Friday, December 24, 2010

All I want for Christmas...

Whoever said all they want for Christmas is their two front teeth, must have never had two boys with grins like these.

But want I really want for Christmas is to thank you all for your friendship, tell you that I hope that your Christmas is filled with great memory-making moments with those that you love and may the New Year  have all the best things in store for you.

That's not too much to ask for, is it?

What about looking at a few pics from our Christmas Eve too?
You guys really are the best.

Christmas Eve Pajamas

Mary, Joseph, & Baby Jesus

Three very wise and cool men.

Mary on her donkey.

And a very sweet shepherd.

Merry Christmas!!!
From me and all of my characters.

Friday, December 17, 2010

White Elephant

White Elephant   noun-
  c : something of little or no value
Definition from Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary

According to the definition, what you see pictured above is probably the best white elephant gift EVER!
Although..... if I keep it up, they might end up having some value because they may actually fit me by the time  the holidays are over. This is not a goal by any means because honestly, these are one gift I can bear NOT to use and CAN NOT wait to re-gift next year.
You know what they say about paybacks...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dallin Said...

While talking with Ashton about their future plans, Dallin said, "I think I'm gonna go to clown college....or Yale."

During a discussion about ways people learn second languages Dallin announced, "Well, Dad learned Spanish at the ATM before going on his mission."

While visiting Temple Square to see the Christmas lights a few weeks ago, the boys were asking their Dad what the Assembly Hall was used for. When Richard replied that it was used for recitals and concerts, Dallin excitedly asked, "Like Bon Jovi?"

I tidied up the boys closet and when Dallin discovered what had been done he looked at me with mock disgust and demanded, "What have you done!?"
Then his disgust turned to a smile as he finished with, "You beautiful woman, YOU!"
Then I got a nice hug. I'm thinking he'll make a fantastic husband someday.

Oh....and he also said that he wants YOU to have a very Merry Christmas!!!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Helping Hands

Indulge me, please? This picture has nothing to do with the post, except, that it is of Emma. I just thought it was sweet. Being her mom, I think that is my right.

I was headed for the bathroom when Dallin flew past me beating me to it and slamming the door in my face.

"Hey! I was going in there."
"I have to go!" he replied.
"Well, I do too!"
"Well, I have to go....BAD!"
I sighed, "I guess it looks like I'll just have to hold it." 

I turned around and bent over to pick up some dirty socks that had been discarded on the floor when my behind was accosted by little hands trying to wedge their way where no little hands should be.

Not used to being fondled this way, I immediately stood up exclaiming, "What on earth are you doing!?" 

As those words left my mouth, one little hand traveled around from the back to wedge its way in from the front! And that is when I was met with the cherubic face and questioning brown eyes of a potty training 3 year old, who innocently told me, "I'm helping you hold it, Mommy. I'll help you hold it, so you don't poo or pee your pants." that's a little helper.

I guess, I will forgive her for groping me.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Don't Mess with Tradition

At our family gatherings there are certain dishes that are traditional to eat. At the Parke Family Christmas parties it is always dessert- Granny Parke's Pineapple Fluff and Peanut Brittle Dessert. The second takes a little getting used to, the first, if made right (read- not made by me), is a little scoop of heaven. The rest of the meal can change yearly, but dessert should remain the same. It just isn't Christmas with out ingesting calories in those forms.

On my side of the family, the traditional dishes debut at Thanksgiving and make an encore appearance for Christmas dinner. The only problem is we have 2 Thanksgiving dinners by celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving in October and American Thanksgiving in November, so by the time we have Christmas dinner in December, I am ready to retire the Green Bean Casserole and Sweet Potato Casserole recipes' for another 9 months.

Except this year.

I made the traditional dishes for our Canadian Thanksgiving that we shared with friends and I brought home almost a full pan of each....which I ate a portion of for lunch... for the next week.

I'll tell you that leftovers are good, but not that good. Bleck!

By the time that planning our American Thanksgiving dinner came around I didn't even want to think about green beans, sweet potatoes, or casseroles in general, let alone eat any of them. So I just said, "NO" to more tradition. This year we would just make do with candied yams and cooked carrots on Thanksgiving.

When I told Richard about the lack of traditional dishes at this years dinner he was appalled. I like to make my hubby happy, so I relented and agreed to make a small green bean casserole. Then on Thanksgiving morning, I was on the phone with my mom she mentioned how disappointed my brother, Nate, was that we weren't having the Sweet Potato casserole...

You can't have disappointed people at Thanksgiving dinner, so since there was still time and I had all the ingredients and I'm the nicest sister he has (the fact I'm the only sister he has doesn't count), I gave into tradition a second time.

On Tuesday, I ate the last helping of sweet potato casserole for lunch all in the name of blessed tradition. It's not gone, I just can not bear to eat another bite. It is sitting in my fridge waiting it's journey to the trash can or disposal since it's week expiry date is up. No one else has had any and the date today is December 2nd with our traditional Christmas Eve dinner, with the traditional dishes looming only a mere 22 days away... 

Here's to hoping Christmas comes slowly...very, very slowly.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Speaking Of...

Speaking of being trust-a-ful....let me show you a face that is not.

This is what happens to a face, along with her new white t-shirt and my bed sheets, when a non trust-a-ful 3 year old who is supposed to be going to sleep gets a hold of a red permanent marker.

Did I mention the ink was permanent?
And on my sheets?
And her new shirt?
(Insert scream of insanity here.)

It's a good thing she's cute and my only girl, so I've decided to forgive her.

I've also decided to never let her do my make-up.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


In our house we have a rule- no eating outside of the kitchen. Out of all of our rules this is the one that is broken the very much that sometimes I wonder why we even have it, but we do. And as with most rules there are exceptions, like when we have movie party or if you are given special permission.  But even special permission privileges can be revoked if your dishes don't make it back to the kitchen. Which they almost never do.

So after a long string of suspending privileges I was skeptical when Dallin asked for special permission to take a piece of his birthday pumpkin pie upstairs to watch Ben reach a new level on some video game. I reminded him of the rules and as I handed him the pie I added this little phrase for good measure, "Now I'm trusting you."

He looked at me and said, "Don't worry, Mom. I'm trust-a-ful."

And it's a good thing that he's so trust-a-ful because he was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church yesterday by his dad.

Congratulations Dallin! Mom and Dad love you and are so proud that you are such a trust-a-ful guy.
We wouldn't want you any other way.

Ready to go in the jumpsuit also worn by his dad, older brother Ashton, and now him.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Family Photos

After 2 plus years of forgoing family pictures we recently had some taken. I am thrilled with what we ended up with and since they say that a picture is worth a thousands words, I'll shut up and let them speak for themselves.

 That's not all folks. 
You have to click here to head over to the blog of the photographer to see the rest.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Excuses, Excuses...

If you opened the dictionary to the phrase 'blog slacker' I can almost guarantee you will find a picture of me. My blog and almost everything surrounding it has taken a back burner since the kids went back to school. This is evidenced by my puny number of posts in August and September, my lack of commenting on other blogs (I promise, I am still reading them.), and the absence or extreme tardiness of replying to your comments here. I am sorry, really I am.

I was reminded in church on Sunday that the first step to repentance is to recognize that there is a problem, so.....Hi. My name is Natalie and I am a serious blog slacker.

There. Consider it recognized.

But just because I've recognized it doesn't mean I'm not going to try to justify it. So....I think it may have something to do with the fact that blogging takes me an excruciatingly long time to do. I can "hear" what I want to say in my head, but when it comes to making it travel to my fingertips, it makes a detour somewhere along the way and things never sound like I want them to. Trust me, they are much more witty, funny, and thought provoking in my head. It may also have something to do with adjusting back to a school schedule, Richard's travel schedule, homework, lessons, team sports, volunteer time, scouts, potty training, or that life has simply been crazy and my brain cells stretched too thin.

I know...excuses, excuses.

Because really let's face it....there is time to blog. I have the same number of hours in my day as I did back in June or July, I have just chosen, or in some cases, life has chosen for me, to spend those hours on other things. Whether I like it or not.

One particular excuse some friends recently introduced me to is couponing. Yes, I am now one of those annoying 'coupon people' who takes an extra minute at the end of checkout to scan coupons. Yep, one of those people that apparently a lot of cashiers hate, and someone who has been saving more money than I realized was possible from those little inserts in my paper and mail.

Here are just a few of my conquests from my some latest saving trips.
 Everything in this picture was FREE! including the smile on my cute little model's face.

 Toilet paper- $1.38- because who wants to spend a lot of money on something you soil with nastiness and flush down the toilet?

And the one I am most proud of...
2 bottles of laundry detergent (totaling 50 loads), 1 bottle of dish liquid, 8 bars of soap, 36 of those things in the pink boxes, and 6 bags of Halloween candy = $13.39 at Rite Aid.
BUT if you count the $8 I got back on this purchase from their Up+ rewards program my total was only $5.39. That is a lot of free or really cheap stuff and just by following this blog and by planning my shopping trips using this site.

And although it has taken me some time to get organized and figure out just exactly what I am doing, after one particular day of great savings I felt like I had saved enough that when I visited a friend's boutique party I could safely buy me one of these...
And since I think Richard gave it the universal male look of approval by rolling his eyes, I've decided that maybe some excuses are worth a little blog interruption.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Just Getting into the Spirit of Things

I love fall.

The crispness in the air...

The change of sunlight...

The array of delicious harvest foods...

The fallen leaves strewn about like a quilt pieced of crimson, amber, and ochre hued shapes.  Their decay permeating the air with the distinct scent of autumn.

It's heavenly.

And of course, there's Halloween. As much as I love fall, I really love Halloween. The decorating, the costumes, the candy...everything about it says that I was made for this holiday. If time, sheer energy, and the ever mighty dollar weren't an issue, I'm sure our house would take on the appearance of a spook alley attraction from a theme park for the month of October. You can bet it would be awesome.

This year, I think I was feeling like decorating just the house and yard was not enough. I could do more; like maybe I should make the decorating a little more personal this time around. So last week with the help of an old lamp with a broken light bulb I took the Halloween spirit onto my actual person with some Frankenstein like accessories- five of them to be exact. For an added touch of gruesome, a divet where a missing chunk of flesh should be was added just below.
I know that the inside of my arm is kind of an inconspicuous place for these accessories, so I promise that next year I will be more conscious of which body part I gouge with broken glass. I guess my aim was a little off that day. And although it doesn't look all that impressive with out the prescence of gushing blood I think that I have shown there are no legnths that I will not go to for a holiday that I love.

Oh, and if I get tired of the Frankenstein effect the nice medical staff at the Provo InstaCare provided me with this more girlie costume to trade off with.

Two-for-one costumes! Now that's what I'm talking about!

Heck, for $50 bucks I wouldn't have expected anything less.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Constructively Destructive

He came home with it. That creative little glint in his eye that told me he had plans. I'm always interested to see what forms from that glint. The other day while I was busy with scouts he disappeared into the garage and built a protective covering for his tortoise's newly inherited outdoor habitat using hammers, saws, wire cutters, and a staple gun- all by himself. I was most impressed.

He busily got to work with clay, toothpicks, paint, fishing twine and cardboard and upon entering the kitchen to find a bunch of little clay balls of varying sizes, I discovered the making of a universe right in my very own kitchen. Now on any other day having the solar system formed on my kitchen island would have been thrilling, but as I had been fighting a headache since early afternoon thrilling was a little too much to handle.

By evening the ache in my head would not relent. Despite 2 doses of meds and resting in a dark room it continued to build until nausea became my newest worry. So just when each planet was getting its very own personalized paint job I lost my dinner, decided to throw in the towel, and just go to bed...leaving my 4 munchkins in the hands of a boy who was lost in the creation of the heavens- literally.

I woke up a 5 a.m. feeling grateful I hadn't decapitated myself the night before like I had been tempted to and got up to see where the other 2 who hadn't ended up in bed with me had landed. As I opened my bedroom door I realized my house was lit up like a Christmas tree. As I walked around turning off lights I found that every light was on in my house except three. Not to mention the 2 televisions blaring in deafening decibels. Wow, I bet the power company loves us.

I had been given a glimpse of the completed solar system through squinty eyes in the dark of my bedroom the night before, so yeah, I had no idea what it really looked like. So I headed downstairs to the kitchen to get a better look at the finished product. This is what greeted me...

Suddenly, I felt my headache returning and I turned around, went up the stairs, and back to bed.
Just this once, the universe was going to have to wait for me.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Dallin Said...

First day of school 2010

"Smell me....if you DARE!"

"Guess what, Mom? I AM the new Tom Sawyer." (I am still wondering what exactly that means?)

"I can have Cookies & Cream AND Vanilla ice cream 'cause I have flat abs.

Said while putting on a robe "Rich people wear these, so I'm rich.... Now where is my allowance?

"There's a policeman! Everyone act nostril!!!"

Dallin- Is that the cheese from Maceys?
Me- Yes.
Dallin- I don't want it. It's Californian. I like Wisconsin. (What 7 yr old cares that much about his cheese?)

Some friends from Canada came to visit us before school started. While hiking to Timpanogos my friend was getting Ben excited about starting Kindergarten by asking his brothers what good things they remembered about Kindergarten. Dallin who is now only in 2nd grade replied somewhat reminiscent, "I remember Kindergarten like it was 2 years ago." 

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Last Sunday evening, which also happened to be garbage night, my Visiting Teacher made a surprise visit to our house. You know that is just when someone will show up to see me- when all 10 of the garbage cans in our house are sitting in the front room teeming with smelly week old garbage waiting to be taken out.


But I don't care because she brought me this....

She said it was repentance for not visiting me last month. I told her that I really like her type of repentance.

Who wants a chocolate cake from me?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Constructively Nonconstructive

First day of school 2010
A week or so before school started, Ashton came to me with that look on his face and the famous summer phrase on his lips- "I'm bored."

I instantly responded with, "I've got plenty of things you can do." while the list of jobs that needed to be done scrolled through my head.

He quickly retaliated through gritted teeth with "I don't want to work, Mom." 

Since he had already completed his chores for the day I couldn't argue with him, so I listed a number of other things he could do. He wanted nothing to do with any of them and said, "I don't really feel like doing anything constructive." as he sulked out of the room. Figuring he would eventually find something to occupy his time I headed off to Cub Scouts.

When I came home he was busily at work surrounded by cardboard and armed with my glue gun. When he emerged he had created this masterpiece- a tech deck skate park.

I never have really understood what was so great about those mini skateboards they move with their fingers until I took the boys and some of their friends to the real skate park down the street.

Steep cement walls leading down into a cement pit with kids of all sizes zooming back and forth is not particularly my idea of fun. It's more like a nightmare ER visit with a head injury or gaping head wound waiting to happen. Needless to say, by the time we left I had 10 new gray hairs and a new found appreciation for the simplicity and safety of tech decks. Because really....what's the worse that can happen with a tech deck? Maybe a hangnail or at the worse, a sprained finger? Those injuries I can handle.

Also, if you have you ever priced the pieces that go into a tech deck park you know that they are certainly not cheap. I figure Ashton's nonconstructive ingenuity that boring summer day saved about $35-$45.

Maybe I should let him be nonconstructive more often.

Friday, September 3, 2010

What I Learned in Kindergarten...

On Tuesday, Ben started Kindergarten and I guess technically, I did too.You see, Ben was really excited to finally be able to call Amelia Earhart his school, just like his brothers do. He has been waiting for and was completely ready to finally start Kindergarten. I didn't even get emotional dropping him off on his first day because I was so happy that he was finally getting what he wanted. Well, that and the fact that I stayed the entire time.

Walking to school with the brothers.

Why did I stay the entire time when I had a boy who didn't make a fuss or cry at the prospect of me leaving? Why didn't I leave when I could have enjoyed 3 hours tackling my list of "Things to do once the kids are in school"? The reason is because as a friend and I were getting ready to leave, we noticed 28 little bodies filled to the brim with anxious excited energy that the first day of school, let alone the first day of kindergarten brings. We also noticed the teacher doing her best to field parent's questions while trying calm the separation anxiety of a few of them too, while attempting to contain all of that anxious excited energy into a civilized classroom of learning- by herself.

Needless, to say this is a daunting task for even the Superhero-est of seasoned educators like Mrs. Thibault.

Superhero Mrs. Thibault

Luckily, Richard was home and willing to watch Emma, so I was able help along with my friend, Rachel. I would describe the rest of the day as organized chaos. It took all 3 of us and a Foster Grandparent who came to help to wrangle those 28 little bodies through all the activities of the morning. It was thoroughly exhausting. But I can't wait to help out again.

And you might think that Kindergarten is too elementary for an adult, but experiencing it for a second time around, there was still plenty of education to be had. These are a few of the things I learned;

- A party where the majority of the presents are Kleenex, glue sticks, and Ziploc bags is oddly still  really exciting.
- Actually getting the cupcake with pink frosting dams a flood of tears and makes a lot of things right with the world again to a 5 yr old girl.
- Even though a story was told about pigs, snails, fish, and cats going to school, acting like a chipmunk while you are in school is not acceptable. (This one's for you, Rachel :)
- When you're a Kindergartner you can wear 2 completely different shoes to school and it's apparently okay.
- Those shoes can even be 2 different sizes.
- Kindergarten teachers should go straight to heaven for all of the shoelaces they have to tie in the space of 3 hours.
- Bible names were really popular for baby boys in 2004 & 2005.
- Even though you may have a named your son a conservative Bible name, it does not guarantee that he will have Christ-like behavior.
- Riding the bus is kind of a really big deal when you are 5.
- The phrase "pockets, pretzels, basket" has nothing to do with food. Bummer.
- You have snack time a half an hour before you go home and your mom attempts to feed you something nutritious.
- I was not meant to be a Kindergarten teacher.
- I am really glad there are people who are- like Mrs. Thibault.
- No matter how old I or Ben will ever get, it is still the best when Daddy and Emma come to pick us up.

I think Ben's face and skip say it all- Kindergarten is awesome.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Parental Advisory

The other day Emma was climbing down the stairs using the banister overlooking the dining room. As her little feet went between each baluster her little head bobbed up and down above and under the handrail. At one point she propped her chin on the handrail and with huge excited eyes called to me to take in the 'dangerous' stunt she was pulling. I replied with the motherly, "Wow look at you!"  and "Be careful because that's pretty scary." 

When she reached the bottom she ran over to me and with a very serious know-it-all look told me, "Now mom, don't ever try that at's only for little kids to do."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Run Away

Today I was supposed to run the 7 mile leg of a marathon length relay, but I didn't. Our team was short a member, which was just as well since I have a cough that has decided that my chest cavity is the ideal place to take up residence. If I would have ran this morning there is a good chance my lungs would have caught on fire and I would have been FORD (Found On Road Dead). This is not such a splendid outcome for a race. So instead, I sent all my good running vibes to my friend, Rachel, who is doing her part in a triathlon today, packed up my laptop, and hit the road with my new fave song blaring. Almost 3 hours later I arrived at my destination...

My sister-in-law Linda has connections with someone that has connections to a hotel in Cedar City, so about once a year we ditch our families and we take over the hotel conference room with electronics and snacks and we scrapbook (or in my case, blog) to our little hearts' content.

Connections are a great thing.

But don't worry about my munchkins, I've left them in the capable hands of leftover Panda Express, Little Caesar, and of course, their favorite person in the whole world, daddy. I'm positive they'll survive to make a mess of the house and run him ragged until I get home tomorrow afternoon. Until then I have three goals for the next 24 hours-
1. To catch up my blog on things that I missed over the summer,
2. To catch up with my girlfriend, LaRae, over dinner,
3. And to not gain 5 pounds in the process.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What Sexy Is

I don't know about you,
but this... what I find incredibly sexy. 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Late Night Education

Last night we had our annual sleep outside movie party. With having just finished packing away all the camping stuff away last week, we weren't too keen on dragging out the tent again, so we slept on the lawn under the stars. And it just so happens that with the Perseid Meteor Shower winding down, a tent ceiling would have just obstructed a most magnificent view. We also didn't actually watch a movie last night. Instead we read and told stories including the kids' favorite "The Vindow Viper". The only movies that played were the ones that our imaginations created for us in our minds- the very best kind, after all.

One of my favorite parts of the whole night included the sweet kisses bestowed all over my face by a brown eyed, feet-y jammie clad angel with her little arm thrown around my neck pulling me close . The other was when Dallin told us we had everything except a "pot to go to the bathroom in". We informed him, we did. It was 20 feet away in the house and it is called a toilet. I love that crazy nut of a kid.

As I lay awake at 2:30 in the morning gazing up into the star speckled night, I thought about how enjoyable movie party had been. There was no bickering about what movie to watch or who got to sit by dad on the couch. Everyone listened and laughed as others told stories and there was a tangible warmth as we laid on the cool grass together that was not created by the piles of blankets and quilts covering us. It was comfortable. It was enjoyable. It was memorable; just like being with family should be.

So last night I learned that maybe movie party each week might be a little more special with a little less movie all the time and a little more effort at really just being together. As these thoughts concluded my sleep deprived and extremely exhausted brain also gained knowledge of these 10 important or not so important things. I learned that...

1....apparently there was a train passing through with an engineer who must have been peeved he wasn't asleep at 2:30 in the morning like the majority of Provo. Because I'll tell you, he did his darnedest laying on that horn of his to wake up not only Provo, but the state of Utah.

2....Dallin talks in his sleep after he exclaimed, "Mom, guess what?" followed by a sentence of nothing but absolute nonsense.

3....the high pitched whine emanating from something electrical in our neighborhood had begun to alternate. This was more mind numbing annoying than its previous constancy.

4....the smell of dew dampened ground renewed memories of sleeping out as a kid...and an almost overwhelming urge to go toilet papering.

5....train #1's engineer must have a twin who was at the helm of train #2. can hear the backup warning beeps from the construction trucks working on the freeway all the way in my backyard.

7....meteor showers are incredibly captivating. I only wish they didn't get really started so late at night (or should I say early in the morning).  If only I could have propped my eyelids open to continue to catch all of those little lights streaking across the sky while I slept...

8....there was no way in that place low below that I was going to feel like running 6 miles at 7:00. all of my 33 years and birthing of 4 children I still have not accumulated enough "batting" to combat the hardness of sleeping on the ground.

10....a Saturday nap was already sounding like an excellent idea.