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.