For Christmas, he gave everyone a City Slickers outing. Horseback riding, hay rides, BBQ dinners, campfires, s'mores, stories, family fun and bonding and more.
I couldn't go but Hayden and Thomas loved it.
He loved horseback riding. He loved being with his cousins. He loved the fires and s'mores and fun. He loved it all.
I'm grateful to my dad. He places a huge importance on making memories. He believes memories and good times bind families together. Mother and father to child. Husbands to wives. Cousins to cousins. Nieces and nephews to aunts and uncles and brothers and sisters to one another.
We have a close family. One that is there for each other when the chips are down. People that cheer for each other. That have each other's best interest at heart.
This and so many other memories are the ones our family cherishes.
Suzi had a conference Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson for her psychology masters. So she invited us to come down and spend a couple of days with her. Hayden and I went down on Thursday and Thomas met up with us on Friday evening.
It was absolutely beautiful! The food was amazing!!! The absolutely best breakfast ever! Relaxing. Calming. And peaceful.
Hayden wasn't sure what to do with himself. No TV. No Internet connection. So no movies. No video games. He almost panicked.
Luckily, Aunt Suzi had stashed a set of Legos in the car, just in case. I had brought books. Games. Toys. Hayden played and played. Dug in the dirt. And explored.
He was so good about me sleeping so much as the ride stressed my body into three naps each day.
Soon as Thomas got there, the two set off on all types of adventures. They went fishing. The hiked. They explored. They went to the horses. They did it all.
I attempted a golf cart ride to the lake so that I could watch them fish. 15 minutes down there and Thomas had to go get security to drive me back to the room. Too sick. Frustrating. But I am so glad Thomas was there to be with Hayden, explore and have fun with him.
It was so nice to get away. Even if it took it out of me, different walls, a peaceful setting and beautiful nature is always restoring and uplifting to the soul.
Our first Christmas in our new home was magical and perfectly wonderful. It was filled with the Christmas spirit. It was filled with love. It was filled with moments of the Savior. It was filled with the joys of giving and receiving.
I love my precious family. I love that Suzi and Julie are family to us. Some family members are chosen for us at birth. Some, the Savior brings into our lives here on earth as we need them. He sure picked me two of the best when he chose Julie and Suzi. I love them to death. So grateful they could spend such a beautiful and special holiday with us. They brought extra joy and extra love and happiness to our home.
I love my husband and that he tries to make me the perfect gift. This year, he taught himself how to make a stamped necklace. It was perfect and wonderful and beautiful. I shed a tear. I loved it so so much.
I love that Hayden chose his own gifts, bought them with his own money and went to the store to pick them out. Because of that, his favorite part was watching each of us open our loving gifts from him.
We were spoiled rotten by those we love. They gave and gave to us. They were so generous and loving.
It was a perfect, absolutely amazing, strong spirit and precious Christmas morning. One to never be forgotten and only remembered with love and thanksgiving.
I found a group that I love. It is called San Tan Pay it Forward.
Technically we are just outside of the San tan area. Although some refer to the San tan/Queen Creek area. But, it doesn't stop from loving it and being apart of it.
I actually made it to one meeting. I was in awe of these people and who they were. They are everyday people. Working hard. Single moms. Couples that both work. Grandparents. Young families. Blended families and more. They aren't rich. They get by but don't have a lot of extras. Yet one thing they all have in common is they have all struggled. Really struggled in life whether now or previously. Each was penniless at one point. Each wants to make the lives around them easier. Some had people step in and help and some didn't but wish they had.
As I listened to their stories, I was brought to know the humility and Christlike love each had for their fellow man. Their neighbors.
I was in awe that some worked two jobs. Took in those with no where to go. Adopted children with special needs. And yet would give anyone the shirt off of their backs, if they thought it could help. I is these people that are arranging car washes and bake sales. They pay the utilities for those who otherwise would have bills so delinquent that their utilities would be shut off.
I was in awe listening to how man people they help. They point them to government aide, help them apply, know which churches will hand out food boxes and when, and know how to come together to provide Christmas for their children. They brought smiles to so many in Christmas. They have given hope. They have done all in the name of our Savior. No need for recognition. Just paying it back for all they have been blessed with.
I have watched how a $5 donation per member has changed lives. I've seen the small and simple gestures turn into huge life turning events when people come together.
I'm so grateful to be apart of such an amazing group of incredible people.
They are okay with my offering. Even if it isn't washing cars or baking goods. An encouraging word, hope freely given, a hug, prayers and a reminder that our Savior lives and loves us. That is enough.
I'm grateful to see the good in the world. The kindness. The hope. The loving arms wrapped around one another to help each other home.
I see the good a small group can do. Can you imagine if each person were to help? In any way they could. This world would be a truly amazing community in which to live.
One thing that I can say about my dad and Bonnie is that they are amazing gift givers. They have a knack. They are great at figuring out the perfect present to bring joy to each person. They definitely put their heart and souls into it.
This year, my Dad went and talked to one of his Sunday School engineering major boys about the perfect gift for his engineering minded grandson. He came up with Lego Technics for his birthday which is still a huge hit and for Christmas an amazing, absolutely huge and professional telescope. Hayden loves all things science and this was a total hit!
For me and Thomas, we received a trip to Oak Creek Canyon, to the old Don Hoel's Cabins that he used to own. He told me he wanted to send me somewhere but knew it couldn't be far. He also booked me with Jodi and her family the same weekend. What a perfect and thoughtful gift.
He knows that memories right now are so precious to me. They are what I have clung to to endure this illness. He also knows I am sick and my days are numbered. Compile that wish trying to figure out where to send me close enough to medical help. With a sentimental or significance of location.
He choose the perfect location. The most enjoyable place close enough to go to with memories already made and many more to be had.
I am so grateful for loved ones. I definitely am grateful for this amazing dad of mine that loves me.
Thank you, Dad and Bonnie. I couldn't have thought of a more perfect gift myself. I love and appreciate you!
I love my Dad. My precious sister. My incredible brothers. I love each of their spouses. I do not think any of my siblings could have married anyone more perfect for them. I am grateful for each of them and how precious they are to me. And yes, Suzi, I absolutely consider you a sister. I absolutely love and adore being an aunt. Next to be a mom and a wife, being an aunt is one of my favorite titles. I love being Aunt Jer. And I love love love that these precious kids love me back. It is one of my most cherished blessings.
I need to take the time to go thru each nephew, each niece, each sibling, each in-law and tell why I love each one. I will put that on my to do list. For now, suffice it to say, I absolutely love and adore each of these people that I am so lucky to call family.
Love all the love that Hayden has in his cousins. The friendships. The everlasting bonds. The laughter. The security. I think because he is an only child, these relationships even matter more to me. Oh how I love how each of them love Hayden and make his life a better place.
I love that Hayden and Brooklyn have become the BEST of buds! I love the way they stick up for one another. I love the way they laugh, and talk and encourage and support one another. Oh how I hope and pray they will always stay close. They both bring such an added joy and element to each other's lives.
I love that Hayden still refers to Kaylee, Katelyn and Kiley as "my girls". He loves them all but differently. He absolutely, with all of his heart, idolizes Kaylee. He thinks she is hilarious. He loves the roughness about her. That she is a girl but can hang tough with any one of the boys. Katelyn and Hayden share a very tender relationship. They are there for one another. Comfort one another. Encourage and support the other. It is a gentler and more loving friendship. With Kiley, he is the big brother, and refers to her as Squishy still. He teases and laughs and jokes with her.
Brigham is Hayden's tender spot. He feels the need to be a role model to Brigham. To teach him. To help him. To understand him. To unconditionally love him. He adores Brigham and understands and shares some of Brigham's same struggles, challenges, insecurities and strengths. I refer to these two boys as my modern day Stripling Warriors. I am sure that Talmage will soon join them in ranks but for now it is my two that I look at with admiration and love of who they are, what they have already conquered and accomplished in their lives and cannot wait to remember who they were in the pre-existence. Those two, pretty amazing, I tell you.
Talmage and Hayden have a love/hate relationship. Hayden always tells me, I sure love that little guy but he annoys me at the same time. I have so much fun with him but don't like it when he breaks my things. Talmage and Hayden compete for my attention. They both want to sit close to me, on my lap, sleep with me and feel like they are number one. Oh silly boys, I love and adore you both. You both hold a very tender and special place in my heart. No worries. I have plenty of love for all of you.
Josh's kids are not around as much. Although Hayden really likes Braden and they are a lot alike. They both have funnier sense of humor. They enjoy Minecraft and legos and video games and talk constantly. If they saw each other more, they could be great friends. I think Hayden watches Casen from a distance. He loves when Casen and Kaylee play together and he can join in. I think he is still trying to find his place there. Austin has always been the most tender to Hayden, acknoledging him and saying hi. Although Dallin and Austin are in full teenage mode and little besides girls crosses their minds. I am grateful for all the ways that Dallin and Austin have influenced Hayden. From Dallin praying for Hayden when only five years old to Austin helping with the toy drive. They have both had positive influence in my boy's life. Brinley. How do I describe how Hayden feels about Brinley? He thinks she is absolutely ridiculous and spoiled rotten. He thinks that someone needs to teach her that she is not the boss. I think Hayden would always do the exact opposite of what Brinley wanted. He thinks it is crazy that she is so bossy. But then, out of the blue, he will smile at what she says or compliment her for thinking of others. Brinley teaches Hayden that sometimes you have to look deep to find the good. Not that it isn't there, just that it isn't how you are good or see good. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love and adore little miss Brinley. And I laugh at Hayden's view but see where he gets confused by her actions.
Even though JD's kids were not there Christmas Eve, they are important and crucial cousins in Hayden's life. Bryson and Hayden have fun together talking. Bryson thinks he is ten going on seventeen. He handles and holds his own with the much older cousins. Then there is Coby. Those two should have been brothers. They are so much alike. Coby absolutely loves and adores Hayden. I love it! He would rather be with Hayden than anything. They love Minecraft, legos, video games, building in the sand, prefer less people not more, they do their own thing at the beach and I love that they have one another. Both want to start a band. Hayden plays guitar, Coby drums, they both sing. They are probably the most alike, closest and bestest buds. I sure wish they lived closer as I think that Hayden and Coby would be best friends. Tanner is growing up. He is his own unique guy. I love and adore him. He just started this year to want to hang around the bigger boys. He is a cute kid and sure can demand an audience. Hayden thinks that when he gets older, they will have fun together.
Like I said, each of them have a unique and wonderful friendship. Hayden has learned valuable skills and traits from each of them. I am so so so grateful for the cousin friendships Hayden has. One of my most treasured and cherished blessings.
Here comes Santa Claus, Here comes Santa Claus.....
This year Santa was in an especially good mood. Technology must be making his load lighter. That or less kids that are as fantastic as our bunch!
Santa had the parents tell something good about each child that they had relayed to him. He wanted the children to know what great qualities that they share with Santa. I loved that. The kids all waited anxiously for their turn to be called on Santa's lap. Many sat in nervous anticipation praying that they had somehow made the good list and not slipped to the naughty list. Their expressions were priceless. All kids received their first gift of 2013 Christmas and waited patiently to all open at the same time. All of the Simonton kids loved Santa. They are all growing up. Bonnie's grandkids....not so much. Casey's boys were terrified and cried and screamed. So sad but so cute at the same time!
I loved everything about Santa being there. He sure set a good tone of all that is right with Santa and giving and being good and helping others.
Dallin(on top) is such a spaz. I think he was the most excited to see Santa. He was actually hoping to score gift cards somewhere. He is too funny.
Love Talmage's face when he saw Santa. So excited. So in awe. So mesmerized by it all. Hayden was excited to see what he got. He still hears the bell each year and knows the truth but still loves the magic. He is so his momma. Brigham, poor thing, was terrified of what he may or may not get. He had sheer relief when he received a present from Santa. Even loved it more when Jodi told all the wonderful qualities about her sweet Brigham. He is such a loving and kind boy. I always refer to him and Hayden as my modern day stripling warriors. I told of all the ways that Hayden tries to make life better for all around him. He would literally give you the shirt off his back, just like his dad. He is an amazing kid.
Dallin(17), Hayden(12), Brigham(7), Talmage(4)
Austin(15), Casen(13), Braden(11), Brinley(6), Kaylee(13), Katelyn(12), Kiley(10) and Brooklyn(10). Love them all SO SO Much! Sure missed JD's kids being here with us. We miss him like crazy all the time but especially at Christmas and on Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve would not be Christmas Eve without our annual Grinch game. We read the story and pass the wrapped and numbered gifts. The fun is in the laughs and trades and who received what. Loved that Jake received a makeup set that his girls did NOT want him to trade. They wanted it but didn't want to waste their gift on it.. Sorry Jake. You have a house full of girls. Couldn't have gone to a better family.
Katelyn was thrilled with a One Direction cutout of Harry Stiles that she adored. There may have been a few tears when her own sister, Kaylee stole it away from her.
Bonnie wasn't thrilled with Kiley stealing her row of money and treats.
Braden was a great sport as he received a pig pooper popper. However, he squealed with delight when the back stated that this was the jackpot winner and would receive a bonus gift from Grandpa. Trilled when it ended up being a $100 bill.
Hayden was ecstatic as he won Infinity for the Xbox. Thomas scored a ihome for his phone. He loved it. And me, I walked away with the treasured Harkins gift cards. SCORE! Hayden also received a bonus gift as Suzi won a Nerf blaster and extra bullets. Lucky boy!
This is my dad's favorite hour or two of the entire year. So many laughs. Smiles. The routine yelling of Gggrrriiinnnccchhh! Grinch! and bonus ones thrown in whenever one of the guys feels like it. He smiles. I watch him secretly look around the room. He pauses on each and every person. He stares at them, he smiles, a tear fills his eyes. I wish I could read what he is thinking in those moments. I am sure it is taking time to soak it all in, relish in the moments that we are together. I wonder if his thoughts are turned to my mom and if he tells her how much she would have loved this. If he thinks of the everlasting joy and love and posterity that they together created. All I know is that as his eyes travel around the room, his smile becomes wider, his entire body relaxes and he completely cherishes and soaks in the moment.
I have learned to do the same. Maybe that is why I noticed him doing it. I look at each sibling, my dad, my son, my husband, my nieces and nephews and then look at them as Hayden's cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents. We are so blessed. The love in that room is great. We all truly love one another. We would each do anything for the other. It is a beautiful feeling to be wrapped in the arms of my families love. I love that Hayden has so many people that love and care about him. I love each and every person in the room with all my heart. I would do anything for any one of them.
I am so blessed to be a Simonton. Very Blessed. Very grateful. Very loved.
We go to Grandpa Simonton's house. We eat yummy food, visit with family, talk, laugh, listen to the eager anticipation in the kids voices, love the family togetherness and have our annual Christmas Eve party.
After food is my favorite part of the night. We cuddle up on the couches and cousins sit together, I always cuddle the little ones. One by one, family by family, we recount blessings, miracles, favorite moments, secret service preformed, joys and triumphs. Tears are shed as the Spirit is strong and love is shared. Tender moments follow. I feel overwhelming love for each family member; every brother, sister, niece, nephew, in laws, my dad and all. I'm grateful for the moments of the previous year. I feel very loved by my Savior and am overcome by the love in the room. I cherish those precious moments together.
After that, testimonies are borne. The nativity is discussed. We talk of Christ. We rejoice in Christ. We teach our families of the atonement of the Savior and all the ways he blesses us.
From there, the mood changes. Games are played. We pass out Grinch gifts. One of the boys read the Grinch. Presents are passed and the exchanging begins. Strategic trading begins and cheers are had when a beloved gift is frozen.
After gifts, dad and Bonnie take us family by family to the other room and exchange gifts with us and our children. Hayden scored this year with a huge telescope, about the size of him. As a family, we were given a weekend at a cabin. I treasure family moments and memories. What a perfect gift for our family. Bonus, we are going with Jodi's family.
Santa joins the festivities, bringing each child the first gift of Christmas. The moms say something great about their child before Santa hands out a gift. There are smiles, excitement, cheers and even a few tears shed. The anticipation for Christmas morning becomes evident and there is loud laughter and smiles all over.
The Bairs come for Santa, and after Santa leaves, so do the Simonton's. we all head home for our own traditions while the Bair's start their traditions.
I'm grateful to my Dad and Bonnie. They sacrifice very long days so we can all have the Christnas Eve of our childhood and our traditions can live on. They work hard to make it perfectly special for all 11 children, their spouses, 24 grand kids and all others in the group. They stay up for almost 36 ours in a row to pull it all off. We are so grateful for their loving sacrifice for all of us.
As we pull away from Grandpa's, after hugs are given, greetings extended, presents loaded in the car and feelings of love abound, we head home with full hearts filled with love and gratitude.
On the drive home, we recall that night oh so long ago that our Savior was born. We sing O Holy Night followed by Silent Night. All is calm. Very few cars are on the road. Peace illuminates the world. My heart is still, calm and full. It is a peaceful night. I count my blessings. They are so plentiful. I am forever blessed.