Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Master Builders

Jacob and Laurie's family visited Legoland during our last family reunion and gave it rave reviews. They convinced the rest of us to join them this time around. Good thing, too, because this outing provided my favorite matching tees. 
Daily early morning matchy matchy family pictures were mandatory.
We made it to Legoland with just enough time to stand outside, do a few dance moves, strike a few poses, and make our way through the gates.

Lego hands are a critical part of optimizing the Legoland experience.

Luke's smile is contagious. He was always willing to put on a hilarious show for the camera.

Ben and Haley were Lincoln's adoptive parents for the day. They were eager to help out with him and Haley even got him to sleep for me once! 
We scored a picture with Buddy the almost-as-cool-as-Emmett Lego Guy.
There are people who would love to see the parks disguised in their Halloween alter egos, but it's actually the one thing I don't like about going to Disneyland in September. I don't really care for all the Halloween add-ins. Particularly in the middle of September. But whatever. We'll pose with the pumpkins anyway.
Sometimes at Legoland you find random balloons in your stroller that your son becomes overly attached to until fate is on your side and the wind picks up while overly attached son is on a ride and the mystery balloon disappears as quickly and mysteriously as it arrived. 
Legoland was super cute, super fun, right up my boys' alley, but unfortunately there weren't a lot of rides the whole family could go on which was a little bit of a bummer. The good part was we had two babies, so there was always company when it was your turn for baby duty.

Brooke liked to stick with Grandpa because he rode all the scary rides with her.
Jeff and Eli tried to pull out some Kragle and were sent straight to the Castle Lock-Up.
They had cute little stations where the kids could play with Legos. This was all my boys wanted to do. We literally had to rip them away from their building to try to get our money's worth out of the park.

Again, they had a little station where the kids (and a few shameless adults) could build boats and race them down some water. Eli and Carson eagerly built, played with and raced those boats for 45 minutes - 1 hour before we finally hurried them along to a few more rides. This is the face Eli made to protest our requests to step away from the boat races:

Much to my hesitation, Eli has become increasingly obsessed with Star Wars. I have never even watched an entire Star Wars movie -- and not from a lack of trying. I just cannot get into those movies at all. But Eli was hooked the minute he laid eyes on R2D2.
We spent a lot of the day with Newland! My favorite Newland quote from the whole trip was:
Me: Newland! Do you remember my name?!
Newland: Yes.
Me: ...
Newland: ...
Me: What is it?
Newland: ...Friend.
Newland is one of our dearest friends indeed!
There were brief moments we wandered around the park just as the little Excell family, but quickly realized it was a lot easier to have a few extra adult hands to snag a baby or a roaming preschooler. So we were grateful to have these four adult helping hands join us when they did!
A boy crowd favorite was the driving school.
An Excell crowd favorite was the mini land or whatever they call it. They have a bunch of different mini U.S. cities made out of Legos on display! It was incredible! My boys have gotten really into Legos since Christmas which helped them appreciate all the Lego creations in the mini cities. Eli especially ooooohhhhhed and aaaaaaaahhhhhhed over everything. I loved watching him admire and respect the art of Lego building. I could sense his urgency to get back to the free play Legos to try his hand at building after being inspired by everything he had seen. It was my favorite part of our day.
Lincoln crashed my parents' lunch date.
Then a few of us joined up to finish the day off together.
Wynne was born two months after Lincoln, though her thighs may suggest otherwise. Lincoln is trying his best to keep up.
*Cue Everything is Awesome music*
All summer long I became unrealistically paranoid about and fascinated by shark attacks. In my three months worth of late night documentary-ing, I learned September through October is shark season in California. With this information, I spent many nights devising emergency shark-bite evacuation plans should a member of our group have an unfriendly encounter with a mouth full of teeth. Unfortunately, we did have such a run-in. All my preparing and safety precautions were of no use. I panicked and took a picture rather than punch the shark in the nose like my months of training had advised me to do.
Three cheers for the one ride Lincoln could go on!
And three bigger cheers for Jeff's quick thinking to slip away from our 40-minute boat ride wait for this photo op with Emmett -- and slip back into line at perfectly the right time to still make the boat ride with us.
The weather was perfect, the park was fun, and the day was awesome!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Just Beachy

When you've been looking forward to going to Disneyland for an entire year, this is the face you make when you realize it is finally the day you are leaving.
Back when we were planning our trip to California, my brother realized we all had plenty of time to work on finishing the Book of Mormon before we left. We made a family competition to see which family could get it done before our trip. I loved the motivation and deadline! I'm happy to report we finished our last two chapters on the way to California.

We read more consistently than we ever had as a family. I learned that there is time in every day to read the Book of Mormon together as a family if you just FIND the time instead of wait for the perfect time to present itself. As our trip approached, we were pros at reading chapters in the car, listening to the scriptures as we played Legos or frequently included them in our bedtime routine. We had a spirit of peace and love fill our home as we developed the habit of daily scripture study, which I am certain is a blessing of making an effort to study our scriptures.
As soon as Eli was home from school, I threw the boys into their matching Mickey shirts.
I wanted the shirts to be a surprise. It worked. They surprised me by being waaaaaay too big for my munchkins. Darn.
The only thing these boys packed themselves -- their blankets!
Super excited and killing time until Jeff got home from work so we could leave! The ANTICIPATION!!!
We caravanned to Cali with my mom. Which proved useful when my kids were WILD for our In-N-Out lunch break. They did awesome in the car. It was when they got out of the car that was the problem. As soon as they escaped the car, they were wild animals.
In a flash our dreams had come true and we were once again at the gates of Belle's Castle.
My mom got right to work organizing the kitchen, preparing for the rest of the group to arrive.
My dad arrived via shuttle. For unknown-to-me-now reasons, I found this hilarious. Maybe it was because he was too cheap to hail himself a cab so he was crammed into this van with a million other people and it took him twice as long to get to us with all the stops along the way. Whatevs. He got there.
You wouldn't believe the reaction my family gave me when I announced my plan to drag my kids away from their cousins, don them in nice clothes, ship them to the beach -- not to play, but rather to stand perfectly still and contently for family pictures.

It worked great until we got to the sand. Then the boys could not resist the urge to hunt seagulls, roll around in the sand and pitter patter through the ocean. Still keeping my fingers crossed we managed to get one decent picture after all the screaming we did at the boys to just look at the camera and look happy at the same time.
California was mid heat wave while we were there. Not the best conditions to be changing a family into swimsuits in the back of a car after already working up a sweat from wrestling four boys for family pictures. Whose idea was that anyway? *Huff*
The boys were so happy to be frolicking on the beach with their cousins.
And uncles.
It was about this time I realized, "Hey! Lincoln has never been to the ocean before! Let's dip Lincoln in the ocean for the first time!"
"Great idea!" Said everyone...
Except for Lincoln.
He did just fine until the water actually touched him. Don't think he's a fan of bursts of cold water.

Someone who is a fan of bursts of cold water is Eli. He was a maniac in the water. He took it upon himself to "fight the waves" for the group. He was in a full-blown battle with the ocean for the better part of the afternoon.

We survived the ocean without a single shark bite or a colossal tsunami catastrophe like my mom had grown paranoid of. We were off to a good start.
True to Carson, this little boy freely wandered from stranger to stranger until he found someone doing something he found interesting. HE spent the better part of the afternoon building sandcastles with complete strangers 50-100 yards from our group. And when he wasn't doing that he was booking it to the pier without ever giving concern as to whether or not we knew where he was.
Lincoln stayed put. We are ever so grateful he chose to remain immobile for this trip. Bless you, third son.
Hoping my bangs turned out this well-placed for the family pictures we attempted.
And then Lincoln fell asleep with his hand just so and I was hoping he'd give me a baby hand tan line, but no luck.
Eli and Logan quickly rekindled their cousinship boppin' through the waves together.

We had to hurry home so the football fans of the group could go to the BYU game while the rest of us stayed home with the kids to get everyone settled in for the night.
We woke up on Sunday ready to try out a California ward. My favorite thing that was said was, "This guy needed help building a fence that had been knocked down by a drunk driver. And I said to him, 'We will have that fence up and rebuilt by the time the Disney fireworks go off tonight.'"

I loved the idea of using the Disney fireworks as a deadline. And it made me realize how commonplace it is for the people of Anaheim who must endure the show every stinkin' night of their lives.
Natalie's a beauty isn't she...but then what would that make Lincoln?

To go along with our goal to finish the Book of Mormon by this trip, we also scheduled a Family Home Evening on Sunday afternoon where we each picked a Book of Mormon story to reenact and present to the group.
Here are the grandkids helping my parents act out the story of Alma the Younger.
My sister and I went to change out of our Sunday clothes and emerged as twinners with our hair in buns, the same Disney shirt from our last trip, and gray comfy pants. The big joke was our husbands were going to go up to the wrong wife and have an embarrassing moment. Later in the day, Jeff came up to me, gave me a hug and said, "Oh sorry. I thought you were Becky." Ha.

We did legitimately confuse our kids a few times!
We ended the night with a few rounds of Outburst.

I'll end with the big reveal of the Book of Mormon story we put together for the FHE. We chose The Stripling Warriors.