Az Brainfood…

Today marks the end of another school year for AZ Brainfood. This is an organization that is near and dear to my heart because a good friend (pictured on the right) started it several years ago. In fact, the Gilbert Turkey Trot that I manage each year raises money for AZ Brainfood.

Every Thursday morning, volunteers gather at a warehouse to help package bags of food to send to 3000 kids throughout the valley so they have food on the weekend. I’ve been a volunteer on and off over the years. Last fall, when school started and I sent my last kid to kindergarten, I wanted to become a regular volunteer and invited Hunter to join me because he started school later in the morning than the rest of the kids. We would show up earlier than everyone else and start by backfilling the line. We did this every week. After a while, a friend of mine noticed Hunter was there helping and she realized her daughter could go before school as well. And the group started to multiply.

Our Thursday mornings became a fun morning at Brainfood and then a rowdy carpool to school with loud music and I couldn’t have picked a better way to start my day.

My family knows I love this organization, but they don’t live around here so haven’t been able to see it in person. My dad was visiting not too long ago and I was happy to bring him along – he was great at unpacking granola bars!

When the food is stocked, we move to the line where we pull items and put them in bags.

Every week we see a lot of the same people, working the same stations and then there’s always a group or company that comes as guest volunteers. A few weeks ago it was a local high school dance group, last week a health care organization. Every week we see familiar faces and some new faces. We’ve made friends and made an impact. Hunter has logged so many service hours and we’re both sad to see it end with the school year. Luckily, Hunter has late start one more year so we’ll get one more year of Brainfood together.

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The backyard…

We haven’t done much to our backyard since we bought the house years ago. We’ve torn out a few trees, removed a dilapidated shed and built a new shed/playhouse. We have said for years, we’re going to start working on transforming the backyard and yet by the time we’ve got free Saturdays, it’s too hot to be motivated to start the project. We trick ourselves into thinking we’ll do it in the fall when it cools down. It doesn’t seem to ever cool down so November rolls around and all the holiday fun that goes with the season and we’re not ready to start the project. This has been a five-year cycle.

But now I’m serious.

So the other night, as the sun started to tuck behind the house, I went outside to make a plan. I sat on the trampoline and tried envisioning what I wanted out of the backyard. As I surveyed the project, I couldn’t help but notice the dirt patch/runway in our grass. Most would be frustrated their grass looks like this – but this tells me our backyard gets a lot of use!

We have a soccer net just outside of this picture and that dirt patch is the kicking pathway of the goal – it gets so much love. Kick after kick and running back and forth, grass doesn’t stand a chance of growing there. As I look to re-do this space, I know that soccer goal isn’t going anywhere and chances are, our grass will probably still look like this even after it gets a complete makeover. And thats okay. In 10 years when my kids no longer want to go outside and kick a ball, we’ll have nice grass. Until then, I’ll enjoy this view.

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Bennett’s Birthday…

His sweet friend made this banner for him and dropped it off with a gift.

Every birthday, the kids get to decide what we do for lunch. Some years they’ve requested we bring them lunch at school and as they’ve gotten older, they often request to leave school to go to lunch. (Thank heavens most of them have grown out of the McDonald’s happy meal stage! :)) Bennett chose Panda Express – a family favorite.

Bennett scored with a Chris Paul jersey as a gift this year and there was more than one sibling a little jealous of his new gift. Hunter may or may not be requesting to borrow it and I hope Bennett remembers that just earlier this week, Hunter let him borrow his Booker jersey for Jersey day during spirit week. We swapped out the classic orange jersey for a black Valley jersey and it’s getting all sorts of attention in his wardrobe right now.

At one point after school, we had kids running in every direction including Bennett’s Battle of the Books district competition. But we couldn’t have a birthday come and go without a trip to Dutch Bros for the birthday smoothie, even if we had to squeeze it in at the end of the day.

Another year older and wiser too…

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Mother’s day 2022…

Today we celebrated mothers. Being a mother. Being raised by mothers. And all the non-biological mothers out there who do a fantastic job mothering my children at school, in our neighborhood and the ont field and courts – my kids have so many “mother” figures in their lives and we celebrated all of them today.

We started the morning with the most delicious breakfast and Hunter and Steve were the master crepe makers. We don’t make them very often but they are my favorite.

We ended the evening hosting Steve’s parents for dinner – the kids prepared a delicious meal for us all and even cleaned up for us.

It was a beautiful day and I was reminded of how grateful I am for this stage of motherhood.

Teenagers (and pre-teens) get a bad rap – but they are fun. They talk. They share. They bring so much laughter into the home and they bring their friends with them. Every stage of motherhood has come with its own set of challenges and plays on a different set of insecurities, but I love this stage. It’s the most comfortable and natural I’ve felt in motherhood since I started this journey 16 years ago. I love where we’re at and recognize the tides change quickly so we’ll enjoy it for what it’s worth!

At church, the kids filled out questionnaires that were given to me today.

Hallie said:

The most loved quality about my mom that I admire is that she loves the lake and loves my friends.

The one thing my mom says a lot is: “If you’re bored, maybe you should go clean your room” & “You’re my favorite daughter”.

Something my mom and I love to do together is talk at 1 o’clock in the morning. hehe (you should have seen the younger boys faces when they heard that one – there isn’t a world where they could imagine Hallie is allowed to stay up that late!)

A special memory about your mother: When I was crying after I found out my 4th sibling was going to be another boy and she helped me realize all of the good things of being the only girl.

Hunter said:

My most loved quality about my mom that I admire is her support for me in my sports.

The one thing my mom says a lot is “You’re not making the point you think you are.”

Something my mom and I like to do together is play soccer and build.

Bennett said:

My most loved quality about my mom that I admire is she’s hard working.

The one thing my mom says a lot is “go do your laundry”.

Something my mom and like to do together is listen to music.

My mom is really great at being a mom.

Cannon said:

My most loved quality about my mom that I admire is she makes a lot of stuff.

The one thing my mom says a lot is “clean your room”.

Something my mom and I like to do together is mother/son time.

A special memory of your mother: When she went to Disneyland with me.

Briggs said:

My favorite thing to do with you is snuggle.

I like it when you cook bean burritos.

I know you love me when you hug me.

My world revolves around these 5 kids (and a husband not pictured!) I am grateful for the time and grace I’ve had to grow into my role as a mother and I know it will continue to change me and I look forward to that. Happy Mother’s day!

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Escape Room…

This last year, we had Steve’s brother for Christmas and since they live far away, we opted to gift them an experience. Our original idea, was to give them tickets to the traveling “Van Gogh Experience”. As that idea evolved, we decided to bring his brother into the conversation and they suggested it be an experience with us when they came into this spring. We gave them a list of experience options we could do together and they chose an escape room.

Here’s a little tidbit about me – I love escape rooms. I love puzzles. I love solving problems. I love the pressure of needing to get out on time. If I’m doing an escape room, I can’t think of a better couple to join us than Bob and Virginia. They are analytical, they solve problems, they think outside of the box – we knew we’d be a power team.

There are a hundred escape room options out there, but we went up to Scottsdale to support our friends who opened an escape room called The Nemesis Club. They went above and beyond when creating this experience and I promise you, it won’t disappoint. Most escape rooms are lower budget – but not this one – they have given every attention to detail and it was interactive and responsive beyond our expectations.

They informed us after we completed it that even the duration of the game depends on you. It’s like those old car racing games that if you complete a section in a certain time then it extends your time and you can keep going – this room is similar. It has responsive components that if you’re cruising through it, there’s an extension at the end where you compete a little longer.

Steve and I saw this room when it was in the building stage and neither one of us knew what to expect when trying to escape.

Bob was our fearless leader and kept us moving and cataloging things we found in the room. We were an exceptionally good team which I had a feeling would be the case – If we’re solving problems, I want them on my team!

They asked us in the beginning how much help we wanted to make sure we escaped – we said 3 out of 10. We wanted minimum help but there were a few times we were grateful for the overhead voice that said, “I would look at that again.”

They have another room currently operating and another under construction so we’re going to need to go back and try out the other escape rooms. It’s just unfortunate we don’t give to Bob for Christmas for another 8 years. 🙂

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