Our favorite Christmas tradition!

We had a lot of fun this Christmas season. We took a mini vacation to Salt Lake to go have fun at the zoo and look at the lights at Temple Square. And then, actually, the next week we went back to Salt Lake because we got tickets to the Mormon Tabernacle Christmas Concert with Sesame Street! It was so fun...and a crazy adventure getting there involving a long, long, slow drive, cold corn dogs from a gas station, and a late, late bedtime. And then, the next morning, we had a Christmas breakfast for our Ward that Andrew was in charge of!

Andrew had some family come into town, so we spent a lot of time enjoying them. But, we were having a hard time fitting in one of our favorite traditions...decorating gingerbread houses. We do it every year and we love it. We've only actually made the gingerbread once, now we just use graham crackers (and this year Andrew even used some cardboard). Last year was Jessica's first year working on her own, so this year she had it down. 

We didn't get to our houses until Christmas Eve morning, but it was a fun two hour project and we are glad we didn't miss it! There is nothing quite like building a house full of sugar!

Here we are during the making of the amazing houses...

And here are the finished products...

Jessica's cool castle

Andrew's amazing A-frame

Brianna's colorful cottage

Merry Christmas! Make a gingerbread house next year...you just might want to start a new tradition!



Rocket Powered Pinewood Derby Race

We've written about our love of pinewood derbies before. Well, our love of making cars anyway. But this time, Andrew took things to a new extreme. 

I decided to do a rocket powered pinewood derby race for our Elders Quorum at church. And the race was a great success! But it all started with designing this speedy little car. I wanted it to kind of look like a rocket and have wooden fins carved from the original block of wood. I used my bandsaw, Dremel, and belt sander to shape my car. 

I also wanted the rocket engine to slide into the car and have the engine exposed a bit. This would serve two purposes. Having it open like this made it so my car wouldn't explode when the reverse charge went off. Also I thought it would look pretty neat. (Just so you know we used Estes C6-5 rocket engines. These rocket engines have a reverse charge at the end that blows the nose cone off of your model rocket to deploy the parachute.) This is important to know because if the engine is jammed inside your car and there is no vent or anything for the reverse charge your car will explode!

Well here was my finished car with a fresh coat of paint. I couldn't wait to see how it would race!

This was the line up of the rocket cars!

This is my car after two races. I love the way it looks with the burn marks on it! On my last (third) time across the parking lot I lost my front wheel and the race was over... It was a ton of fun. The track consisted of two long thin cables stretched tight about 100 feet long. The cars have little eyelets on the bottom that you clip onto the cable to keep your cars from flying into the neighbors yard. At the end the cars ran into an old ratty sleeping bag strapped to a board that was smoldering by the time the race was ending. 

Here is a link to a movie of the race. There are a couple of neat things to watch for in this clip. Watch for the orange car on one of its races...mid way down the track it starts spinning around and the rocket engine flies out of it and shoots over the fence! Also on the last run the orange car had its engine glued in so it wouldn't come out. When it reaches the end of the track and the reverse charge goes off the car explodes and you see a chunk of orange wood spiraling out from a ball of fire. We have it all in slow motion and it is great! Here is the link: 

Doughnut Sunday

This is Brianna here, and first off, my mom is an amazing cook. She can bake bread, make delicious desserts, and well, anyway, she is great. When I was in high school, she started making doughnuts, and usually it was on Sunday nights, so we would call it doughnut Sunday. We would invite some people over and have a party eating delicious doughnuts and way too much sugar. 

Five years ago, Andrew and I were in charge of a Family Home Evening group with college age adults and we decided to make them some doughnuts. But we did a small batch. So, a few weeks ago, we decided to take it to the extreme. We invited our whole ward over (our church congregation) and we decided to double the batch. We ended up with 148 doughnuts and doughnut holes and man, that was a lot of doughnuts! It was a bit of work, but a lot of fun! Thankfully, my sister Miranda was here visiting, and she and Andrew glazed the doughnuts and covered them in cinnamon sugar so I could just do the frying. It was great, but it may be another five years before I want to make that many doughnuts again!

This is a really bad quality picture because it came from my phone, but we didn't have anything else to document the night. This was after most of the doughnuts had been eaten and people were finally full!


On the road again...

Last week, we got back from a week long vacation to the great state of Colorado! Andrew and I moved to Colorado right as he finished college in 2006. We lived in Greeley and then Sterling and moved to Nebraska in 2010. During that time, we adopted Jessica and her birth family doesn't have the crazy opportunity to move as often as us, so they still live there. We planned up a trip to go visit them and some other people and places and it was so fun! Basically our trip could be divided into four categories: visiting friends, driving, camping, and swimming.

1-Visiting Friends

We first stopped in Sterling to visit some friends there and go stop by the church to see people. It was so fun seeing the town, our old place, and also noticing that nothing has changed there. Well, actually, we noticed two new stores, but that is it. Sterling is still Sterling. The next day we visited the scouts at scout camp nearby and Jessica had a great time playing in the sand and charcoal near the reservoir. She was a mess...but she had fun! We stopped by Andrew's old work in Greeley for a quick visit and then headed to Denver to see Jessica's birth parents that night. We hadn't seen them for 2 1/2 years so it was so good to see them again! Later, we were able to spend more time with them and lots of others from Jessica's birth family on both sides. We loved meeting everyone and putting faces with the names.


We tried to break up the trip in manageable chunks, so our longest drive was a 6 1/2 hour drive. But, we also hit a lot of road construction, so one drive which should have taken just over 1 1/2 hours took twice that long...which wasn't fun. We drove just over 1,500 miles round trip and drove through four states. But, we made it through with lots of junk food and snacks, and fortunately Jessica is a great traveler.

This was the view of the back window of our car often. We had to dry those swimming suits somehow!


We only went camping one night, but it was a great night and fortunately, the weather forecast was wrong, and we only got a few sprinkles of rain. We stayed in Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park, Colorado. We used to go often when we lived in Greeley and it is beautiful! We saw lots of chipmunks, squirrels, deer, and some elk. We had pretty much the worst night's sleep of our trip, but hey, it was fun!


We went swimming EVERY day except Sunday. Some days we went swimming twice in one day. It was a lot of swimming in cold hotel pools, but Jessica loved every second of it! Really, this is what made it a vacation to her. We had fun too. The best pool (and the only one photographed) was at Little America in Granger, Wyoming. (The place that posts billboard signs all over Wyoming about their ice cream cones, playground, on site mechanic, and marble showers.) It was the best pool because it was warm...80 degrees! It was outside, so once you get out of the pool and walk back to your hotel room three buildings down in the Wyoming wind, you are cold, but that pool was nice!

It was a great trip! But as with most vacations, it is nice to come home to your own bed, real food, and a schedule. So, while it means Andrew has to go back to work and I had to wash what felt like ten loads of laundry, it also means Jessica goes to bed at 8 and falls asleep on her own instead of staying awake until 10 every night! Now, a few weeks later, we are ready for another vacation, but this time, we want to go to the beach.


Why wait for Halloween to dress up?

Over Memorial Day, Andrew's extended family had a huge family reunion. It was a lot of fun, food, and family all in one weekend! We went to a big lodge in Heber City, Utah with a pond to go fishing and boating, a pool, and a lot of space to play and run around. One night, we had a talent show, and Andrew's family did a fun rendition of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." A few people had some giraffe pants, and other jungle animal pants, so they said to wear them if you wanted. 

Well, Jessica has some zebra pants, but we are a little extreme I guess, so we couldn't stop there. We figured we should be all be zebras. We bought some shirts, spray paint, used a lot of tape, and we became the zebra family!

Nice looking shirts, right? Well, after posting this I realized we love dressing up whenever we get a chance! I decided to find a few pictures from some past occasions. I wish I had some pictures from my high school homecoming week days (this is Brianna). I wasn't one of the students with the most high school spirit, but I loved to dress up, so I did. The best ones were when I dressed up as Cupid, and as the batmobile (which was awesome and difficult at the same time...I carried around a cardboard car all day long), and when I wore my little brother's pajamas and horse slippers for pajama day. I don't know how those pajamas fit.

Anyway, the other dress ups are here. Enjoy!

This one was more recent, from our Cub Scout Pack Meeting, and the theme had something to do with Wild West, so we threw some stuff together last minute. Nice belt buckles, huh? And Jessica's awesome Jessie costume? Construction paper and packaging tape!

Andrew's parents have a closet full of dress ups...which is always fun for Sunday dinner or holiday entertainment!

Okay, so this was from Halloween, but still...it was impressive, because we actually had our first adoption meeting with our new caseworker in Utah on this day, and we all went to the meeting wearing our costumes. And then afterwards, we went to get our fingerprints done in costume. And in case you can't tell, Andrew and I are Gus and Jaq, Cinderella's mice friends. 

This one is fun because Jessica started it and put the mustache on by herself and then brought Andrew the other one. And well, it is so cute!

And this one is the classic. The extreme of the extreme Halloween costume. I went as a Lego, but Andrew wanted to be an old man, and he shaved his head to do it! That isn't a wig, we shaved it to look bald and then sprayed it white. Then, after HalloweenI shaved it all off so he didn't look too weird! 


Minute to Win It ritz cracker style

Andrew has always gotten a second wind at nighttime. He seems to be full of energy and wants to start a late movie, play a game, or just talk all night. Brianna has adjusted to this as well, and we both seem to get a little funny at night sometimes. Our craziest ideas come after 10 pm. Last week we made homemade bouncy balls and bounced them all over the kitchen (they didn't work too well, but it was still fun). A few weeks ago, we got new phonebooks, so we watched youtube videos on how to rip a phonebook in half, and then proceeded to rip all four phone books in our house in half. We recorded that one too, so we will have to work on posting them later.

But, these movies are some of our favorites! Last year, Brianna was planning up an activity for church doing some Minute to Win It games and we decided to try them right then...and started the Face Off. Only we had no Oreo cookies, so we used ritz crackers. And of course, we had to document it. We still love watching these videos! 

First up...Andrew!

Pretty good, right? Well check this out?

Okay, how about another attempt? 

I did get it eventually, but we obviously don't document everything around here! Now, go try it out! It is harder than it looks, but it is really fun! We are planning on doing it for our next family reunion!


Monday, Monday

This is Brianna, and usually my Mondays consist of laundry, cleaning, and planning up our week. Today, we took a detour in honor of Valentine's day and made a mess instead! We glued doilies and hearts and stuck stickers to a lot of paper valentines! It was fun and Jessica loved it, so we actually worked on them for over an hour.

Tonight, for our family night activity we were making mailbox paper bags for our family valentines...which meant our kitchen table looked like this two different times today. I still haven't cleaned up from the second mess.

And while paper and stickers are always fun, crayons are more fun! Especially when you are breaking crayons into little pieces with a mallet and making your own special heart shaped crayons! 

I have wanted to do these for awhile, and finally Jessica was old enough to help out and be excited about them, so we did it. Maybe we should make every Monday our arts and crafts day instead of laundry day...it was a fun start to our week!


Our adoption profile went live!

We are approved for adoption...again! Our adoption experience this time around has been interesting. The first time, from starting the adoption process to Jessica's birth was just 14 months. That is fast although it felt and seemed slow to us. This time around, it is a whole different story. We tried starting the process 2 1/2 years ago, but we lived in the middle of nowhere, and it took a few months to get it really going. The official start date for adoption #2 was October 2011. Our home study was completed in December, but we moved to Alaska, so we had to get a few things figured out and our profile went online in February of 2012. Which means we are almost at the 2 year mark for being approved...and that is crazy! But, with three moves, well, things get tricky! Here is to hoping we won't have to go through another year!

Our profile was just posted online today and you can view it here.

And in case you didn't click there, here is our favorite part of our letter...11 random facts about us:

1. Andrew considers our first date together as the one where his roommate asked me out and Andrew was with another girl. While canoeing, he said he realized he had the wrong girl in his canoe.

2. It may surprise you to know that Brianna has been skydiving. I think it is crazy because the idea of jumping out of an airplane sounds terrifying! (Side note from Brianna...I didn't jump, but the instructor strapped to me did, and he was big enough to push me out of that plane with him.)

3. Every time we have family home evening, whoever isn't teaching the lesson sits on tiny yellow plastic chairs. It is always entertaining to see Andrew (who is 6'5") sitting on a chair that is a foot off the ground!

4. We have lived in all the "aska" states (Alaska and Nebraska).

5. We only lived in Alaska for a year and a half, but during that time, we experienced a lot of record breaking weather. We moved there during the winter with the most snowfall on record. The next winter was the longest snow season, which meant the snow started in September and ended in May! It was also the coldest winter ever recorded. Our last summer was the best, with the warmest summer ever...and that is when we had to move!

6. One of Jessica's favorite games is tag. We run in a circle from our living room, through the kitchen, the hall and back again every day...all day. She loves it!

7. Every Christmas we make gingerbread houses out of graham crackers, frosting, and a ton of candy! It is one of our favorite traditions!

8. In our first home after we were married, we experienced almost every possible disaster! First, we had a septic tank/plumbing catastrophe, a flameless kitchen fire that filled the house and all our possessions with smoke, and a gas leak in the neighborhood which caused us to evacuate. We also had our phone lines ripped off the house by a garbage truck, a flood in the basement, and gale force winds that were tearing the roof off an old shed (don't worry...Andrew climbed up there in those winds to secure the roof). If you want the full scoop, check out this post.

9. Every night, Jessica requests a new story at bedtime, usually about some pretty random things (purple cats, the letter A, or how we all turn into spotted frogs).

10. Andrew can do some pretty funny things with his face. He can move his eyebrows with precision and accuracy, he can make the biggest frown in the world, and he can make a crazy half-frown half-smile. You will have to see it sometime! Jessica loves making faces with dad and he is teaching her how to move her eyebrows too!

11. We just bought our first home in October and as a special welcome to home ownership, we gutted and refinished the basement, rewired the house, and had to remove a massive pine tree. And all of this began because we needed to replace the carpet in the basement!