Friday, August 30, 2013

A New School Year

School has begun. Overall, this is good. But it sure is an adjustment. The house is a lot quieter, for the most part. Sometimes it's too quiet and I pace around the house not knowing exactly what to do. I am always braced for the next child that needs me. My time to myself really only lasts for about 15-20 minutes, if that. Hallie doesn't talk and she sleeps half the time. She's a good little one to have around. Connor is, well... he's three. Sometimes he's a happy, cooperative child. And then there's the rest of the time. Good grief! That child is really going through one lately (meaning the last 8 months). As an example, he has to open all the doors. He's like our butler, our unreasonable, irrational and whiny butler. Whenever there's a knock at the door he either runs for it or immediately starts crying because he wants to get the door. And he is always the last one out of the car because he's in the back corner, yet none of us can even go into the house because he insists on being the one to open the door to the house. So the whole family just stands there waiting for him. Ridiculous. But trust me, this situation is much better than, heaven forbid, one of us opening it and then listening to a 30 minute meltdown. He could have meltdowns about not getting to set the plates at the table, or not getting to hold the remote, or choose the movie, or say something to me that a sibling said, or pretty much anything. I hope most of this can be chalked up to being three. At least I have to tell myself that. Yes, all the other kids were just as irrational and volatile, and look at them now.

I was going to put the picture of Connor laying in the hall naked, asleep with his pajamas right next to him, but instead I'll post one where he's happy. Oh, a funny thing that Connor always says is, "Mommy, take a picture at me" and then he'll pose like this. I do love that cute kid, even if he is difficult sometimes.
Erin started fourth grade. When did that happen? It's like old enough for some kids to need deodorant, which incidentally, I explained to Erin all about B.O. the other day. She is loving it so far (school, not B.O.) Of course there hasn't been much homework yet, but she seems excited and ready to be there. Her teacher is Mrs. Bush and she loves Disneyland so everything in the class pretty much revolves around some Disney theme, which the kids love. I feel like there is a new level of maturity with her this year. She decided on her own that she wanted to take a shower every morning. She practices her piano willingly and does what she's asked around the house. And she loves reading. She probably does three times as much as school wants her to. All this while still going to Activity Days, taking piano lessons and increasing her time at gymnastics. And she still gets to play with her best friend, Emma (I was going to say friends, but it's really just her that she plays with). I am impressed with how much energy that girl has and I hope she can keep it up throughout the year. Oh, and I actually do miss her when she's gone. She has been a great help with Hallie and Connor this summer. I went somewhere with just those two and I didn't have anyone to buckle their car seats like I did all summer. Plus, she is just a fun girl that I can actually talk to and joke around with now that she's older.

Side note:  Before school started, Erin laid out her clothes for the first two weeks of school, in the order she would wear them, including shoes, hair styles and accessories. Most of them were monochromatic, but definitely her style. She does a good job putting things together. And also, how the heck did she end up with so many different pairs of shoes?

Side note #2:  She has a back pack, but it wasn't purple so she took this old ratty bag that she got in nursery on the first day. Funny kid.
Alex started second grade and wouldn't you know it, there's another Alex in his class again (the same one as last year). Luckily he is already used to everyone calling him Alex D. I am confident that Alex will do well in school again this year, but the first week he seemed so tired. I feel like it just took a lot out of him. He's been laying around the house not wanting to do anything I ask him to do (probably just side effects of being so obedient all day at school). From what I've seen of his teacher (Mrs. Park), I absolutely love her. When we did his reading assessment, she came out and told me that she thought Alex was a very empathetic child, just from the answers he gave. I completely agree! It's so nice to see his teacher recognize something good about him too. He is so kind to those around him, which makes him an especially great brother to Connor. I have always felt lucky to have him in our family and in the line-up where he is. Alex is still taking piano, but for some reason he has stopped liking to practice. This is frustrating, because he was so good at practicing before and I think he could be pretty good if he kept at it. He just has to make it to the end of October, then his teacher will have a baby and they'll have a two month break. I've been stressing a little about extracurricular activities this year. Erin wants to do everything and Alex only has piano. I finally realized that all he needs right now is to be able to play with his friends after school. I think he will be happy to just have down time (and I am happy with that too).
Marissa started kindergarten a week after the other kids and let me tell you, she loves it. She says her teacher, Mrs. Anderson, is really nice but kind of mean because she makes them line up. The bus driver is also kind of mean because he makes them sit down. I wonder what she says about me behind my back. I am way meaner than that. None of her preschool or neighborhood friends got her teacher, but I was not worried at all about it. This child makes friends everywhere she goes. She has several new friends now, but she can never seem to remember their names (or she just never bothers to ask). She rides the bus with the other kids in the morning and then comes home on the kindergarten bus in the middle of the day. The bus came to drop off kids really early the second day and I was still on my way there. Since she didn't have a parent there they made her get back on the bus. I had to track her down at another bus stop. She was okay, but she broke down in the car about it. Poor kid. I won't be making that mistake again! She is so ready for kindergarten, and I am very ready for her to go to. She gets a bit bored at home and ends up fighting with Connor a little too much. I'm sure she will do just fine at school.
 In line for the bus. And yes, the two kids standing next to her are also in kindergarten. Marissa's a little on the short side.

Hallie has been sick lately. She had a fever on and off for a few days, and slept a lot, but there were times in the day when she acted just fine and played just like normal. The fever went away yesterday, but today she has a mild rash. The worst part is that she is hardly eating, and she is so tiny to begin with. I am really starting to worry about it. Sometimes she refuses to even nurse. I have an appointment with the doctor so I hope we can figure things out and that it won't be anything too serious. Worrying comes with the territory as a mom, I guess. I remember how worried I was about Marissa's torticollis and her head being mis-shapen, and now she's fine. Anyway, other than being skinny, Hallie is doing everything that an almost 11 month old should do. She is standing, climbing, breaking teeth and getting into everything. She is a huge mess maker wherever she goes, and I know that's exactly as it should be. We've implemented the sideways bar stool at the bottom of the stairs to keep her from climbing them and then tumbling on down. It's actually perfect because the other kids can easily get over it but she can't (yet). I sure love that baby and everyone else does too. It's so nice to see my other kids care so much about her, trying to keep her safe or entertain her. She is well loved!

This is a classic Hallie face, the closed mouth smile (sweet and innocent)
One of the messes she just made.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Summer 2013, come and gone

Once again, here I am trying to sum up the last three months. Summer flew by! At the beginning I was braced and ready for it all. I spent a nice chunk of time on a summer job chart which lasted for about a week and a half, maybe less. It was a huge adjustment at first having all five home all of the time. I didn't really go very many places. But, that was almost always okay because of the many things to do at home in the back yard, playing with friends, riding bikes, and heck, they always had each other and a healthy dose of imagination to make any day fun. I love that about our kids. I suppose we finally got into a groove around July-ish. In fact, looking back on my year so far, I'd have to say that January-February and July-August were my best months (at least personally, and probably for the family too). I just enjoyed the laid back pace with no schedule. I enjoyed watching the kids have fun instead of hustling them around trying to do fun things. That being said, we still did some things.

And here you go:

Swimming lessons, all standing in order (not because I asked them to). Connor screamed the whole first day but did okay after that. Not sure how much any of them learned, but whatever.
We went to the Rodeo and had a great time. Hallie was so tired though and doesn't sleep in our arms, so that was not that fun. Oh hey, they're in order again.
We dressed like a cow for Cow Appreciation Day again. In order again (they really do it on their own). I made a toga out of the extra cow fabric I had and made Jared wear ears and spots this year. There was a picture, but due to an unfortunate and unsightly appearance of a double chin, the photo did not make the blog. And yes, I even made a little cow skirt for Hallie even though she didn't get a free meal. I am that crazy.
The day before this was 7-11, so we definitely got our free Slurpees. And a few days later there was a free day at the Museum of Natural History up in Salt Lake. I love free stuff! It was a lot of fun. Oh wait, except for Connor refusing to go to the bathroom once he saw the stalls, like over and over again! Stubborn kid.

Alex, Marissa and Connor were all signed up for the neighborhood soccer again, and Alex and Marissa actually played. Connor pretty much just wore his uniform, occasionally (remember the stubborn kid from the museum?)
They played on the swing set every day...
 ...they played in the hose and with chalk (sometimes at the same time)
They spent two days making an Otter Pop Stand at the beginning of the summer and begged to do it several times. Being the lazy Scrooge that I am, I did not want to do it. #1-I didn't want to sit out in the hot sun begging for money and #2-doesn't everyone already have otter pops in their freezer? Why would they buy ours? On the very last day of summer I finally gave in and let them do it. I was amazed that anyone even bought any, but at a quarter a piece they made over $7. Not too bad. Erin manned the station while the rest of the kids ran around the neighborhood spreading the word. The things they think are fun.
This one is actually from the last week of school when Erin had business day. They all had to come up with some business where everyone bought stuff using the fake money they'd been earning all year. Erin's was Selling Goo. This is a picture of the family making it the night before. It was such an awesome thing for girls and boys in third grade, and for us. It is way fun to play with. She sold out pretty quickly.
And then there was the Fourth of July. We went up to Jared's parents' the night before and got to sleep in their camper out back. It fit our family perfectly. Then the next day we got to ride on a float in the Perry parade. That's right, be in a parade, not just watch. My kids were thrilled. Jared's dad is running for mayor so he had all of the kids and grand kids that could be there ride along throwing candy. That's quite the posterity (and not everyone was there!) It was a fun time.
Wait... they are out of order! Connor, back in line.
Here they are after the parade watching a movie with some of the cousins. Cute kids!
When we got home that night the girls passed out on the couch and the boys were watching something. I just thought this shot was so funny how they ended up.
The highlight of my summer (and the year) is always the Parade of Homes. I look forward to it every year and enjoy every minute of it. I went to the Utah Valley Parade in June and the Salt Lake Valley Parade in August. Loved it! I get so inspired by design and decor. My favorite house was a 7500 sf home built specially for a family with 10 children, 7 of which were adopted from China and all had special needs. It was amazing to feel the spirit of the family in the home. After I got home, I looked them up and realized that the mom was one of my roommates in college (just for one semester right before my mission). She amazes me with all that she has done and is doing for all these special children. Check out their blog. Amazing!

Then there was our anniversary. Eleven years! My sister-in-law offered to watch our kids, but we didn't want to leave Hallie overnight, so we spent a whole day together just doing stuff without kids! That right there is enough of a celebration. I dragged Jared to the Parade of Homes and his idea was going to a water park. That was so much more fun without kids. We actually got to stand in line together instead of take turns watching kids. Don't get me wrong, I love my kids. It was just nice to hang out with Jared like we were teenagers for a change. We ate at two of my favorite restaurants (Blue Lemon and Zupas) and got a parking ticket (but we didn't have to pay for babysitting so it pretty much evens out). That night Jared surprised me with this two tiered wedding/anniversary cake. It was all one of my neighbor's ideas. She is a master cake decorator and wanted to pay us back for watching her kids once (not even that, they were asleep and we listened for them on the baby monitor). Anyway, this was how she showed her appreciation. It was delicious and amazing. Jared and I both agree that there is nothing I could (or should) cook or bake to pay her back. That is not my talent. Maybe I could just show up on her doorstep with a refinished dresser or something. Suffice it to say that we have the best neighbors and neighborhood ever. I feel so lucky to live among them! Oh, and back to our anniversary... I am so lucky to have Jared by my side. He is a loving, understanding, supportive, hard working, talented, fun and just an all around amazing person. I couldn't have asked for a better man for me!
One more thing about our anniversary. When I was in college, a couple of roommates and I would always love to play 10 year reunion. We would pretend that we hadn't seen each other in 10 years and then we would talk about all the things that had happened in that time. We would think up some really crazy scenarios about our lives and all the people in our ward. You know, who married who, who was a drug addict, who was bald, who had three sets of triplets. It was awesome. So I decided to play 11 year reunion with Jared (since we'd been married for 11 years). What would our life be like in 11 years? There were some fun things in there. It'll be interesting to see if anything that we said will actually happen.

Goodbye summer and hello school year/schedule/cold weather...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Midway and Missions

In July, my parents got three condos in Midway for all of us to stay. It was such a great vacation! Each condo had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a murphy bed and a kitchen. My parents and Emily had one, my brother Dave and his family had one and we had one. They were all right next to each other and across the hall so we could go from place to place while still having privacy (and a quiet spot for sleeping babies). They were also on the golf course with the mountains right behind. It was beautiful!

It was nice because it was only an hour away, so not much traveling, yet as soon as we got there it felt like a very remote destination. And I was instantly relaxed once we got there. Instantly there were no projects to do there. Mostly, we just relaxed and hung out together. We played games, ate meals together and watched movies. We took walks on the golf course almost every night. We got to go inside the crater at the Homestead where they have natural mineral springs and walk on top to look inside. Really cool.

This is one of the walks we took.

 And on our way back.
 One day we went fishing. Alex caught the first fish!  
We caught 7 in all and Becky cooked them up for dinner. Yum!
Erin caught a baby frog.
 And they all fed the ducks. We were noticing on this trip that the kids almost always sit or stand in order. We don't make them do it, it just ends up this way so much. Kind of funny.

 One day we took a "mile" long hike, which turned out to be about double that. This is everyone except for Jared, who was taking the picture. Not sure if my outfit, greasy hair and backpack straps from the baby carrier could be any any less flattering (I figured I would be hiking, after all), but everyone else looks good.
 Sweet Hallie fell asleep.
We flew kites twice. The first day wasn't windy enough, so we tried again another day. It was perfect. We had like 8 kites for all of us and everyone had a fun/relaxing time. A few of them got stuck in trees, but I'm pretty sure you haven't flown a kite if you haven't had one get stuck in a tree before. As we were all sitting there on the grass watching the kites in the air, my dad commented that there was nothing better than this, meaning being with family and doing something in nature that is so relaxing. Basically meaning that everything is right with the world at that moment. That's how it felt.

The girls spent a morning shopping at the outlets in Park City while Jared and the boys went on a walk/excursion. Jared learned how to ride the rip stick on this trip. Too bad I didn't take any pictures of him doing it. It is no surprise that he could pick it up so well. He is so athletic. My brief try at it was both non-athletic and terrifying. I have children to think about now!

We went on a couple of crazy mountainous roads on this trip. One was Cascade Springs where we followed a sign saying it was 7 miles away. Not too bad... until we got on the windy, bumpy and cliff side drop off road! Crazy. We went the long way home just to avoid it. The other one was a wrong turn that we missed. We ended up going up this steep, windy road and over the mountain into Park City when we were almost out of gas! Again, a little scary. I have always hated those steep roads that make you feel like you will slip off the road at any moment.

We also went to a parade in a neighboring town where my kids made out with a good amount of candy. And it's always great for the adults because the kids do the work gathering up all the candy and we get to have some (after the right amount of begging that is).

The first Sunday on the trip was my nephew Sam's mission farewell, which we came back for. He gave a great talk. I am so impressed with that kid. He has grown up to be such a friendly, kind, funny, spiritual, talented and smart kid. He took tons of AP classes and got straight A's in all of them. He is an amazing trumpet player and can play just about anything on the piano in any style or any key, by ear. He's pretty much a genius. He was the sterling scholar for music and made it to the state level. Anyway, I am just proud to know such a great person and know he will be a great missionary in North Carolina. He will be missed!

The next Sunday was my parents' mission farewell. Their talks were both really good too. The week after that we got to go to their house to see them get set apart as missionaries. It was a very spiritual time to get to hear everyone talk about my parents and hear their testimonies as well. They are going on a Family History Center mission in LA. I have always seen my parents do family history, especially my mom, and I am so grateful for all the work that they have done. Even though I feel like I haven't always been that interested in it, I have also felt strongly lately that there is not much of a better way to spend your time than doing family history and temple work. It is lasting and so important for our ancestors to receive their ordinances. A few weeks ago we all got to be part of a sealing session for many of the names my mom has found. I felt the spirit so strongly while we were there and received personal insights as well. Anyway, I am just grateful for all that my parents do and are doing on their mission. Luckily, we get to talk to them regularly and hopefully will get to make a visit or two during their time there, so it's not as sad (even though we won't see them as much).

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Ode to Cheryl (and Lincoln)

One of my very best friends in the world got married yesterday. You have no idea how excited and happy I am for both of them. On Monday night she had a dinner for close friends and family. It was lovely. Beautiful weather, gorgeous back yard, great food and touching speeches. My fork did break in my pork roast, making everyone at our table and the next bust up laughing during one of the more sentimental speeches. Comic relief, I say. Cheryl played her guitar and sang some fabulous songs about and for Lincoln, and he gave the most incredible speech I think that any groom could have thought up. There is no doubt in my mind that he loves her so much! The one thing that I was both unaware of and unprepared for was the fact that there would be open toasts. And not only that but that we would be giving one. When I say we, I mean the Pin-Up Girls:  Jana, Marinda, Cara, Jen, and me (not including Cheryl of course). We all got up at once and each said something random that came to mind, but every one of us came up with something much better to say the next day after we'd thought about it more. So to Cheryl and Lincoln, I want to write what I would have said if I had had more time to think about it.

I did say in the toast that I have known Cheryl for over 20 years. But what I didn't say was that in that 20 years, we have gone to school together, lived together, gone on many trips together, worked at the same jobs together, and dressed like old ladies to go bowling together, among many other things. We have made up and used various nick names over the years, like Chert (Lert, Mert, and Jert) and Laverne and Shirley. We have been silly and done crazy things in our time together, like march around band camp with toilet paper trailing out of our pants and roll down a huge hill acting out the Princess Bride. We've taken racquetball classes and harmonica classes together. We've owned more than a few pairs of matching shoes over the years. I've received many letters from Cheryl during our freshman year of college and on our missions that invariably made me laugh out loud. She's hilarious! She is someone that I can always have fun with, whether we are in a group or alone, and no matter where we happen to be. We have always been able to make our own fun together. But not only is she fun, Cheryl is someone that I can talk to about anything and everything, no matter how dumb or serious, crazy or spiritual. Eleven years ago I got married and moved to Florida. Cheryl was one of a very few that I always wanted to talk to when I was there. I called her often about everything--my joys, my trials, when I was lonely or needed a laugh, and I still do. In fact, she is #3 on my most frequent list of people I call (only behind my husband and my parents)--check my phone, it's true. That's how good of a friend she is to me. And she helped me through one of the worst trials I have had to face in my life. I can never thank her enough for supporting me, listening to me and encouraging me through that time. She has always has a strong testimony and been a great example of faith and diligence as she has gone to the temple and lived an obedient life. I love her for that! And after nine years when it was time for me to move back to Utah, I was especially excited because I would now have someone who I knew would dress like a cow with me to get a free meal. I love that Cheryl is always up for things like that, things that we would never do alone but would have so much fun doing together. Since I have been back, the Pin-Up Girls have made it a monthly tradition to have a girls' night out, and I owe it to Cheryl that we have all stayed friends. She is giving and caring with all of her friends, and I feel so lucky to be among one of her many friends. Through all the years that I was in Florida, I would love to hear about the different guys she was dating, but... none of them were good enough for her. None of them until now. As I have heard Cheryl talk about Lincoln, and have interacted with Lincoln personally, I feel confident that not only is he good enough for her, but that she is also perfect for him. I want Lincoln to know that by loving Cheryl, he has made our dreams for Cheryl come true as well. I welcome Lincoln to the Pin-Up Girls and can't wait to have more fun times with Cheryl and Lincoln in the future. I truly love you both and wish all the happiness in the world for your marriage and life together.

Shirley, hopefully that will make up for me not writing in your wedding book (or your yearbook). You see, when you love someone as much as I love you, comments like "Congratulations" and "Stay Cool" just don't seem to cut it.

The temple ceremony was the next day and it, too, was lovely. These are some pictures we took afterwards.

 The Pin-Up Girls--20 years and counting...
 This picture was in honor of all the wedding pictures we ruined over the years by doing a thumbs down.
Cheryl grabbing our arms trying to change them to a thumbs up. Didn't see that one coming.
Look, even she did it.... in her own wedding picture!
I love this one of Cheryl laughing.
I thought these would be good spots for some friend pictures.
(we think we are sooo funny)
(no really, we do)

At night, instead of a reception, they had a party. And boy do they throw a good party! They had bounce houses, face painting, balloon animals and feeding the ducks for the kids. My kids all loved it. One of them said it was the best day of her life (and she's had five years of life to compare it with).  As a side note:  one of these kids is going commando in this shot due to an "incident" involving diarrhea, a pair of Diego underwear that will never be seen again, approximately 47 wipes and a bathroom stall I don't ever wish to go into again.
Back to the party. They gave out tickets so that we could buy whatever we wanted at 5 or 6 different food trucks. It was just like a carnival. So creative! They had badminton and croquet, and quilting and live music inside. I think there may have been some cow milking too, but I wasn't there for that part. Everyone got to dress casually while Cheryl and Lincoln wore their wedding clothes. The best part was the outdoor laser tag with Cheryl in her dress. It was so fun! She even got second place on her team. Just imagine if she'd been wearing shorts.

 It was seriously the best wedding I've ever been to. Nice job you guys!