Friday, December 28, 2012

Traditional Christmas Eve Family Photo

All dressed up and ready for Christmas Eve Mass. Our traditional "before" pictures... It is fun to see how much they have grown over the years, even since I have started this blog. If you go back into prior years of December, you can check them out. They are bittersweet for me - happy pictures, but why do they have to grow so fast?!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Double Trouble Volleyball Season 2012

Grandma and Papa made their way all the way from Harney County just to watch Brailey Shaye play volleyball! It was a great season with lots of learning curves and growth. I helped coach, for the first time, and it lit the fire in me that has been a small flame for a while, now. Truth is, I LOVE VOLLEYBALL! If I could go back in time, I would focus on volleyball and be a beach volleyball super star - oh yah! I love it THAT MUCH - I can be THAT CONFIDENT. I would trade my high school basketball shoes in for volleyball shoes in a heartbeat, if only I had a time machine. I didn't like it when I was in high school - bad coaching experience. I know that sounds belligerent, but when you don't have someone who knows what they are doing and can't even teach you the basics and are only worried about their own kid's success (yes, you can read between the lines, here), it makes it hard to enjoy any sport. A few years ago, though, I met a professional beach volleyball player, now retired, and he helped Brailey and I her first season of volleyball. And everything he taught me stuck, and that is where my love for the sport really bloomed, although I have always loved watching it. And I am thankful beyond words that Brailey loves it, too! And next year? I am signing Britt up to play, as well. The great thing about volleyball is that every kid gets to play the same amount, and they all have the same opportunities - that ball is going to come their way at some point, no matter what. I really, really love volleyball!
So anyway,  Brailey's school was put with the girls from Coburg, so we had eleven girls in all. The pro to this situation was a great gym to practice in close to home for us and the girls being able to scrimmage. The fly in the ointment was that there were too many girls, so they didn't get the same playing time as other teams who only had 5/6/7 girls on their teams. They also didn't play together enough to really get a rhythm down with each other - chemistry, you know? We had a lot of girls that were playing for the very first time, also, so a mixed bag of experience. However, they all learned a lot, and I learned a lot, and now I have the coaching bug!
Due to our large team and the level of experience, we lost every single game we played all season, except for a team who didn't have enough girls show up and so we gave them some of ours. This past Friday night (Brailey is outside the gym ready to roll) and Saturday, though, they really started "getting it," which was great, because we had a tournament. They won two of their four games in pool play, which thrilled everyone - parents, coaches and the girls! We then had a championship match for the consolation prize, and they won that, as well! So it was a great note to end the season on, and I think they all felt good about themselves and had fun. We called ourselves "Double Trouble," to represent the two schools. I can't wait for next year to see what the volleyball season will bring. I wish we had one more week with them, because they were just coming alive, but it is a bad time of year to be fitting sports into, also. What can we say? There's always next year!
Britt and Isaac, keeping score for us. They were also our "Ball Boys" all season long, and swept the gym floor for us, too. As far as little brothers go, they are great! They played football together last year, so they are good friends, as well. Fun times!
Big Daddy and Brittster Man - never missed a game! Brady also did a great job taking pictures and videos for us. That is the only drawback to coaching - no time to take pictures!
Brailey and Sydney - they have been on the same volleyball team for three years, now. Here they are excited to be at their party after the tournament and their "big win." And below, you see Brailey with her special Double Trouble medal that has her name on it. Way cool! Did I mention we love volleyball around here?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Decking the Halls

Our halls are decked! And guess what? The little B's did it all! I rearranged a couple of little things, but for the most part, they did all of our Christmas decorating last week. And they loved every second of it! They picked out an enormous tree, "Old Fatty," as we call him, and they did a wonderful job of decorating it. Now the anticipation of waiting for the big day... Oh, and here's my contribution to our decorations - my version of an Advent Wreath - we've been taking turns lighting the candles in someone's name every night. I love it! 'Tis the season to be joyful and jolly and prayerful!

Thursday, November 29, 2012


With the holidays here, I have found myself contemplating traditions more and more. I love traditions! I have been trying to start some special ones for my B's, because I think they are so important. Some of our traditions have come and gone, and some have stuck around. You never know when a great idea will strike, you know?

For example, this year is the first time we have ever gone to see a movie on Thanksgiving Day. We had so much fun, we decided the minute we got out of the theatre we are making it a tradition - every year on Thanksgiving, we are going to the movies!

It is interesting how traditions come about - some are well thought out, others just happen. For example, one of our traditions around Christmas time is to listen to The Grinch CD in the car. The Jim Carey version. Every single song is an inspiration to us - we love it! In fact, we love the movie, too. It is our Christmas favorite! We love it so much, we have watched it every single year on Christmas Eve after attending Christmas Eve mass since Brailey was born. It never gets old! And we see something new every time. We only watch it on Christmas Eve, though, so we don't get tired of it.

Another tradition we have are ornaments. This tradition came to me from a very special friend of mine when I was a kid. Elisa, who was my idol when I was growing up, gave me a beautiful ornament every single year for Christmas. Every year when I see these ornaments, I think of her and the love she gave to me. It makes me miss her when I see the special ornaments from her, but it still gives me a warm feeling in my heart. This tradition meant so much to me, I started doing it for my nieces when they were little. I have no idea if they have kept all the ornaments I've given them over the years or not - I hope so. My hope is that they remember how much their Aunti Bo loves them every year when they unpack them and they look forward to the current year's ornament. I also do this tradition with my Godchildren. If you've never done an exchange like this, I highly recommend it. Your children will start their grown-up lives with a wonderful collection of ornaments attached to even more wonderful memories. I know a lot of people who do this, and the good feelings held within the ornaments lives on year after year.

Another Christmas tradition for us is pajamas - every year, I get the B's a  new pair of pj's. Last year, this was one of their most anticipated gifts! We open this gift on Christmas Eve so they can go to bed and wake up on Christmas morning in their new jammies. Last year, I had a terrible time trying to find a pair in Britt's size. This year, I've already found his, and Brailey's are the challenge. How can that be?! It used to be so easy, when they were little, to grab similar pairs of pajamas. Now that they are bigger, it is harder, but the rewards are still the same. I guess it wouldn't be any fun if it was easy to find them, right? After all, they have to be the most perfect pair.

One time I had a hair dresser who shared with me a family tradition of hers that I tried to implement into our family, but it just didn't work out for us. Every Friday night, she had a candlelight dinner for her family. Her kids loved this! My kids did, too, but it seems like we are always doing something else on Fridays. And now that we are Gold Rush Addicts, we can't possibly miss that show, candlelight dinner or not! We also tried to have Fridays be Game Night, but that didn't work, either, for the same reason the candlelight dinners didn't. What can we say? You have to do what works, right? Maybe someday down the road it will work out, when the kids are older.

Of course we have the usual traditions, such as taking pictures one the first day of school by the school sign, trick-or-treating at our own house first, putting teeth under our pillows for the Tooth Fairy, buying Train CD's (and Eric Church and Aerosmith and Lady Gaga - yes, I have to have the real CD, I'm old-fashioned that way!) on the first day they come out, singing Happy Birthday to people we love as loud as we can, and back to Christmas, writing our letters to Santa and baking Swedish Rolls for Christmas morning breakfast. I'm sure there are even more things we do that I can't remember, and we're sure to create more traditions as time marches on.

If we only had more time, there are a thousand tradtitions I would introduce. Maybe that is what makes traditions special, though - the fact that they aren't always easy and sometimes they only come once a year. What do you think? What are some special traditions you and your family have? Please  share them by posting a comment below (simply click on the envelope next to the "Comments" and then enter the secret code). I would love to see what you and yours do to make life more meaningful. Traditions... I love them!

Monday, November 26, 2012

New Phase of Parenting

Brady and I have entered a new phase of parenting, one which we are quite enjoying. We have entered the phase of EMBARRASSING OUR CHILDREN. OH yah! So far, we've gotten several laughs at our children's expense. Nobody loves their babies more than Brady and I do (you may think you do, if you're reading this, but this is my blog, remember?). It has been hysterical to embarrass our precious little B's!

Brady has long been known to embarrass his children. He's always doing something to make them cringe, especially at school. He'll say to their good friends that he's known for years, "Hey! I'm Britt's Dad!" or "Hi, I'm Brailey's Dad!" This is mortifying to them, because it is so obvious, of course, and Brady only does it to get a rise out of them and to see the reaction of their friends.

 A couple of weeks ago, we waved our Duck flag out the window of our van as we drove down the freeway at all the Beaver fans we passed - it was Game Day. Some of them laughed and had fun with us, but most were not impressed. Britt was most embarrassed by this behavior. We think it was fun! We now have our flag safely installed on the back of the van.

You may recall reading about this next embarrassing moment in one of Britt's stories. Believe it or not, part of what he wrote was true! A couple of months ago, we were in a Goodwill store. Brady and were ready to go, but the little B's weren't. We said, "Okay, let's go," and walked to the counter. They didn't follow. So I asked the lady at the register if she could page them over the intercom, and she said she would be thrilled to do so. Brady and I were laughing before she even got started! She said into the intercom system, "Brailey and Britt, would you please meet your parents at the front counter? Thank you." Then she started laughing. Brady and I watched them, and they were actually already headed to the register. The second they heard their names over the loudspeaker, Brailey turned the brightest shade of red you can envision, and they both turned around and went down another aisle. By the time they got to the counter, everyone was laughing with us - the cashier and the people near the counter. It was great! Ironically, neither kiddo lets us out of their sight when we go into stores, now. I wonder why?

Most recently, we had an embarrassing incident on Thanksgiving Day. We went to the new James Bond movie, Skyfall, which was super! Because we arrived a bit early, we walked over to Cabela's, where we found a few folks already lined up outside the door for Black Friday. The first guy in line had been there since 8:50 the night before - can you imagine?! Anyway, after the movie, we drove back by Cabela's, where the line was wrapped all the way around the store, probably about 200 people. Brady rolled down his window, waved at everyone, started honking the horn and hollered "Heyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!" Even I was embarrassed...! As we came around the corner, however, what did we find but a cop standing next to his car. And yes, as we reached the edge of the parking lot, he pulled us over! His lights were flashing bright! Brady was shocked, but thrilled, as well. The cop was extremely nice, and was just checking to make sure Brady wasn't drunk. We shared our story with him, and he laughed and said to our B's, "See why you don't want to be a loser without a job, kids?" He was referring to all the people lined up for Black Friday. When I looked back at the B's faces, they were sitting perfectly still in terrified silence. I said, "They're freaked out because their dad just got pulled over by a cop," and the cop laughed again. Needless to say, it was very embarrassing for our B's!

So we shall see where this new phase of parenting leads us. I'm sure it will hurt our feelings, someday, because they will be embarrassed to be seen with us as teenagers are prone to be. Maybe not, though. Maybe we will get it out of their systems early - who knows? And maybe there was a little grain of truth to Britt's story, and we really are crazy!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Teaching People A Lesson

One thing is for certain: there are a lot of people I would love to "teach a lesson" to. In fact, I am famous for saying "I'm going to write them a letter!" upon receiving poor customer service or what have you. Brady and the kids both make fun of me on a regular basis for my rants on what is and isn't right. All in good fun, of course, but to tell you the truth, I have been known to write a few letters. In fact, I once received a $25.00 gift card from Walmart after writing a letter to the manager of the store complaining about waiting in line with my two small children for over an hour to be checked out. Sadly, Walmart still doesn't provide enough checkers, and I have no idea why they have so many checkout stands when they only use one or two of them. But the moral of the story is that letters do work in some ways and not in others. I would rather have seen a vast amount of checkers working than to have received the money, but we all know that isn't how the world works. And now I don't shop at Walmart, unless I have to.

Elvis Duran and his morning show got me thinking about the concept of "teaching a lesson," though. Since Hurricane Sandy ripped the East Coast, I started listening to Elvis Duran and The Morning Show again through I Heart Radio while doing my work. They are so entertaining and fun and uplifting! Shortly after the hurricane and election, Elvis was talking about how everyone is so damned opinionated and that we all think we need to teach someone a lesson, but we really don't need to. We need to let things go... This concept really resonated with me, given my penchant for ranting and raving over different things that I feel aren't "right." And I have to say, I'm glad I heard Elvis say this, because he is right. What does it matter? I would much rather "let it go" than to build up a resentment over something silly. Ironically, I think this is why Brady has been making fun of me - he knows resentments are nothing but trouble.

So I'm trying to change my thinking a little (or a lot, depending on how you look at it), and to let things go. I'm trying to remember that EXPECTATIONS = PRE-MEDITATED RESENTMENTS. Trust me, it is hard not to have expectations of the world and to work acceptance. Because unfortunately, I DO have certain expectations, much like everyone else does, and I do get upset when my expectations aren't met. And ironically, I'm sure I do the very things that annoy me. Isn't that the way of the world? I swear it is true - we all do what what we don't like in others.

If, just for the fun of it, I had one day to "teach lessons" to people, though, I would love every second of it. My main lesson would be to people who are in customer service, and I would share with them not to be in customer service unless they want to provide it. A rude checker can ruin so many days for so many people. I would tell people if they say they are going to do something, then they should do it! Don't think saying you want to and doing it are the same thing. I would tell parents to quit saying "okay?" to their children. Nothing drives me crazier than hearing someone tell their kid to do something and then say, "Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay?" Do not ask for your kid's permission - it is confusing to the child and ridiculous! Tell the kid what you want them to do. Period. End of story. I would tell people to stop judging celebrities and to look at their own lives. In fact, stop judging other people, period. But then again, isn't that what I am doing right now? Judging other people?

Yes, the entire concept is an oxymoron, isn't it? Which is why it is best for me to accept that I don't need to teach anyone a lesson, because it won't do a lick of good. I have to learn how to work acceptance, which I will confess is a constant struggle for me. In other words, the only lesson to be taught is to my own self. I must continue to work on acceptance, tolerance and keeping my expectations low. And maybe, just maybe, that is the lesson we all need to learn.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

More Stories by Guest Blogger Britt Murray

Our family spends a lot of time driving. In fact, Brady and I were laughing about it the other day, saying that when people ask our kids where they were raised, they'll probably say "I-5." And people will say, "Oh, you mean the Willamette Valley?" And our kids will say, "No, I-5. The FREEWAY." We do manage to have some fun in our travels, though, and a couple of weeks ago, Britt wrote not one, not two, but three really good stories! The one about his family was written in fun and shouldn't be taken seriously, of course (his sister is the grooviest sister in the world, after all, and we really aren't that crazy!), but they are all quite entertaining, and I think you will enjoy them.

Story One
By Britt Murray
Hi. My name is Britt Murray. I have the craziest family ever. The number one crazy guy is my dad. Second is my mom. My sister's not that crazy, but she's not groovy, either. If my mom and dad weren't crazy, my life would be a whole lot easier. I mean really. They're the reason I have to write this story!

Like yesterday, Mom and Dad called me and my sister to the front counter at Goodwill. This proves they are not groovy. They even make me scoop dog poop. Yay. How would you like to have poopy hands?

My mom is a big problem. I mean BIG. She's the reason I'm so sensitive. I get yelled at 10 times a day. Literally. No exaggeration. Oh and my dad, he says, "Hey, I'm Britt's dad" ALL THE TIME. I mean really! "I'm Britt's Dad." How would you like that? Oh yah, my sister. Like I told you, she is NOT groovy. She is always getting me in trouble. I mean always!

So anyway, now you know how crazy my family is. The only good thing is we live at the base of my mountain. But my family is embarrassing and NOT GROOVY!!! The End.

Story Two
By Britt Murray
Now there's this Gold Mine run by skeletons. This Gold Mine has been around since 1001. It was called "Gold Wine." Now it wasn't always ran by skeletons. It once was run by real people. But the Queen blew it up. She blew it up because they stole her crown and there were still people inside. So that's how the people became skeletons. Now these guys have been mining it for years and finally they were out of gold. So they bought some gold and burned it. The End.

Story Three
By Britt Murray
Oh no! A UFO is robbing all the town's corn! The town knew they had to do something, so they started throwing poison oak out at the UFO. But the poison oak started spreading on them! So they called the pharmacist, but he put them on ignore. Then an angry mob was waiting outside. The pharmacist knew what they had to do so they started to sing opera. Then the extra terrestrial left WITH ALL THE CORN!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Back to Being The Best Halloween Ever in 2012

I'm not sure if you remember last year's Halloween post, but it wasn't the best Halloween ever, because just a few hours before we got ready to leave, Britt came down with a fever and was sick with body aches and chills. This year, however, despite the school putting a real damper on all the celebrations (I have no idea why it is such a big deal to NOT CELEBRATE Halloween when it is such a fun holiday!), we made the day ours, from start to finish!
We're back to cleaning stalls, and this year I've been making the little B's hang out with me and help a bit. So of course the three kittens have been coming out, too, because wherever the kiddos go, the kitties go. So last week, we got a kick out of Little Gaga when she jumped on Boomer's back - he didn't even notice! He just wanted us to keep petting him. This week, Brailey jumped on Tex bareback, and her cat Jack jumped off the fence right onto her lap. Then Britt had to have a turn, and of course Rose had to get a ride on Tex, too. We have the silliest kittens in the world, but the gentlest horses. In the spirit of Halloween, we took a picture of them with their Halloween shirts on Texi-Man - he looks thrilled, doesn't he?
When Brady was back in Nebraska for training a few weeks ago, he met a store owner in Valentine, and wouldn't you know they talked a little football. So Brady sent him an Oregon Ducks cap, and yesterday, he got a package from the store owner - these two adorable orange store hats! Perfect for hunting and Halloween and any occasion. Brady was thrilled, and so was Britt. Lucky ducks, indeed!
Brady promised Brailey and Britt he would be the Incredible Hulk for Halloween this year. Brailey was so happy to be able to paint his face green - she couldn't wait! The B's are so lucky to have such a fun dad - he was a trooper, that's for sure!
 Get your paws up! And your game on!
They always start out trick-or-treating at our house. Brady takes them out the back door and they make their way to the front door, where I always have a bucket full of treasures for them. No candy, but a fun little toy. This has been our tradition for years, and it is our favorite part of Halloween, I think. In the picture above, they are checking out their loot.
This is my favorite Lady Gaga picture of Brailey - she even had the Gaga walk down, and everyone knew who she was, which made her super happy.
Brady and I laughed and laughed at Britt's costume - it was so fun to watch him walk from the back! I loved his sumo outfit! He really wanted to be a scary court jester, but he chose this costume instead, and it was a BIG HIT! (Pun intended!)
Luckily and amazingly, we only got a few specks of rain on us. It poured down rain all morning long, but come trick-or-treating time, the rain subsided, which was a real blessing. It was even halfway warm! I was worried Brailey was going to freeze, because she didn't want to wear a shirt under her costume - she is such a full-fledged Little Monster (that's what Gaga calls her fans), she couldn't bear to ruin the look, but she was perfectly warm all evening! Brady and I chuckled after we got home, because they only want to go to about five or six houses, and then they're done - they like getting dressed up more than anything. I'm grateful they aren't greedy little mongers!
See? They both came back to their new Halloween toys, a Barbie for Brailey and Avengers Legos for Britt. It was the one of the best Halloweens ever, and I'm grateful beyond words for that, because it is truly one of our favorite holidays. Blessed be, and now Happy Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Mr. Montana and His Montana B's

Most kids get to relax or do something super exciting on their days off from school. Especially a four day weekend. Our kids? They get to go to work! What can we say? They are certainly the most well-traveled kids I know and spent three their four days off from school in the pickup, traveling with their mom and dad down the road. They were thrilled to help Brady set out all his samples for a client he met with last Thursday. They showed her every single piece and loved every second of it, and the client thought it was the neatest thing ever that Brady brought his family with him. We were blessed with a warmer day and sunshine, too, which made showing the silver even better. I'm not sure who loves this Montana Silversmiths business more - Brady or his little B's?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Country Bumpkins

Country Bumpkins sitting by the pumpkins.
The Three Besties - Little Gaga, Jack and Rose.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Last Nice Day of the Year Hike

Last week, I took the little B's on a hike up the hill behind our house - we are blessed to be able to walk on this private road, and I've taken them with me a few times since school started, letting them pick blackberries along the way. It is a strenuous hike, because it is pretty steep, but we always have a good time. This particular time, I remembered to bring my camera along, and I'm so glad I did! When the rain comes, it is hard to remember how the sunshine ever looked... Thank goodness I have these reminders!
Right off the bat, we found a furry caterpillar.
Halfway there, at the "switchback."
Of COURSE Brailey was fascinated with the beautiful leaves, and she had to gather them all up and make a lovely bouquet. She was thrilled with all these gorgeous, big leaves!
Halfway back down...
The idea here was for me to take a picture so it looked like they were climbing the branches of this tree. Can you see it? They are so creative!
On the way up, they put the caterpillar in this little bunch of grass. Now, on the return trip, they are trying to see if they can find him. Sadly, he was gone!
You probably can't see him with all the camo, right? I love the sun sparkling on the leaves in the background. And that charming face... It was great walk I will always remember with my beautiful baby B's!

April - Here and Gone in the Blink of an Eye

It seems crazy to think Easter Sunday was on April Fool's Day this year, but it totally was. We started our Easter at mass with our fa...