Sander was recently hired at the company he's been working at for two years. Confused? Me too. But not about that. Two years ago my h...

The Best {Kids} Corporate Christmas Party Ever

Kid's Christmas Party

Sander was recently hired at the company he's been working at for two years. Confused? Me too. But not about that. Two years ago my husband took a new position at his company's biggest-ever commercial job, as a contracted employee. Meaning, he's been employed by the company he's been at for 8 years, but the last two of them he was actually working at a client of his company's. Confused? Me too. About everything.

Anyhoo, I guess they liked Sander so much, they decided to bring him on board into their IT department. He's doing slightly different work, but with all the same people he's been working with for two years now. Except now he's not a contracted employee there, he's a legit employee there, with all the amazing benefits that come with a large, happy, healthy-even-through-the-recession company. While his previous employer was so good to us over the years, this was a very happy step forward for our family and Sander.

Especially since now--as he's no longer a contractor with the company--we get to enjoy all the benefits that come with being an employee there, such as the kids Christmas party!! {And this spring, also Take Your Kids To Work Day!} My children had previously not been able to enjoy these things at daddy's work since it wasn't technically daddy's work. Still confused? I give up.

He got hired by the bank, and now we get to have a kid's Christmas corporate party! Get it?

Me neither.

Kid's Christmas Party

The new employer, Sander's previous employer's client turned employer {am I making things worse?} is like a credit union for the farming industry.
For the last two years, they've been as good to us as they could be, given that Sander was not a legit employee.

I've been to plenty of "regular" company Christmas parties, this is the first time we've ever been invited to an employee Christmas party for the kids!

They invited Santa too.
Even though he's not a kid of an employee.
{How is that fair?}

Kid's Christmas Party

And Santa was a really good Santa, if you know what I mean. Cracked down on tooth brushing and the room cleaning while still giving warm hugs, a toy elf, and a candy cane. 

Kid's Christmas Party

Oh dear, look at my 9-year-old. She's looking like this might be her last year sitting on Santa's lap.

Kid's Christmas Party

There was a professional photographer, but I have yet to see those photos. 

Kid's Christmas Party

Then we got to see daddy's cubicle. This building is very lovely--if you can call an office building that--as it was built two years ago. {Sander's previous employer was picked to install all their TVs, conference room stuff, fancy Crestron equipment...and that was his previous job, maintaining that $ystem for the bank.}

Kid's Christmas Party

Now I can actually visualize the space he's working in when I call him at work because there's a spider, or the internet is down, or if I need to rant about the kids' behavior that morning. 

Kid's Christmas Party

AND we're totally jealous of his views. 

Kid's Christmas Party

You have to keep in mind, this was the first time in two years we were allowed into his building, so it was kind of exciting. 

Next, we headed to the cafeteria, where the bank's chef had prepared a breakfast for hundreds. 

Kid's Christmas Party

There was a hot cocoa bar, a coffee bar with baristas, French toast, pancakes, and even the chef's own pop tarts with whatever toppings the kids desired. 

Kid's Christmas Party

From now on, we can also come have lunch with daddy when we feel like it at the bank's restaurant. I hear they have good breakfast burritos.
I'll be the judge of that. 

Kid's Christmas Party

Without going into much detail, this new position and job at the bank for Sander is the answer to many prayers. Things had been feeling up in the air, and uncomfortable for the last several months. We weren't sure what was in store for the future, but we did know he wanted a permanent position at the bank and that our family would really benefit from the benefits. 

Kid's Christmas Party

If I can be perfectly frank, 2017 has been a bit of a hellish year for my whole family. Okay, so none of us were diagnosed with terminal illness or anything, yes, we're keeping it in perspective. But everything from my dad's car accident and subsequent surgery and long recovery and the time that took out of my parent's lives, to my sister's family being uprooted from New Mexico suddenly and plopped back here in Denver--which we're thankful for, but it wasn't the way anyone had planned. 
Sander and I had it easier than all of them this 2017, but it's been rough for all of us trying to carry each other's burdens. 

Now, can I offer a praise report? 
Out of my very small family here in Colorado {6 adults, 5 kids}, FOUR adults are starting great new or better jobs they wanted this Nov/Dec. Sander included.
My dad also got hired by a company that made the top 25 WORLD employers in 2017.
In a very similar fashion to how Sander was hired, he'd been a contracted employee of sorts and they liked him so much they brought him on as well.
How 'bout dat? 

Kid's Christmas Party

All that to say, while 2017 has been a somewhat rough year in surprising ways, we're tying up 2017 with a pretty tidy bow, after all. 

Kid's Christmas Party

Back to the kids Christmas party, after breakfast we headed to the Elf Academy in the conference room. 

Kid's Christmas Party

They sang a carol, they made paper airplanes, an ornament, and each got an Elf Academy certificate with assignment to any given country around the world. 

We'll be sending Paxton off to Thailand pretty soon here.
Eisley, Belgium. Violet, I forget...
{It's a middle child thing. You forget a lot.}

Kid's Christmas Party

Lastly, they rode the train. 

Kid's Christmas Party

Sit down, Paxton!

Kid's Christmas Party

Wait, I mean, lastly we waited in line for balloon artists who'd just spent the last 3 hours making balloon animals for hundreds of kids. They totally looked like they needed a spiked eggnog by the time we got to the front of the line. Bless them. 

Kid's Christmas Party

So, consider this part of our Christmas letter 2017. 
Sander has a new job at the place he's worked at for two years. 
It's a definite good thing. 
We have the balloons and elf dolls and new health insurance to prove it.

{Fun Fact: At his previous employer, insurance for our whole family cost more than our mortgage. Which meant our kids were on CHP+, which the government might be axing soon anyway. So this came at a good time for us. But many aren't so fortunate, so consider reaching out to your local congressmen?}

Kid's Christmas Party

And I won't be resentful about Take Your Kid To Work Day in 2018, because apparently that's a pretty impressive event at the bank too. 

Kid's Christmas Party

Now, the "adult" corporate Christmas party is in early January, in the ballroom at the Denver Center of Performing Arts.
I really hope those balloon elves are there.
We hope your employer treats you well this Christmas too. 

Cheers,
Heather

We decided to head for the hills today because we wanted to see some fall colors  so we packed the kids and the dogs in ...

Colorado Autumn

Sunday Drive in Autumn


We decided to head for the hills today because we wanted to see some fall colors 

Sunday Drive in Autumn

so we packed the kids and the dogs in the car and drove up 285

Sunday Drive in Autumn

we stopped at the iconic Coney Island for a late lunch

Sunday Drive in Autumn

of cheese fries and hot dogs

Sunday Drive in Autumn

then we drove up 285 some more and stopped here

Sunday Drive in Autumn

where we decided to cross the bridge and take a hike 

Sunday Drive in Autumn

along the river

Sunday Drive in Autumn

to see all the pretty aspens

leavesandriver

we went off the beaten path a bit

Sunday Drive in Autumn

to get close to the river again

Sunday Drive in Autumn
even though the trail up the hill was just as pretty

Sunday Drive in Autumn

and we gained a guy on our hike

Sunday Drive in Autumn

then we piled back into the Volvo and headed up Guanella Pass

Sunday Drive in Autumn

and I spotted this ferruginous hawk along our way
{I have a deep love for birds of prey}

hawk2

and as we approached Georgetown via the switchbacks, it got colder and even snowed a bit

Sunday Drive in Autumn

and the foggy low clouds made it look enchanted up there

Sunday Drive in Autumn

and even though most people try to see the 
aspens turning on a beautiful sunny fall day,
I'm really glad that this year we saw 
them with the clouds and fog 

Sunday Drive in Autumn

aren't  you?

Sunday Drive in Autumn


Cheers,
Heather

Video of our eclipse experience below. But first... At the start of Thursday, August 17th, we had no plans for this weekend. By the en...

Total Eclipse .

Video of our eclipse experience below. But first...

totaleclipse

At the start of Thursday, August 17th, we had no plans for this weekend. By the end of Thursday, August 17th, we'd planned an entire trip for 11 people and 3 dogs that involved travel in 4 states.


My sister wouldn't stop talking about the upcoming total eclipse on August 21, 2017. The first many mentions I sort of went, "Uh huh." But I didn't really give it much thought because here in Denver we could still see 92% of the eclipse. That's pretty good, eh?


But my sister wouldn't shut up about it, which piqued my curiosity. Next thing I know I've watched this Ted Talks titled, "You owe it to yourself to experience a total solar eclipse". Among other articles I read, I learned that a partial eclipse and seeing a TOTAL solar eclipse is like comparing apples to oranges. Except, seeing a total eclipse includes all the partiality, but then you get so, so much more.


I'm sorry, friends. If you watched the eclipse today, but only partially, you and I had an entirely different experience and take away. It's not the same. Read this amazing piece by Annie Dillard if you're up for it. It is long, but beautiful.


So yesterday we borrowed the RV and piled our family in and, followed by my parents and their dog, drove 4 hours northeast to Alliance, Nebraska. This was our choice of town, it was right next to the dead center of the line of totality. The line of totality is the only place you can see a total solar eclipse. Go outside that zone, and you're partial. Sorry, but that's just not the same experience. I didn't know until this week either. 





On Thursday, we had reserved an RV spot and a tent spot in the field belonging to St. John's Lutheran Church. We set up camp. My sister and her family had a much longer drive, from Santa Fe--about 10 hours--but she was the one who wanted this so bad. So there we all were, hoping there wouldn't be too many clouds in the morning. All piled into an RV and a tent with 11 hopeful people and three confused dogs.


We woke up in the morning to a lot of fog in the sky. It made us nervous, but people said it'd quickly burn off with the sun and it did. We sat around snacking and drinking and enjoying the company, watching the clouds, hoping they'd leave.


Then the eclipse started. We could use our eclipse glasses and see a tiny "bite" taken out of the sun. Here it comes! We were starting to get excited, but had to wait a good long hour and then some before totality.


Then, about 20-30 minutes away from totality, we started to noticed the temperature drop and the light changed. It is very difficult to say how the light and your surroundings look different. Hard to put words to it, but we said it looked like we were looking at film or a movie instead of real life. Shadows became extremely contrasted and sharp. The only time I've experienced something like this is when we have huge forest fires in the summer here in Colorado, and the smoke causes the light to be filtered in this strange way. I can tell if there's a fire just by looking at the light on the pavement outside my house. It's not exactly like that, but it's the only thing that compares.


The world around us was growing darker, but more vivid thanks to the contrast, and it felt like dusk but there was no sunset.


When we hit about 2 minutes to totality, all of the above became even more dramatic. It was chilly, dark, and strange out, but you still couldn't look at the sun without eclipse glasses, it was as intense as always!


Very suddenly it's not dusk anymore, it's twilight, or even night if it weren't for the 360 degree sunset {yes, the whole horizon has a sunset}. I watched for the shadow from the northeast but I didn't catch it. People were hooting, howling, and cheering. I knew it was time, finally safe to look without my glasses so I turned to see what I expected to see because I've seen so many photos lately of what total solar eclipses look like.


Yes, I'd expected to see what I saw. How is it possible that I was expecting to see this, but it still took my breath away? I hate the sound of my own voice, but in the video below you can hear me exclaim, "Oh my GOSH!" and it is quite genuine. Just know that. I was moonstruck. 


I have seen a million skies. But I had never seen this sky. With logic and reason I understood that I was watching a total solar eclipse in real life, but what I was seeing still made no sense to my eyes. An inky black hole where there shouldn't be one, with wisps of silvery hairs forming a wreath around it. At the cusp of the black hole were sparkling stars shimmering. It was otherworldly.


It was not what we know is the sun. It was not what we know is the moon. It was completely foreign in our sky. The sun and moon had cooperated for once to show us something glorious. I felt like I saw something sacred. Six buses of Sioux kids and their chaperones had joined us shortly before the eclipse. They were chanting something pretty in their Native American tongue that made the moment even more surreal.


A pink star formed on the side where the first "bite" had been taken out of the sun, and we knew this brief moment--all of two minutes and thirty seconds--was all we would get of this most beautiful sight. This thing that was both sun and moon and also neither of those things, you want to beg it not to leave. Frustratingly, cameras don't capture it as large and lustrous as it is in real life. Cheers and howling resumed as the totality ended. We didn't want it to end. Ever.


But I suppose if this were something I got to see all the time, it might not have been as gorgeous. I have seen thousands of pretty sunsets and tens of shooting stars. I've seen blood moons and full moons rising bloated and yellow over the eastern horizon. I have viewed the sun through a telescope, and have been fascinated by coronal mass ejections. {I'm a big fan of the cosmic stuff, actually.} But I had never seen this sky until today.


I realized I'd just crossed something off my bucket list that I hadn't realized was written on there. Because I don't usually put science fiction experiences on my bucket list. 


Now, if you know me then you know I've very effusive like my mom. Not everyone reacts with the same gusto. Like my husband, who said, "That was cool." And that's about it. But all reactions are valid. Effusive or not. But if I've even made you second guess how you spent August 21, 2017 even just a little...then please start making plans for 2024 right now. 


Now I'll share this video of our eclipse watching moment.


A few notes:

1. It was much darker in real life than my smart phone camera shows. My camera--as you'll hear me start to say in the video but not finish--"does a good job" of adjusting to the dark lighting. 

2. My family can be heard yelling things like, "get him off the car!" and "yes!! NOW is the time to look!!! LOOK!!!" and such. Don't be alarmed. That's just how we are. We're not angry people. We're just loud.


3. My camera is first faced northwest because I was hoping to see/catch the shadow that moves 1450mph over the earth. You can see it best on a hill, and it happens in a flash at the moment totality occurs, and it sometimes makes people scream if they see it.





This video was also taken by the news in Alliance, Nebraska. Yes, we did visit Carhenge on our way out of town. But this video does a better job of showing how dark it gets. 





Was it worth it? Was it worth the last minute scramble to get to Nebraska with 11 people? Yes. It was worth the 4 hour drive there and the 8 hour drive back through Wyoming. I could also wax spiritual about how God hung the moon and the sun and set them on this schedule and how blessed I feel to have laid eyes on this solar phenomenon before I die. 


The sunset over the Rocky Mountains on our {long stop-and-go} drive home was pretty lovely too though. 



sunsetaug212017 Cheers,
Heather









Heihei survived a fox attack, now she takes nobody's flak. This is King Snow. He has to go. Oh, but he is handsome. On his head,...

Garden of Chaos

Heihei survived a fox attack, now she takes nobody's flak.

Garden of Chaos

This is King Snow. He has to go.

Garden of Chaos

Oh, but he is handsome. On his head, there is a ransom.

Garden of Chaos

Eggs every day, cooked every way.

Garden of Chaos

Wisteria finally climbing, such peculiar timing.

Garden of Chaos

Morning Glory vines compete, wants to cover fence complete.

Garden of Chaos

In back, thanks to soil so loaming, every which way squash are roaming.

Garden of Chaos

Squash blossoms curled like fingers, soon suddenly zucchini lingers.

Garden of Chaos

Mother says, "Quick! Go on, now pick!"
Before too big, get that squash!
We'll take it in and we will wash."

Garden of Chaos

Hidden deep we then find, a pure white pumpkin beneath the vine.

Garden of Chaos

When it comes to all our carrot, we're not so sure we want to share it.

carrots of chaos

But zucchini we have way too much, best give to friends for soup and such.

zucchini bowl

And now so patiently we wait, for tomatoes red enough to plate.

Garden of Chaos

And sometimes we all start fights, for who gets carrot-picking rights.

Garden of Chaos

Oh, here is something I did sprout, to make our beloved sauerkraut!

Garden of Chaos

The dog looks up and says, "No beef? In this garden full of leaf?"

Garden of Chaos

But look! I grew onions right from seed. They have been a pain to weed.

Garden of Chaos

Finally tomatoes blush so red, canning salsa lies ahead!

Garden of Chaos

Infant in all the flora and fauna, buds future eggplant parmigiana.

Garden of Chaos

Here a pretty cabbage grew, I captured it with pretty dew.

Garden of Chaos

If plump and orange this pumpkin plan turn, he will be our jack-o'-lantern.

Garden of Chaos

Now see how grows our morning glory, this the end of our garden story.

Garden of Chaos


Cheers,
Heather