Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Jack’s 16th {surprise} Birthday Party

There are certain birthdays that hit me harder than others. . . so far the emotional ones have been 8, 12, and now 16.  Jack turned 16 last week and we had a big surprise birthday party for him. I wanted to do something fun and different for his 16th birthday.  I was planning on renting out a party place for wallyball, games and movie theater (to watch a sixteen year highlight DVD of Jack) when I realized we could do all of that at my parents’ house and swim.  So what I had hoped would be fun and different ended up being a whole lot like all of his previous birthdays.  Swimming at his grandparents.  Just this year there was no pinata.  I really wanted this birthday to be special and for Jack to feel the love that we have for him.  And hope that Jack was able to feel that even if it was the same ol’ swimming party and cake.   

Jack wanted one present for his birthday. . . an iPhone5.  I promised Jack years ago that if he played the piano until he was 16 he could pick out any cell phone he wanted for his 16th birthday.  And that was all the motivation he needed to keep on playing.  He started piano in first grade and only took one break a few years ago.  That adds up to a lot of hours and dedication over the past 9 years.  He definitely earned that phone.

The night before his birthday I asked Jack what he wanted to do for his birthday (since he had decided he would take some friends boating when they all got back in town a few weeks later) and he said he wanted breakfast at Kneaders, lunch at Melty Way and dinner at Outback Steakhouse.  He later decided he would rather sleep in and skip the breakfast portion of the celebration.  We did make it to Melty Way for lunch with the family but that was the only one.  We’ll have to take him to Outback some time before summer is over to make up for not going on his birthday.

Then I had to find somewhere for him to go while we set up for his surprise party at my parents.  I sent him to a movie, Pacific Rim, with his friend, Logan and told them we would go to dinner at Outback after the movie.   

We got it all set up and then waited for Jack to arrive.  We were hiding in the wallyball court and could hear him walking down the stairs.  Gavin told him that Grandma had a table she needed help moving that was in the court.  Everyone was hiding in the corner, except for me, I was out in the middle of the court waiting to film the surprise.  He looked over the edge of the court on his way down the stairs to see what table needed to be moved and saw me.  Bummer.  I ruined the surprise.  But he was still happy to see his friends.  I’m still not sure if he knew about the party or not.  I think he figured we were up to something.  I think they all had a fun night playing wallyball, swimming and hanging out together.

My favorite part of the party was watching the highlight DVD.  We waited until sunset with everyone in the pool and set up the outdoor projector and screen on the deck overlooking the valley and watched Jack’s life pass by in 30 minutes.  It was an emotional project to do and even more emotional to watch. It seems just like yesterday that he was that curly headed, smart as can be, little toddler.  I’m so proud of the young man he has become.  And the video was a visual reminder of all of the fun times we have had together and the blessing it has been to be his Mom.  He’s such a good kid, so well balanced . . . talented, funny, goofy, loving, smart, social, example, a little naughty.  It all makes him who he is and who we love!

And for the die hards (aka family) who have a few minutes (34 to be exact) to spare and want to see what an amazing kid my boy is.  Grab a snack.  Sit back and relax.  And enjoy . . .

Jack 16 Years from Sealbark on Vimeo.

In honor of his 16th Birthday . . . 16 things we love about Jack.

1.  He can laugh and call his friends at midnight when he finds out he didn’t pass his AP European History exam.  All in a random Batman voice.

2.  He grew a 2.5 inches taller this past year and is now 6’1”

3.  He didn’t get his driver’s license on his 16th birthday because he waited too long to get his permit.  He has to wait until September 1st to take the test.  He’s having fun driving all over with me though.  We need to venture out to the freeway one day soon.  (I’m so not ready for this!)

4.  He lettered in track as a Sophomore.

5.  His latest hobby is making music videos with his friends.  And they’re all a little random and weird.

6.  He thought it would be funny on our last vacation to Bear Lake to leave a lasting scent in the sauna.

7.  He had his first date a few months ago when he went to Prom with a group date.

8.  He worked as a sweeper this past year at his high school and saved enough money to buy an iPad.  Then lost his motivation to work.

9.  He loves to stay up all night and sleep all day.  (just like his dad!)

10.  He was ordained a Priest the day after his birthday and got to bless the Sacrament for the first time with his dad this past Sunday.  My kids were all thrilled by how big the pieces of bread were on the Sacrament tray.

11.  His favorite activities are boating and basketball.

12.  He and Ryan just discovered the greatness of Netflix and have spent most of the summer watching Lost episodes.

13.  He’s a really good BIG brother.  Even though he can pester his siblings just like they all do, he’s the first one to offer a piggy back ride to a younger sibling when they need an extra boost or to give a hug or love.

14.  He’s a great friend and has had the same two best friends since he was 2 years old.  Long lasting friendships are rare these days.  I loved seeing all of the pictures in the DVD of Jack with Logan and Jace.

15.  He hates to wear pants and wears shorts year round except for the few hours at church every Sunday.

16.  He went with his friends to donate blood a few days ago and acted disappointed when he found out he wasn’t eligible to donate because of his vacation to Mexico last fall.  Secretly, I think he was relieved and happy that he still got the Skullcandy earbuds they were giving away.

Happy 16th Birthday Jacko!  We love you!

Monday, July 22, 2013

‘GRIFFIN’dor Birthday Celebration

July is a busy month -- our family has 3 birthdays and an anniversary all within days of each other.  I am finally getting a minute to breathe and as fun as it was to put together these birthday parties, I am so relieved to have this week over with and time to relax and enjoy summer where the livin' is easy again!

Griffin turned 7 this week and we celebrated with a big Harry Potter birthday party.  I had so much fun with all of the birthday preparations for this party (I’ll list all of the details in this post for those looking for HP birthday party ideas) and thought it was kind of funny when I would find a new idea online.  “Hadley, are there chocolate frogs in any of the Harry Potter movies?” It probably would have been easier to come up with some of my own ideas for the party if I had ever seen any of the Harry Potter movies.  Luckily there are blogs with lots of great ideas and I just copied the stuff that looked like fun and something I could easily put together in a few days.  I knew right when Griffin said he wanted a Harry Potter birthday that it would be fun to have a magician for the birthday entertainment.  Griffin was excited about the magician so we booked the exact same magician that came to Ryan’s Harry Potter birthday party 9 years ago (Highly recommend him if you are local.  He’s great entertainment for the adults and the kids).

Griffin was so excited for his birthday and started counting down the days about a month ago.  And got really excited when the number of days left were finally in the single digits.  Reminding me each day how many days were left until his Birthday, “only 3 more days until it’s my birthday, Mom!”.

Party Details

Harry Potter Wands I bought wooden dowels, hot glue and craft paint at Michael’s and followed this tutorial.

Harry Potter Cake

Owl Cupcakes made with oreos, chocolate drops and candy corns

Chocolate Frogs I used this kit from Amazon and chocolate melts from Michaels.  And printed out this template on cardstock to make the boxes for the frogs. Surprisingly the boxes took the most time with the cutting and pasting that it took to put them together.  

Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans I bought the big container of jelly beans from Costco and filled spice jars with jelly beans and put labels on them that I printed out on full sheet shipping label paper. 

Butter Beer drinks I bought IBC cream soda and added Butterbeer labels for the kids to take home in their party bags and bought 2 liter Shasta cream soda with Butterbeer labels to use during the party. 

Golden Snitches made with  Ferrero Rocher chocolates and yellow feathers hot glued on the sides. 

Black Capes I ran out of time to order capes but bought black, plastic tablecloths at Zurchers and cut each cape about 3 ft long and 2 1/2 ft wide.  I got 4 capes out of each rectangular tablecloth.  I then stapled 2 pleats on the top part (so it wouldn’t be such a big gap around the back) then safety pinned the capes on the kids shirts.

Harry Potter Signs for table display

My favorite birthday party helpers--Gavin, Ryan and Hadley!  Ryan baked the cake (and may have forgotten to set the timer on the oven). Gavin decorated the cake and did this awesome Harry Potter design.  Ryan helped the party guests choose their wand from Olivander’s Wand shop.  Hadley was in charge of Madam Malkin’s Robes and glasses.  She helped each guest get fitted into their robe and glasses.

The wands were by far the biggest hit of the party!  I almost didn’t make them since I was running out of time to get everything done but so glad I didn’t skip them.  If you decide to only do one thing for your Harry Potter party, this is it!  The kids were so excited to pick one out and find out they got to take the wand home with them.  I used this easy online tutorial and wooden dowels, hot glue and paints.  And VOILA . . . awesome Harry Potter wands that your kids will love using to cast all of their spells.

After the party guests were all dressed up in their robes, HP glasses and matched with their magical wand, it was time for pictures in front of Platform 9 3/4.  Train departing for Griffindor Tower.

And seriously, Mia made the cutest Hermoine

All of the party guests

Griffin loved being the main assistant in the magician’s show.  He got to hold rabbits, a dove, balloon animals and have quarters fall out of his nose and ears.  He was a little silly and didn’t have the best manners.  I remember Ryan acting the same way at his party.  It must have something to do with being a 7 year old and standing up in front of all of your friends and trying to act like it’s not a big deal.  Or my kids just have really bad manners.

After the magic show, it was time to pull out the sorting hat to sort the guests into Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw houses.  The kids had fun with this and had no idea that Hadley had my phone on speaker in her pocket while Ryan called out the house names from the basement.


After the party I saw that the magician was doing a free show at our local library which is about 10 houses away.  I wish I would have known that when I was planning his party!  I could have saved some money and taken the kids to the free magic show at the library.  Griffin, Hadley and Mia were excited to go watch the show again before dinner.  Griffin got to choose anywhere he wanted to go for his birthday dinner.  Of course, he chose Chick-Fil-A and enjoyed some more birthday ice cream.

In honor of his 7th birthday. . . 7 things we love about Griffin!

1.  He just started playing soccer and basketball this past year and is loving it.  His favorite position in soccer is defense.  I think his team had one victory last season.  He’s got the best backwards hop on the basketball court and is so much fun to watch.

2.  He is a great reader and was on the top reading level in his first grade class.  Now if we could just get him to sit down and enjoy reading.

3.  He LOVES his electronic devices and is the first one to have all of his morning jobs done so he can play on the iPad right when he wakes up.  And he does a great job with making his bed and keeping his bedroom picked up.

4.  He still gets upset easily when he doesn’t get his way but has made progress this past year.  His outbursts when something doesn’t go his way is something that we are still working on.  Trying to help him understand that sometimes accidents happen, that he may have been the one to misplace something, etc.

5.  He loves for me to cuddle with him at night.  It doesn’t have to be long but just a few minutes to talk about his day and have a little one on one time together. And he says he likes Mom to lay by him better than Dad because Mom falls asleep faster.

6.  His favorite food is McDonald’s Happy Meal with chicken nuggets and sweet and sour sauce.

7.  He is my biggest helper.  He does his morning jobs without complaining and usually without me asking.  He offers to take the trash out to the big garbage cans when he sees me getting ready to do it.

Happy 7th Birthday Griffin!  

Monday, July 1, 2013

SUNDANCE {with a dash of Robert Redford}

We spent the weekend at the beautiful Sundance Resort.  It was a quick getaway which makes packing simple and easy.  We grabbed a few outfits, sweatshirts and swimsuits and drove 60 minutes south.  Mia made sure she grabbed all of her necessities . . . a purse, sunglasses, hat, harmonica and a few books.

This was our family’s first time to visit Sundance.  The kids loved checking out all of the wildlife--snakes, ferrets, squirrels, butterflies--and anything else they could see through the binoculars (usually a sibling’s face).  And we loved the cabin-like rooms that were big enough to fit all of us.

Our first night we took a tractor ride up the mountain to watch the Utah Symphony’s Patriotic Celebration in the outdoor amphitheatre.  It was a beautiful evening and the music was perfect.  The younger kids were ready to head back to our room after the first few songs but made it through the whole performance and even enjoyed it a little bit.

The highlight for me was seeing Robert Redford and having him smile at Morgan and me!  We were walking back from the bathroom and he watched us as we walked back to our seats and gave us a big smile.  Seeing Robert Redford at Sundance is definitely the icing on the cake!  Gavin jokingly asked when checking in if we would be seeing Mr. Redford this weekend. They told him they were 99% sure that we would not see him claiming he only visits the resort a few times a year and they never know when that will be.  Well, lucky us!

Robert Redford (sitting in black shirt)

The Utah mountains are the perfect escape in the summer, usually a little cooler than home but this weekend was so hot everywhere that it didn’t feel any cooler.  We spent the afternoon on the lake, boating at Deer Creek.

The lake was so crowded and rough but that didn’t stop Jack from trying out the wake board.  He’s been watching YouTube wake board videos with crazy stunts and been excited to get out behind the boat and practice.  He stayed out there a long time and never complained about all of the other boats and rough waters.

A few people suggested we should hike up to Stewart Falls to see the beautiful waterfalls.  We took the chair lift up to the top of the mountain and started our 3 mile hike.  It was a super hot day again.  We didn’t have the best hiking shoes or clothing (Morgan refused to wear her tennis shoes and hiked in crocs).  I forgot to put sunscreen on any of us.  And we had no idea what we had gotten ourselves into.

It was a narrow trail on the side of the mountain for most of the way to the falls.  Morgan and I both share a fear of heights.  My heart was pounding as I tried not to look at the edge or focus on my kids running ahead not concerned about the possibility that they could fall of the mountain.  Morgan was just as scared and clinging to Gavin, saying over and over, “I can NOT!”   We found a place in the shade to rest and pass around a jug of water to share with each other.  All of us realized this was a much harder hike than we had anticipated and tried to decide if it was better to just turn around and go back.  After some discussion we decided to keep going forward, that it would be worth it to finish the hike.  We started hiking again and within a few minutes we were off of the steep trail and on to an easier section of the hike.  It was a good reminder that just like in LIFE . . . when you feel like giving up and scared to go any further if you could only see around the corner, you would find that the hardest challenges were behind you and the rest is downhill.

Morgan has such a hard time in the heat and isn’t able to regulate her body heat very well (you can see how flushed and splotchy her face gets in the heat).  She’s lucky she’s got such a strong daddy and big brother who carried for most of the 3 mile hike.

After 2 hours of hiking, we finally made it to the falls.  Enjoyed the beautiful view, rested on the rocks and played in the stream for awhile.  Then it was time to start on our hike back down to the resort.  The hike down was easier and only took an hour.  It was miserably hot but I’m still glad we did it.  It was a hard activity to do as a family but it’s these kind of activities that bring us closer and make us stronger.  Jack and Ryan were loving and concerned big brothers and did their best to take care of their younger siblings.  Helping them on steep terrain, carrying them on their backs, going back up the trail to make sure their dad didn’t need any help with Morgan, sacrificing an extra sip so the little kids could have more to drink.  It made me proud to see their love and concern.

We finally made it down the mountain and we looked like we had been camping for weeks.  We walked into the resort’s bathrooms covered in dust and dirt, head to toe.  We were more than ready to get back to our air conditioned home and showers.  And Hadley.  She had her own adventure this weekend.  She went with the Young Women to a Book of Mormon reading activity at a cabin in Brighton Resort.  They all read the Book of Mormon in two days together.  We missed having her with us but know she accomplished something she will never forget. . . reading the entire Book of Mormon at 12 years old.

Happy end of a great weekend!