Wednesday, December 31, 2014

December 26th

Home again, home again.  It was time.  Before we had to return the rental car we had time to once more try for a picture at the Vegas sign.  We lucked out and got a parking space, but did have to wait in line at the sign for a picture.  Once again a tad chilly.
We returned the car and caught the shuttle to the airport.  After we checked in and got through security, we finished the last of our snacks we had bought.  Cora was looking for one more post card.  This time on the plane we had windows.  Makes a huge difference in your flight.  Cora has decided that for sure she really does want to become a commercial pilot now.  She was fascinated by how fast we where going.  I told her my favorite part was always the landing.  You seem like you are just slowly moving along, way up there, then suddenly the building and trees are right there, you are whizzing by so fast and you feel the tires hit pavement and the brakes slam on.  She agreed.  So cool. 

At one point Cora and Blake said that we were above a rain cloud.  She tried to get a picture of the it, but it didn't work.  Cora said you could see the rain coming down from underneath.  A very different and neat perspective.

The mist is the rain.  Cora said the picture really doesn't look near as neat.

It has snowed a lot when we arrived home.  The roads where slippery and we thought is was going to take us a very long time to get home.  But they cleared (just a bit after Blake said a prayer :) We got right through the border and grabbed something to eat afterwards.  It was a late night for me.  Setting up stockings for our Christmas the next morning and getting lots of laundry done.  It was a great trip.  Very glad we did it.  We took in a lot of free shows.  I would definitely stay off strip and rent a car again.  Only eating twice a day with snack was perfect. But would book 2 shows next time.  Cora's favorite part was the plane ride, Leah's was the Walk Around the World, Blake said either the Tournament of Kings or Freemont Street.  I didn't ask Dave, but mine was just watching the kids and seeing them experience it all.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas Day 2014

And Christmas Day arrived.  When we first talked about going to Vegas for Christmas, Dave kept teasing me that I was cancelling Christmas.  I was sure that I wasn't, I was just making it different.  But he was right.  I did not feel like Christmas at all.  We went swimming first.  Once again the only ones in the pool.  It was an outdoor pool. It was a little chilly this morning and we stayed in the hot tub.  Got ready, ate breakfast and went to see the temple.  Our original plan was to sit on the temple lawn and have a picnic as we talked about the birth of Christ.  It was a cold breeze.  We walked around the temple ground and then later talked about His birth in the car.  

It was interesting that this day the kids asked questions about the Vegas strip and all the extravagance.  It turned out to be a great opportunity to talk about how Satan sucks us in.  It was all a show, an illusion, with a promise of grandeur and riches to be won.  The kids also asked what it meant 'What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas'.  So it was neat to talk about how the world wants us to think that we can make a decision and it won't effect anyone but us.  How Satan wants us to think with no guidelines our lives will be more fun and happier, how he wants us to think with certain friends or clothes everything it better. But we know it is not true.  Only following the teachings of Christ will truly make us happy and we need to have compassion, kindness, and think of others. It was fun to hear their thoughts and feelings about it.

If anyone knows what this plant is I would love to have you tell me.   Most where a deep purple.  Looked almost like a cabbage.  Neat flower.

Dave had been doing some research on Vegas and how it got settled.  Of course he did right?!!:)  He found the first Mormon settlement in Vegas.  They still have the oldest building there.  It was closed for Christmas, but we drove there and looked over the fence anyway.  We went back to the New York New York.  There was a roller coaster that Dave wanted to see.  Once we found it he decided to have the kids ride it.  Apparently we sprung it on them to fast.  They all really wanted to but where to nervous. We stayed there for a bit trying to convince them to go. Walking away Dave and I looked like the meanest parents ever.  Our kids all had long faces and where walking slowly.  tI totally looked like they had all wanted to go and we had said no.  It was so funny we were laughing.  The kids where not impressed.  Cora and Leah threatened me if I blogged about it.  But it was to good to forget. We then went to Circus Circus. And again forgot camera in the car. Every 45 minutes they had a free circus act to watch, and while you are waiting there were tons of Midway games to be played.  We watched a few performances.  After seeing all the Midway games we decided to give each kids $5 to spend however they liked.  But we warned them to choose wisely.  Some games where 50 cents for 6 tries and some where a dollar for one try.  We walked all the way around so they would know all their options, then we played.  It was fun.  Super super crowded.  Leah ended up with 2 prizes (she lost her favorite in the airport in Great Falls), Blake got one and Dave got 2 that he traded up for a bigger prize.  Poor Cora was sad she did not get anything.  She had her eye on a little Minnie she wanted too.  Leah really wanted to see the famous Las Vegas sign.  We drove out but there was a very large line to get a picture and almost no parking.  We just drove by and looked at it.  We had about an hour back out our hotel before we needed to go to The Tournament of Kings.

This was the one show I had booked. In hind sight, Dave and I really wish we would have done two shows.  It was a jousting and sword fighting show with horse riding and song and dance.  We all sat in kingdoms, ours was Hungary.  We had a 3 course meal that we ate with our hands. And had to cheer our king on.  First was tomato soup, then Cornish hen, potatoes, broccoli, and a biscuit, last was an apple danish.  Everyone got right into it and cheered and make a ruckus.  It was great.  Blake told me he thought we were going to have dinner then get a history lesson about each country.  He thought it was much better how it did happen.

Our king really was the best.  He was very happy to pose with everyone afterwards.  No pictures allowed during the performance.
Once again we were tired out.  Had fit a lot into one day.  Time for sleep.

Christmas Eve

We slept in the next morning. Got ready at leisure and ate breakfast.  Pierson's had loaned me a book on Vegas when we decided to go.  Inside Christi had highlighted a 2 hour Walk around the World. It explained the best way to see each hotel, the attraction inside each one (many free) and where the free trams where. That is what we decided to do Christmas Eve Day.  With Dave's excellent skills we found the free parking and began our journey.  We started in Egypt (Luxor) and traveled to England (Excalibur).  On to New York and MGM Grand.  It was so amazing.  Cora kept wondering who and how you decided to just build a castle in the middle of the desert. 

Everything I read said that there were lions at MGM Grand.  We couldn't find them.  We stopped at M & M World and Hersheyland.  The girls got some souvenirs here.  Cora wanted to stop at a store called Stupidiotic. It was a fun store.  As Cora remarked it was the perfect place to get white elephant gifts.  Blake got his souvenir at that store.

At this point we had already taken 4 hours and we were only half done.  We found a nice spot to eat our lunch and then went back to the hotel for a respite.  We swam.  Everyone kept commenting on how extravagant it all was.  After a few hours we headed back out to the opposite side of the strip. (We forgot the camera in the car this time)  Years and years ago Kita had given me the recipe for the Original BBQ Chicken Pizza from California Pizza Kitchen (now called CPK).  There was a CPK in the Mirage.  I really wanted everyone to try the original so they would know what I was trying to mimic.  There was a big line up, but surprisingly we got in quickly.  Pizza was amazing.  Dave said mine was almost exactly like the original. (I do put a lot of cilantro on mine they only had a little, I like lots:) Outside of the Mirage was an Erupting Volcano show.  We waited for that to start.  It was fantastic.  Next we headed over to Treasure Island.  I was not sure they had a show still, some sites said there was some said no.  We waited a bit, but no show.  Last into the Venetian.  I couldn't wait for them to see this one.  A canal with gondola rides inside the hotel.  On the second floor. The store fronts and tops were made up to look exactly like Venice.  Even the ceiling was painted.  It took a couple of glances before the kids believed us that it really was not the sky.  Back at the hotel we watched a little TV.  Even the kids said no wonder we don't have a TV.  They would just flip and flip and not really find anything.  We were very ready for sleep again.

Monday, December 29, 2014

December 23rd

The next morning we got up and had some breakfast.  We then found a grocery store to grab items that we would be able to use for sorta lunch for the week.  We didn't have a fridge and lots of times would be packing it with us on the strip.  We grabbed oranges, crackers, pretzels, water, and a few treats.  Then off to Hoover Dam. Dave always studies maps before we go places.  He had everything down.  We never got lost, and had short cut and back roads to lots of places we went.  Just like his dad always did :).  Hoover Dam was so neat.

Amazing how massive it all is.  It is almost a box.  Something like 650 feet wide and 705 feet tall. 

You can't really tell in this picture, but the water level is so low.  There was a white line on all the rock where you could tell the level had been years ago.  Whole islands uncovered.

Blake and Dave are in Nevada and Cora and Leah are in Arizona.  There was a tower on each side with a clock displaying the time.  Leah had grand fun jumping back and forth, declaring she was a time traveler. 

We wanted the kids to go on a tour of Hoover Dam.  Natalie had been a couple of months ago and warned me that there was a sign saying if you are claustrophobic not to go.  I had brought a book with me to sit in the glorious warm sun as they went down.  We had a two hour wait to take the grand tour, but only a few minutes for the Power Plant Tour. So that is the one we chose. Dave thought if I looked right at him in the elevator I would be okay.  We decided to chance it.  The elevator I did survive, barely.  Then got out and saw this big long tunnel.  I'm not sure what was said for most of it.  I was just concentrating on breathing.  Dave and the kids loved it.  At one point we went into see the turbines.  So massive!  Our tour guide said guess what is behind that wall behind you.  Here I panicked a little, kept whispering, 'don't say water, don't say water.'  Of course it was water.  Leah grabbed my arm and made sure I was OK.  It was onlya  1/2 hour tour.  Good thing, I am not sure I would have made it much longer.  It was neat to see though and I am glad I went.  It was really cool to see how they cured up the cement and how it was built.  Too bad they could not have done the bigger tour, Dave really wanted to, he loves that kind of stuff.

When we were done we headed to the Discovery Children's Museum.  This was a little different then I had thought.  When we arrived we found out it was a little more costly and geared to 2-12 year olds. And they where closing in and hour and a half until after Christmas.  Leah really wanted to go.  So we did. We had so much fun.  Water area was first.  We built dams and power plants.  Shot balls onto the roof with water pressure and played with lot of other stuff.  It was 5 floors tall.  We did not even get to the top floor.  One floor was wind.  Involved planes and pipe organs.  We made paper airplanes and put them in a few different tunnels with different 'wind pressure' to see how it would be effected.  We had a blast with that one.  As we were making planes and putting them in, we would quickly grab it from the top and stick it back in, one lady behind me leaned over to her husband and said, "That family is very easily entertained."  It totally made me laugh.  I can't even remember or describe everything they had.  Very glad we went.

Next we went to Freemont Street.  It was close by.

Biggest TV screen in the world.  After dinner at Tony Roma's it was darkand  the whole screen was a Christmas show with music.  Cool.

We finally found a Christmas tree!!

All down Freemont Street, which is pretty big, was a zip line.We would have really like to have the kids go on it, but we had already spent enough money for the day.  They flew right over the top of us.  Another day done.  We got back to late for a swim and went to bed.

December 22nd

Vegas was fun and at the same time very strange to be there for Christmas.  Lots happening with lots of pictures so I am taking it one day at a time.  After church on Sunday we drove  to Great Falls.  I didn't want to get up so incredibly early and deal with the border.  I had enough Air Miles to get a room.  It took us longer than expected, and the kids were so excited they were a little crazy.  After a few hours Dave and I where not sure we where going to make it through the week.  I told them they could ask us any question about us growing up, them growing up, us dating, or whatever.  This always seems to work for a bit.  Funny how kids are always so interested in what their parents lives where like when they where little.  We checked in and went to sleep.  The next morning we had some time before we had to be at the airport.  Dave wanted a crossword to do.  Three stores later we found one.  Lots of Sudoku and Word Find, apparently people in Great Falls don't like crossword.  He also wanted new shoes. Needed badly is more accurate.  We went to Scheels.  Two and a half years ago we stood in the same spot and found nothing.  Shoe shopping with Dave usually ruins the day.  Miraculously he found a pair.  Hallelujah. We got to the airport and ate some lunch we had packed.

Blake was so nervous he made himself a little ill. We told the kids what to expect before going through security so they would not be nervous.  Cora went through, then Leah.  Then they made Leah step aside and pulled me out of the line to go through.  I was told that Leah had been selected for additional screening.  Just random selection.  They took us aside and wiped her hands down and put the cloth in a computer for analysis.  I kept telling her not to worry it was OK.  I had booked to far back on the way there and we had no windows.  Not a good first time experience :( They loved it, but it is not the same.  Cora had a little kid across the aisle from her that was watching Frozen.  So she watched that the whole way.  

After landing we took a shuttle to the car rental and then to our hotel.  The kids where astounded by the casinos.  Every hotel made it hard to find what you where looking for.  We walked through big casinos to get to restaurants, hotel check ins, and shows.  Every map I looked at said our hotel was 2 blocks from the strip.  Well they must have been HUGE blocks.  It was almost a mile from our hotel to the strip. The first day we walked up to the strip.  Blake had been nervous, then a little motion sick, and was still feeling it a bit.  We had a light dinner at Subway.  The walk was a little dirtier than I remembered.  Honestly the first day I was a little disappointed.  I felt a little let down after how excited we had all been. But it got better.

The first night we were tired and hungry.  We watched the water show at the Bellagio and took pictures of the Eiffel Tower.

We walked back to the hotel and went for a short swim before bed.  It was a little weird and kinda nice to be the only ones swimming.  It was dark and warm, with Christmas music playing.  It was an exhausting first day, but fun.  Definitely time for sleep.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Giving Season

Every year Dave and I have the kids pick something to do to give back at this time of year.  We usually do the tree that you buy a gift for a certain age person and send it unwrapped.  This year my parents had heard that you can send packages to the soldiers for free, up to 40 pounds, during the Christmas holiday.  The kids had lot of fun gathering little things that where from the list provided. Everyone in the Smith family gathered enough to send two boxes.  My parents also had us all write a letter to them.  It was neat to personally thank them for what they are doing.  I thought it was a great project for this giving season.
What do you know?  My stuff decided to upload.  Leah's fingernails.

Cora's toenails

Very bad pictures of Leah's hair.

What I gave the bus drivers this year.  Fun, I have never had bus drivers to give gifts to before.

The only picture I saved of us playing basketball.

Cora and I were killing time before piano one day.  We went into the local furniture store and were looking around, when we spotted this creepy mannequin.  We named her Matilda.  Then came up with a great story for Dave.  At dinner Cora started talking about her friend Matilda.  She said a couple of things then waited for Dave to ask who she was.  I then said oh we took a picture so you can start putting faces to names.  Then showed him the picture.  He reacted exactly how we had hoped he would.  It was a fun little joke.

We are off to Vegas tomorrow and won't be back for a week.  Merry Christmas to all and I hope everyone has the best Christmas ever.  

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Back in September, Cora's high school was presented with a project.  The project was to design a new solar park for the town.  Cora got partnered up with another girl.  They worked and drew and finally submitted a park with many solar panels, some you could plug into and charge phones etc. Lights lining a walking path, of course powered by solar, the walking path had shell and lots of grassy areas with benches.  She was really hoping to win the prize.  A new iPad.  We were still kinda hoping but thought it was long over, when today during the School Christmas Party they called her and her partner's name.  SHE WON!!  She got a iPad 2 Air, the new ones that just came out. So cool. They are doing her lay out, that is why she won. And she thinks they are doing two of the panels (She submitted 4).  Cora does not know which ones they picked.  She was in such a hurry to get it in on time, she forgot to take a picture of her submission.  We are not sure when they are starting either.  But sometime in the future if you come to visit us and stop by the town her high school is in, you can see her solar park and panels.  How cool is that. Congrats Cora!

Blake's reaction was hilarious.  She wanted to casually pull it out and show Dave.  Blake could barely breath.  He has been wanting one for a while.  He was jumping up and down, shouting 'We got an iPad, we got an iPad!'  We said 'uh no Cora did'. 

Speaking of High School, it is amazing how often she gets questioned about her beliefs.  'You have never sworn, Ever!'  'Why do you not wear leggings?' ' How come you can not come to our parties?'  'You do not have more than one piercing?'  'Why are you never on the bus in the morning?'  I think that they are fascinated by her.  One girl said she lived in a Mormon town for 3 years and it was the worst experience ever.  Everyone treated her like dirt since she wasn't a member.  But she really likes Cora.  Talking to her after school I am constantly reminded about when one of the apostles said to defend our beliefs.  Defend them with courtesy and but defend them.  That is exactly what she is doing.  I think she is slowly changing minds up there.  As my mom says, 'she is paving the way at the high school for her siblings' and doing a great job.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Little Bit Christmas

This has been such a frustrating post to try to writet.  For some reason I couldn't get pictures off my camera or my phone.  Then the one of everyone at the gym playing basketball I accidentally deleted when trying to figure out why it would not upload.  Ugghhhh!!  Anyways, we had some fun Christmas get togethers over the weekend.  Friday was our ward Christmas Party.  It was a really great evening as always.  Primary put on the Nativity.  Blake was an innkeeper.  He was super nervous but had his parts memorized and did a great job.  As Young Women and Young Men we did A Christmas Carol in 5 minutes.  One of the YM leaders had found a script for the Lego version and we used that.  I thought it went really well.  I have no picture for you:(  Also that night I managed the coolest braid in Leah's hair.  You don't get to see that either.  It was a waterfall braid on the top falling down each side, then I took those pieces and braided into a french braid on each side, all pulled into a messy bun at the back.  The girls had painted toes and fingers in the afternoon.  Cora did toes, a blue background with a tiny snowman. Complete with scarf and buttons.  It looked awesome.  I did Leah's fingers.  We took one finger on each hand and I did a Santa hat, the rest where candy cane stripes.
The next morning Jared and Dave got some wayward calves back in and fixed the water.  We then took off for my family Christmas Party.  We went straight to the school gym first and played some basketball.  Mom and Dad had snacks and a few other games that we played with prizes.

Back to my parents house for an amazing ham dinner.  After we had a short program.  Each family was assigned a number to perform.  After was the white elephant exchange.  We all walked away with great stuff. Some very fun gifts. My favorite part was Ryan.  He was VERY determined that no one was going to take the M & M dispenser away from him.  It was a scary drive home.  The roads were very slippery.  It tooks us over an hour longer than usually to make it.

Sunday Leah gave her first Youth Talk in this ward.  Her topic was, 'What does Christmas mean to me?'  She also did a great job.  I was a little worried since I was sure she was just listening to music the whole time.  But I guess she was writing.  We came home and had a celebration dinner.  OUR HOUSE IS SOLD!!  We had been saving a bottle of Martenellis for just this occasion.  We also had Orange Chicken.  Very very good.  Then we did a little straightening, Blake finished his model car.  Cora and Leah sorted a pile of clothes they got from Smith's.  Then is was movie time, with home made chocolates.  And to bed on time.  Shocker. Christmas season is always busy, but it is fun.

Friday, December 5, 2014

A Rare Few Moments

My kid's schedule has been craaaazy lately.  I have watched Nicole and Kita for years, knowing my turn was coming.  The older the kids get the more they are involved in.  We used to have days or even a week that was run run run. Now we have hit a constant.  Cora leaves at 7 and Leah at 8 in the morning.  Most days we are home between 6-8:30.  We pack lunches and dinners or eat late.  Do homework in the car.  Go straight from basketball to piano to a song practice.  Or basketball, 20 mins at home to eat and back to YW's. Blake gets dragged all over, with books and games. (But the girls will get dragged in the spring when he plays his sports:) Cora is also scheduled for a tournament every weekend until mid March.  Then she has two weeks for the final drama performance.  They are keeping up on school work.  Keeping grades high.  Bedtimes are not really happening, they just want some down time and time to chat with the family, so it always happens at night and no one wants to go to bed.  Up early for scriptures and out the door.  Not complaining, I love being able to have them do things the love and being able to watch them.  And I let them stay up some nights because I love that they crave that family time, that they want it and need it. This is my life now.  My stage, my season. And sadly it is not going to last long. I am very aware of how little time I have left with them at home.  Last Monday no one had school, so no basketball.  We packed in the morning, then had dental appointments.  We then went to my parents house and had a few rare moments of nothing. I always try to have my kids do some Christmas crafts.  I took it all out to my parents and they worked on it out there.

They also made those tea lights that you turn sideways and put a face on to look like a snowman.  The light being the nose.  But I could not find those for a picture.  This is what Leah's room looks like lately.  She is not the best at putting things away anyways.  For some reason she really can't get the whole 'if it is in your hand put it away right then' concept.  I told her to just give me 10 mins a day.  It might not be spotless, but it won't be overwhelming.

The tournament for this weekend got cancelled.  Sadly we were all so excited.  We have to move in the morning and we are making chocolates the rest of the day.  My three kids were so excited when they found out that they had nothing to do Saturday evening.  Dave and I have a party to go to.  They are going to just hang out, work on some projects they want to do, have some snacks and watch a movie.  A rare moment of just the three of them together without running somewhere.  It's going to be bliss.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Christmas Past

It is that time of year again.  Next week the Christmas cards go out.  Nicole found a great deal awhile ago on cards and told me about it.  So I have had my cards addressed and stamped, ready to go for three weeks.  I know, a little crazy.  As I was getting them ready I started looking at old Christmas pictures.  Here are some of my favorites.  Some taken at Christmas time, some used for something at Christmas, whether  a card or tree ornament etc. Wish my earlier photos where digital so I had them all on the computer.

Puzey family Nativity.  Cora was the narrator.  Thought I better explain that hat.

Kids made yet another fort during Christmas break.  I think this one stayed up for the whole two weeks.

We make an ornament for Grandma Puzey's tree every year.  This is still my favorite from all we have made.  I really wish I would have made a set for me each year at the same time. Kinda late tho.

I really wanted this photo changed to all black and white expect the red we where wearing.  I thought that would be so neat.  But I have no cool programs.

I love this.  Taken as part of a session we had originally planned to use as our Christmas Card that year.

Sometime we have had multiple parts to play in the Nativity.

I thought and planned about this card for a year. (I usually do) Lots of sewing and lots of prep for this one.  Dave was gone so much this year that we had to come to him to get a family picture.