Friday, January 5, 2018

2017 Recap

Well ... I was not a very productive blogger here in 2017. On this family blog, only about a dozen posts. I'd have other blog posts in my head, but they just didn't quite make it out of my head, through my fingers and onto the blog.

  • Gray's Getaways ... I did blog Gray's trip to Mexico and the family vacation but there was also a January trip to Orlando for work, a Portland weekend with a couple of the boys in March, Bear Lake in June, St. George with the munchkins and extended family in August.
  • Medical Moments ... Not too much for us this year (yea!) Ingrown toenails (Cal was in twice), Stomach problems for Landon. Menieres moments. Extended family ... Chris and his semi-colon and Pam's head injury.
  • Cars ... I never blogged about the Durango and Cal's Charger. A Charger for Landon. Passing the Monster Truck to Keaton. Sequoya. 
  • Other People's Pets/Maga's Menagerie ... been thinking of highlighting Maga's kittens, and chickens, and dog. Also the neighbor's dog who the kids have been hired to care for here and there. Dog bite this year as well :(
  • Duck, Duck, Goose ... two geese, four ducks, two ducks then four ducklings again! DuckRun. 
  • Apps ... stupid Snapchat and fun Fight List (play with me!)
  • Basketball ... I did update the Basketball Blog but meant to do a general wrap up here. Callahan's senior season and playoffs. Keaton's sophomore year. Cooper's Junior Jazz and Colton's Wolves and Grizzlies.
  • Girls ... dating and girlfriend stuff (mostly Landon and Callahan, but Keaton went to a girl's choice dance at school too). 
  • Summer Stuff ... trips to the lake, little boys out with the older boys and their girlfriends (bowling, pool, Airborne). Movies ... I DID get the Seattle summer vacation blogged.
  • Inflatable Fun ... the bop balls and t-rex. Bought but didn't try out the "inflata-bull"
  • Eating Out ... many of the food gatherings were birthday related, but there were some good meals and fun photos. Neighbor dinner in the Spring. Red Robin with the Westra clan. Tepanyaki. Jen's b-day Red Robin. Gray's b-day Market Street and Windy Ridge. 
  • Ice Obsession: Pebbled ice, ice balls, ice cubes ... Grayson is obsessed with ice.
  • Starting School ... got the traditional pictures with all five boys. College kids too!
  • Halloween ... didn't get pictures of all the costumes, but did capture me in a Whoopie cushion costume and Colton doing Thriller.
  • Christmas (the annual "leg lamp lighting" to start the season. Lights on the house. BOXES! Sitting on Santa's lap. The Westra party, Christmas decor and Christmas morning.
  • Birthdays ... Colton got a party this year! Finally!
  • Derby Daze ... Gray did 43 derbies this year. He attempted to limit his travel, not booking ones in Utah County (although there were still a few). Keaton was his right-hand man most of the time. 

I am still hoping that maybe I'll be able to get some/all of the above still. We'll see. If I do, I'll leave them at the top for a couple days and then move them to the chronologically correct spot. But I'll update with links.

Here's a quick look at the family. I really should have the boys do their own write-ups to see what makes it onto their list. I was really good at making them write Mr. Missionary every week, but that pretty much ended in 2016 because ...
  • Landon returned from his Mexico Mission and started school at SLCC. He got a cool car which he takes good care of, and a job at Discover, to pay for said car (and all his new clothes).  He's been attending the young adult ward. He dove into the dating scene and got a girlfriend.
  • Callahan finished up his senior year and graduated. Basketball season as a senior was memorable, with pro pictures and name drops in the news. State playoffs and a little post-season fun with friends. Super social, with buddies and his girlfriend. Wrapped up his time with KFC and started working at Caption Call. Started school at SLCC.
  • Keaton moved from sophomore to junior and can now drive himself to school... in the Monster Truck Tundra no less! He also started working ... at KFC like Cal, but also still helping Dad run derbies. Finished up his season on the sophomore basketball team. He played Spring and Summer ball (St. George, UofU camp, CHHS camp) but decided not to try out come Fall, opting to play for fun with friends in Junior Jazz (where they are currently creaming everyone). 
  • Cooper finished up 7th grade in the Spring, and started 8th in the Fall. He's got a great group of friends and enjoyed hanging out with them during the summer and after school. He's playing Junior Jazz with them again this year. . He lived in shorts for the first 3/4 of the year (and for quite a while before that) then suddenly started wearing joggers again. He got an iphone in the Spring and spends a little too much time on it. Obsessed with NBA, NFL and music.
  • Colton started his final year of elementary school. He never stopped playing basketball, although Summer was only with his Wolves team. He got an iphone in the Fall (when Dad upgraded himself, then everyone) so now Mommy can stalk both little boys too.  The silly boy almost always sleeps in his clothes on the couch upstairs. 

  • Jen (me) likes the structure of the school schedule, especially for exercise. Both the required rising at an early hour, and not sharing the gym with the boys ;) Still enjoying Zumba and leading classes somewhat regularly.  Reading a LOT (both digital and audio).
  • Grayson works, works, works ... although he sure did use up all his vacation this year too. He's still smoking and as mentioned above, developed an obsession with ice. Yes ice ... frozen water.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Monthly Moments ... One Second Every Day

I've been SO BAD at keeping this blog updated, I know. I have blog posts in my mind, but just don't seem to find the time to sit down at the computer and make them happen. I bought a fun new app though, that captures life "one second" at a time, and I've been keeping up with my mini-monthly updates, which I post on Instagram and Facebook. They are a fun, quick (about 30 seconds) way to remember each month. I'll update this blog post as I add new videos ...

January 2017
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February 2017
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March 2017
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April 2017
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May 2017
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June 2017
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July 2017
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August 2017

September 2017
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October 2017
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November 2017
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December 2017
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... it's an easy little app. It automatically connects to your photo album to show you what videos are available for each day. The latest Apple products and their "live photo" feature come in as videos, but you can use still photos as well. If you take video on a camera, and can transfer the file to your photo, that can be accessed and used as well. While the videos show up according to date created, you can play around and manually move things. The app is called "One Second Every Day" and that's how I've used it (showcasing each month's memories) but you could do a year at a time, or multiple seconds in a single day ... the app is very adaptable and I love looking back at my memories one second every day ;)

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Chocolate Milk Taste Test

Growing up in the Westra household, premixed chocolate milk was pretty rare. We had Nesquick powder, which we could mix to make our own with the regular white milk, and that's what we did. But true "chocolate milk" ... straight from the bottle has its own taste. Rich and creamy. Of course some brands are richer and creamier and chocolatier than others. Or so the boys claimed. Once upon a time, any chocolate milk was fine, from name brands to generic versions. Then the boys got picky. ONLY Tru Moo. Then ... no Tru Moo, only DariGold.

We decided to do a blind taste test to see if the boys could REALLY tell the difference. Landon made the rounds to several stores to pick up every brand of chocolate milk he could find. Well ... he stopped at seven and we figured that was fine. Then it was taste test time ...

... this front image is the same as posted above, 
click to the second square for more pictures

We SHOULD have picked up a better blind-fold and smaller cups!

We tried to trick Daddy by adding in a cup of regular white 2%
... he could tell! No chocolate!

The kids COULD tell the difference in the various brands. Tru Moo was rated lowest by most ... it is quite watery and light on chocolate taste (which I am actually okay with myself). Surprisingly the Kroger brand was hard to tell from the name brand DariGold. Unfortunately, the Kroger stores (Smiths) don't sell the Kroger brand in the big gallon jugs (they carry Mountain Dairy as the store brand) so the Kroger in small bottles is still pretty pricey. 

As we had oodles of chocolate milk left over I offered some to the neighborhood (we have a facebook group) and one family came and took all we were willing to give and had their own taste test too! It was a fun family activity. Years ago, we had a rootbeer taste test, and we'd done the same with vanilla ice cream ... but I guess I didn't get pictures or a blog post for that one. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Colton's Birthday Party

I am NOT a good birthday mom. I just don't enjoy the planning and putting together of a party, in fact, it's uber anxiety inducing. Over the years, I'd managed to host one or two birthday parties for each boy ... but that was all they got. Poor Colton though ... with his birthday falling right before Christmas. It always got lost in the hustle and bustle of the season, but the kid never complained.

This year, I committed to a party. We gave him the choice of a few friends to Airborne or somewhere else fun ... or many friends at the local church building, with pizza and the chocolate fountain (and basketball of course). He chose the latter, and the invitations went out.

We waited until after Christmas, hoping to catch the kids with a little extra time as they were out of school. Some friends were traveling for the holidays, but we still had quite the crew. Colton invited his Wolves team, his Grizzlies team, and some friends from school. 

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Several of his Wolves teammates live fairly far away, in Utah County. I was a little surprised that they (and their parents) were willing to drive so far to support him! All the brothers came for a bit too. While basketball was the main activity (little pick-up games, tornado, random shooting) there was spike ball and some big inflatable balls too. 

We picked up pizza (and crazy bread) and instead of cake, let the kids "dunk" (basketball theme, right?) strawberries, marshmallows and pretzels in the fountain of chocolate. Colton really "cashed in" too, as money is the main gift at this age. I think the party went well and Colton was pretty happy. I'm just glad it's over, and now I have just a bit less mommy guilt this year. 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Office Space

Grayson FINALLY has a spot. He's wanted a little desk space at home for a long while now. His space. We've tried various options (Rearranging Rooms and a New Computer showcases a couple that didn't end up working out). I think this one will work. Finally. It is in our bedroom, where my computer was before. Simple set up. Basic. Uncluttered. That's how he likes it.

So where am I now? When Gray first brought up the idea of setting up a spot again, he mentioned moving into "middle earth" again (he had tried that area before). I knew that wouldn't work for him. The clutter drives him crazy. But me? It was doable for me. Now anyway. With our recent change from Comcast cable to Direct TV, my computer was now on the wireless network (where it had been wired directly before). So time for another room re-arrange. 

My new spot ... complete with cat.

We thought about getting a desk, but ended up just putting up one of Gray's old derby tables. I  covered it with decorative paper as it was discolored from years of graphite (and to combat the slight texture on top). It's cuter that way though, right? I have more space to spread out with the printer on the floor underneath (it was on the desk when I occupied the bedroom). While I don't have drawers, I was able to clean out several shelves nearby. I have spots for things I didn't before (montly bills, various chargers). If I'm a little cluttered, it's not right in Gray's line of sight. It's working out well.

There is still a window to let some sunshine in. I'm a sunshine gal. The bedroom has better view of the backyard, and I must admit, I will miss the easy glimpses of the ducks while working at the computer. Now I'll have to walk to windows or peek out the back door to see them. But there were times when Gray was resting when I wanted to work on the computer and didn't feel I could (didn't want to disturb), so this spot is better for that (although now he may have the same issue if he's awake in the night and wants to work).  I'd been occupying the bedroom desk pretty much since we moved in here (so 20+ years), and unforunately I was often in the way as Grayson would have to manuevor to his side of the bed. This arrangment solves that issue!

I'd always just used a simple kitchen chair at the desk, as I felt it was the least intrusive (but I still always ended up in the way). Now, both Gray and I could upgrade to nicer "office" chairs.  We took a trip together to Office Max and test some out. I discovered we have very different tastes, and that chairs are often angled more to men/women. I felt a little lost in some of the bigger chairs, and the one that I ultimately selected Grayson sat down in for one second and stood back up saying "um, that one is a definite NO". Based on the picture above, you can see that Oreo approves of my choice. I don't really approve of him commendearing my chair though. And it's fabric, so his shedding sticks! I've resorted to putting Cooper's basketball backpack on the seat when I'm not there to deter the kitties from settling there. 

While Gray seem to really like his new desk, he feels a little bad pushing me out (although I'm the one who volunteered the idea) ... it's really working out well for both of us though. 

Here's to office space!
(Have you seen my stapler?)

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Cooper Goes to the Capital

One of the 8th grade activites all our boys have done, is the "Job Shadow" experience. Landon, Cal and Keaton all went and spent the day with Grayson in the office and at various construction sites. It was Cooper's turn this year, but the job shadow day fell on a Wednesday, when Gray had multiple meetings and had to be into the office uber early.

What to do?
Instead of Cooper having a long and boring day with Dad ... Maga took Cooper to work with her. The State Capital is more exciting anyway, right? There was quite a bit of buzz going on for the upcoming Presidential visit (in just a few days). Maga introduced Cooper around, showed him the sites ... and of course a bit of what the work is day to day.

So that Cooper wouldn't have to stay until the end of the workday, and so Pam could actually get some work done, I arranged for Landon to come up the capital and grab Coop around 1:00.

Now Cooper just needs to do his writeup about the experience.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Blackham Vacation 2017

The big trip for 2017 was to Seattle/Canada, meeting up with the Washington Blackhams. There had been a Seattle/Canada trip planned last year (passports were prepped and everything) and then due to some spinny issues, Grayson had decided to call it off. But this year ... it was a go, with all five boys! I of course, was going to enjoy the vacation vicariously. This was my longest time home alone (10 days) but Gray was good at keeping me in the loop with pictures and texts, and I tried to keep up with Landon's snaps. 

It all started Thursday, July 20... they were flying. It was the first time on a plane for the two littles. Up early at 4:30, an Uber to the airport (we don't have a car we all fit in, even without luggage) and they were off. They arrived in Seattle early (about 10:30) so they had most of that first day there. Rented a car, booked a hotel room ... ate at Lunchbox Laboratory. Met up at Kolby's house in the evening. 

I swear the boys would make the trip to Seattle JUST to hit Lunchbox Laboratory!
The boys hit Lunchbox the first day as they hit Seattle ... 
and on the last day, before they left! 

Landon's snapchats I snagged ...

Gray got some great pictures at the GasWorks park!

The next day, it was off to the lake for paddleboarding and kayaking. 

Saturday was a segway tour in of Seattle.
My cute helmet heads!

... more segway snapshots.
Landon's snapchat after ;) ha ha!

Monday, the crew left Seattle for Whistler, Canada. 
Downtime, puzzles, hot tub, hammock ... Netflix in Canada has some different programming (French Prince of Bel Air was on there). Some biking, and trips for ice cream or gelato. There was a little park nearby with a basketball court, so Grayson bought a couple basketballs so the littles could go play. 

Wednesday, the Blackhams headed to Blackcomb, a resort there in Whistler.

There were ski lifts and a big gondola ride to the top of the mountain. 
The Olympics had been hosted there in 2010. 
So many scenic sights ... and the birds were quite friendly!

... here's a little video clip of the bird experience!

Thursday had a couple big activities ... Bungee jumping anyone?
The three older boys and Gray jumped. Cousin Mia did too. 
Colton expressed some regret at not trying it. 

Then it was a zipline tour for everyone. 
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Gray sent snapshots of all the flowers along the way.

 ... and the food feasts

On Friday, Kolby's family and the Sanders (their friends) were going on to Victoria. Gray and the boys headed back to Seattle. They hadn't hit all the sights before heading to Canada. They wanted to get to the Space Needle ... and they did. Also, as mentioned above, another trip to Lunchbox Laboratory before they left. 

... and then, HOME!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Celebrating America - Colton's 5th Grade Program

Ah ... elementary school. The end-of-year program is a tradition at Terra Linda. For the 5th graders, the theme is AMERICA. Songs about the constitution, patriotic ballads and even one I remember singing when I was Colton's age (Are You for Independence).

I mentioned to Colton as part of a singing group I was in (Carousel Kids) we'd sung that ... and I still remember most of it today! We'd also sung the "There was a Man" and "The Inventor's Song" and while they weren't included in this year's program, Colton said they were familiar to him too. I'm not sure how, but I had managed to find the tracks and add them to my Itunes library. Fun little songs!

I didn't record the entire program, just snippets of each song. 
Colton is always SO serious, 
but his friend sitting next to him managed to make him smile a time or two.

Many of the songs were also familiar,
as several were the same ones from Cooper's 5th grade program just a couple of years ago. 

Now - Completely unrelated to school programs, but paralleling the patriotism angle and the flashing back to bigger Blackham boys when they were little, for Mother's Day, the boys re-created this classic flag photo from years ago. Isn't it the cutest?

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A Full Family 5k

There may be a FINISH line behind us in this photo ... but this was before it all started.

Many years ago, we did a family 5k. It was My First 5k ... and my only 5k. Even though it had been a good experience, and I wanted to do another one almost immediately, it didn't happen. After time passed, my anxieties increased, and I just wasn't sure I'd ever end up doing another. Hubs and a couple of the boys did one last year (My Little Man Ran) and I debated doing it. But I didn't. Earlier this year, a couple of the boys (#1 and #4) ran one (A Super 5k). #2 and his girlfriend had a summer bucket list, and a 5k was on there. Then I heard about the Linda Butters Fun run.

  • It was close. By Gene Fullmer, our rec center, at the West Jordan Veterans Park.
  • It was inexpensive. I try not to begrudge the costs of 5ks. I know they are often fundraisers for great causes ... but at 30+ a pop, it makes makes it a but pricey for seven entries. THIS, apparently was not a fundraiser (I'm sure it end up costing them money) but a memorial run. The entry fee was $10. Not per person ... that was the entire family, including #2's girlfriend!
  • It had the swag. Chip timed, t-shirts ... that makes it a little more fun.
  • Everyone was available.
 If even one family member had opted out, I probably would have too.  

Here is #1, #3 and #4 with their FlipBelts.
Ready to race!

The West Jordan Veteran's Memorial park has a big loop within it. It was closed to cars as the 4th of July carnival was being set up ... and it was where we'd be running. The finish line was also the start ... up through the center of the park, then three loops around. Because it was loops, I got lapped, but only by one son (#3), and I had just passed the end point as #5, #1 and #4 were crossing the finish line (so I could let out a little whoop). 
 This is the order they finished in.

The three top finishers were then excluded from the age group rankings ... overall 1st place was a 15-year old from the boy's high school. 2nd place was a fellow in our neighborhood (in his twenties) and 3rd place was in the age group above that I think. You can see that the Blackham Boys took the top spots (these were preliminary results, additional racers were still finishing up).

... and honestly? Those times are a little TOO good. I don't think this was a completely accurate and full 5k. I told the boys not to count this as their personal best. I forgot to snap a picture of the women's times, but I think I snuck in just under 30min ... and I can't run three miles in 30minutes (I was planning on coming in at about 40 minutes, I had my 5mph playlists on and pretty much stuck to that pace, but did stop to walk a time or two). As I rounded the last curve ... there were my boys! Hubs and all five, and they jogged the last little bit with me, cheering me on (because obviously, I was the last one from our family).

We all got our t-shirts...
...and everyone even posed for pictures!

Hooray for a Family 5k!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Callahan and Copper Hills Graduation

 It's time. For the Tassel. 
We ordered the cap and gown and made up an announcement ...

I snagged a couple shots in the cap and gown before Callahan left. The graduates needed to be early. While Landon's graduation had been downtown at the arena there, this year Copper Hills was at the Maverick Center in West Valley. Initially, I thought I'd like it better. I don't do downtown ... but parking was NOT set up for his magnitude there in West Valley. Hubs and I ended up illegally parking at a nearby hotel and hoping we wouldn't get towed. We were a little late, but because of that, we caught the kids as they were waiting outside for their entry into the building. Photo op!

Inside it was crazy crowded. The Vivent Center had enough seating at least ... here, we weren't sure if we would find any. We ended up climbing over a wall to get into the box seating sections.

So many graduates! Callahan was close to the end, although it was hard to tell, even with the binoculars Maga had in her purse. 

Every previous year, there had been both navy and green for the caps and gown. The girls wore green. I guess someone complained, some issue about diversity "what is someone identifies as ..." so the school accommodated and changed the tradition. It will be interesting to see if they go back to two colors other years.

I'll admit ... ceremony and sitting and crowds, it's not my favorite thing. I didn't even want to go to MY graduation(s). We knew several of the speakers personally though. The Valedictorian lives in our neighborhood, as does the class president, so we knew both girls well. Cal used to go out with the VP so we knew her too. The principal spoke for quite a while, and of course the presentations of the diplomas for a class that size took a lot of time. A couple hours there ... and then tons of time in the parking lot. Oy, I wasn't sure we'd ever escape. Maybe that's how some kids feel about the whole high school experience *Ü* Now off into the big, wide world!
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