Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Thanksgiving 2014

Because we've lived in so many different places during our marriage and rarely near family, we have been invited to spend Thanksgiving with other friends over the years. And we are extremely grateful for all those opportunities!

Just for kicks and giggles, we tried to remember where we were each year since we were engaged. We *think* this is mostly accurate! If not, please help us set the record straight! :) 

1996--Pocatello, Idaho with Jared, my Uncle Brent and Aunt Charlene and their family.
1997--Ogden, Utah with Keith and Sherrie Gardner and Keith's extended family.
1998--Jared was living and working in IL so he spent it with his parents; I was in Ogden at school and spent it with my girlfriend Sarah Smith and her family.
1999--Pontiac, Illinois at Jared's parents' house with his family.
2000--Jake's first Thanksgiving, at our apartment in Layton, Utah with our sisters, Nicole Hough and Michelle Lee.
2001--Orlando, Florida at a restaurant. We were there for a "Lee/Beynon/Hough/Merrill" family reunion.
2002--Kalamazoo, Michigan about a month after Cooper was born. Jared's parents came to see us. I had no desire and not much physical ability or strength to spend all day in the kitchen cooking, so we ditched tradition and went to the Old Country Buffet for dinner and came back for some pies. It was awesome!
2003--Pontiac, IL ? 
2004--Forest Grove, Oregon with John and Lauren Schneider? 
2005--Jared was in IL for rotations, but Jake, Cooper and I flew out to spend Thanksgiving with the Houghs and then Jared flew back home to Oregon with us a couple weeks later.
2006--Hillsboro, Oregon with Gordon and Rachel Wilde and a couple other families from the ward.
2007--We were days from closing on our first home and in the midst of boxes and boxes. Our sweet friends, Chris and Meredith Horne, from our ward invited our family over for Thanksgiving so we wouldn't have to worry about a thing. 
2008--Aloha, Oregon at our house...the first time I ever made my own turkey. Jared was working at the urgent care so we turned down some offers and did our own thing. Our friends, Andy and Shocis Baldwin, and their four kids came over afterwards and we had desserts together. 
2009--Aloha, Oregon at our house for the second time in a row, but this time Grandma and Grandpa Lee were able to be there with us!
2010--Aloha, Oregon with our family friends, the Prestwiches, and lots of fun game playing.
2011--Hillsboro, Oregon with the McCullough Clan and Durrants.
2012--Hillsboro, Oregon at the McCullough home with the Durrant family, too.
2013--Aloha, Oregon at our home with the Woods family from our ward. They were a student family and we felt that it was now our turn to give back and host Thanksgiving for others who are away from home. 
2014--College Station, Texas

(Phew...that was quite the mental exercise and truth be told, I failed on several of those years, if it hadn't been for my calendars and pictures for proof!)

Sometime in October, I remember Rachel Olsen, the Relief Society president, asking me specifically about our plans for Thanksgiving. I told her we didn't have any. She told me about a couple in the ward who, as a student family with no place to go, reserves the cultural hall at the church and invites anyone who can't be with family or who doesn't have any other plans, to join them for a Thanksgiving potluck and dessert and games. We were invited and it was a wonderful way to make just a little bit of food but feast on a lot!!

This is "my" famous apple pie. It's actually in my recipe files as 'Grandma's Apple Pie' because I thought it was Grandma's recipe. When I was referring to this pie in a conversation with my mom, she informed me it was in fact, she, who found the recipe. Haha! Ooops. Oh well. She's a grandma now, so I left the title as is. ;) People will do many things for this pie. I love it because there's no rolling of a crust. And because it's baked in a brown paper bag. For those who are wondering, I've only had one fire. And so has my mom. So once you've had one, you should be good to go!! ;)

We decided to make two turkeys. Jared wanted turkey leftovers with stuffing which is the downside of a potluck. Leftovers are not likely. So I made this big boy the day before Thanksgiving. I was most pleased with the way it turned out since I think that was only the second turkey I've ever made.

Later that day, Cooper made some deviled eggs and I made the pumpkin pies. The recipe I have makes two pies. But it never fails, no matter how full I get the deep dish pie shells, I always end up with extra pie filling. This time, Jared told me to save it. He is a lover of most things pumpkin, so he definitely piqued my curiosity. Was he going to drink it straight, like egg nog? (Ew.) When he got home from work, he dug out the vanilla ice cream and made a pumpkin shake. Gotta give him props for creativity.

Always use your kids as test subjects first, just in case it's bad or poison. :)

But it was a hit!

What follows are the many faces of Jared's pumpkin shake pleasure after experiencing the first sip to judge the result of his Thanksgiving concoction.

The verdict? Pure pumpkin heaven. Personally, I think it's gross. But Jared was sure proud of himself and the big boys loved it, too.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving feast and afternoon at the church with our new ward members and others. If you're not with family, or going to an-all-you-can-eat buffet, that is definitely the next best way to do it! With FRAMILY (friends who are your family. :)

We could not believe how WARM it was that day (November 27th.) The sun was so bright, Karcyn had to look away. Fall is Texas is amazing!!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

November 2014

Please note the year in the title of the post. That is not a typo. I am three, yes, THREE years behind. But I am determined to get caught up. I'm enjoying the little trip down memory lane. I can't believe how small my kids are, though!

*This new doormat for our new home sums it up!!

*Once Jared had accepted the job offer in Texas knowing his commute would be 100 miles each day and before leaving Oregon, he traded in his "new" Honda Pilot for a brand new Honda Civic to help us with the cost of gas. After driving up to Madisonville and back each day for a month or so, Jared felt that a hybrid car would still be an advantageous help. Even though gas prices were coming down, they were still pretty high. So he started to look into trading in the Civic for a hybrid one. The problem we discovered is that College Station--a large college town out in the middle of nowhere and off the beaten path from any major city (over an hour to Waco, 3 hours to Dallas, 2 hours to Houston, 3 hours to San Antonio, and over an hour to Austin)--doesn't have any options for used cars. :( Not really. One dealer per common auto maker at best.

Image result for map of college station texas area

So what probably would have taken only a weekend (maybe two, tops) in Oregon, ended up taking about six weeks (and many of his free Saturdays) for Jared. He first had to find a hybrid car that he was interested in, then he had to talk to a dealer employee about "numbers." Then he would have to drive to go see it. He drove all the way to San Antonio on Sat. Nov. 1st with a promising lead only to come back without a car. A whole day off, wasted. Finally, later that week, he found one in Dallas that he thought would work. Everything fell into place and blessedly, someone at the dealer offered to drive the car down to Jared's workplace in Madisonville (only two hours each way!) and swap it out with the one we were trading. We were so grateful to not have to drive all the way to Dallas and back. Unfortunately, for the employee, he left his wallet in the car we were buying so Jared had to mail it back to him!

The car is nothing fancy. Same color as our other one. It's a year older and not quite as fancy than the new one we had, but it gets great gas mileage!

*Even with a hybrid, we still had a suburban and loved seeing the steady decline in gas!!

*On Monday, November 3rd,  I had an ARD meeting regarding placement for JJ in the district's speech program. But there was a fire in the room we were to meet in and it was currently under some water thanks to the overhead sprinklers. :o So...we rescheduled.

*On Wednesday, November 5th, I arranged for a babysitter for JJ and began what I thought was a trip to the DMV to surrender my Oregon Drivers License and get a Texas one. Ah, no. It was a fail of epic proportions! The massive DMV (about 30 minutes north of us on the outskirts of the Bryan area) was virtually empty and my wait time was maybe 2 minutes.  I should have known there was a reason for that. Jared and I pored over the DMV web site to make sure we had everything we needed and even called and listened to the automated message about the process. So when I went to my assigned window, I had all the necessary documents showing my identification and proof of residency, etc. I told the lady that I wanted to switch my license over. She asked me for my TX car registration. I told her my car isn't registered yet. She said that one cannot get a TX drivers license until the car has been registered in TX first. What? This was news to us! So after getting some fuzzy directions, at best, from the lady who was kind enough to give them to me, I set out to go into downtown Bryan to find the Brazos County Tax Office. She might as well have sent me to Mars. I am terrible with directions and was in a big new place and was not feeling very hopeful. Miraculously, I found the office. This place was a lot more crowded. When I finally got to my window, I told the lady what I was trying to do, but that I needed to register my car first. She asked to see my vehicle inspection report. You've got to be kidding me! Okay, maybe I should have known I would need to get my vehicle inspected first, before registering it. But it had been a really long nine months and it was not an obvious thing at the time. Besides, I just do as I'm told. The lady at the DMV said I needed to register the car first. Not that I needed to get it inspected THEN get it registered. *sigh* At that point, I realized I was done for the day. I had no idea where to get the car inspected and that was my next task.

*One of our amazing ward members, Susan McKneely, whose husband served in the stake presidency, was over stake public affairs. She was able to arrange for the movie "Meet the Mormons" to come to College Station for a limited time and we were all so excited to see it! Cooper got to see it with a friend on Halloween. Jared and Jake were going to see it the evening of Thurs. Nov. 6th. So Karcyn and I went to see the 5:15 showing of it before them. We had a great time just us girls. It was a wonderful and moving documentary about all the different faces of members of our church around the world.  You can watch "Meet the Mormons" here.

As we left the theater and headed to the suburban, I realized the car next to us was parked really close to my driver's side. I am not that big around and while it's not easily seen here in this picture, I could barely suck-it-in and squeeze through so forget about the door opening! I could barely stick my foot in. So I got into the suburban on the passenger side and proceeded to engage in an unplanned and very uncomfortable aerobic and yoga workout trying to get my body over the middle console and behind the wheel. Not cool!

*On Saturday, November 8th, our Elders Quorum organized a Progressive Dinner for the adult ward members. I volunteered to host since we could seat 8 and actually had a new home and dining room that would allow us to do so! I just had to make the main course, which was a yummy baked chicken with rice and the other couples would bring the other parts of the meal. Hosting such things actually gives me a little stress. I'm not an entertainer in any sense of the word. But I enjoyed trying to create a small table-scape and festive place settings.

When I put the second leaf in our dining room table, I was so sad to learn that it had been warped just enough that it wouldn't close 100%. So there was a teensy weensy gap (big enough) that I was hoping the place mats and food would cover! 

We had a wonderful dinner with the Elder's quorum president and his wife (Gary and Jennifer Thurgood), the primary president and her husband (Laurie and Nick McKernan) and a senior couple in the High Priests group (Steve and Mary Nielsen). After dinner, I presented each couple with a framed saying about thankfulness and gratitude and then we headed off to the final home for dessert and a white elephant gift exchange with the rest of the ward couples!

*On Monday, Nov. 10th, we had a family lesson and meeting and for our activity, we took the car topper of the burb, which meant I could finally pull it into the garage!! Yay for progress!!

We also enlisted the help of the kids in putting together the cardboard can organizers. I packed the ones I had in Oregon in our deep freezer for our move so they would stay intact. But because of my super pantry here in Texas, I needed more. I ordered them here. They come in 4 packs and are flat pieces of cardboard when you get them. A quick look at a "how to" video online and the kids were good to go!

JJ was having fun stacking the organizers and making a VERY tall tower.

A little too tall!! :)

Whoops! I was just glad JJ didn't do an "end-o" off the table! He's good at that I'm afraid. :(
The finished product!

*On Tuesday, November 11th, JJ started the SMILE program (speech through the school district for children between the ages of 3 and 5). He was super excited. He was in the afternoon session every T/TH and the bus transported him to and from Pebblecreek Elementary. They picked him up at 11:30 and brought him home around 2:25--about an hour before Karcyn and Calvin got home from school.

He's "ret to go"! I'm grateful he thought this was a fun thing and wasn't scared or crying. That certainly made it easier on Mom.

*On Wed. Nov. 12th, I had planned to swing by Auto Fix for that car inspection, but it didn't work out. Probably because the little kids were out early that day at 12:45.

*Later that week, Calvin came home with this award. I didn't know what it was for. His teacher didn't say anything to me about it. (I have since learned the students are recognized at a school-wide assembly when receiving these awards).  But I was proud of him anyway and put it on the fridge. (Notice I had to tape it there. If I didn't mention this already, take a magnet with you when buying a refrigerator. Silly me thought they were all magnetic! Not true.)

A couple days later, I found this note on the counter. (The granite looks is not. :)

And here is that very special first grader. At least he said "Love, Calvin" in his note to Cooper. 

Karcyn's third grade picture. 

Jake cuddling JJ. 

*Jared and I went to the temple on Saturday, Nov. 15th. We have found that if we leave College Station at 5:15am, we can make it to the 7am session. Then we are home around 10:45am. The kids are asleep for about half that time, which helps with certain sibling relations.

*Sunday, Nov. 16th, we pulled into the church parking lot. There was a big, white passenger van that had the words "TERMINATE TEMPLE" written in bold marker on the windows. Jake questioned it with confusion in his voice. "Terminate Temple? Really? Why would they say that?" I was briefly stumped myself, but the absence of the article part of speech "the" was key for me. "I think they meant terminate a sports team from Temple, TX." Jake was relieved and said, "Man, I was wondering why they were even at church if they wanted to terminate THE temple!" ;)

*On Nov. 17th, I tried to go to Auto Fix to get that inspection for the suburban, but it didn't come to pass that day either. On Nov. 20th, I finally spoke to someone at Auto Fix to find out about a car inspection. They were super busy but said that Wednesday, Nov. 26th would work. I calculated that this was the day before Thanksgiving. I clarified that they were open that day. The guy said yes and asked if 1:30pm would work. I said, yes. Hallelujah.

*Karcyn and her silly glasses she earned at Mathnasium.

*The little kids enjoying their big back yard on a warm November evening.

*Jake's Lego replica of a cell that he made for pre-AP biology. His teacher was impressed.

*The before picture of my brand new bedroom carpet that got stained when an unthoughtful repair main tracked mud in off his boots.

*Fortunately, I own this stuff called Branch Basics and it does wonders!! We've had miraculous success with getting strawberry juice out of cream carpet and blood out of a brand new Tae-Kwon-Do uniform. And it got mud out of brand new carpet, too!!

*JJ dressing himself for church, with not just one, but TWO shirts! Such a big boy. :)

*Our new bed and bedspread. Still no lamps. Our bed is so high that while it's a queen sized mattress, we had to get a king sized comforter to fit. I love my high bed. The ledge helps us get in. :)

*On a walk with JJ, we found a butterfly and a fuzzy caterpillar. Love the weather here during the fall!! Wow!

*On Wednesday, Nov. 26th, Jared worked only a half day in Madisonville, from 8-noon. So as soon as he got back around 1pm, we took the suburban to Auto Fix for our 1:30 appointment to get this blasted car inspection done. When we arrived, it was closed. That's right. Locked up. I was so miffed. Since my adventure when I first attempted to get my new license, someone had told us that you're supposed to get your out-of-state drivers license switched over within 30 days of moving to Texas. Because we were moving into our new home a few months after we got here, I didn't want to have to get a new license or a sticker to cover up my previous address, so I thought I was being really clever to wait until we moved into our new house. I obviously didn't know about that "law." After finding the doors to Auto Fix closed for the day, I dared any officer or sheriff to pull us over for out-of-state plates. I had a few choice things to say about the matter and it certainly wasn't for a lack of trying!! 

*Would you believe there is a street less than two miles from our house called McCullough Road? Yeah, we couldn't either. So we stopped and got our pictures taken in front of it to let our McCullough clan back in Oregon know they will always be on our minds...especially when driving north on Wellborn Road. :)