Friday, December 30, 2016

Grayson Started Smoking!

Ribs Anyone?
It was back in May (2016). Gray had his trailer hooked to his truck and inside I saw ... a BBQ? I looked at him questioningly and he sheepishly replied "Happy Father's Day to Me?" It was a Yoder Smoker, and I have to say I'm pretty pleased that my husband has started smoking!

I did buy him that HUGE wooden cutting board for Father's Day (after he sent me the link for it) and both it and the smoker have gotten used a lot this past year.

Ribs are a family favorite! 
They are so tender, they literally fall off the bones!

... and Sunday morning smoked bacon. Yummy!

I guess I haven't grabbed a picture of the pulled pork. It's delicious! 
Grayson smoked a turkey (well, multiple turkeys) for Thanksgiving.
He's smoked a prime rib and tri-tip.

... and then there's brisket
 Inject that baby!

... and the finished product!

It's ALL Grayson ... but as brisket takes hours and hours, one Monday he put it on before he left in the morning, and then had me help wrap it mid-day (as I am home and he's hard at work). There was a bit of a learning curve at the beginning, figuring out how long things take. There were a couple of times we were planning on dinner, only to have a stall, and the meat coming in hours late. There was a time or two it wasn't done until after 11:00 at night! But practice makes perfect, and Grayson's perfected things at this point ... and we've enjoyed his practice! He still likes to experiment with different spices and sauces and recipes. He'll browse youtube channels for smoking tips and tricks and sometimes he just goes out to the garage and sticks his head inside and sniffs. 

Mmmmm .... smells delicious!
Tastes that way too!


Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas 2016

Merry Christmas from the Blackham Bunch
Maybe we should have tried a few of these family photos without the kitties ... they are less cooperative than the kiddies! Colton actually seemed to have Joy handled, it was Oreo in MY arms that was causing the most commotion!

The Blackham Christmas festivities begin right after Thanksgiving.
The annual Leg Lamp Lighting at Uncle Clay's house ...
... a lot of people, a LOT of donuts!

... about a week before Christmas, the extended Blackham bunch gets together, and for several years, Santa and Mrs. Claus have put in an appearance. We were sad that Callahan had to work and missed out on the family and fun.

Callahan also had to work Christmas Eve, and missed out on the Westra family party too. Soup and breadsticks for dinner. The annual slideshow (Westra2016) viewing, the candy bar game, and we even did the nativity this year, after skipping it for several ...

Uncle Derek was definitely the STAR of the show! A big thank you to some of the older cousins who were willing to dress up and play a part. The Blackham Boys are noticeably absent ... absolutely uncooperative. 

It was a rather lean Christmas (not a bad thing! I mean what do you do when you already have everything?). Grayson HAD put in a hot tub ... so I guess that was the "big gift" for the family. He even hit it first thing in the morning, before the boys were awake. We did have a white Christmas, so he had to shovel a bit to get there, and we had to put the boys to work clearing the driveway after our Christmas morning was completed. 



Landon had sent us a cute picture ...

...and then we got in a family one via Facetime a little later.


Hope you all had a Merry Christmas ...

A video posted by JenB (@jenblackham) on

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Allergy Alert

Oh no! Allergic Alert!
When Keaton was a mere munchkin, we figured out he had allergy issues. He would react badly to cow's milk and cheese, egg(pasta), even to steak. The worst was when he grabbed a nut, a cashew. His little face would get spots, there would be some swelling ... not enough that it interfered with his breathing thank goodness.

Ironically, on the day I was taking Keaton in for allergy testing, I dropped off the older boys at Maga's. Little Landon ate a brownie (with nuts) and immediately said his throat was hot.  I finally put two and two together, that he had allergies as well. Through the years, after eating a bit of a cookie, he'd want a popsicle out of the blue. His throat was hot and itchy, and that was his little way of counter-acting it! He hadn't shown physical signs like Keaton had, but now noting Keaton's reactions, I finally figured it out!

As we added baby Colton to the family, he appeared to have allergies as well. We did end up at the ER with him once. Through the years, Landon and Colton have several accidental exposures to nuts. Nothing too serious. Usually, they would feel the tingle in their mouth immediately, so much so that they rarely even swallowed the offending allergy item. Benedryl and a sleeping it off was the usual result.

Keaton outgrew his allergies to dairy and egg. Over the years, he added in peanut butter with no problems. Nutella (hazelnuts) has been a happy recent addition to his diet. He has eaten Maga's pastry wreath (with almond paste and slivered almonds) and had a banana nut (walnut) muffin without incident. In fact ... since that last cashew catastrophe when he was about 15-months old, I don't think we'd had ANY allergy issues. Had he outgrown them all?

He decided on a little experiment.  
He ate a cashew. 
Still allergic.

It took a couple minutes (and he ate more than one cashew) ... but then it started. First, with a tingle. Then his lips got swollen. Then the spots appeared. First on his face, then all over his body. I mean ALL over. His nose was running and would not stop. He went through an entire box of Kleenex. And oh, the itching! His head, his chest ... other manly areas. Keaton put oven mits over his hands in an attempt to not scratch himself silly. He was red, and hot. He stalked outside, sans shirt, into the snow. I kept asking about breathing, but the swelling didn't seem to extend to his throat, but we kept constant tabs and were ready to rush to the ER if needed. I called a doctor and we were given a prescription for oral steroids and an epi-pen (we had administered Benedryl immediately as it al started). We were still on the verge of heading to the hospital when Keaton emerged from a cold shower, which had seemed to help. He'd moved out of the scary, angry itchy phase into the funny, drunk Benadryl phase. This phase was much easier to handle ... and even get a photo and video.

This initial eating of the cashew had been around 9:00 at night. We didn't figure we were over the hump until almost 11:00. After the exhaustion of the attack itself, plus the Benedryl, Keaton was out cold in no time. I had a little trouble sleeping after all the "excitement" and also was still somewhat worried, so I was up and checking on him every hour in the night to make sure he was still breathing. There was some residual swelling around his eyes in the morning, but other than that, he seemed fine, and was off to school and sports as usual the next day.

A few days later, Keaton had a school assignment to write a poem for Language Arts. Of course we turned to recent events for inspiration. First, our attempt at a limerick ...



The boy's face was swollen and red.
He was itching all over his head.
He ate a cashew
He's allergic, it's true
Some Benedryl, and then to bed!


... and then Keaton and his friend came up with this rhyme ...

I ate cashews
I nearly died
My throat swelled up
My tongue got tied
My eyes dilated
My skin was dried
"I guess I'm still allergic"
I sadly sighed

No more cashews for Keaton!





Monday, November 28, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

Thanksgiving! In the past, it's been a relatively relaxing holiday. We'd just pack up and go to Grandma's and eat. At times I'd bring rolls and a dessert, but it wasn't much work. This year though, we were hosting. I made my annual turkey cookies a couple of days before ... they aren't for the actual Thanksgiving gathering, but more just for us. Silly children prefer them without all the candy corn, so I left several plain. But me? I love the full bird. Especially the day after making them, when the cookie and candy corn have softened overnight.

Clay's clan was going to hit the buffet at Grand America as we all did last year, so with our family, Maga, Olivia and Ana's family, it was an even dozen. We moved the couches and set up an extra table, and pulled out our serving stuff. Grayson was smoking the turkey ... turkeyS, plural. It was more because he wanted to try different presentations than to make sure we had enough food. There was a regular basted/seasoned turkey, one "spatchcocked" ... basically butterflied, one breast wrapped in bacon, and some ham.  I'd bought him a new huge ricer for his birthday, which is what he uses to make his mashed potatoes. Pam brought Lion House Rolls and pies and Ana brought a salad. I made jello cubes and my chocolate pie in a pan dessert. We were set ...


We started eating as Gray carved the first bird, and everyone was pretty much done before he even started on the second! Oodles of meat. Gray even set up one of the fountains with caramel flowing as another dessert option. As if anyone had any room ...
We joke that Pammy never gets a warm meal, as she's always still in the kitchen working as everyone eats. Today ... she sat, and Gray was the last man standing. I think he got to enjoy some of the fruits of his labor though. There are plenty of leftovers. We sent some home with everyone and still have a fridge full. It was a good day. I enjoyed having it at our house ... I was able to sneak away and lay down on my bed for a bit after eating!


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Pokemon GO

We've always been a Pokemon family. We have all the Gameboy games, seen all the videos, have a ton of the action figures and trading cards. The interest in it comes and goes over the years, as the boys age in and out of the obsession. But in summer of 2016, a NEW app game was released. 

PokemonGo! 

Callahan was the first Blackham boy to get interested. He downloaded it and spent a couple crazy days catching Pokemon and then ... his game crashed, and reset, and he lost all interest. Cooper was a week or so behind the initial opening. He doesn't have a phone, and the game does require service, GPS and data usage. Landon's old iphone is now the "Family Phone" and I told Cooper he could use that. Cooper has LOVED Pokemon Go!

... and it really got him GOing!
He's been uber active for a while now. Playing basketball, running on the treadmill, other activities ... but with Pokemon Go, he'd go out for long walks. He'd walk to the church and the neighborhood park, as they were Pokestops. He'd circle the neighborhood catching Pokemon and adding distance to help hatch his eggs.  When I'd run errands, he'd come in the car with me, just to see if we'd pass Pokestops or find creatures along the way. 

Once after dropping Colton off at basketball practice, a Raichu appeared on the "nearby". I'll admit, we drove around aimlessly (but anxiously) attempting to locate it, and then it appeared! I thought Cooper was going to hyperventilate! Another fun catch was a Snoralax and a Lickitung.  



Of course, I'm still not as cool as Uncle Clay, 
who caught a Charizard downtown for Cousin Will (who is also very into the game). 

As most churches (LDS or otherwise) are either a Pokestop or a gym, I started taking the phone with me to my Zumba classes (held at local churches) when Cooper was at school. All my locations were Pokestops, so in-between songs (Pokestops "reset" after about five minutes) I'd spin and collect pokeballs, potions, eggs, etc. There were some Pokemon too, and I tried a couple times but hadn't been able to catch them (and hesitated to waste Pokeballs). I finally had success! I caught a Pickchu! Since then, I've improved my throw and caught a multitude more ... for Cooper of course. Unfortunately, the churches, while having wifi, disallow such games as PokemonGo. They are blocked. So still using data, there was one month where we went over on our plan. We've tried to cut back.

Pokemon Go itself is free ... but there are in-app purchases. For Cooper's birthday, we gifted him some credits and he bought a bigger bag (so he could hold more items), some incense and lures (which draw Pokemon to you), some egg incubators ... while I'm not a fan of throwing money away on video games, Cooper has been enjoying this, and getting out so much more, I've felt it was worth it! While his weather phobia has ebbed, he's still been a homebody. With this game, he'll still go walking even in bad weather and looks forward to trips out of the house.

After some uproar about safety (people who couldn't stop playing while they drove) the company changed things up, making you unable to catch critters or collect Pokestops if you are over a certain speed (15 mph? 20?) ... even as a passenger (the "I've a passenger" option had been available before). This did impact Cooper's enjoyment of the game a LOT ... and with winter coming, and not being able to walk around (treadmill miles don't count toward the steps needed to hatch eggs), at this point, he's losing interest. I'm a little sad about it ...

It was a Pokemon Go summer and fall. 
I'll never forget it!





Monday, November 14, 2016

School So Far (One Quarter In)

#5 going into grade 5!

I never did a "Back to School" post ... so here's one showcasing the school situation so far. I only have ONE child in elementary now! But still kids in three different schools (and all on permit). Cal and Keaton in high school, and Cooper moved up to middle school. Big changes for #3 and #4 this year!

The boys posed for their obligatory "first day of school" photos. And the required "fingers showing your grade" as well. If you are familiar with sign language, Keaton's "thumb's up" is also the number 10.  A senior and a sophomore. It's Callahan's last first day at Copper Hills, and Keaton's first first day at Copper Hills. I do still get to chauffeur Keaton for the first quarter, as he's taking early morning driver's ed. Once it ends, he'll be able to hitch rides with his brother. He is able to get a ride home most days, saving me a pickup.

I think the biggest change was for Cooper this year. 7th grade! Seven different teachers. Moving between classrooms. Lockers. A much bigger student body. It's also the time for immunization updates. We attempted a trip to the pediatrician, but ended up at Walgreens, which was fast and easy. Once we got his schedule in the mail, we went to the school and found his locker and classrooms. We mapped it all out and walked through it several times to make sure my little man was comfortable. We are also in a carpool, which can stress out my anxiety child (if others run late, or talk too much, etc). I said I'd drive to school every day to ease the transition. I still picked up two days, but we tried out with others driving home on the other days. He is surviving ... 

As school started up ... I was on lunch duty again! Not Colton ... he's a hot lunch kid. We look over the menu calendar, and there's usually only one or two days a month where he doesn't care for the offering and prefers packing from home. Callahan said he was going to go out to lunch on A days, but I'd make him a lunch on B days. Keaton and Cooper were taking cold lunch every day. It's funny the food phases we go through! Currently, popular items are the to-go Nutella packs and the Danimals drinkable yogurt. Just grapes for Cooper (although he'll eat an apple in a pinch), whereas C&K like a little more fruit (adding in kiwi, strawberries, cuties). Cooper and Callahan are willing to eat wheat bread, but only white for Keaton (... and I must admit, me too).  It's a little assembly line eat morning as I prepare and pack. As second quarter started though ... Cooper is taking hot lunch every day, and Keaton is taking it on B days, so my lunch making is minor now.


School Pictures
The high school and middle school uses the same photographer (Lifetouch) but the elementary has a different one .. and a different background. I had completely spaced off picture day for the two little ones, thus the distracting sayings on their shirts. I can't believe Callahan is a SENIOR and going to graduate. The traditional TUX yearbook photo. Keaton ... the "I have braces so I smile without showing teeth" look.

... as the first quarter ended and PT conferences are behind us, all the kids are doing well. Cal wants to pull up his grades, to get his cumulative back up to a 3.9 (this first quarter was his lowest at a 3.6). Keaton and Cooper both got a 4.0, and Colton had perfect scores and a glowing report from his teacher.

Memorable moments so far ... Callahan and Keaton have basketball class together. It's fun (and intimidating) to hear about their conditioning workouts! Callahan spends a ton of time "studying" with friends, practically living at Stockton's house. Keaton had the annual pumpkin drop in Physics, and I read "To Kill a Mockingbird" with him and we had some good discussions (Required Reading). I also re-read "The Great Brain" to discuss with Cooper, and Colton is starting on his Great American Award (we did this with Cooper) and it's a big project. Learning the states and capitals and more! It's been a fun review for the older boys too.  

One quarter down ... three to go.
At least early morning driver's ed is done now!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Daddy's Duckies (Take Two)


Last year (2015), Grayson instigated the great egg experiment. He bought an incubator and procured some Mallard eggs. You can read all about our experience (Daddy's Duckies) with Andy, Joe, Alex and Pedro (changed to Pedra, as she was a girl). The ducks were gone at the end of the season, having flown the coop (literally). 

As Spring rolled around ... once again, Gray got out the incubator and acquired eggs. Like the first year, we'd enjoy "candling" the eggs to check on the development of the babies inside. It was a Sunday when we first saw the signs of hatching. Three of the eggs were rocking and had little holes. We had a family get-together and came home to a duckling!

He would be the only one.

We don't know what happened. Why the two eggs that had started the hatching process weren't able to finish. It happens, but it was really hard to take emotionally. And like last year, we had ONE lonely baby duck.


That first day ... I kept the duckling by my side for much of the day.
If he couldn't have a duck sibling, I would do.
He'd follow me around. I had to watch my step!

Gray contacted the fellow we'd picked up the eggs from and asked if he had a couple newly hatched babies. He had a set of Mallards, black mutations. Five of them (one, the smallest, was brown). 

We introduced the new babies to Uno (which is what we'd named our little guy). While he hadn't liked being alone, he was very unsure about these new additions! It took him a bit to acclimate to them. 

They would spend most of the day in the brooder box. We'd take them outside in the morning and evening for a little fresh air and to let them run around and dig in the dirt. Then we'd fill up the bathtub and let them swim while one of us cleaned the brooder box. Boy can these little guys poop!



As mentioned in my Wild Duckies post ... we'd had a male and female duck hanging around the house for more than a month. Then, it was only the female we'd see around. She'd stop in for a bit once or twice during the day, eating some of the food I'd laid out, and taking a dip in the pool I'd set up for her. A couple of times when she'd stop by, we'd bring out the babies to watch the interaction. While she was always wary of us humans, she was intrigued enough by the babies that she came quite close. Uno was quite intimidated by her though.

Enjoying a little rest in the sun. 
Duckies got your back (literally). 

Then ... Momma duck showed up with THIRTEEN babies in tow! We never saw her nesting, but she must have been close by. Her little ones were SO little. They were a couple weeks behind our ducklings. They seemed so small compared to our big babies. 

As our hatchlings got a little older, we'd keep them outside for longer periods of time. With Momma and her crew hanging out in the backyard too, we'd keep our babies in the pen. Momma did NOT like it if our big babies got too close to her little ones. The big babies thought it was a little unfair though, that Momma and the babies had free range of the entire yard (and beyond) but they were confined.  We would let the big babies out when we could supervise, and then we'd leave them out for longer periods of time, even as we went back into the house. The big babies really tried to stay out of Momma Duck's way. We'd keep a window open, listening for a commotion and rush out to intervene if necessary. While having Momma and her babies around was so fun to observe, it was a bit of a relief when they left, and it was just us and our babies.

 Our babies loved to come nibble on toes and ears and clothing.

... but MEALWORMS were the favorite treat!

Our first year with our ducks, we'd put them back in the pen when we weren't around, and always put them in for the night. With Momma and her babies hanging out the backyard, unpenned ... we wondered if it was really necessary. Once the ducks had grown enough that we didn't feel magpies or a stray cat would be a problem, we let them free range in the entire backyard. (While Momma and babies would duck under the small opening at the fence gate, our babies never wanted to wander, although we did entice them out into the front yard a few times).

In addition to the emotion losing the two eggs in the beginning, we had an issue with Ally. Everything had been fine, then she started limping. It got worse and worse as she lost the ability to walk (she'd "wing walk" attempting to drag herself to the others) and when I'd pick her up and put her in the pool she seemed unable to use her left side, being lopsided in the water. Poor baby!  I took her to a vet (it's hard to find vets that treat ducks) and there was nothing broken or damaged. We had just been using a chicken feed, and were educated on the fact that ducks need niacin. The lack of this nutrient commonly manifests itself in leg problems in ducks. They recommended a feed specifically for waterfowl, and/or to supplement with Brewer's Yeast. I did some research online as well, and while it seemed like a longshot (she was in such bad shape) we started with the supplements and ... she recovered. It was our own little miracle. When she started to wobble across the yard again, it brought tears to our eyes.  She had always been the smallest, and this ordeal had seemed to stunt her growth (while the others got bigger she stayed small) but she soon caught up with her siblings in every way. Even flying across the yard.


Almost every evening ... it was ducky time with Daddy. Gray loved to just sit out there and watch them as they splashed or slept or preened. Of course there were plenty of treats too. Mealworms, goldfish and even some crickets. We'd dig in the garden unearthing worms and snails.


The ducks did start trying out their wings. They flew over the fence into the neighbor's backyard a couple times.

Then one morning ... instead of six duckies, there were only four. I checked the neighbor's yard, but they weren't there. It took a day or so and a couple walks to the canal ... but I found them there! Then two more left, then the final two. Four of them joined up at the canal (Uno, Ally, Jorge and Antonia). I saw Phillipa once, on her own and tried to get her to move upstream to meet up with the others, but she flew off. She could sure fly. We never caught sight of Miguel again.


At this point, I was walking to the canal every day. Usually twice a day. Had to check in on my duckies! I'd still bring them food. The waterfowl feed, cracked corn and other treats like watermelon, lettuce and bananas (Ally loved bananas). Sometimes I'd find them quickly, as they'd stay in about the same spot, other days I'd have to walk well over a mile before I'd find them. Once fun memory, I started walking down the canal and called out "hey ducky duckies" and the four of them came FLYING from further down the canal. 

With their distinctive coloring, I could always tell which ones were "our" ducks among the other wild ones that hung out at the canal. I mean Uno, with the traditional mallard colors was harder to tell apart, but we could because he'd be with the others. Near the end of the season, I didn't see him though. A couple times I'd only find Antonia and Ally (but Jorge did show up again the next day) ... until I didn't find them. Many of the ducks were leaving. The ducky days were over. Until next year.

Here's a little video ...




... and one more little video featuring the favorite food!



Thursday, November 3, 2016

Fall Food Tour ... Eat and Repeat

Stuffing the Stomach in Seattle with Siblings
...otherwise known as the "Fall Food Tour"
(October 2015 and 2016)

Last year, in 2015 ...Grayson got bit by the travel bug. He'd had his work trip to Vegas in January, family trips to Moab and St. George  (sans Mom both times), then the trip to Europe in the summer... but that wasn't enough! In the Fall, he figured it would be fun to catch a quick flight to Seattle and spent the weekend with his bro. They decided to bring Ana along, and then they proceeded to try out various restaurants in the area. LOTS of eating. 

They got out and enjoyed the fall foliage as well.


It was such a success, that they decided to do it again this year ... maybe every year? Jami is great at planning, so she was setting everything up. Grayson put in a request to hit Din Tai Fung, one of the favorites from last year. Jami responded "okay, that is the ONE place we'll go again" indicating everything else was going to be new.

As Gray and Ana flew in on Friday, Kolby and Jami were still hard at work and the girls were in school. So the two out-of-towners hit up "Lunchbox Laboratory"  ... the Blackham boys back home were jealous!

I don't know if it was that first night or one of the following, but they did hit Din Tai Fung. I remember Grayson texting me that it was quite the wait (two hours?) and was very late when they finally ate.  Kolby and Jami's girls are much more adventurous in the eating ... I'm not sure how the Blackham Boys would fare on such an eating outing. Gray took lots of pictures ... and honestly, half the time I couldn't even tell what anything was.  I'm a pretty Plain Jane "steak and potatoes" gal, so it's good Grayson has family to support his adventurous streak!


 Food (and family) photos!

They did some of the touring again, but it wasn't until Grayson returned home that Jami posted some truly spectacular photos, as even without guests, they are getting out and about and discovering new things to see in their own backyard.


Gray and the boys had planned on going to Seattle in the summer. Unfortunately, some medical issues squashed those plans.  Grayson had really missed not it making out then... hopefully, this trip made up for it a little.








Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Cal and Kate - Homecoming 2016

Homecoming 2016 ... Callahan didn't go to Homecoming his sophomore year. Last year, he had a girlfriend (so it was an obvious ask). This year, he really wanted to go. The gang had plans, but he just wasn't sure who to ask. He told me there was "one girl" that he talked to sometimes ...

The guys set up an elaborate ask ... music videos. They spent SO MUCH time and effort on this. I'll admit, when Callahan would say he was leaving to go work on the video some more I'd get a little frustrated. Just do something quick and simple! I must say though ... when I saw this finished product? It's a treasure! I loved it ... I hope the girls did too.

It is a little long - Callahan's "solo" is at the 3:50ish mark, but he's in most of the other videos too (just not the lead singer lip sync). So anyway ... she said yes.

 Friday night was the homecoming game ... 
Cal with the guys.

... and the girl.

They started Saturday (the day date) with paintball!
 Cal and the guys 

... and the girl

Then it was time to get all dressed up for the dance.
A fun photoshoot at a friend's house before heading to the high school ...


Silly Socks (they matched each other ... and nothing else!)


 Five guys (most of the senior basketball team!)

Cal's date Kate was named Homecoming Queen.

... and the final formal shot.
Callahan's senior Homecoming ... in the books. And on the blog!
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