December - minus Europe

 Wintertime in California is citrus season.  Our lemon tree produced some yummy lemons this year.  Made great lemonade.
 One of my favorite flowers - Iceland poppies
 Pretty flowering succulents - love those beads of pearls succulents too.
 Bird of paradise.  
I have an unhealthy addiction to succulents......obviously. 
 Noah kept coming home with wet socks and I finally figured out why.......a giant hole in his shoes.  Great mothering right there.

 This tree at the church was so amazingly red.  Every week it just kept getting redder and redder.  This is my 6th winter here and it still surprises me that the leaves don't come off until end of December and blossoms start coming back in February. 

 Most of December was spent traveling.  We left on the 10th and didn't get back until the 29th. Our first stop was to Hurricane for Eli and Erin's wedding.
 She said YES!!!  We are so elated to have Erin (and James Michael) join our family.  She really does fit in perfectly.   Ava was so excited to see 'unca Eli', she ran up to him and gave him a hug as soon as they came out of the doors.

 It was raining the whole day, so it made for an wet wedding day.  Ava and Brooke took it upon themselves to carry the dress train.

 James Michael wanted nothing to do with pictures. 

 Had a yummy luncheon at Cliffside restaurant in St. George.  Cute baby Lucy.  Aunt Mary made all these dresses for the little girls.  Such a nice aunt - she even sewed their names into the sash. 
 The boys checking out the refreshments table.  Eli and Erin were going to have the reception outside, but last minute had to change to the church because of the rain.  Grandma Connie did a pretty amazing job pulling the reception all together last second.
 Grant testing out the refreshments.
Leah has a large faithful following of little people.  They are all in for a rude awakening when she becomes a mom.   So happy for Eli and Erin.  We couldn't be happier to have them join this family.  Loved seeing all our extended family for a few hours too. 
 Ava found a little puppy at aunt Mary Lu's.
 Went on a little hike to the Three Falls.  Little Ava mommy took good care of Ollie.
 It was freezing cold and soooooo windy.  The caves offered a little reprieve from the wind.

 Went to the Washington rec center with the Wilson cousins.
 Freddie was the only one who made it to the top.

 James Michael had fun at the pool, but he definitely missed his mommy.
 Aunt Jody decided to keep the Ballard Christmas party going and we happened to be in town for it.  Mr. and Mrs. Clause made a visit.  It was the cutest thing to see Ava's face when they walked in the door.  She got the biggest grin on her face and ran over and gave him a big hug. We've been prepping the kids for months that our trip to Europe was their present, so when Santa kept asking what they wanted they didn't know what to say.  I can't remember what they ended up saying, but it was completely random.

 Mrs. Clause told them a little story about the true meaning of Christmas.  Not sure what was so funny to April.
 My Noah loves babies - toddlers, not so much. :)
 Got some more lovin' on my sweet baby Jack.
 My mom spoils her animals, and her kids, rotten.  These dogs were sitting patiently waiting for their cooked eggs.  Pathetic.
 Dunford watching the kids play cars.  My kids think Dun is the funniest dog ever.
 Got to meet cute baby Georgia for the first time. 
 Adam and Georgia happened to be matching.

 Aunt Em was a hero and invited us all over to make gingerbread houses.  We trashed her kitchen, ate all the candy, and then left her with the mess.   We're sweet like that.  :) 
It was a fun few days with both our families.   Love seeing everyone.



All apples at Sprouts were $0.80/pound so I grabbed 1 of each and we had an apple tasting. 
  We've done a few of these and found new foods that we love (it's hard to eat yogurt that isn't Brown Cow yogurt now).  The kids love doing taste tests.  We did 4 apples at a time over a few days. 
 I love Noah's taste testing notes.
Our findings.  Adam tastes most of them, but ate most of them before we could see what he was eating.  He's more into the tart apples.
 Nala's 3 years old and still doesn't have a dog house.  Not that she really needs one, since she sleeps inside, but since we were going to be gone for 3 weeks, we needed to give her a space to sleep.  
 Adam and the boys built an amazing dog house.  We were worried she would freeze if the temperatures dropped, so I added a heat lamp on a timer.  SPOILED!!  We didn't even need to worry, because the sweet girl we hired to take care of her, brought her in whenever it got cold.
 My walking partners.  We go 4.5 miles and they have no problem doing the loop.  They know each spot they have to stop and wait for me and Nala.
 They found a scooter in the creek.
 I told them whoever got to it first got to keep it.  Ava was the winner.
 My baby turned 6!!! SIX!!!  I still can't believe that. 
 Breakfast of choice - anything with syrup.  This boy loves syrup. 
 He got a new bike and a little flying remote control thing.
 Grant requested batman cookies for his school class, so this is what I came up with.
Ice Cream cake for this weirdo birthday boy. 
 Ava wanted to spend some of her chore coins, so she picked ice skating.  The boys didn't have enough coins, so just Ava and I got to have a fun girls night.
 It was a great time. 
Ava's my little artist.  She's been learning about the pilgrims and Indians, so I have lots of pictures like these around the house.
 Ha. Ava needed to go potty on our bike ride/walk. 
 Stinker Ava found some wet paint from Nala's dog house and decided to do a little decorating on the house.  Little fart.
 Had to get our letters to Santa sent early this year.

 Every month Ava's class does a themed activity day and I help out as often as I can.  Obviously it was about Thanksgiving.  They made these necklaces that go with a cute story.

 Turkey hats.  They did a listening station and colored some pioneer and Indian clothes. 
'Planted corn'.  Graham crackers for dirt, candy corns planted in the dirt and then fish (fish crackers) on top. 
 The salmon were coming up the river, so the fishermen line the rivers until the the gates open at the hatchery.

 My kids are master fort builders.  This turned into a zoo too.
 Thanksgiving Day!!  Ran out of oven space, and the sun was bright, so the sun oven worked great.
 Grant was the table decorator, and he took his job very seriously.  He made the napkin rings out of Ava's necklace making set and got the leaves from the backyard.
This year we had the Oakes, Notleys and Thrift families over for Thanksgiving dinner. 
 The food was amazing, and it was nice to have friends make some of the sides.

 Only got a picture of the kids table.  Had a fun day and yummy dinner with great friends.  Can't ask for much more than that. 

Some of our friends mentioned that they loved being with family on Thanksgiving, but wished they could do a friend dinner too, so we thought why not do a Pie Night.  I think this might be a new traditions.  We invited everyone over the night after Thanksgiving and everyone brought a pie and we just hung out, let the kids run wild and ate lots of pie. 
 I made an apple crumb pie,
 pumpkin pie (although it was really made of squash - which is better than pumpkin anyway), and
 pecan bar tart. 
 The girls in Ava's dress ups.
 The boys.  Love how they segregated. :)
 Some of the gang playing games.  So grateful for good friends (and missionaries) to spend the holidays with, when we can't be with our families.