Wednesday, December 30, 2015

DAY 1569... Christmas

I really struggled with Christmas this year.
I am not sure why.
I had a really hard time finding joy and happiness in the season,
and it was not much fun for me.
I am just not in a good place right now mentally and emotionally and that makes,
even the most exciting and joyous times,
really rough.

I did find joy in my children and their Christmas experiences.
This was by far the BEST Christmas for Aniston.
She loved unwrapping gifts and checking her stocking.

She loved helping Benson open his gifts as well.
Benson could care less.
He just wanted to play with the wrapping paper of course.

And yes...
Santa did bring our 1 year old Benny a present for ages 2+.
He loves it!

My biggest regret is not recording Aniston opening her Minnie Mouse roller skates.
It was epic.
At least I got photos of her excitement.

What's Christmas without a little Jedi action in the middle of opening presents?
The light sabers definitely were,
and continue to be,
quite the hit in our house.

I think the best part of my Christmas though,
was talking to my brother Jake,
who is currently serving a 2 year mission in Scotland.
(You can read his weekly letters home here.)

We were able to talk to him for about 90 minutes.
It's kind of a big deal,
because although he writes to us every week,
we only get to Skype with him twice a year.
Mother's Day and Christmas.
Those are the best days of the year!

He is 9 months into his mission already,
which means there's 15 more months to go.

He seems so happy and excited about the work he is doing.
I love his excitement.
It's totally contagious!

Christmas night we braved the crowds and headed out to see Star Wars...
for the second time.

I could honestly watch it again and again.

I'm a little obsessed with how into Star Wars Aniston has become.
Every day we do her hair in another Star Wars hairstyle.

Let's be honest though. 
I did whip out the Leia braids to attend my first showing of the new Star Wars...

Like mother like daughter.

Aniston also demands to be called Queen Amidala.
Not sure how well that will go over once she heads back to school.

You'll notice that Santa gifted her with a red light saber.
That was no mistake.
He chose that color specifically for her.

Since we often call Benson, Benny or Ben,
we have now officially nicknamed him Obi.
They're my Obi and Ani.
Get it????
As in Obi Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker.
Total nerd.

Our Christmas in Idaho was definitely white and beautiful.
for whatever reason,
has not learned how to correctly plow their roads yet though.
They like to put down rock,
which does nothing except ruin your car,
as opposed to actually plowing like every other city in America.
Not cool.
It did not make going to my parents house to talk to Jake very easy,
and they only live 9 minutes away.

I quickly took the Christmas Tree down the day following Christmas.
Benson is a nightmare when it comes to Christmas Trees.

I hope that next year,
I will be able to feel more present and involved and happy with Christmas.
It is an amazing time of the year and it is so magical.
I would like to be a part of that next year for sure.

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas Traditions

You all know that I am obsessed with building traditions in my family.
Traditions are what I remember most growing up.
Traditions make the holiday season for me.

Although I am searching high and low for the perfect advent calendar tradition,
any suggestions are welcome,
here are our families Christmas traditions.

Wrapping Paper

Last year we started this tradition with Aniston in order to help her know whose gifts were whose. This is how it works. The kids pick out wrapping paper. Any wrapping paper they want.Then we "mail" the wrapping paper to Santa. Santa wraps all their gifts in their special paper and only in their paper so that they know which gifts are theirs. This worked amazing last year. And even though Aniston can read her name this year, she will still be able to know whose presents are whose, without reading the tags, based off the wrapping paper. Most of the time I don't even use tags when we use this system.

This year we have 6 different wrapping papers. Dad, Mom, Aniston, Benson, Family and Kids.

I think that this is just a fun way for the kids to get more involved and Aniston LOVES seeing her special wrapping paper (this year she chose the Good Dinosaur wrapping paper) under the tree Christmas morning!

Letters to Santa

Letters to Santa are always amazing. Except for least year when Santa didn't write back, even though the grocery store promised he would. Aniston was pretty bummed about that whole thing, but I think I solved the problem this year. On the USPS website I found the North Pole postmark information. What you do is write a letter to Santa. Then in the envelope you also enclose a letter written to your child from Santa. You mail the letter to the address they give you and they send back your letter from Santa with a North Pole postmark.


Seriously, who wouldn't want to get a letter from Santa in return? Kind of the best thing ever! You just have to remember to mail it by the date that the post office has listed in order for your letter to be returned to your child.

Toy Donation

As we were cleaning up Aniston's toy room one night, she mentioned that she has a lot of toys that she doesn't play with and should give to kids who need toys. Recently, she gave her pet turtle away to a little boy who didn't have very many toys and really loved turtles.

So I grabbed an old diaper box and she began handing me toys that she said she wanted to give away. My sweet little girl filled up the entire box! Somewhere I must have said or done something right to have such an amazing child who, somehow, understood the true meaning of Christmas.

Gifts to Christ

Every year growing up, we would give gifts to Christ every Christmas. Our gift to Christ could be anything. Often it involved reading our scriptures better or serving more.

This year I gave an FHE lesson on the symbols of Christmas and ended with Christ and his gifts to us, which turned into us talking about what gifts we could give to him.

We wrote our gifts that we want to give Christ throughout this year on a piece of paper. Then we fold them and put them in a box. Next year, we will read them, before we write our new gifts to Christ, and hopefully feel as though we have done our best to give to Christ throughout the year. It's a fun little tradition that brings the family back to what Christmas is all about, instead of simply focusing on the temporal aspects of the holiday.

Santa Visits

Taking pictures of my children with Santa is the best! This year was the first year both of them got to see Santa. Benson turned 1 month old on Christmas, so he was too tiny to take outside in the cold to see the big man. Aniston seems to have mixed feelings about Santa. She knows he's nice, but doesn't really have much to say to him. He did come to her preschool party and bring her a book, which is always a good way to win over my child, so that did soften her heart a bit.

Benson didn't really love Santa this year...

Cookies and Milk for Santa & Carrots for his Reindeer

Every Christmas Eve, we make cookies for Santa. But mostly Ani just eats them. We make sugar cookies using this recipe (seriously so good) and decorate them like crazy! You can never have too many sprinkles even if Ani chooses to use skeleton sprinkles! Ani leaves several on a plate for Santa as well as a couple carrots for his reindeer.

This year Aniston picked out the bell cookie cutter and said, " Mom! Santa would love the Taco Bell cookie cutter!" She knows the way to my heart! I love that girl!

It's almost more exciting for her Christmas morning to see if Santa ate his cookies and drank his milk and to see if the reindeer nibbled on the carrots than it is to check for the presents!

Christmas Eve Graham Cracker Building

Every Christmas Eve we head over to my parents house to build our graham cracker houses or whatever we want in accordance to a theme.

This year, of course, we choose to go with the Star Wars theme. PERFECTION!

It's pretty fun, everyone leaves on a sugar high and we always have such great memories!

Christmas Eve Elf

While we are at my parents house building with graham crackers and frosting, the Christmas Eve Elf comes to our house and brings the Christmas Jammies, some treats and a new movie for the family to watch. And that's how we spend our Christmas Eve night. Watching a new movie in our new jammies and eating treats!

Christmas Jammies

We always do Christmas Jammies, but this year was special because the kids got matching Christmas jammies! I found these Burt's Bees ones that they can wear year round that were super affordable and perfect! I am so obsessed! I am going to try my hardest, next year, to convince the hubby to get family Christmas jammies. Wish me luck!

Christmas Story

On Christmas Eve we read not only The Night before Christmas, but also many different versions of the birth of Christ.

The book on the bottom left is my favorite! The illustrations are AMAZING and so adorable! We found it at Sam's Club. I am super obsessed with it!

This year was really fun because Aniston was really into baby Jesus and learning all about Jesus. We bought her a Little People nativity and it has been the favorite toy around our house this Christmas Season.

Because we have been so focused on Jesus this Christmas season, Aniston even sat down and drew a picture of the nativity all on her own. The large circles with legs on the left is Joseph. The 3 circles with arms and legs in the middle is Mary and you can find Baby Jesus lying in his manger. He is the black on the bottom right. I will never throw this picture away!

Christmas Breakfast

Growing up, every Christmas morning we would have waffles with strawberries and whipped cream.

That's what we did for the past 4 years, but this Christmas we tried something new.

Well basically the kids ate Cheetos for breakfast, but we attempted Spencer's tradition of buying the tiny cereal boxes and they can choose the type of cereal they wanted.

It didn't really work, but Christmas never does go as planned.

Christmas Movie

We love going to movies on Christmas. For Aniston's first Christmas she went to Les Miserables and it was perfection.

But this year may have topped that.

We went to see Star Wars. We were all wearing our new Star Wars shirts, Benson was rocking his Darth Vader slippers, and the kids both brought their light sabers for the movie.

Aniston LOVED it, and luckily Spencer and I had already seen it so it was okay that we were a little distracted with the kids.

I will say....



I am still looking for some type of fun, and different advent calendar to use during December, so if you have any ideas, please let me know!

What are your Christmas Traditions?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

DAY 1561... Mary

For some reason,
since becoming a mom,
I haven't really thought much about Mary.
Maybe it's because I get busy with my children now,
and I'm all caught up in everything else regarding Christmas.
But this year is different.
I cannot stop thinking about Mary and her role in Christmas.
Maybe this is because I am now raising a son,
and that is what Mary did.
Only she raised the son of God.

Translation: I cannot stop crying because she is perhaps the most amazing woman ever!

The past several weeks,
since Benson turned one,
have been really rough for me.
I'm not sure why or what changed,
but it's been incredibly rough for me.
Depression has completely taken over my body and my mind.
I am really struggling.
I cry a lot.

But I cry more when I think about Mary and the amazing mother and woman that she was.
 Mary has been my strength the past couple of weeks.

From the moment the angel appeared to Mary,
to the minute she watched her son be nailed to a cross,
what an insanely emotional and ultimately inspiring life she led.

Let's start from the beginning though.

If an angel appeared to me and told me that I would be pregnant with the son of God,
I would freak.
I would question my ability and that decision.
I'm weak like that.
I question things.
Even though I would probably understand that this was a calling from God,
I wouldn't understand it.
I would struggle with the choice that I was chosen.
Especially if I was as young as Mary was.

And then to carry this holy child for 9 months.
Can you say pressure?
It's probably a good thing that the internet did not exist at the time.
I have so many questions about her pregnancy!
Did Mary have morning sickness?
Did Mary have back pain.
Did Mary have cravings or Braxten Hicks?
I imagine that she pregnancy was a typical pregnancy,
you know besides the whole immaculate conception aspect.

And then she rode a donkey,
pretty much full term.
A donkey!
By my 9th month pregnant,
going over a speed bump just about killed me,
I can't even imagine riding a donkey,
for miles,
being super pregnant.

Then to not be able to find a room to rest in.
For every single inn to be full.
I imagine that her hormones probably kicked in and she probably cried for a minute or so over this.
And maybe,
because she is human,
maybe she prayed to our Heavenly Father and asked,
if she was carrying his son,
was there no room for her.
But we all know that God's plan isn't always what is best and what is easy.
And we know that he does not give preferential treatment.

Then she gave birth in a stable.
She gave birth surrounded by farm animals.
She placed her son,
the son of God,
in a manger,
full of hay.

When we went to the straw maze this Halloween,
Benson freaked when he came in contact with the straw.
It didn't feel good on his skin.
But that is what Jesus had.
It was the best that they could give him.

It seems like it's not enough for Christ.
It makes me sad to know that no one was there helping them.
And maybe someone was.
But it breaks my heart that they weren't provided with the very best.
Did Joseph know how to help Mary give birth?
Were midwives presents?
Who helped Mary deliver her child?

I have read a lot of mixed reports about who was there and who wasn't,
but I'm not sure what is really true.
It's one of those questions to ask after you die for sure.

But what I do know.
Without being there,
without even being present,
and without a doubt in my mind,
is that Mary and Joseph,
we will talk about Joseph in a minute,
but I know that they gave their absolute best,
and everything they had to that baby.

As a mom to ordinary children,
in the worlds opinion,
in my opinion they are extremely extraordinary,
but anyway,
as a mom to ordinary children,
I worry about them constantly.
I cry for them when they hurt.
I pray for them all the time.
I laugh with them when they're happy.
I smile for them when they accomplish their goals.
I love them always.
I defend them when someone hurts them.
I feel for them when they're sad.
I joy in their constant growth.
I'm sure that Mary did the exact same.

As a mother to an extraordinary child,
as a mother to the son of God,
how did she feel?
I can't even imagine being the mother of this child and watching him grow and have those every day struggles.

What did Mary feel when Jesus took his first steps?
What was his first words?
What was her favorite game to play with Jesus when he was a child?

Now let's fast forward a bit...
To watch your son be nailed to a cross,
and to suffer and bleed from every pore.

As a mom,
It would be really hard.
It would be the hardest thing in the world.
Harder than riding a donkey 9 months pregnant.
Harder than countless sleepless nights with a newborn.
Harder than feeling helpless when your child is sick.
Harder than watching them fail.
It would just be really hard.

It doesn't matter that she knew it was what was best,
and that it was God's plan.
That still would be hard.
Because she is a Mom.
And the love you feel for your children as a Mom is the most immediate,
and absolute love there is.

Side note - I have cried just about 17 times while writing this. I am a mess.

And then there's Joseph.
I'm not a dude,
so I don't know everything that there is to know about being a Dad.
But I'm pretty sure that it takes a very good man to love a child like it is his own,
knowing without a doubt that it isn't his.
It takes a strong man to stand by a woman and support her during a normal pregnancy.
A woman needs so much reassurance,
and support during pregnancy.
So for Joseph to be all of those things for her,
there's no doubt that he wasn't,
especially knowing that the baby isn't biologically his,
that's amazing!
Guys tend to have a lot of pride,
and I'm sure it was difficult to accept Mary's,
and ultimately his own,
But he did it.

This painting,
by David Bowman,
is my all time favorite picture of Mary and Joseph!

I love how Mary is looking at Joseph,
the look we all give to our husbands when we see them with children.
It's also that look that say's, "We did it."
Joseph just looks so peaceful,
so calm,
so content,
and so happy.
I love the placement on Joseph's hand over Mary's,
and how happy his eyes are even though they are closed!
I'm obsessed with this picture!

It reminds me of the first pictures I have of Spencer with our babies.

The joy on his face as he held Aniston for the very first time.

This moment that he shared with Benson, as he held him for the first time.

I also really love this video about Joseph, 
that really looks at things through Joseph's eyes.

I am so obsessed with Mary and her story.
As a mother,
there isn't a better example for us,
except for our own mother's who we actually get to witness being a mom,
to look up to.
She is amazing in every sense of the word!

These are some of my absolute favorite songs about Mary.
There's a lot,
because I love them all.

If I could travel back to anytime,
or meet anyone,
I would want to meet Mary and to be present during the birth of Christ.
I would like to watch her,
to see how she acted,
to be her friend.

I feel so blessed to have had the realization of Mary and her goodness this holiday season.
As a struggling mother,
I feel as though I can look to her for strength and inspiration!

Monday, December 14, 2015

5 Reasons Why... Technology Is Making Our Children Impatient

I remember while I was growing up, that my parents always talked about how different things were at that time as opposed to when they were growing up.
I remember thinking it was a little obnoxious.
I do the same thing.
I cannot believe how different things are in the world.

I mean when I was little,
like 10,
we could go trick or treating around the entire city,
without adult supervision.
Not so much.

I have noticed that many of the things that have changed,
may make my children,
and the future generation,
a little less patient.
Especially when it comes to technology.

These are my reasons...


So I know that texting has been around for a while now,
but I never texted in high school.
We used our phones for playing snake and phone calls.
That was it.
Texting wasn't a thing yet.
The closest we came to texting was typing notes on our graphing calculators.
I graduated high school in 2004.
We use to legit write notes to each other,
fold them up something fierce,
and put them in each others lockers,
or we wrote e-mails,
or we straight up spoke face to face.
Now people just send a text,
and assume,
that it's read immediately.
if people don't disable it,
you can actually see when they have read your message.
People usually respond fairly quickly.
Gone are the days of waiting for a note as a response,
or an e-mail,
or the anxiety of speaking face to face.
Texting has made communication just a little bit quicker,
and less confrontational.
And has definitely made us all a little impatient.
How often do we send a text and get super annoyed when it's not immediately responded to?


My children will never have the experience of going to the movie theater 6 hours before a midnight showing of Harry Potter just to save your seat.
They will never spend that 6 hours sitting next to a middle aged man,
wearing a robe,
holding a wand,
and practicing spells for 6 hours.
They will never experience that amusement,
and fear.
they can buy their movie tickets,
on line,
pick their seats,
and show up seconds before the movie starts,
guaranteed the seat of their choosing.
This totally blows my mind!
It can also somewhat takes away the fun of the experience.
But it can make things a little rough when you go to the cheap theater and you do have to show up early because they don't offer assigned seating.
I don't mind really,
because people watching just happens to be one of my favorite things,
but assigned seating just makes it a little harder for kids to be patient when that's not an option.

3. DVD'S

My children will never know the agonizing pain of waiting for a movie to rewind.
My 3 year old just about dies when we have to wait for Netflix to load.
Instead of fast-forwarding the movie to a certain part,
hoping you don't miss it,
we can easily pick a scene to skip to.
You can easily take DVD's and watch them in your car.
Whether you a DVD player in your car (what),
a portable DVD player,
or a laptop.
It's all great and fun,
especially when you can keep the kids happy,
but what happens when that's not an option?
The kids freak!!!
They become so impatient and upset.


I remember at one of my senior proms (I went to 2),
my Dad let me take his digital camera.
You know the brick that weighed 4lbs and that you could probably seriously hurt someone if you threw it at them?
It was life changing!
I LOVE taking pictures!
I take pictures of anything and everything!
I grew up taking pictures,
without seeing them,
and going to Safeway to have them developed.
I had to wait days to get them back,
and I had to pay for them without seeing them!
That's crazy now!
Every time I take pictures of my children,
they want to see them immediately.
It's amazing!
I love it!
I find that I'm less disappointed in pictures,
but at the same time there's an instant frustration when a picture doesn't quite turn out right.
But my 3 year old demands to see the picture the instant it's taken.
It just blows my mind that that is a possibility.
I find myself even needing to see them ASAP.
So much impatience when it comes to seeing my pictures immediately!


I remember the days when you had to wait for a show to be on scheduled TV in order to see it.
Now we can record shows that we can't watch that moment to watch later.
We can turn on our computers or tablet and watch On-Demand whenever we please.
We no long have to demonstrate patience when it comes to watching TV.
Before we moved to our current home,
we had TIVO.
Aniston knew that she could ask me to watch a certain show that I recorded and she could watch it.
That became a problem when those shows were no longer available On-Demand for her.
Needless to say,
half of my apps on my iPad are On-Demand apps.
It's amazing that we can watch pretty much whatever we want whenever we want.

Technology is totally spoiling our children and seriously making them way more impatient and demanding than ever.
The crappy part is...
I love my technology!
Time to learn to manage my technology in the best way possible that will help my children become successful members of society and not the demanding,
always the exception
generation that we are constantly seeing pop up in today's society.

Friday, December 11, 2015

DAY 1539... Benson Turns 1!!!

*** I am sorry about the lack of posting. There is a lot going on in my life right now and unfortunately, it doesn't leave much time, energy or effort for blogging. I am trying to get back on track***
Benson is 1!!!
I cannot believe that a year has passed.
And we totally survived another first year with an Ahlstrom baby!

Benson loves
The Isty Bisty Spider,
Stuffed animals,
and he LOVES his sister.

Benson is crawling like crazy,
standing and walking along the furniture,
and still clapping up a storm.

I really feel like the first birthday party is so much more for the parents than for the baby.
Keeping a baby alive and healthy and happy is hard work!
Especially when you're a mom who is terrified of SIDS,
and every other possibility of death.
I probably Google a little too much.
I Google way too much!

Benson is such an AMAZING baby!
Having a second child is crazy!
You think you know everything.
You think that you have it all down
after all,
you have already had one and so you are an expert.
But every baby is so different.
It's really like starting all over again.


Benson refused to take any 1 year old pictures,
except those involving cake.
Oh well.

Since Benson was born,
I knew that I wanted to throw him a construction themed birthday party.
It was cute.
Nothing fancy.
We also turned it into a surprise party for my Dad whose birthday fell on Thanksgiving this year.
We decided to have it in the lounge of the apartment complex we manage because we have a pool table, a ping pong table and a Foosball table.
A little something for everyone.

I think my favorite part about it was the cake Spencer and I whipped up the night before.

Seriously, it only took us 20 minutes!
Every cake should be a cake that looks like it's dirt.
So easy!

I also loved the nacho bar.

It was perfect because my sister and her family came into town earlier that day,
for Thanksgiving,
and they were able to be here.
Love it!
My kids are obsessed with their cousin Cortney!

Aniston just learned all about "cheers",
so needless to say, she's obsessed.
Please note our sweet party hats.

Benson had a great first birthday!
I cannot wait to see who he becomes and where he is at when he turns 2!

Our birthday boys!!!

It has been a great year!