Our Top 13 of 2013

We have had a pretty exciting year and it is hard to place things in order of best to not-the-best-but-still-awesome. So I numbered things but really all of these things were fan-freakin'-tastic. Time is going by so quickly and it is hard to believe that another year is done. Looking back on this year makes me appreciate how blessed we have been.

13. Sam's trip to Bogota (August)
It was awesome that Sam was able to go to a training in Colombia. Although he didn't get to see very much of the city, he got a small taste and that was very cool. We both have the international travel bug and hope we have a lot more opportunities to see the world.

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12. Sam running the Fargo Marathon (May)
He spent months training for this marathon and the mix of feelings (for both of us) as he crossed the finish line was really unexpected but amazing.

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11. Visits from family
We somehow managed to trick several family members into visiting us in North Dakota. Although most of them were sissies and came in the summer, Michelle and her kids toughed it out in February. But we welcome visitors at any time of the year!

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10. Seeing Jared
This was not something I expected to be in my top 13 from the year but it ended up being one. I cried when I saw Jared at Thanksgiving. I am so glad he got home safely from Taiwan and I had missed him like crazy. I am worried about how I will feel when my sons go on missions if I feel this way about my dorky brother.

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9. Bowling
I have always really liked bowling. Having an entire summer of free bowling was pretty awesome. It is embarrassing that I took two bowling classes in college but still get excited when I break 100.

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8. Hilton Family Reunion at Zion Ponderosa (July)
It is getting more difficult to get everyone together but it was so great to go hang out with my cousins and siblings and have our kids hang out with their cousins. I am so glad we had this reunion.

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7. Food
I have not always liked cooking. I am not sure what I ate while I was in college because I remember thinking it was a big deal when I made Hamburger Helper one day; I was so proud of myself. I should probably thank my roommates for keeping me alive during that time. I took a cooking class at some point and then another one. Suddenly I loved cooking and my love has only grown since that time. I love planning our meals and then cooking them. I also love to go out to eat. I wish my kids loved eating my food as much as I love making it.

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6. Library Trips
At some point, Alyssa and I decided to start meeting once a week at the library. I have pictures of it somewhere but right now I can only find a picture of us on a walk. Alex, Edison, Madisyn, and Alexa are such good friends. I love libraries. Reading to my kids in the library and visiting with Alyssa has definitely been a highlight of my year.

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5. Serving in the Relief Society Presidency
 I have loved the opportunity to serve in this aspect in my ward. It was so hard at first and I couldn't find my purpose but this calling has helped me grow so much and I am grateful for it.

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4. Working out
I am not very consistent with working out. I go through periods of working out for a few weeks or months but then that dies out. I do not have anything close to a lifelong workout routine. In September, Maggie and I started working out together three times a week. It made such a big difference to have good company. I look forward to these workouts so that I get to see Maggie.

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3. Babe Ruth World Series (August)
By far my favorite thing we have done in Williston thus far. It was a whole week where we breathed baseball. I am excited to sit in the hot sun and watch my kids play baseball one day. If they want to play baseball, that is. (Please, one of you has to want to play baseball!)

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2. Celebrating holidays with kids 
Is everything better with kids? Holidays are way better! I love seeing their faces when they are so excited! I enjoy spending time making things special for them.

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1. Declan (April)
How could anything else be number one? The birth of our third child. He has changed our lives and brought us so much joy. His actual entrance into the world was a spiritual experience that brought Sam and me closer together. Sam is an amazing father and I love watching him be a Daddy.

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Hip hip hurray, 2013!

NYE 2013

I wanted to celebrate the New Year with the boys but did not want to keep them up until midnight so I invited over the Althoffs and we celebrated noon instead of midnight.

We started out the party with what every party needs: food.

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Edison and Madisyn, Alexa and Alex

Then we made some noise.

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Threw tons of confetti.

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Declan thought it was food.

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We drank sparkling cider.

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Before they headed home, we attacked them with silly string.

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For dinner that night, we did the traditional fondue. It was delicious. I overate.

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The boys had a rave and then went to bed.

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Sam and I stayed up and wrote down some New Year's Resolutions. They include more date nights and also dates with the boys, personal development goals, more reading, more sleep, more visits to the temple, and more awesomeness. We toasted with sparkling cider at midnight and then looked out of our bedroom and watched three different firework shows. That's the good thing about living in a town with a ton of crazy guys who have excess money. The fireworks went on for an hour. I am looking forward to 2014. I think it is going to be a good year, just like 2013. Life is pretty sweet.


Christmas Vacation

I was not very excited to make the drive back to Utah again after all of the vomit that happened on the drive for Thanksgiving. But I didn't want to ditch Sam's family so I sucked it up and went anyway. Since we've been married, we have not spent a Christmas at Sam's parents' house. We had one Christmas with them but we celebrated in Columbus at the Warnick's. I was excited to see the Merkley family traditions that Sam grew up doing.

Before we left town, we delivered gifts to our friends and neighbors. I wanted to do it as a family but it was so cold that I ran up to the doors and Sam and the boys stayed in the car. We took a break at Arby's between the 20 deliveries we made.

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On Saturday, we left for Utah at 9:15am. Sam drove the entire time both directions. That never happens. It was great though. It was the shortest day of the year so it got dark early. The roads were pretty good on the way down and we got to his parents' house in fifteen hours. The boys were wired, despite it being after midnight.

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The next day, we went to church and then went to Emily Sarah's house for dinner. I was really worried about going over there for dinner because she does not have a kitchen table and she collects shot glasses. It ended up being pretty bad because there was not one single thing that the boys were allowed to touch. No shot glasses got broken. The boys played with her guinea pig though. The next day, Emily Sarah told me that her guinea pig had died. She had noticed he was slowing down all week so I'm hoping the boys didn't stress him to death.

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Declan got to play with two of his great-grandmas at once.

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On Monday, we went shopping in the morning then played around the house. We let the boys pick out a toy for each other at the dollar store. We asked them to keep it a secret. When we got back in the car together, they both immediately announced what they had picked out for each other. Then we got home and they announced to Dave and Marian that we got them a croquet set. So much for surprises!

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For dinner, Grandma Merkley took us out for dinner to Chuck-a-Rama. Old people love buffets. Last time she took us there I was pregnant with Declan and could not find a single thing that looked appetizing. This time it was better but the place was so busy! We had to wait for an hour just to get a seat!

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On Tuesday morning, we bundled up and headed out to go sledding. It had snowed a lot on Sunday and we probably should have gone sledding on Monday since, by Tuesday, the snow was pretty much ice. The boys didn't mind. They love snow when it is warm outside!

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Marian made a fancy dinner for Christmas Eve. When she said she needed to make a salad, Alex said, "Do you even know how to make salad?" Marian responded, "I do. Smarty pants." Alex shouted back, "Smarty shirt!" So much attitude.

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After dinner, we acted out the nativity and read a story about Christmas symbols.

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We let the boys open some pajamas on Christmas Eve. They were thrilled.

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After the children were asleep, Santa got to work.

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Christmas morning did not start super early which I was grateful for. Once the boys woke up, they couldn't wait to get upstairs!

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I was looking into getting Alex a digital camera for Christmas because he loves taking pictures so much. But I didn't want to spend $100 on a camera that he would drop and it would break. Then I saw this toy camera on Amazon. It was on sale for $5. It is basically just a case and then we insert Sam's old phone and it works to take pictures. Brilliant invention.

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After naps, we went to see Frozen.

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The boys cuddled up with lots of stuffed animals for sweet dreams while Sam and I Skyped with Matthew and Laura.

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On Thursday morning, Sam and Dave took the kids sledding again while I slept in. It was nice!

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On Thursday, we went to the Treehouse Museum in Ogden. It was awesome! I wish we had gotten there earlier in the day because we stayed until closing and I still wanted more time!

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We went out for dinner at Dave and Marian's favorite Thai restaurant and then drove around the Layton City Park Christmas lights. Twice. The second time through there was a family handing out hot chocolate. It was very sweet.

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On Friday, Dave and Marian babysat the boys while Sam and I went to the Bountiful Temple.

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That night, I took Alex and Edison to wander around Target and then I read a book on my Kindle all night. Such a great Christmas present from Sam!

We started the drive back to Williston on Saturday at 9:30am. Edison was crying because he had an earache. At Thanksgiving I was wishing I had a sick kid instead of a puking kid. I got my wish at Christmas. The weather was really bad from Billings to Williston and we didn't get home until midnight.

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Santa had forgotten to bring one thing to Utah so he left it for the boys in Williston.

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Sam got a giant apple at work. A picture cannot fully capture the size of this apple. It weighed two pounds and the nutrition facts say it serves 17 people, for a total of 2550 calories. It was so delicious though.

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The boys were excited to play with their new Christmas toys in their own house. Our house is brimming with toys. These kids are sure spoiled!

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