Saturday, December 31, 2016

Oh yeah, we moved

It's official: we're renting a house in Northern California!


At the end of BYU-Idaho's fall semester we decided the best place for our family is back home with family and friends that we grew up with (along with some better sunshine-y weather and access to better medical care.) So we hurried up and moved!


The kids (and Jon... and my mom... and Jon's mom...) all got MISERABLE colds the week that we moved :( It kept us indoors for a little bit, but thankfully everyone is on the mend and we've been able to get a lot of boxes unpacked. :) The drive itself was as good as it could have been, with only some spots of snow.


We felt very blessed to make it safely, and miss out on the crazy blizzard that hit Rexburg on graduation day!

For the time being we are living with Jon's parents and my mom. :) We had a beautiful Christmas all together and were able to visit Jon's brother Mike, his wife Amanda, and their daughter AnnMarie, as well as my dad, and sister, Michelle.


new illustrated Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to read together as a family!

By far the most beautiful gift I received this year was a hand painted watercolor portrait of me with the kids. Jon ordered it from one of my favorite artists. I absolutely LOVE it!


Kate and Edwin were totally spoiled (of course) and received new big kid beds! They are loving their twin sized mattresses and we love the bunk bed giving everyone lots of space in their new room. :D




Margo pup is still alive and well, but is staying with my dad and sister at their house in Loomis until we find a permanent dog-friendly place to live. She seems to be enjoying the yard to play in and having some kid-free space for a while ;)


Horse the goldfish is alive and well in Rexburg. We felt like the traveling would probably kill him (too much change in elevation and temperature) so our friend Paige adopted him:


Along with the new fun space in our house, I redecorated mine and Jon's bedroom! It definitely needed it.

BEFORE:

AFTER:

(fantastic sign above the bed credit goes to my friend Sloane at Indigo Rose Restoration!)

Clutter free art display space = #AllTheHeartEyes


This was SO needed! Now I feel like we have a grown-up retreat space all to ourselves :D

Meanwhile, we've been able to catch up with lots of great friends:




We've been out to sushi, had breakfast burritos, gone caroling to surprise people, tried Korean food, went to breakfast with friends, had play-dates, exchanged Christmas presents, and went go-carting! The end of 2016 has definitely gone off with a BANG.

There's lots of new stuff happening soon, and lots more from this past year to catch you up on. But for now I'm realizing that I haven't done a good job of documenting our recent friend time, HAHA

Goal for 2017: TAKE MORE PICTURES ;)

We hope we get to visit all of you that we haven't seen yet really soon!!

Here's to new fun and new #AlstonAdventures



HAPPY NEW YEAR 2017!!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Updates on the Kids

Normally I'm pretty good with regular updates on the kids. But this year I haven't reported on their milestones since March!


Thankfully, I keep track of things I want to remember on my phone. Here are some of my favorite memories of Kate and Wynn over the past 8 months :)

Kate turned 4 in August and has been a sassy whirlwind of independence! She weighed 30 lbs and was 38.25 inches tall at her 4 year check up.


Kate has lots of cute quirks and "Kate-isms". For instance, she says "thank you" to automatic soap dispensers when she is washing her hands in public bathrooms. ;)
She is very loving toward our family (well, as long as she is getting her way) and gives us all hugs and kisses often. One of my favorite things she says is, "Daddy is MY friend! He’s my little boy.”


In the fall our ward at church had their annual Primary Program which Kate got to be part of as a Sunbeam! (the 3-4 year old class) She was the only one in her class to not say her part in the microphone (even though we had practiced it all week) and she even turned off the sound from the main microphone control switch during another kid's part! To top it all off, she laid on the floor instead of sitting in her chair, and she spit over the front of the stand onto the carpet in front of the whole congregation. I was so glad that we invited all our friends to come see her ;) hahaha - we really got a good laugh out of the whole thing! I guess it's all you can do, right? ;) Manners in public are something we're working on...

During our road trip in August a lady came into the public restroom where I was helping Kate. The lady laughingly described Kate as precocious. ;) I think that sums her up well.

***

Edwin is growing up so fast! He is 3 months away from his 3rd birthday, and definitely does not feel like much of a baby anymore. (Aside from the fact that he still sucks his thumb and takes his blankie with him everywhere.) Edwin calls bedtime “dark time”, and even when we put him down for naps during the day he says, “but it isn’t dark time yet!”

He loves giving Margo bones and treats. Edwin speaks extremely well for his age. It’s nice to hear his thoughts. I think his mind processes the same way any 2.5 year old’s would, but he is able to articulate it so well. It’s really nice to hear his thoughts out loud.


Edwin loves to climb up on rocks and ask me to take his picture! Oh, and that shiner under his right eye in the picture above? Is from when he walked into the corner of our kitchen table. :'( ouch!

Wynn is very creative and loves to sing and work on art projects. For Halloween we decorated pumpkins and ghosts for our living room window. He took his glitter glue application very seriously!


Edwin constantly cracks me up with his imagination. The other night he walked down the hall into the living room where I was writing in my journal, and he was using his little lion toy like a telescope. He looked at me and I said, “Hi, Edwin!” Then he turned and ran down the hall yelling, “Kate! I think mommy is not a monster! She didn’t growl at me!” ;)

Kate and Edwin are great little buddies and get into all sorts of mischief together. 


They are also great friends to others. When the Bakers came from California to visit us in September, Kate took Cole by the hand to show him around the Rexburg Temple grounds :)


She also wanted to push Cole in the stroller around BYUI campus as much as possible!


One of my MOST favorite things about having a 2 and 4 year old is hearing their conversations together:
Kate: “Do you want to touch my little fuzzies on my arm? They’re so cute!”
Edwin: “I have little fuzzies on my arm too!”
K: "Mommy has big fuzzies! But she doesn’t want to have fuzzies. Daddy has fuzzies. His fuzzies are SO big.”
K: "Hey Edwin, do you want to touch my ears? My ears are SO cute!"
K: "Daddy, why doesn’t Edwin want to touch my ears? Maybe he thinks they’re beesgusting." (She means disgusting, HAHA!)

**To wrap things up, I'll leave you with these quiz questions I asked the kids in October:

Me: Edwin, what is your name?
E: I don’t want you to tell me something! (he means I don’t want you to ask me questions, mom.) ;)
E: Can I make funny faces on snapchat?
Me: How old are you?
E: But I want to do funny faces on snapchat!!
*I decided to give up and try again after breakfast*

Me: What is your name?
E: uh, peanut butter . . . 
Me: How old are you?
E: 2 like this (trying to hold his fingers up)
Me: When is your birthday?
E: uh, a big strawberry like this! (holding his arms out wide)
Me: how old is mommy?
E: uh, 2 like I am.
Me: what is your favorite color?
E: Purple
Me: What is your favorite food?
E: mac and cheese
Me: Who is your best friend?
E: Reese
Me: What is your favorite show?
E: Dragon Tales
Me: What is your favorite song?
E: temple song (I love to See the Temple) and Dragon Tales
Me: What is your favorite animal?
E: cows
Me: What are you scared of?
E: I’m scared of BIG strawberries!
E: *running away screaming because now he and Kate are playing that a big strawberry monster is going to eat them. They pretend Margo is the strawberry monster*…*I followed them and they ran back to the living room. They see Margo and start squealing. I finally asked Edwin what makes him happy, and he answered: Margo.* J
Me: Where is your favorite place to go?
E: I like parks!
Me: What do you want to be when you grow up?
E: I want to ride on trains! (Me: you want to be a train driver?) E: NO! I want to RIDE on a train. *hahahaha, touche.*

Same questions to Kate:
What is your name?
K: Kate
How old are you?
K: 4!
When is your birthday?
K: August
How old is mommy?
K: 6!
What is your fav color?
K: Red!
What is your fav food?
K: pisghety (spaghetti) with meatballs! 
Who is your best friend?
K: Olivia!
What is your favorite show?
K: Dragon Tales!
What is your favorite song?
K: Snoopy the snoop snoopy. He’s the puppy. *they had been watching a lot of “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown”*
What is your fav animal?
K: Elephant! What the grief! I LOVE elephants!
*hears Uptown Funk playing on the radio and starts dancing…* “hey! This is a great song!”
What are you afraid of?
K: monsters! (said with a growl)
Where is your favorite place to go?
K: Parks J
What do you want to be when you grown up?
K: an arf! (Me: what is that?) K: a costume. For Halloween. (well. There you have it.)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

No Secret

It's no secret that I haven't blogged regularly in months. I thought that while we were on our Year of America road trip I would post every day. HAHA. Not even close.

Pumpkin Patch 2016

When we got back to Rexburg after three weeks of traveling this Summer it was pretty devastating. Idaho definitely didn't feel like "home". In fact, it didn't feel like much of anything at all. It was really surreal being back in the potato state.



Fall semester hit us hard with Jon working two jobs, teaching more classes at a time than he ever had before, and serving in a young single adult ward on campus, which meant that he was out of the house for an extended period of time each of the 7 days of the week.

Meanwhile, I was depressed. I didn't want to tell people how bad it was, because I'm a very private person. I worried about judgment, criticism, people not understanding, people asking questions, etc. The list goes on and on. I held everything in and just got bitter and more frustrated with myself and everyone around me. I started going to see a counselor and also took medication. Little by little my small team of supporters helped me chisel away at the roots of my problems. It felt really uplifting! Not like a major night and day change, but just that it was good to have a direction and feel like I was making some sort of progress and finding clarity. I kept at it, tossed around some ideas, and tried to be in the moment and find joy with one thing at a time. "This week I will have joy in crafting with my kids for Halloween!" "This week I will have joy in traveling to Connecticut!" Small victories :)




After Connecticut, but before Halloween, our family plans drastically changed. I have been apprehensive about this Winter in Idaho because last year I got cabin fever really bad. After weeks and weeks and weeks of relentless grey and grey and grey and snow and snow and snow and grey, I hated Rexburg. Which makes me so sad, because I LOVE Rexburg. But I couldn't stand the grey skies and the grey streets and the grey cars and the grey people and the grey life that makes you feel like your life will be devoid of color forever. Yep, by March I was sure I would never ever escape and experience the beach or green grass under that pile of grey ever again.

Things warmed up, Spring came, bike rides came, our road trip came, and Summer was beautiful!


 






The snow this year has held off (which a friend reminded me is evidence of God's love for me) and all the way through Thanksgiving we had blue skies and dry ground! (COLD. But dry.) Only the last 3 days have been snowy. It's a fall miracle!


But the point is that I have been scared of this winter. I have been scared of how I would feel, and even though I CHOOSE to be happy and do happy things, sometimes it doesn't feel like enough. The depression comes and I feel out of control of my own emotions. I did not want to feel that way again.

Add to that my intense anxiety of bad weather that I've had since we moved to Idaho. I couldn't handle driving in any sort of snow or rain, or HECK with dark grey clouds overhead. All my errands and grocery shopping and errands had to revolve around the weather. Which in the winter basically means I can't even bring myself to go outside. It was really a downer.

Why am I telling you about all this? It's definitely not for pity. And I'm usually a VERY private person. I have always wanted to share the positive, focus on the good, and, YES, live up to the expectations of how I knew people saw me. Nobody said to my face that they expected me to be perfect, but when friends and strangers alike say things like, "You always have it all together!" "I didn't want you to see my messy house or tell you what I was going through because your family is perfect." "You are the mom I want to be!" and "I don't know how you do it!" I would just say to myself... "Wow, they see things that I don't. I can't let them down."

But if there is ONE thing that 2016 has slapped me across the face with, it is the fact that WE ARE NOT ALONE.

Many times people will say, "Heavenly Father knows your struggles and what you're going through." And I believed it, but I also felt like, "Well that's great, but Heavenly Father can't sit on the end of my bed and talk with me and give me feedback. Yes, we have prayer, but I still feel alone." I wrote in my journal, I talked to Jon, I tried to reach out to a few people... kind of. But it was a half-ass attempt, because I didn't really believe it would help.

Well, the second half of this year has surprised me majorly. I understand TRULY how much Heavenly Father IS aware of our struggles and what we are going through, and he puts OTHER PEOPLE in our path to be ministering angels to lift us up and help us know that we are not alone. I have felt the spirit in my life through friends and family in the past two months than I ever have in the rest of my life. And it's because I couldn't take it anymore. I cracked. I asked for help. And I shared. And then I shared and I shared some more. I was honest. Even embarassingly honest. And you know what? There are other people who get it. I didn't get judgments, I got love.

Things are far from "better". This is just the beginning. But I'm feeling healing. This week especially has shown me how much we all need each other. We ALL need each other. I can't believe how many people I have found this year who NEED to talk. Who NEED to feel listened to. Who NEED to know someone else will not gasp and mock and judge them. And they all feel alone. They all feel crazy. They all feel like no one will understand, or that they will get kicked out of school, or that they will let people down.

We've created quite the perfectionist society for ourselves.

But if we only knew what the person sitting next to us was struggling with or needed to hear or was dying to talk about, then we would see equals, we would see broken hearts, we would see love. And I wish I could shout to everyone that, "We will all make it through together! We CAN all make it through together! We can make it through life with friends, with love, with compassion, with the spirit of God, and with peace! We CAN. In fact, we CAN'T make it through WITHOUT one another." But we don't believe in ourselves enough to try.

Maybe it's a lofty goal. Or maybe it sounds like everyone sitting in a field with flower crowns singing Kumbaya. But I can only start change with me.

So here I am. Opening up. And letting you know that you're always welcome to talk to me about anything. No judgments.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

On Having It All Together

On Monday I was particularly well put together. The kids were dressed, Kate's hair was braided, I did my own hair and makeup. We went to run errands and both Kate and Wynn fell asleep by the time we parked at the first store. Everyone caught a little nap ;) MUCH NEEDED.


I went to the grocery store with my laminated grocery list, my own shopping bags, and remembered the ergo carrier so that I had Edwin on my back and Kate in the cart. We eat vegetarian and make most things from scratch, so my cart is usually full of items from the bulk section, lots of produce, and the few snack items I buy are non-GMO fig bars or natural fruit leathers. This just happened to be a really well put together day.

At the checkout there was a young mom in front of me. She didn't have her kids with her at the time, but she commented to me that it was brilliant to wear your toddler in the store because that way they can't run away from you and it's less likely that they will cry while you're shopping. True that, sista.

At WinCo you bag your own groceries, so by the time our food was up on the conveyor belt, I went to the end of the counter to start loading up our cart, and the young mom and I continued to chat. She said that she admired me for having my own bags and even said, "This sounds so judgmental, but when you walked up and I saw the food in your cart I thought to myself, 'she probably brings her own bags, too.'" We laughed it off, but I told her that she just happened to catch me on the one time a month when I actually REMEMBERED to put the reusable bags in my car. I also mentioned that I had been married 11 years, so the grocery shopping system she was witnessing was a LONG developed project for our family. The other mom had been married for 7 years and has three kids (one is 6 months old). She laughed that maybe eventually she would get to the organized healthy food system. She even told me that she was buying groceries for her own mom that day, so her shopping trip was double the amount she normally has to handle. This other mom was in workout clothes, still looking adorable, and clearly busting her butt to keep up with her family needs.

As my neighbors can attest, my attire usually consists of pajamas and workout clothes. I am DEFINITELY not the health food, environmentally conscious mom I'd like to be all the time. HAHA. There are plenty of days when we throw up the white flag for the day and pick up Little Caesar's pizza or Taco Bell for dinner. Mondays are my longest days (because it is grocery shopping/errands day) and it's usually a miracle if I remember the kid's shoes and water bottles heading out of the house, let alone have myself in any sort of state to look presentable in public. This just happened to be an exceptionally good Monday.

But this was the Monday that the other mom saw. She saw a mom who was dressed, with makeup done, baby wearing, had a cart full of healthy food, a grocery list organized by aisles of the store, and her own reusable bags. The other mom was doubting herself and her capabilities, and her worth.

As we stood there bagging our groceries across from one another I just looked straight at her and said, "I just have to tell you that you are doing GREAT. I'm so impressed that you have three kids and that you're also buying groceries for your mom. That is clearly a lot to keep up with and juggle on any normal day. And if you do want to eventually bring your own bags to the grocery store or eat differently, just pick ONE thing a week. And if you sew, you can also make your own tote bags out of scraps. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, and it won't all happen overnight. But you're doing awesome already!"

She smiled and said that was so good to hear. She does sew and thought the scrap bags sounded great! But more than that she thanked me and said she just needed to keep that in mind: pick ONE thing at a time. One thing a week to work on can make such a difference. :) I headed toward the exit before she was done loading her cart, but I wished her a happy rest of the day, knowing I probably would never run into her again.

As I drove home, my day felt uplifted. That was so kind of her to acknowledge that she felt like I was doing good things. It was a boost to my confidence in kicking Monday's butt. But even BETTER was recognizing that we are a human family. I was not about to look down at this mom who is ME 90% of the time. I thought about social media and perceptions and how she only saw 1% of my entire life there are the grocery store, but I could tell it weighed on her. Comparison can be so easy and so dangerous. I was glad that I could tell her that she was doing better than she thought she was. I was glad that she told me her thoughts (even if she felt silly) so that I could tell her we only started eating better within the last two years, and that I hardly ever remember to bring my bags to the grocery store. In the end I felt like I had a made a friend. I hope she knows how much she meant to me just by being there at the same time at a WinCo in Idaho on a Monday afternoon.

I'm so grateful for teachable moments and spiritual lessons that can happen in the most unlikely of places. "Having it all together" is not all it's cracked up to be. ;)

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Snapchatting Our Road Trip

Because our blogging capabilities have been limited, I just wanted to throw a quick shout out there to Snapchat. If you follow me you'll see real-time glances at our trip like this!



 
 




 Just sayin' . . . ;)

Snapchat handle: salston18

#YearOfAmerica

Monday, August 1, 2016

Year of America - DAYS 1 thru . . .

I'm not sure how many days to squish into one post here. I really thought I'd be better about this "blogging-on-the-road" thing. But it turns out that we have very limited access to wifi. Also I'm actually, like, ENJOYING the road trip and get myself all worn out by the end of the day that all I want to do is flop onto our air mattress and pass out for 12 hours!

But we look like pros, right???

**Other options we're looking into include: mobile hot spot (although that really SUCKS up your data), and possibly making a daily Starbucks stop to post blog updates that I otherwise write each day in the car (haha!) it's a work in progress...**

In the meantime, our Year of America trip is off to a GREAT start. We are now on Day 11 (probably Day 12 by the time I actually post this) and I can't believe how much we've done in such a short period of time! There is a ton I want to share, but I'll try to keep to the point.

(Meanwhile continuing issues include limited photo editing software, and our power inverter for the car not being strong enough to charge up the laptop satisfactorily. So, there's that.)

***

DAY 1
On the way out of town that morning, we stopped at Jamba Juice for breakfast. My mom (the kids' Gram) got us a gift card to start off our trip. The even better surprise was that Jamba does Thirsty Thursdays, and we were able to upgrade our drinks at no extra cost! *success*



For those of you following my Instagram (link also in sidebar >) you will know that we completely MISSED our first stop at Craters of the Moon in Idaho because of my awesome (read: poor) co-pilot/navigation skills. Instead we did some quick re-routing and ended up visiting the high school of Napoleon Dynamite in Preston, Idaho!

"Hey, Napoleon - gimme somma your tots!"
This high school was way bigger than expected. We let the kids run around for a few minutes, and then drove down to Logan (since it was a way that we had never taken to Utah Valley before).


The Logan temple was incredible! Jon and I both gasped when we came around the corner and saw it up on the hill. It looks like a castle!





The grounds were amazing, but after 10 minutes or so we were getting exceptionally hot. Summers in Idaho rarely reach over 90 degrees where we are at, and even then there is always a breeze. Heading into Utah, the temperatures quickly jumped to 103, and we were NOT used to it. Thankfully we brought tons of waters and stayed in the shade as much as possible. We were excited to make it to Great Grandma's and enjoy her air conditioning. ;)

That night we snuggled in bed and wrote our first entry in our homemade travel journal (including taking this Instax selfie). We talked all about our favorite parts of the day and got our first postcard ready to send.


The next morning I met up with a friend in Provo for some Yoga. We had never met in real life, so it was a treat to see her in person and make our friendship solid! Way better than just meeting somewhere to try and fill an hour with small talk, haha. Jourdan is just beautiful inside and out. Hopefully next time we can get our families all together on the road!


The rest of the day brought awesome food, naps, and an evening of birthday celebrating for my cousin's son Zane :D

Zane, Chels, Philip, and Tate

 Best cousin Meg, with Tate:



The burger place that we always said that we would try, but then never did when we lived in Provo 11 years ago, and then finally went on this road trip! Old school and yummy.


Thus ended Day 2.


We had a fantastic visit with Great Grandma Carolyn, and are so glad that the kids get to know her more!


One of Edwin's favorite parts of Grandma's house were the old phones she has on display. Although they were working at one point, these are no longer connected, but that didn't stop Edwin from talking to his pal "Buddy" on them daily! We're really not sure if that is supposed to be a nickname for someone, or an imaginary friend, but it sure was cute!



Kate and Grandma bonded over reading books together and looking at old pictures.

 
I'm glad that they are able to have these moments and build memories. :) The kids were only able to meet one other Great Grandparent in this life (my Grandma Bailey) just a couple weeks before she passed away. Living only a few hours from Grandma Carolyn has been an awesome excuse for us to visit when the weather permits.

Our Year of America transportation looked pretty awesome in front of the Wasatch mountains:



DAY 3
On the way out of town we dropped off post cards and got to see the Provo City Center Temple up close.


Because we came to the open house with the kids, Nonna and Papa, and Aunt Beth back in January, we decided not to walk around at this stop, but instead headed into Springville and drove down to Bryce Canyon with the Weber family!

That's them in our rear view mirror. *creeper status*

 We set up camp, then immediately went to check out the views :D


Pictures just cannot get close to how awesome this place feels. It is incredibly unique and beautiful. Absolutely one of my new all-time favorite places.


Everywhere we turned it was like a completely new angle on the canyon. You don't think it can get any better, and then you take two steps to the left. We just kept saying, "Wow!" I don't know how else you could describe it.


More of the meat of our trip and details on Days 4-12 coming soon!!