September 5, 2017

London is Light

My lovely little London turned 6 last month, and she wanted a Moana Pool Party...

My grandma made the beautiful flowers, and everyone ate Hawaiian pulled pork sandwiches, tropical fruit salad, and heart of Te-Fiti sugar cookies. I made this creamy watermelon coconut juice, and pineapple infused water, too!
London and I made her pinata together in the days before her party, which was so so fun! We had a plain, round pinata that we decorated like a kakamora (the coconut pirates from the movie), with tissue paper and mod podge. 
London did such a good job!
The pinata may or may not have ended up on the ground halfway through the kids tying to break it open, and there is a slight chance Kyle ended up dumping the candy out by hand, but they all loved it anyway.
I had this kind of crazy idea to surround the fence all the way around the pool with palm fronds. And naturally, I asked the only person I know who would've agreed to do it: my dad. In a truly Laythe-Hartwell-kind-of-way, he knocked on a complete stranger's door and asked them if he could trim their palm trees for free. I'm pretty sure they thought he was insane, but they said yes anyway, and my dad showed up to the party with a truck-load of palm fronds.

London wanted a vanilla cake this year, so I spruced it up a little bit with marshmallow frosting I shaped like little ombre waves.

In these pictures, London is saying, "Oh my gosh, I LOVE THIS!" or "This is EXACTLY what I've always wanted!" We'll just call these her facials...
For her present from us, I picked out a wooden doll house and my dad had it built for her. I stayed up til midnight all week, paining and mod podging floors and wallpaper, until it was just right. 

My midnight shenanigans... 
It was SO sweet to see her face!
After we said goodbye to all of her darling friends, Kyle and I took London on a special date downtown. Isn't she just the cutest six-year-old ever?
London is light. She is endlessly obedient, helpful, observant, tender, and loving. She cares deeply about making us proud and doing the right thing in every situation. She's an insanely talented artist, who sketches, paints, and colors at all hours of the day. I'm not sure how it happened, but I blinked and my baby has legs three feet long and goes to first grade. 

I hope she felt as special as she is to me on her 6th birthday!

August 14, 2017

Oh Yeah

Can we all just agree that summer life is THE best life? The complete freedom to swim, ride bikes, play at the park, go to the beach, build a fort, or stay up late for a movie night, whenever you want??!!! And I mean, HOLY FRUIT----strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, tomatoes, mangoes, peaches and nectarines for every meal? I'm just going to come out and say it....This is heaven.
The Del Mar Fair
 We kicked off the summer season with a trip to Utah- for two really important reasons. First, my reeeeeally talented brother, future Broadway star, and newest member of the Music Dance Theater Program at BYU, was performing in a show this summer that I just had to see. And second, our favorite people on the planet were baptizing their little girl, Payton, and she needed a hair stylist.
----Just kidding, the hair styling was just an added bonus!

Anyway, we did that thing we always do, which is load up our kids and drive really far because we love a lot of people who live far away.

Kyle's brother-in-law's family graciously allowed us to stay in their home while they were away for the weekend, so our kids had a whole beautiful yard with a trampoline and basketball court to play in all day, instead of a dinky hotel room. We were so grateful!
Henry at Megleby's for all-you-can-eat french toast :)

First, we had dinner with my college roommate and childhood friend, Hanna, and her adorable girls! Then, we spent the day in Farr West, playing horses and play-dough with my mom's wonderful siblings and their kids. We love them so much! On our way back to the valley, we stopped at Temple Square for dinner and sight-seeing with the Adams.

Kyle was most excited about taking our kids to BYU's campus...something about brainwashing them into thinking it's the best school on the earth or something? Anyway, we had the whole BYU thing planned out perfectly, except for that minor detail involving our almost-two-year-old-twins, who weren't so good at sitting quietly in the stroller while we reminisced. Somehow, we still managed to take a few really cute pictures, saw a new football recruit that Kyle is super excited about in the Tanner Building, and even locked ourselves and all four kids on a balcony overlooking the practice field. All that, PLUS a verbal commitment from our five-year-old that she'll go there someday? Roaring success.

Our final day was Payton's baptism/Noah's show day. We woke up really early to get all the kids looking their best, and drove to a beautiful chapel in Saratoga Springs. To be there with the Adams family for such a big day was the sweetest thing... I don't know how we got so lucky, but there is just nothing like the bond our families share!
We had a few hours to spare while the twins napped, so we played catch-up up with Kyle's friend Cody and his family, while the other kids ate otter pops in the backyard. Then, Marty and Michelle, my mom's best friends and my "adoptive" parents (whom I have loved my whole life) came over to see us. Every time we see them, they are these beacons of wisdom and spiritual insight. I am in awe of their faith and ability to see the details of life in an eternal perspective. They are the best people!
Then, it was the crowning jewel of our Utah vacation: Noah as Benjamin in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. You can choose to believe me, or think that I'm just the biased sister of an aspiring actor, but Noah has IT---The "IT" that makes you only look at him whenever he graces the stage. He has it all- the acting, the singing, the dancing, the presence...He had me laughing and crying and finally giving a standing ovation at his amazing portrayal of Joseph's favorite brother. If you want to see exactly what I mean, watch him in Hale Center Theater's AIDA this fall! You're welcome.

On our long drive home, Kyle and I agreed that this was the best family vacation we have ever taken. Was it the company? Definitely. The beautiful home we stayed in? For sure. The fact that the twins are now slightly more obedient and therefore increasingly more manageable? Oh yeah.

July 31, 2017

She finished Kindergarten

My Londie Lou finished Kindergarten with a bang... a beautiful end-of-the-year performance where she completely stole the show, and had us all laughing out loud. If you want your life to be complete, fast-forward through (or endure) Kyle's really bad videography to the part where London sings "I am a Pizza". Watching her was easily one of my favorite motherhood moments everrrr. What can I say? She's gifted!
The dabbing five-year-olds :)

And now this angel girl of mine, who can read and even write computer code, is ready to be a first-grader! Eeeek!

May 22, 2017

English Teachers

Kyle and I started doing something a little crazy...we started teaching English to Syrian Refugees. It all started about two months ago, when a good friend of ours from church, whose calling (or job) at church is so assist the community with any needs of local refugees, told the congregation that he was in need of English teachers. I have a degree in English, and took elective English Teaching courses in college, knowing that Kyle and I would likely be overseas, and thinking those might come in handy! And then there's Kyle: the most charismatic and likable man you'll ever meet, who, though he would never ever tell you so, is an excellent Arabic speaker. As soon as I heard the announcement, I ran to Kyle's class and pulled him out in the middle of church! My mom offered to watch our kids each Monday night, and the rest is History--We started teaching a week later!

From the moment I met our students, I fell in love. I have never met people so generous and warm, so faithful and resilient, so devoted to their families, and so eager to learn! Our first night teaching, we told the students about our family. When it was their turn to share, our students talked about their brothers who had lost their lives fighting ISIS. Kyle and I drove home that night in humble silence.

Last week, a family we teach invited us over for Sunday dinner. We walked in the door and were greeted by beautiful, smiling faces. They picked up our children, squeezed their cheeks, kissed their faces, threw them up in the air, and graciously welcomed us into their home. Our children were passed from person to person throughout the night, and London was like their red-headed porcelain doll. We all sat on the floor and ate a traditional Syrian meal, with our hands! There was beef, stuffed eggplant and zucchini, soup, pita bread, stuffed grape leaves, tea, pineapple, cherries, chocolate frosted cake, apples, bananas, and hot chocolate. Each time I ate one thing off my my plate, our host would reach over and add something else for me to eat! There were six courses, and every. single. thing. was SO DELICIOUS! How I have missed those Middle-Eastern flavors!

Their little girl, who is just a few weeks older than my twins, didn't leave my side the entire night. I held her and read her stories, and she cuddled up on my lap like an angel.

How is it possible? Forced from their homes, losing their friends and family, their communities, their jobs, all of their belongings, everyone they have ever known is scattered all over the world in whatever country would allow them to escape to, and they are in a foreign country whose language they cannot speak---and yet, they have enough love in their hearts to welcome me and my family into theirs. Sitting in their living room, listening to the beautiful Arabic language, I felt completely overcome.

I can't believe that Kyle and I have this opportunity. Teaching our students each week brings me so much joy, there are not words to express it.

I was hesitant to blog about this, but then I realized---So many of us are so caught up in the absolute insanity of our lives, that we forget to look outward and serve others, and maybe reading our story will inspire you to write one of your own. Find something, anything, that you are passionate about giving of yourself to, and a zillion little pieces will fall into place, making it possible. It might be refugeeshomeless veteransat-risk youth, cuddling NICU babies at your local hospital, or something else entirely. Your life will become infinitely richer because of it, I promise.

"Even the smallest of things that you do blossom and multiply far beyond you."
-Nancy Tillman

May 11, 2017

Time to Ourselves

Usually, when we go to San Felipe, we bring cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends---and the people we bring with us are almost as wonderful as the trip itself. But this year was different: The Adams moved to South Carolina, family members were traveling in England and Costa Rica, and others were unable to take time off work. But I made the decision that we were going to Mexico anyway! So, it was just Kyle, me, our kids, and Nani, and it was every bit of everything we needed as a family.
Our WONDERFUL Nani, taking the kids to find shells. We love her so very much!
Elle has an alter-ego called Sparkles. Sparkles is a unicorn. She's pink all over. Even her mane is pink-- just ask Elle. Elle spent the week in San Felipe as Sparkles, galloping her little heart out, around the great, circular room, catching wolves. "Neigh! Neigh! Oh, no! There's another naughty wolf! I'm gonna catch you! Not so fast! Oh, no! He's getting away! I can do it!" And she'd rear up on her hind legs, and run, galloping, faster and faster. And then, she'd corner one, and use a magical rope to tie it up, sound effects and all, before spotting another one. She entertained herself endlessly.
Henry was in paradise. He had all the sand shovels and buckets his tender heart could dream of, and he dug in the sand from the moment the sun appeared across the water, until I forced him to come inside to eat or get his diaper changed. I must confess that he was permanently filthy. In his down-time, Henry followed Nani's dog Iggy, petting her gingerly and hugging her softly, saying in the cheeriest little boy voice, "Hi, Ii-eee!" 
Juliette absolutely loves birds. At our beach house, flocks of pelicans fly at eye-level across the sky. I captured this moment, but it happened countless times during our trip. Juliette would see the birds and run outside to watch them, twirling and clapping her hands, and calling, "Tweet! Tweet!" 
On a side note, it took her three days to touch the sand.

London's favorite thing was finding crabs and sea snails in the tide pools, just like me as a little girl! I would spend hours in the tide pools, catching everything from crabs to sea cucumbers to octopus. I love that London has reached the age where she sees beauty in the world around her!

Easter morning. The Easter Bunny brought the girls unicorn tails and horns, which they LOVED!

And then there's me and Kyle. Of course we loved making memories with our kids in the best place on earth, but our favorite part of the trip was the evenings, when all the kids had fallen fast asleep to the sound of the ocean, and we had time to ourselves! We played intense tournaments of Bananagrams, rocked on the back porch swing, and took romantic walks on the beach. It felt like a second honeymoon!

Peanut somehow managed to end up in our bed every night...
Our last morning there, while Kyle was busy packing up the car, I brought the kids down to the water, one last time. London grabbed a shovel and immediately wrote in the sand, "I love my family."

And so do I :)