Saturday, July 26, 2014

Home away from home away from home

Visiting old stomping grounds is always surreal. It's like the old me that spent every Tuesday morning in the same cut offs at Wal-mart thumbing through coupons filed away in a little green plastic organizer, finally gets a chance to meet the new me that buys her makeup at the $2 shop and eats a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich every single day for lunch. Same girl, same love for a good bargain and even the same cut off shorts, but now with quite a few new life experiences under my belt. It's nice these two versions of myself finally get a chance to become acquainted. I'm sure they'll be fast friends, borrowing clothes and swapping recipes in no time at all. In some ways it felt like we had never left. Falling asleep to the constant hum of a ceiling fan was comforting, and the familiar burn of Papa John's pizza on my lap as we drove home felt like any other friday night. It was easy to forget that we had a whole other life waiting on the other side of the world. We got a late start on our long drive from Utah to Arizona after the wedding reception. While the kids slept I tried my best to keep Jason company as he drove, but I found Dr Pepper and itunes did a much better job, so I dozed off and on. It's a long and uneventful stretch of highway through southern Utah, but I love coming over the hill and seeing the lights of Vegas glowing in the night sky. The first time Jason took me home to meet his family I had fallen asleep and he woke me up right as we were coming up the hill because he was so excited to show me the night lit up by his home town. We've taken countless trips back and forth since then and I think of that memory every single time.

If you want to know what we did the majority of the time we were in Arizona, just photoshop our picture inside any and all retail stores or restaurants. That would be just about right. We were in desperate need of clothes and shoes. I knew it was bad when Ryder's kindy teacher told me she thought of me when she saw some shoes at the store. I thought maybe they were my style, but no, it was because she noticed I had holes in mine. Yeah, it was getting bad. We all stocked up on a year's supply of jeans, shoes, clothes, makeup, deodorant, hair products, tampons, glue sticks, medicine, vitamins, dish cloths, industrial sized bags of Fruity Pebbles, you name it we bought it, even down to the last skeen of black yarn. Because you never know when the occasion might call for black yarn and what a shame it would be to come up empty handed. Eating out was also such a luxury, but there comes a time in your life when you've had just one too many bean burritos. We'll leave it at that. But besides maxing out credit cards and stuffing our faces, we also ate up every minute we had with some of our favorite people. We ate dinner Sunday night with the Larson's just like we have so many other Sundays before. Alisa was one of the first people I met when we moved into the ward and I just knew we were going to be friends. Eight years later and she is still one of the best. As a bonus our husbands and kids get along great too. We're working on getting them to come visit our side of the hemisphere.

Monday was dentist day. I was actually kind of looking forward to a visit to our dentist because as fate would have it, his daughter moved to New Zealand's north island last year and we became friends on instagram without realizing the connection. I have loved getting to know her, sharing our experiences, exchanging stories only a fellow expat would understand, passing along travel recommendations and uniting in our love of Mexican food and bouts of homesickness. Her parents came out for a visit but we just missed each other when they traveled the south island so it was fun to be able to talk with him in between xrays and wrapping my tongue in gauze. We even hugged and took a selfie together at the end of the check up, now how many people do that with their dentist? Speaking of dentists, my little brother is going to dental school here and we were so excited to see them, especially their new little pink addition. They weren't able to make it to the wedding since they were busy multiplying and replenishing the earth, so it was fun to get caught up on their turf. The timing was off since they moved in right as we were moving out, but we're excited that when we move back we'll finally have family close by for the first time in years. Thanksgiving dinners will never be the same. We didn't get to spend as much time with them as we would have liked, only a quick lunch, motorcycle ride and loving on baby Claire in between dentist appointments. But we loved every minute we got to spend with them and we're glad they'll be here waiting for us when we get back!

Seriously, isn't she the cutest? If she doesn't get you baby hungry, nothing will.

I know you're wondering what saint would be willing to put up 6 extra people for an entire week. We'll call her St. Melissa. It was like we were staying at a 5 star resort. A 5 star resort that leaves Swedish fish and a bag of chocolate covered cinnamon bears the size of your first born child on your nightstand (this picture was taken after about 5 days worth of consumption, mind you).

It was seriously the best week. My kids were in heaven, and not just because of the Costco sized Capn' Crunch boxes and constant flow of Capri Suns. I barely saw any of them the entire time. Kylie and Marlee snuck off doing whatever stuff tween girls like to do. I think it involved lots of late nights, swimming, shopping and recreating the Chandelier music video. And also hanging out with the cool older sister that can drive, there were rumors of doorbell ditching. Jayden and Jax had a video game marathon. I think they emerged from their cave only long enough to eat a bowl of cereal for every meal. And I don't think they changed their underwear once. Maddox and Ava seamlessly transitioned from puppet shows to pirates to fort building and everything in between. I can't even describe how happy it makes me to see these two together. She gets him and he gets her. One of the hardest parts about leaving was knowing that these two would be separated. I hope they are always best friends, even during the cootie years. Ryder and Hadley were as cute as ever. They were just babies before and it was fun seeing them push around baby strollers and build lego jets together. Jason and Mike were happy as could be coexisting in silence, typing away on their laptops while Melissa and I snuggled on the couch watching Honey BooBoo. If ever there was a family hand picked just for us, this would be them. One of our other favorite families, the Martinez's came over for a barbecue and swimming one night. There's nothing quite like a pool full of laughing kids and a belly full of good food.

I forgot that I used to love the rain. It all came back to me as the monsoon rolled in and brought with it the incredible lightning shows and temporary relief from the scorching heat.

We got almost everything checked off our bucket list, minus the Harkin's theater where I had big plans to eat an entire tub of popcorn-extra butter, kettle corn seasoning. But one thing we made a priority was taking Kylie to the temple for the first time to do baptisms. It was just as special as I imagined it would be and I'm sure will be a memorable experience for her. (I apologize in advance if the whiteness of my legs cause your eyes physical pain).

That night we went back with friends and did an adult session. After living so far away from a temple, I will never take it for granted again. When we came out there was the most beautiful sunset, it was such a peaceful feeling.

The sunset continued to provide the perfect back drop as we capped the night off with dinner at none other than Cafe Rio. I could have repeated this night every night for the rest of our trip.

This girl came over for a swim at the Herrera resort. I was especially excited to see her because she has a little bun in the oven that has been seven years in the making. I can't tell you how excited I was to get that call with her big announcement. It just kills me that I won't be here to throw her baby shower, I have an entire pinterest board dedicated to it after all, or to visit her in the hospital and inhale that fresh from heaven scent. But she made good on her promise to have a baby before I came home and I couldn't be more happy for her and her cute family.

Spending an evening eating pizza with this cute family was a night well spent. They're our church friends, dance friends, preschool friends, neighbor friends, camping friends, concert friends, Bachelor friends, girls trip friends and just those kind of friends you want to have for life.

I really didn't know how good I had it until we moved. I took it for granted being surrounded by such amazing women that I was grateful to call friends. Melissa had volunteered to watch our kids so that we could get some shopping done and I came home to a decorated house, a delicious spread of food and a room filled with some of my favorite girls in the world. It was truly the best early birthday surprise ever. That Melissa is one of the most thoughtful people, I can't believe she managed to pull off a party like that in a matter of hours with a house full of 11 kids! And all that work just for me, I felt so loved. It was the best ever, so grateful for such incredible friends.

Nothing like getting caught with your pants down...or at least an economy sized box of tampons.

I feel connected to each one of these women in a unique way. Whether it was by giving birth on the same day in the same hospital, or showing support during difficult times, or sharing room mom duties, or serving together in church callings and visiting teaching, or growing closer as our kids grew closer, or spending every Thursday sweating together at spin class, or learning to crochet together, or analyzing every Bachelor episode together. Life has a funny way of introducing people into your life and finding a perfect place for them to stay.

While I was busy catching up with old friends, Jason took the kids to visit another friend, the Whitmores, who recently moved into this awesome house. He had a hard time pulling the kids away from this pool and the slide going into the basement. I missed seeing them, but I have a feeling we'll be visiting them lots when we move back!

Mike was nice enough to share his real birthday with my pretend birthday, and it was fun to go out and celebrate with him at our favorite Texas Roadhouse. We loved every chance we had to spend with the minority group, just like the good old days. These people and those rolls with honey butter will always hold a special place in my heart..

A final sad goodbye with each of their buddies (we were just missing Burke and McKay). It makes it easier knowing this move wasn't permanent and that in 10 more months we'll be reunited.

When we came out we put small suitcases with our clothes inside of bigger empty suitcases and we managed to fill them all until they were busting at the seams. We're always quite the spectacle at the airport.

It was sad to see this vacation come to an end. Several people mentioned since we got home that I have a glow about me. I credit it mostly to the new bronzer and blush I bought, but I also feel so rejuvinated and re-energized. This trip came exactly at the right time in the dead middle of a cold long winter. I grew quite fond of vacation Jamie that lets bedtime fall by the wayside, letting the kids fall asleep whenever and wherever they get tired. The one that goes weeks without touching her phone. The one that isn't too busy cooking and cleaning to sit down and play a superhero memory game. The one that gives the okay for Oreos for breakfast. The one that laughs a little more, is a little more relaxed and a little quicker to forgive. Going back to the strict 7:00 bedtime, 1200 calorie diet and bouts of seasonal affective disorder is kind of a buzz kill. I'm going to work on introducing a little bit of vacation Jamie into my everyday. I paid dearly for the jet lag, two boys eating a block of cheese by the spoonfuls at 5 AM, but it was a price worth paying. It was good to be back home. At our other home. As amazing as our trip was and as much as our hearts ached to be back by family and friends, we're not quite ready to say goodbye to this home. We've got some amazing things waiting for us this year and after being in the desert for only a week I was already craving some tree lined streets and rolling green hills. I've learned it's possible to have your heart belong in two different places, and for that I'll always be grateful.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Jolley good time

I'm pretty sure I use that exact same title every time I write a post about visiting my family. But really, when there's 34 people staying in one house, and midnight Ihop runs, and 2 AM bedtimes, and forts with cousins, there's just no way to avoid it. It's a Jolley good time. And add on top of that a wedding and we're in for a real doozy. I thought I prided myself on not taking too many pictures. You know, I passed on that beautiful sunset so that I could enjoy sitting on the balcony giggling with my sisters. 1 AM found us grown up kids around a kitchen table littered with candy wrappers, a cool summer night breeze blowing through the open window, sleeping kids sprawled all over the family room and the wildest game of telestrations known to man, but I chose to take a mental picture instead. And the night us girls set out to get wedding presents and somehow found ourselves squished into a blue vinyl Ihop booth at midnight in our pajamas where "death first" was the response to the waiter's announcement that the crepes weren't available (no matter how I type that sentence, it just doesn't do it justice. Maybe it's one of those "you should have been there moments", but I am finding that "death first" is a very relevant response to many of life's daily situations. Just sayin'). We eventually stumbled into Walmart for all their first apartment needs, but quickly led to rash decisions to purchase denim print underwear, only to later accessorize with a matching banana clip. Which now that I think about it, maybe it is for the best that there is no photo documentation of that night. But despite my best efforts to put away the camera and live in the moment, I still managed to walk away with a staggering amount of pictures, so pull up yer britches! Utah summers are the best. Thick green grass, long warm days, star filled nights, the occasional summer rainstorm rolling in during the evening and always the sound of sprinkler heads methodically clicking in the background. The best part of Utah summers, though, is sharing them with cousins. Some of my favorite childhood memories are when we would replace the seats of our 12 passenger van with mattresses and road trip from Georgia to Utah with Ace of Base playing on my walkman and cold cereal breakfasts at the rest stops, just so we could spend summer making unforgettable memories with our cousins. So glad my kids have the chance to make their own.

Kylie convinced one of her favorite aunts to give her highlights and risk the life of her unborn child while being exposed to those chemicals. I should have given her a bigger tip.

Speaking of hair, I decided I needed to do something about my bathroom sink haircuts situation, so I got extensions. And then took approximately 62 selfies and wasted 30 minutes of my life before settling on the best one to document it. Taking selifes are the worst, are they not?

We snuck off to St George for a bachelorette party of sorts for this cute girl in the middle. There weren't any feather boas, but I will say that a red plastic fireman's hat was deeply involved. Belting out Pitbull with your sisters in the backseat of a car is one of life's greatest pleasures. And your fourth straight Cafe Rio meal. And $6 sweaters at the Gap outlet. And using your sister's license to score discounted hair products. And discovering that Sears is the only place that carries half decent lingerie. and that's just sad.

In between partying we found ourselves elbow deep in tulle. My sweet mom has been sewing up a storm for the wedding these past few months and I'm glad we could be a part of the jewelry making, wreath decorating, floral arranging, apron sewing and wrist corsage magic. My mom is definitely a woman of many talents. Maddox and Shannon were honorary members of our wedding crafting club and they took their job very seriously. Even when he decided to use the hot glue gun without supervision and ended up with an excrutiating blister, he kept right on trucking with tears in his eyes, an ice pack on his hand and visions of paper plate guitars swimming in his head. You just can't keep a good crafter down. Poor baby, it was such a sad sight.

You know, sometimes you come to a point in life where you look around at your siblings and wonder how they turned from being your annoying little brother that constantly stole your Collective Soul CD, and chose their best friend based soley on the fact that he had an enviable one inch bowl cut, and threw skid marked underwear on your boyfriend's head, to become these people that you actually have a genuine good time hanging out with. The maturity level is still questionable at times, I wonder how they are ever making it in the medical field and world of accounting, but they make you laugh so hard it's like a colon cleanse for your soul. My sweet niece, Kambry is on the fast track to becoming the world's best teacher and absolutely loves kids. She was practically begging us to go out so she could baby-sit and it was an offer we just couldn't refuse. She may have bitten off more than she could chew with 15 kids, but at least there were other older kids to help out. They were so sweet to let us go out and play. The night started out innocently enough, but of course with this crowd things can quickly go south.

We found ourselves at the Dollar store. Where, first of all, who buys $40 worth of stuff at the dollar store?? This guy (insert downward pointing arrow). More particularly, this guy's wife.

But seriously, the stuff you can buy for $1 just blows my mind. I spent a solid 20 minutes in the toiletry aisle reading labels on medicine bottles and sniffing lotions. I hope each and every one of you wake up every morning and count your lucky stars that you can buy an entire bottle of body wash for a dollar. It may smell like a wet cat covered in grape jelly, but still. It wasn't just the magnetic pull of $1 toothpaste that brought us here, it was high time we had our second annual dollar store game (actually the first one happened at wal-mart, but same dif). The rules are that each person is assigned someone to buy a present for, then you have a certain amount of time to spend no more than $2 on a gift that reminds you of that person. Let me tell you, there were some deep dark secrets revealed and we all learned a little more than we'd like and I haven't laughed that hard since Jason and Mike reenacted "fat man in a little coat".

I did say something about skid marked underwear being thrown at Jason's head, didn't I?

Tyler and Margaret lived with us for a month while doing rotations and we dubbed ourselves the sister wives, so Margaret got Jason a his, hers...and hers toothbrush set.

Isn't she just the cutest little pop tart? Love her.

Because I do have a thing for extensions

And because sometimes what happens at the dollar store stays at the dollar store, so no caption on this one

Just helping a sister out. Love these two.

He was a tough nut to crack, because accounting professors don't tend to laugh at inflatable bras, but eventually even he couldn't contain himself.

Margaret gave Jason this fedora with strict instructions to take a picture wearing it under a waterfall, but I just so happened to have a matching fedora in the car so we settled for a picture under the neon lights of the dollar tree instead.

For their wedding gift we each took a room to decorate so afterwards we went and set it all up. Instead of going to a movie the boys decided they would rather come and help decorate the bathroom. You can imagine. Sometimes we forget that we're mature adults with kids of our own.

And now switching gears, the big day finally came. Jessica and Jon were married for time and all eternity in the beautiful Manti temple. I am so happy for my cute little sister, Jessica. I only met Jon for the first time a few days earlier but I could already tell they were born for each other. The way her face glows when she looks at him is a dead give away. So happy for them both, and so happy that we could be a part of their special day. They were so nice to plan their wedding around the time that we were going to be visiting. Sometimes you think the world revolves around you, and sometimes it really does.

Photo cred: Margaret

So grateful for my own eternal family. They make my world go round.

It kills me, literally kills me, to be so far away from this girl.

Saying good bye is never easy. I'll tell you one thing, even though the endless "holly Jolley Christmas" jokes got real old real fast when I was in elementary school, I couldn't be more proud to be a part of this big Jolley family. Being far away from family is stinky.