Merry Christmas!

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Wishing you and your families a most wonderful and merry Christmas! I hope one of our cards found its way to your mailbox. We love you all and this time of year especially to remember the wonderful gift of our Savior. May this year bring much joy and happiness to you all!

Thanksgiving

We were so lucky to have my entire family make the trek out here to celebrate Thanksgiving with us. My kids had been looking forward to it for months : ) We squished everyone into our house and loved every minute. We only wish it could have lasted longer!

Some of the fun things we were able to do with everyone here were:

Go see Wreck it Ralph! It was awesome. We were sad, though, that my parents' flight was delayed so they weren't able to make it. Crazy snowstorms in Canada! We were just so glad they finally got in later that night. Holiday travel can be so nuts.

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Anna had been talking about helping make the pies this year for months. They made apple pies at activity days a couple of months ago and she has been looking forward to using her skills ever since. She was the cutest little helper ever : )

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The boys and children headed out to the park to enjoy the warm weather while we finished up the rest of Thanksgiving dinner. We could not have asked for better weather this year : )

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We enjoyed an amazing (if I do say so myself, haha) Thanksgiving dinner of smoked turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, amazing homemade rolls by Angie, green beans, brussel sprouts and candied yams. I could not have been more thrilled to have my whole family sitting around our table. I am so happy just looking at this picture : )

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The next day we headed into the city so we could all go and check out Alcatraz! No one in my family had been there before so we thought it would be fun to do together. It was definitely less creepy in the warm sunshine but that place is still crazy! Very interesting, though.

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The girls chillin out in the prison yard.

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My very favorite picture of the day: Blaine doing some time in time-out at Alcatraz ; )

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The views from Alcatraz are awesome.

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The boat ride was by far the kid's favorite part, especially Blaine's : )

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We finished off the day with dinner on Pier 39 and some additional tourist-ing. That's Blaine, Kate and Anna on the top tier of the carousel if you can spy them ; )

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The stinky sea lions are not quite as stinky from the top level!

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And we enjoyed all of the Christmas decorations all around the pier. It was the perfect end to our weekend!

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It really was much too short, we can't wait to have everyone back again! I love holidays with family so much.

True Blue

The weekend before Thanksgiving we got to take our kids to their first ever BYU football game! The game was originally scheduled for the afternoon, but was changed at the last minute to a night game. Even though it started just before their bedtimes, we figured it was an opportunity not to be missed! (especially since we had already bought all of their tickets;)

We got everyone in their BYU gear and headed off for the tailgate party, which was way cooler than I thought it would be! We had dinner there and then made our way around to all of the booths they had set up that were run by BYU alumni. The kids got their faces painted, temporary BYU tattoos, balloon animals, jumped in bounce houses, played tons of games and won lots of prizes. These kids were in heaven!

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Cosmo was running around doing all kinds of fun tricks which the kids were amazed by. They now think Cosmo is the coolest : ) They got to meet him, and Blaine was cool giving him a high five, but that was as close as he would get. No way was he getting in a picture! ; )

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After meeting Cosmo, Katie would sprint off as fast as she could for a high five or a big hug whenever she would see him again. Man is that girl fast. They're BFFs according to her now ; )

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The Cougarettes were also there walking around and did a couple of performances which the girls thought were amazing : ) They could not have been sweeter to my girls. They talked with them for a long time : )

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The Cougarettes offered the girls one of their pom-poms to hold during the picture, but Katie said, "No. I want both of your pom-poms." To which the sweet Cougarette responded, "Sure! I'll hold your balloon cougar!" Seriously, such sweet girls!

You can tell Katie was pretty darn pleased about holding both of those pom-poms! What a kid.

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Then it was time for the game! We were surrounded by BYU fans, it was so much fun! There were definitely more BYU fans in the stands than San Jose State. I ran into a couple old friends (loved that!) from BYU that live in Bakersfield and out in Modesto that had driven all the way in just for the game. Way to represent, BYU alums!

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The kids were more into the game than I thought they would be, but enjoyed spotting their Cougarette friends and Cosmo the most : ) Oh, and eating snacks, of course : )

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I was there, too! I loved sitting in the sea of blue with my little family. Loved it!

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I'm hoping there are some more BYU football games in our future. What fun!

Soccer Season Wrap Up

I loved having both of the girls play soccer this year. I won't lie, though, it was also pretty nuts. Both of the girl's practices on Thursday nights were at the exact same time on fields that were 10 minutes apart. I called it "The Amazing Thursday Night Race." ; ) Both of their coaches knew about it and were so nice, but it totally made me feel like a slacker mom. I'm thinking this year was probably just foreshadowing of what's to come with coordinating events for all of the kids! ; )

Here's a picture of Katie leaving practice a few minutes early to race over to try and not be too late picking Anna up from hers. Can you guess what her favorite color is? : )

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I don't even have words for how amazing Anna's coach was this year. He is the varsity soccer coach at one of the high schools here and was amazing at team and confidence building with these girls. He had the best games to play at practices and the girls got to use some pretty awesome practice equipment. They also knew that if it was over 95 degrees outside(which was pretty frequent) they would get to run drills with water balloons. We always found them doing something fun at practices. (I also won't lie that Katie was pretty jealous!)

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On opening game day they have a huge soccer parade with all of he teams in the league. The girls love this so much. They dress up in something that has to do with their team name and march down main street. It's such a fun tradition they do here.

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The other favorite day of the season: team parties! Which, of course, were at the exact same time on the same night. What are the chances? I honestly felt like I couldn't catch a break this season. Luckily, Christian left work early so he could go with Katie to hers so both girls could be at their parties. Here are both of the girls getting their trophies from their coaches: (and oh my goodness does Katie love her trophy!:)

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I got a little emotional at Anna's party watching the girls watch the video a parent made of the highlights of their season. Seeing how much they love each other, support each other and cheer each other on was so moving. How lucky these girls were to have each other in their corner this whole season and hopefully for another season to come. (fingers crossed!) Team sports done right are incredible, and so good for our kids.

I love these soccer girls and am so proud of how much they grew this season. Seeing how happy they were and how much they loved it made all the craziness of getting them everywhere worth it : )

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Until next season! ; )

PS - sorry for the phone photos, we had some really great pictures of the girls in action on the field, but they are nowhere to be found. It has been driving me crazy! So the phone photos it is.

Back to Rome

After we got back to Rome, we hit the ground running : ) We had so many things that we wanted to see and only so much time left. It is amazing how quickly time runs out on vacation!

Our first morning back we went to the Colosseum! The history of this building is so interesting. It was really fun to learn more about; there was some crazy stuff going on in there! It is amazing how much of the building is still in tact over 2000 years later. This may have been my favorite place that we visited in Rome.

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Can you just picture the floor of this place covered with intricate sets, exotic animals and gladiators fighting it out? Or even flooded for a sea battle? It seems so crazy that it actually happened, but after being there and reading all about it, it started to be not quite so hard to imagine. It was a fascinating tour!

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Us in front of a famous site… Christian's very favorite ; )

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We went to the Pantheon

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And enjoyed a lot of amazing gelato! Oh my goodness was the gelato there amazing. I think part of the reason it is so delicious is because it is so hot and humid! But every time we got some (which was almost every day...) it was pure deliciousness. My favorite flavors that I tried were pistachio (so different from our fake pistachio flavor!), chocolate, biscotti and cream. So fresh and so delicious!

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There was always a beautiful fountain to enjoy a gelato by. Every few feet there was another gorgeous fountain. No exaggeration! I also had a lot of fun with the lenses Christian had for his phone. They are so fun! I think I need to get some (hint, hint…;)

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We went to the Vatican Museum

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And the Sistine Chapel. It was even more amazing than I could have imagined. Christian and I sat in the chapel for so long, trying to take in as much as we could. I loved it in there so much and loved trying to find the stories behind all of the paintings. We weren't allowed to take pictures, but I found this one that I just had to include. I had no idea just how intricate and extensive it was. We got lost in it. I was dizzy when we left from looking up for so long!

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We went to St Peter's Basillica,

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And were completely captivated by Michelangelo's Pietà.

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My favorite part of being in Vatican City was mailing my catholic grandma and postcard right from the Vatican. It was so fun! : )

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Our very last morning there, we woke up early and went over to the Trevi Fountain to try and see it sans piles and piles of other people. Mission accomplished! We got there just right before they even turned the fountain on for the day ; ) It was really neat to get to see the whole thing with just us there.

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We dashed over to the Spanish Steps from the fountain to see if we could see the steps underneath all of the people, and were happily surprised to find them almost completely empty. They are just lovely.

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But it only lasted for a minute or two. After we took this picture a couple of tour groups showed up. It was definitely worth getting up early for : )

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We tried hard to savor our last meals there, enjoying the leisure in which we could eat. That really is one of my favorite things about being on vacation. I love sitting and talking with Christian over some amazing food, taking in our surroundings : ) The mozzarella in Italy was incredible. I do not have words to describe how good the balsamic vinegar or olive oil is. I loved how fresh everything we ate there was. Sooo yummy!

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Then we had to wake up crazy early the next morning to get on our flight home. Leaving is always so bittersweet. I'm always so excited to see my kids, but so sad to leave the freedom and luxurious living of a vacation behind.

I could not have loved this vacation more. It was so fun to be in such a beautiful and historical place with Christian, to spend so much time together and get to think about how similar yet different we are since our honeymoon 10 years ago. So different, yet so the same : ) I can't wait to compare things in another 10 years!

And go on another vacation… I have seriously been bitten by the traveling bug! ; ) Any recommendations on where to go next?

The Amalfi Coast and Pompei

Our next stop on our trip was to a little piece of paradise : ) We headed out to Amalfi and I almost decided to stay there for the rest of our trip. The weather was perfection, the water was way warmer than I expected and the views were incredible. I wish I could jump right back into this picture!

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It was so interesting how they had built these towns right into the mountainside. It couldn't have been more charming.

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We drove all along the coast, up and down through the mountains on the tiniest, windiest roads. This was on our way from Amalfi to the town of Positano which you can see just in the distance.

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This was our view from where we ate lunch in Positano. Our choice of fish was what the fishermen had just brought in. They were the most charming fishermen that were out on the most charming boats with the most delicious fish! The whole place was so picturesque. I totally fell in love : )

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After that we spent some time in Pompei. What an incredible place! It was amazing to see how advanced the city was 2500 years ago, all that they have been able to uncover, how well preserved it is and to imagine what life was like living there at the time. It is so easy to picture with all that they have discovered. Walking through the roads, into homes, taverns, shops, baths, gymnasiums, etc. was so cool. Pompei was one of my favorite stops of our trip.

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The two thousand year old tragedy became real when our guide explained that these figures were plaster casts made from where victims' bodies were trapped in the ash. The bodies had decomposed leaving an empty cavity in the shape of the people as they breathed in their last breaths of poison gas from the volcano. It was haunting.

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It was really fun to get out and see outside of Rome a little bit, and both of these places were so amazing. I'm so happy we could get out there : ) Next up, back to Rome! : )

Rome: Part 1

Oh, Rome! What an incredible and beautiful city that is just dripping with rich history. We absolutely loved our time there. We spent our first couple of days just wandering through the cobblestone streets, exploring and trying to take it all in. And pinching ourselves that we were actually there! I honestly felt like any direction we went in lead to something incredible. Even after an entire week there, there is still so much that we weren't able to get to. There is just so much there!

Some pictures from our wanderings:

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The view from the top of the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument. The building is kind of ugly (and hated because it was built by crazy fascists) but the view is spectacular. Definitely worth the visit : )

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This picture that Christian took just might be my favorite from the trip : )

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This was when we found ourselves in the basement of the Musei Capitolini just before closing…. totally alone. It was so creepy! It totally felt like we were in the Da Vinci Code or something : )

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We also spent a lot of time eating! Seriously, meals there take forever. I loved getting to spend a good chunk of time eating an incredibly fresh and delicious meal, especially after walking around all day. It was so nice to sit in a cozy little restaurant, talking with Christian and doing some really fun people watching. I loved how the restaurants didn't totally fill up until around 10:00 at night and then it was with large (and loud!) extended families and friends, including small children. It was a party! : )

Some serious yumminess : )

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Speaking of serious yumminess, I loved the way they do breakfast. Our hotel would have fresh croissants, pains au chocolat, other pastries, meats, cheeses, yogurt, fresh juices etc. It was all so fresh and so delicious. I have really been missing having that spread just ready for me right when I wake up! ; )

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We saw so many incredible churches. The artwork in them is extraordinary. These pictures are from the Santa Maria Della Vittorio, every single inch of that place was covered in some kind of ornate decoration. Every single inch!

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My favorite church, though, was when Christian and I went to go to the outskirts of Rome for church on Sunday. It was so fun to see an entirely different side of Rome, and to meet the incredibly warm, welcoming, and friendly members in that ward. Sacrament meeting was so loud! Children wander freely, strollers are parked all over the place, people greet the late-comers, talk to each other, including the person speaking at the pulpit. It was awesome. We felt so lucky to be there the day that the project manager of the Rome temple spoke. He is from England so we could even understand him! : ) It was amazing to hear the stories of how the building is progressing, and to feel the excitement for the temple to be there. Only another year and a half! : )

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Us after church - so happy! : )

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We took a Sunday evening stroll through the piazza spagna and wandered over to the spanish steps, only to find that we couldn't even see the steps there were so many people there! It was tourist mania ; ) Fabulous people watching, though! We even saw a group in full-out, for real lederhosen. So awesome.

Me and all of our tourist friends : )

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And that was our first couple of days in Rome : ) More to come….

Family Pictures

I have to post these before I start on our Rome trip. We took these just before we left and Denae got them back to me so fast. They were waiting for me when we got back and I love them!! Now I just have to pick which ones to go on the wall and what to put on the Christmas card. I am so happy to have choices! Thank you for everything, Denae!!

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Seriously, how will I choose? : ) Denae is in Walnut Creek for anyone local, and I can't say enough fabulous things about her. You can find all her info and to book your own session HERE and see the session we did with her last year here. And now I will go cry about how much my kids grew up in just one year!!

Also, I am so happy we finally started taking family pictures. I do not love the way I look, but I decided to suck it up and get in the darn pictures… it's what I look like ; ) And these pictures of our family at this moment in time are treasures and it doesn't matter one bit if I think I look good or not. This is us, right now, and I'm so happy we could freeze these moments. Thank you Denae for capturing my little family, just how we are!

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