Friday, August 26, 2011

Meet Tim & Ali

These are our friends Tim & Ali:

On Monday they invited us over for dinner. They are leaving for Ireland soon so that they can do a semester abroad! Ali studies Law and Tim is working on his masters in Jazz Studies.

I love going over to the Goff's house - their home is so unique and the food is always amazing.

There is never a loss for color and art at the Goff house. Jon has told me before that he would love for our house to be interesting like theirs. There is always something to look at. It's a beautiful collection of awesome personality:

When Jon and I come over, cooking is always a family event:

They use fresh food from their garden:

With homemade pizzas as appetizers and chicken with asparagus and goat cheese on the menu, how can you go wrong??

Of course the cats were really the stars of the show:

The boys were a little jealous of this...

To see more of our harrowing adventures and kitty mustache licking - check out the finals here.

Thank you, Tim and Ali, for an awesome night! Have fun in Ireland!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

We 13elieve

Jon and I were able to go to Youth Conference again this year with our stake. I didn't take quite as many pictures as last year, but part of that was because I just wanted to sit back and really enjoy it :) This year was SO much fun! We were much better prepared and had a greater time than last year. The mutual theme for this year is "We Believe" which centers on the 13th article of faith. (I would like to thank my calling in primary for the past year re-teaching me the articles of faith so that I can recite them all again, something I have not been able to do since I was like... 10)

We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men. Indeed we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul. We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

On Thursday we drove up to camp and were placed in our families. Last year we had one of the biggest families with 10 kids assigned to us to look after... this year - we had 14. Oy!

But they turned out to be AMAZING. Our family was seriously the coolest.

Once we are assigned together and given a family color (silver) we sit together in the dining hall to make our family name and flag. Last year we were the Tree-Huggin' Aliens (as our color was green.) This year, we were the Super Saucy Sparkling Silver Stars! That's right, our family names are always the best. The kids even made oragami stars out of aluminum foil for our flag:

Silver family mom:

Some of our amazing kids - he was King Noah in our skit:

After designing our family flag we played Minute to Win It against the other families. First up was the mummy wrap:

Next they had to transfer gumballs from one end of the table to the other using just the dinosaur mouth:

Then they had to stack dice one by one on the end of a popsicle stick in their mouth:

Then they had to find as many words as possible in a minute:

And then hook keys on the end of a string/paperclip using only their mouths. (I'm telling you, these kids had mad skills)

It was fun to see all the different talents these kids had coming out. Some felt like they had strengths in one area more than others, some kids were very competitive. Others shrunk away from the spotlight. But we made sure that they all took turns and got to participate. Over the course of about an hour that we played all these different challenges we could really see the kids coming together and becoming friends, even if they hadn't even met before that day. I loved watching their faces as they cheered on our family members... So tense!

He's almost got it!


The Silver family dad / aka "the enforcer"

We ate amazingly well at youth conference too. The cooks are fantastic. That night after dinner we had an awesome fireside with Brother Jason Johnson from the Rocklin Stake. WOW he was an awesome speaker! After that we had a dance, and a family devotional. Lights out was supposed to be at 11, but I'm pretty sure the girls were up until 2am.

The next day we started a service project right after breakfast. (Sorry Emily, this picture was just too funny not to put up!)

There were lots of things for us to do - tying blankets:

Sanding blocks (which the kids actually had a lot of fun doing)

And making cards:

We had other workshop rotations like filming our "skit" based on the story of King Noah and Abinadi. One of the stake leaders did an amazing job using a green screen and turning all the family skits into movies that we watched later that night after the dance. We also had some very uplifting lessons on strengthening testimonies of Christ, being part of the Lord's search & rescue team, and answering some of our friend's tough questions on doctrine and beliefs. The kids even got to learn some east coast swing! You can see how excited the girls were for this:

Jon even got in on the fun because we had way more girls than guys in our family:

The kids really had a blast:

Of course our teachers were exceptional - Sister Grace was on the BYU ballroom dance team:

A lot of the kids gained confidence from this workshop, and they learned a new skill too! They were excited to show off their new swing moves that night at the dance.

There really couldn't have been a better place for them to spend the end of their summer.

I loved just sitting back and watching the kids have fun:

During free time, Jon and I came prepared this year to teach Monopoly Deal:

On the last day, our family didn't come in the top 3 for points earned, but our kids were more than happy to join in cheering for the families who were in the championships. I know they don't see it now, because you never do when you're the teenager, but these kids are truly amazing and selfless. I loved watching them join in with their other friends to cheer everyone on just because it was fun. None of them were mad at all that we didn't win at everything. In fact they just let it roll off their backs, agreeing with us that they were the best family anyway - so we didn't need to win to prove it. We could pass along some of our awesome to everyone else:

Orange family competing in blowing cups off the table with a balloon:

Cheering them on!

Ping pong shake:

In the end, all of the families got candy to share. Jon even made a point at the end to get all our kids together to tell them how much fun he had, and we said goodbye with a group hug.

Lindsey (one of our girls from last year) with Charlee:

Emily (one of our girls this year) and Kayla - these were the girls we drove up to camp and back:

Overall I would not have traded that weekend for anything. I think I got just as much out of it as the youth did, and learning so much from their examples has been huge to me. It really made me miss serving with the young women, but I know that your example as a leader never really ends. I only wish I had understood this love that my leaders had for me when I was in their place. It was a perfect way to end the Summer!

Friday, August 19, 2011

El San Diego

The Alston side of the family had a (first ever?) official reunion in San Diego at the end of July. Jon's dad put it together in celebration of Jon's mom turning 60 this year. It's the first time we've all been together since mine and Jon's wedding in 2005, and the first time we've been together since Kassidy isn't the only grandkid anymore. Here are some of my fav pics from the trip!

View from the stairway of our vacation rental - the house we stayed in is on the left:

View from the dining area inside looking out over the patio:

Of course the first thing we did was go down to the beach and check it out.
Dave caught a HUGE sand crab:



Jackee telling me that she doesn't do pictures:

Sunset, day 1:

 The next day we started out on the beach right after breakfast:

Jon's mom / aka the birthday girl:




For lunch we had a BBQ complete with homemade root beer!

AnnMarie and Issak loved playing together. The best part of the beach house were the tile floors, so everyone could come in and out as they pleased, even with wet ocean feet!

Dinner was Italian food by Mike / Amanda and Beth. Crab raviolis made from scratch:

Mike worked hard on an awesome beach themed cake:

Sunset, day 2:

That night we had cake and presents for Chris' birthday:

The next day was a trip to the beautiful San Diego Zoo!

A wild Steph in her natural habitat:

Feeding time!

Audrey said her favorite part about the San Diego trip was being a princess:

Isaak's favorite part about the San Diego trip was riding the train across from the Zoo:

Kassidy's favorite part of the trip was everything:

Jon's favorite part of the trip was no school!

Historians believe that there were ancient birds this size! Jon poked him in the eye on purpose:

My favorite part of the San Diego trip was the zoo and seeing the koalas :)

I even got this awesome sea turtle necklace from the zoo!

That night we went into Old Town San Diego for mexican food!

This mariachi band sang Happy Birthday to Jon's mom:

 The next day we tried some kite flying:

Mike, Amanda & AnnMarie:

Me & Jon:

Steve & Chris:

Jackee, Steve, Kassidy, Audrey & Isaak:

Steve & Chris with the Grandkids:

Steve, Chris, Dave & Beth:

(aka, the single children)

After pictures we headed down to the farmer's market in Oceanside:

The kids got balloon animals:

Back at home we played in the ocean and the kids watched Jon play Angry Birds:

Naps were taken:

Puzzles were put together:

And Grandpa did some face painting:

Even Auntie Beth got her face painted! Kassidy decided that she would be the ocean:

Audrey and mom hanging out before dinner:

Beth prepared an awesome dinner of southern food! The fried okra was my favorite part. We also had fried green tomatoes, potatoe salad (mmmmm) black eyed peas and chicken and rice:

The next morning Jon, Beth and I headed over to the San Diego temple, and even though it was closed for maintenance we took some pictures around the grounds:

That day Jon and I hung out at the beach house with Mike, Amanda and Dave while everyone else took the grandkids to Lego Land. I think eating lunch at the edge of Oceanside pier was better!

Sunset, day 5:

The kids LOVED the hot tub:

On Saturday we all donned our ALSTON t-shirts (designed by Dave) and headed onto the beach one last time for pictures and a seashell hunt!

The kids sure found a lot of them!

The whole Alston family:

From left to right: Jackee, Audrey, Isaak, Steve Jr, Kassidy, Steph, Jon, Beth, Dave, Mike, AnnMarie, Amanda, Chris & Steve Sr.

We sure had an awesome time! The week went by so fast. We had delicious food, good sun, and it was pretty much the best family vacation ever. Hopefully we will be making the reunion a little more of a regular thing (like every 3 years instead of 6 or more). Can't wait to go back to the beach!