and lots of interrupted sleep. We had been planning on visiting the Natural History Museum, but instead we just stayed home and remained close to the toilets. Luckily, Andrew, Jeremy, and I remained untouched by whatever plagued the rest of the house. Definitely not an experience you plan on for vacation.
We celebrated Jeremy's 40th birthday by going to Disneyland for the day. After the germs of the day before, I wasn't sure we would make it. But we packed up extra clothes and went with high hopes. And surprisingly, the day went smoothly. One of my favorite parts was meeting Tinkerbell. We waited about 20 minutes (which I am usually not a huge fan of character meet and greets), and then entered Pixie Hollow. Tink was so fun and engaging to talk to. Grace even asked Tinkerbell if she had recently see her sister, Periwinkle. Since Grace went through a fairy stage, this meet and greet was truly magical. We then went on a few rides and then had a lunch fiasco (long story short, what was supposed to be an easy lunch turned into an almost 3-hour ordeal). We finally ate our food and were gifted a few Lighting Lanes/Fast Passes for our troubles. Then some good karma helped us get through a couple of other lines much quicker than expected. We ended the day eating ice cream on Disney's Main Street and leaving with some great (and not-so-great memories). An eventful day at Disneyland.
I am so glad Jeremy and Stacey and their family came down to visit us. I miss my Utah family soooo much, so I truly do cherish the moments I do get to spend with them. This was a week to remember.
My Granddaddy passed away peacefully on January 21, 2022. My mother and uncle were by his side and "Amazing Grace" was playing in the background as he took his final breath.
And just like that, my wonderful Granddaddy has departed from us, but I can only imagine the many tender reunions happening on the other side of the veil. One of which would be my Namma who passed away about 2 years ago.
Namma and Granddaddy. The true duo.
When I think of Granddaddy, I think of Christmas mornings in a mountain cabin where he would put on a skinny Santa hat at pass out presents one at a time. I think of the man who always made the most perfect bacon. I think of playing games like Scrabble, and him clapping his hands and saying "Hot dog! Look at that!" when he would get an especially good scoring word. Granddaddy had some funny sayings. "Jiminy Cricket" was another good one when something wasn't going his way.
I think of a man who was so full of love. My husband Andrew always would comment how easy it was to talk to Granddaddy. He was a great conversationalist and made everyone feel included. At his memorial, so many people talked about how Jim Messenger always made you feel like you were the best at whatever you were doing. He'd tell my mom what a beautiful skier she way. He'd tell me what a beautiful writer I was. He was always full of compliments and encouragement.
Granddaddy loved his family and he loved God. In the past few years after Namma's death, he was able to go to the temple and perform sacred ordinances to unify his family for eternity. Those are holy memories I will always treasure in my heart.
A few days before his passing, I was upstairs talking with him and my mom. Granddaddy's mind clearly wasn't fully there and he kept saying some strange things. But before I left I told him I loved him. He looked me straight in the eyes and said with a tender smile, "I love you too, Maichael." That was the true moment when we said goodbye to each other.
While I miss Granddaddy, I am so happy for him. I am happy he is no longer in a state of pain or confusion. I am happy he is reunited with his bride and extended family and friends. I am happy he left us with so many wonderful memories
I’m sitting in my little office listening to toddler giggles coming from upstairs. Grace and Madelyn have been little BFFs today and are having the time of their lives as they play pretend together.
I love seeing their relationship. Their little two and three-year-old imaginations. I love watching the dances they perform in the kitchen and the dress-up outfits they end up dirtying with peanut butter fingers. The mischief they get into together. I love hearing Grace’s big dramatic sigh when I tell her to stop putting all the lotion on Madelyn, and how she walks away all dejected and says, “Come on, Maddy.” I love seeing Madelyn following her big sister like a little puppy dog back upstairs to see what new trouble they can make. I love hearing them say “I love you” to each other and seeing them embrace each other.
Yesterday we went to Disneyland with some new friends. All the adults wanted to go on Space Mountain and Grace told me she wanted to go, too. I explained that she was still too little, and we both walked up to the measuring stick so that I could show her. To my shock, she actually was tall enough to go on the ride. But then I explained that it was a really fast ride and I didn’t think she would like it. Grace responded, “Hm, well, I think I still want to try it.” With that, my goal was no longer to talk her out of it but rather to pump her up! “Ok, Gracie. It’s super cool. It’s like you are in space and you are flying a rocket and you get to see all the stars and planets. Daddy will be sitting right beside you the whole time, so you can hold his arm if you need to. You are such a big girl!” I watched Andrew and Grace walk away, and I sat there with all my Mom-nerves as I waited. When they disembarked, I was relieved to see no tear-streaked cheeks. Grace came up to me and simply said, “Mommy, I didn’t like that ride.” I laughed and told her, “That’s ok, baby. But I am so proud of you for trying something new and being so brave!” She smiled at that.
Today we set up beach chairs behind our garage and pretended to spend the day at the beach. We imagined the ocean and the sand. Madelyn found some sand toys, and Grace grabbed the cooler and pretended to have it filled with snacks. We drank water and ate apple sauce. Maddy then proceeded to spill almost all the water (she is known for making a mess wherever she goes). We imagined fishing for big red gooey fish (Thank you, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse) and watching the dolphins jumping in the ocean. It was so simple and yet so fun.
Lately, Maddy has been a little more needy. (I think she knows change is coming). "Mommy, I want you to hold me on the couch," is a phrase I hear EVERY day. It can be exhausting when I am trying to clean or be productive in some other task, but then I put it all into perspective and realize that cuddling my babies is exactly what I should be doing. I am grateful my girls love cuddling me and having me read to them. This is what my motherhood looks like, and I love it!
I feel so lucky to have Grace and Madelyn in my care. I love being their Mom. They really are special little girls.
During November, we talked about gratitude with our kids. Every day I'd ask Grace and Madelyn to tell me one thing they were grateful for, and we'd write it on a paper feather and put in on a cartoon turkey we had taped to our wall. As the month progressed, the turkey earned more and more feathers and we got to keep track of all the things we were grateful for. On day 1 of the gratitude turkey, I aske the girls, "What are you grateful for?"
Madelyn's first response was, "Jesus!" She always expresses gratitude for Jesus first in every prayer she offers.
Grace's first response was "Heavenly Mother." In the past, we have changed some of the lyrics of "A Child's Prayer" to include Heavenly Mother and how much she loves us.
Wow. I was humbled hearing my two little toddlers express gratitude for such important, yet physically intangible beings in their lives. I learn so much from them. (for more on this story, see my previous post about my church talk on gratitude).
Painting Trees and Decorating Cookies
The girls have been obsessed with painting lately. So almost every morning in December, I would draw a Christmas tree with a thick black sharpie and let the girls paint them. It is truly amazing what you can learn about your children from their art:
Grace is a rule follower. She likes to keep her colors separated and neatly in the lines. She hardly gets paint on herself and likes to stay clean.
Madelyn is a rule pusher. She loves to get her hands dirty and mix the colors all over the page. By the time she is finished, you can hardly see the tree drawing under all the paint. She is also messy and loves to squish the paint between her fingers.
Christmas Songs and Books and Treats
Madelyn has decided that "Feliz Navidad" is her favorite Christmas song. haha! She is totally obsessed with candy canes and loves to bite them. Her favorite holiday-type book is called "A Long Winter's Nap", and she likes the grumpy tortoise in it. My little Mad-dog seems to be drawn to the grumps of the world. haha.
Grace points out every time a song says "Jingle Bells". She especially loved "Jingle Bell Rock" this year, but she also learned how to sing "Away in a Manger" and "Silent Night". She has a little Christmas tree in her room where we discuss a scripture story from the Bible leading up to Jesus' birth and add an ornament every night. Her favorite books this season are "Red and Lulu" and "Samurai Santa" (if you haven't read them, I highly recommend both of them).
We baked a whole bunch of gingersnap cookies for neighbors and friends. Grace and Madelyn love helping me bake, and they love handing out the goodies as well. Grace liked eating the cookies too, but Madelyn decided she does not like the gingersnap flavor. She would hand it back to me and say, "No like this, Mommy. It's goose-tus-ting." (aka: disgusting). haha. One thing is for sure...she definitely loves chocolate!
Every other year for Thanksgiving we go on a trip with (almost) the entire Macey gaggle. Two years ago, as our introductory trip, we rented a cabin at Bear Lake. We got snowed in, made crafts, ate a ton of food, played games, and had a ton of fun as a family. This year was in sunny Saint George, Utah. It was still a little chilly, but we were still able to have lots of outdoor adventures.
Grace and Madelyn really enjoyed being with family. Madelyn will try to deny it with a serious grumpy face towards almost all her aunts, but she loves everyone :). Grace clearly prefers the older cousins at this stage of her life. She would shadow them around, and she even asked Isabell to teach her some ballet dance moves.
One day we visited a ghost town near Zions National Park.
Another day the kids went swimming in the heated pool and Andrew played pickleball with family.
We watched cheesy Christmas romance movies and played lots of card games.
We cooked together and ate together.
The kids explored the Children's Museum. Madelyn liked the room with toy cars and a train track. Grace favored the theater room that had a full stage, costumes, and play makeup.
After sharing such great adventures, basically everyone ended the trip with some stage of a cold.
But I wouldn't have done it any other way. Having moved away to California, I truly treasure the time I get to spend with our family in Utah. And I love that we are friends...not just family. We joke around and laugh and tease. I am so thankful for family.
Andrew and Maichael
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