Animal Encounters With Auntie Anna

 Auntie Anna came to visit us for MLK weekend! 
 We were able to have some very special animal encounters while she was here.
 On Saturday we headed to the zoo.  Nana sent a special treat for us to feed the giraffes.
 We were a little more prepared for our second encounter with the giraffes and knew how to hold the food.  
 The kids love this!
The big kids loved it too!
 Look at the size of that tongue!
Our handler was really nice and educated us about giraffes.  We learned giraffes have more capillaries in their dark patches to help warm them.  Their blood pressure is twice as high as humans in order to pump the blood all the way up their necks.  Amazingly, giraffes have the same amount of vertebrae that humans have, just really big ones!

I bet Max was wishing his neck was a little stronger.

 It was a beautiful day at the zoo.  When we got home it was time for some encounters with Max's ribs and Oasis margaritas!
Auntie Anna is a hardcore UFC fan and we were introduced to our first fight.  Not sure it will make the play list here but was somewhat of an animal encounter to watch.
Sunday was craft day!  The kids and Anna made plaster masks and constructed wooden 3D puzzles of human and dinosaur skeletons.  Max got to teach Anna all about football too.
Monday was a very special day!  On Saturday when Hailey had her riding lesson, Anna went with her.  She helped groom the horse and watched Hailey ride.  The instructor offered to let Anna ride the next time she came out.  When I came to pick them up I asked if we could do it this time!  
They had an opening on Monday so we went.  We were all a bundle of nerves before we got there but the staff were so confident, capable and encouraging that it just seemed meant to be.
 It was a very emotional hour.  I feel blessed that I got to be apart of such a joyous experience.  I was fighting tears of joy the whole time.  I will never forget seeing Anna and Hailey ride together!  They both share a passion for horses and it was wonderful to see them doing their thing together.
 The coolest part is they invited Anna to ride anytime she is here!

It was a really nice weekend getting to see Aunt Anna and all of our amazing animal encounters.

100th Day of School

Today was Kaitlin and Hank's 100th Day of school!
  They each had to bring in 100 things for their celebrations.  Kaitlin did 100 gumballs and Hank did 100 marshmallows.  They are getting so big!  I guess this means we are on the downhill slide to summer!!

Canvas With Kids~ All We Need Is Love

 Last week the kids wanted to paint so we did a Canvas with Kids!  They love painting.
With Valentine's Day around the corner we decided on a love theme.
Each of them came up with their own masterpiece and I got to paint with them too.
 I drew a heart for Hank and let him go for it.  
 I can't believe how well he stayed in the lines.  He did every bit of it by himself except the outline of the heart!
Kaitlin drew a heart to represent each of us.  Max the big heart, then me, and the one with pink is her.  One could speculate about how big of a heart she feels her siblings have.  :)
 Karlie painted a tree of love.  The leaves are hearts.  The sun, cloud and grass all have hearts in them.
Hailey's hearts full of love.
Mine was a complete copy off a picture I saw.  But none the less, I was rather impressed with myself.  I  usually have zero artistic ability.  I must have learned something at the Canvas and Cocktails.
 It would be fun to do this every month.  I have a wall in the family room that I have been searching for a picture to put on it and haven't found anything worth buying.  This collection fits perfectly and is priceless!
 All We Need Is Love Collection

Police Station Tour

 Yesterday Kaitlin's Daisy troop took a tour of our police station.  The tour started out in a classroom where the officer educated the kids about 911, bike safety, stranger danger and what police officers do.  I was rosy red most of the talk due to my over verbal son.  While talking about a topic, the officer would ask the kids questions.  Hank has yet to learn to raise his hand and would eagerly shout out his answer despite my repeated rebukes.  When the officer asked for examples of emergencies, Hank shouted, "if there is HOT LAVA!"  He did provide some comical relief but I would rather someone else's son be the class clown.  Then when the officer asked what do police do?  Hank eagerly chimed, "kill people!" Nice.  I must have been bright red as I was suddenly very hot.  It could have been worse...  He could have said eat doughnuts, give out tickets, or some analogy to a pig.  Not that he would have learned that at home or anything.
To tour the 911 call center you have to have your license ran to be sure there are no warrants for your arrest.  The officer kindly informed all the mothers that if you have an outstanding warrant, it is probably best if you sit out this portion of the tour.  Well, I had left my purse in the car (if you can't leave your purse in the car at the police station, you are really in trouble).  So I jumped up to go get my purse and joked I would be sitting this part out.  I think the Daisy leader was a little concerned at first that I was bolting.  Those rosy cheeks popped up once again.  In the 911 call station the girls got to practice being a dispatcher.  They listened to a real call of a possible intruder.  Then it was down to the holding jail to see where the criminals are fingerprinted and mug shots taken.  Hank really liked the handcuffs in the cell.
Next it was time to check out the police cruiser.  Hopefully they will never be in the back seat of a police car again! :)  Kaitlin liked all the buttons in the driver's seat.
At the end of the presentation the officer showed the kids what was in his belt.  I thought Hank's eyes were going to pop out when the officer whipped out his baton and it extend like a light saber.  Then bullet clips, a gun, a taser, pepper spray, and handcuffs.  This belt rivaled Batman's utility belt in Hank's eyes.  As the officer started talking about gun safety he asked the kids how many of them knew if they had a gun in the house.  All of my kids raised their hand.  The officer nodded and said, "yeah that's about right.  On average 1/3 of homes have a gun in them."  Only 2 other kids raised their hand.  My crew making up almost 1/3 of the gun owning group.  Again, I could feel the heat on my cheeks.  It was a rosy, hot two hours at the police station for mama but a really great educational experience for the kids.  I am sure you can guess Hank's latest obsession.   

Big Girls

We got out the pass me down bins this week since we are having a record cold snap.  My Gymboree days came to life as Karlie and Kaitlin wore the hand me downs from when Hailey was 8 and Karlie was 6.  This is one of the only times the K buddies went to school as twins. :)

All of my girls are getting SO big.  Hailey has grown up so much this year, it would be impossible to imagine her dressing as twins with her little sister.  Why do they have to grow up so fast?  In a blink of an eye they will be women.

Kindergarten Round Up

Yesterday Hank had Kindergarten Round Up.  Did you read that??? KINDERGARTEN!!!!
  During the round up all the incoming Kindergartners and their parents come to learn about the school.  The kids are divided among the Kindergarten classes while the parents listen to the principal, the assistant principal, nurse, and PTO highlight the schools strengths and give new school parents an idea of what to expect.  While I was in the music room listening to the speakers, Hank was paired up with a current Kindergarten boy.  They were playing tag when I came to get him.  Hank can't wait to go back and see his buddy and go to recess.  After touring the school, we boarded the bus for a little ride so the kids could be just like the big kids.  Hank can't wait to start school, however I was already holding back the tears.  I am going to miss our days together. :(

Winter Break Fun

We fit in a few more fun times before it was back to school.  The girls each got a facial mask in their stocking for Christmas, so we had to have a spa day.  
Poor Hank.  I wasn't sure what to do with him, so he got a chocolate mud mask too. 

Max was relieved to learn that Hank was whacking the girls with his gladiator sword the entire time.  I don't think we will be seeing him at the spa again, he was ready to wash it off immediately.
But the ladies of the house loved it!  Our faces were so soft and smooth.
I used up the leftovers of all of the girls' masks. Karlie's was a facial peel type, so it was clear.  My neck got a peel.  Hank told me I looked like Two Face from Batman.
Over the break Karlie got to cook her first steak with just guidance from Daddy.  She started the grill, put the steak on and flipped it.  Then Max taught her how to cut it.  She thought it was the best steak ever!
We also went to see Monsters Inc in 3D.  Hailey loved Monsters Inc when I was pregnant with Karlie. We must have watched it 100 times or more.  I finished making Hailey's Monsters Inc bed set just a few days before Karlie was born.  
There are so many lines from the movie that we have incorporated into our family jargon.  It was a serious walk down memory lane.  Yes, there may have been some tears from an over sentimental person that will not be named.
 On our last night before it was back to the grind of school and work, we had a family arm wrestling showdown.
 The winner moved up.

Hailey has grown so much.  I actually had to try pretty hard to win.
 While I may be freakishly strong, Max had no problems smashing me!
 None of us were ready for the fun to be over.  Kaitlin and Karlie slept together (in a twin bed) last night.  
I have so much fun with my gang.  It is going to be a great year of working hard so we can play even harder.  Only 5 months to summer!

Feast of Feasts

Pops and Nana came to help us ring in the New Year.  They arrived Friday night and we took a culinary tour around the world.  For me to celebrate is to enjoy a delicious meal around the table with the ones you love.  Sharing an elaborate meal is such a celebration of life and the blessings we have.
For our first night we treated Pops to a retirement party.  We visited Italy with a four course meal similar to what Max and I had while we were in Reggio Emilia.  The first course was Caprese, prosciutto, and Parmesan cheese chunks with balsamic vinegar drizzled over it.
Then it was tortellini soup followed by the main course of seared fillet mignon and molded spinach.
Dessert was chocolate cake covered with ganache and blueberries and Torta di riso.
It was a really fun night of eating and celebrating Pops and all the years of hard work he has put forth!
We hopped over to Spain for some Paella for Saturday night.
However this was no typical Paella.  It was loaded with crab legs!
We ate an astonishing amount of food.  There was nothing left!
After dinner the kids treated us to a performance.  Karlie, the director and producer, had been working on the production since Thanksgiving.  Each of the girls played a piano piece, Kaitlin told Christmas jokes, while Hank sang several songs and it concluded with a candlelit dance at the end.  We were very impressed.  Karlie had even typed up brochures with the performers and their parts.  So cute!

On Sunday we decided to do an all American style dinner.  Max made his signature ribs, homemade Mac-n-cheese, grilled veggies with a black berry pie.  Nothing like good ole USA!
Arizona finally got cold!  I couldn't even hang around the BBQ.  Almost near freezing overnight.  We have sure acclimated to the hot weather.  We have had two weeks of cold and we are all ready for shorts and bathing suits again. :)
Max was the breakfast chef.  One morning it was huevos rancheros, then it was poached eggs with seared scallops, Eggs Benedict, and finally blueberry pancakes with bacon and sausage.  We started the morning out with a feast and ended each day with a feast!
For New Year's Eve we soaked up the flavors of Mexico with an Oasis twist.
Prickly Pear Margaritas with homemade salsa, pinto beans, deep fried taco shells and fried ground beef.
Karlie loves to share sardines with Pops.
Sopaipillas for dessert of course!
Another gorge fest.  Cleared out all the Mexican cuisine!
To pass the time until midnight we got in the hot tub and pool for a Polar Bear swim.
Hailey and her BFF did multiple ice cold dips.  Max, Pops and I were the only ones that didn't have the nerve to jump in.  Even Nana did a few rounds of Polar Bear.  I would have needed a few more shots of tequila to jump in!
Afterward to warm up we watched Avatar.
Finally the big moment came to ring in 2013!  Cheers to the New Year and a whole year of celebrating!
On Sunday we did take out Chinese and had many courses of delicious food with no kitchen mess!  It was a busy day where we tried to fit in some new things along the way.
We did manage to do a few other things than eat...  Max had recently moved our pool table into our formal living room, which had been a big battle.  I finally conceded and must admit that he was right!  We have played it so much more.  We played a few rounds with Pops and Nana.  The kids managed to amuse themselves while we played.
Nana and Pops did not know that they were going to have earn their keep.  We recruited Nana to help (aka did all the work) us recover the cushions on a patio set I got for a steal at a garage sale.  The cushions were a HUGE amount of work.  I did not realize it was going to be so labor intensive.  But Nana rose to the occasion and finished all 6 cushions.  We were able to toast on them before they departed.  Thank you for transforming our patio!!
While Nana worked in the sweat shop, Pops was forced to labor outside helping Max build the kids a tree house.  Hailey has wanted a tree house since she was a little girl.  Max promised he would build her one.  But with residency and then a new job, it was hard to find the time or energy.  Then we moved into a new housing development that had no mature trees.
When she saw the trees in our backyard she exclaimed that she could finally get her tree house.  Max fulfilled his promise with Pops' help.  The kids have been delighted with their new tree house and have spent countless hours playing!
Max and Pops did manage to fit in a couple bike rides too.
On our final day together we hit the family fun park!
Everyone got a chance to race the go-karts.
Kids big and small thought this was really fun!
Kaitlin loved trying to pass Nana.
 Karlie our dare devil kept wanting to go faster and faster with Pops.  I am thinking we shouldn't pair these two speed demons up again. 
Then it was time for mini golf.  Basically complete chaos with Hank.  I don't think golf is his sport.   A little too slow.  However, there were a few shots the pros would covet out of Nana and Max!
Our final meal celebrating a delightful time together was at none other than In-N-out Burger!  I have to give a special shout out to them for their allergy awareness.  I was able to order a meal for Hank with his allergies listed and be assured that it was allergy free.  It is always in the back of our minds and to be surprised by their provocativeness was awesome.  They have found some loyal patrons from MKHKKH for sure!
I can't thank Pops and Nana enough for all their contributions.  Our backyard space was transformed by their loving hands.  It was a wonderful time to celebrate Pops, family, food, the New Year, and the hope of celebrations to come in 2013.  We love you!  The best is yet to come ;)