Monday, February 1, 2016


Saturday afternoon I came home from somewhere, and upon greeting Drew, I noticed that he had a fairly fresh cut below his eye and scrape above. Apparently, he had a run-in with a shovel while shoveling snow. Little did I know that when I said, "Oh owie! It looks like it could turn into a black eye tomorrow." that I was echoing what Megan and Mike had already said to him.

Throughout the rest of the afternoon and evening, I overheard Drew more than once speculating about whether or not he would have a black eye upon waking up on Sunday morning.

Sunday morning Mike and I were laying in bed when Drew came to us and lamented, "I don't have a black eye." JOKING, I asked him, "Want me to punch you and give you one?" I guess fearing my punch wouldn't be strong enough, Drew VERY SERIOUSLY asked, "Can Dad?"

As soon as Mike and I stopped laughing, Mike immediately replied, "I'd go to jail if I did."

I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

Let's recap.
Drew was disappointed he didn't have a black eye.
I JOKINGLY asked if he wanted me to give him one.
He SERIOUSLY asked if Mike could.
Mike told Drew he couldn't (and wouldn't).

Drew was disappointed.

I considered going into his room Sunday night while he was sleeping and using make-up to give him a black eye. But then I thought about HOW excited he'd be about a black eye when he first saw it, and then how disappointed he would be when he realized it was fake. We have enough teasing around here. I don't need to add to it.

I remember as a child being soooo disappointed I never ever got a bloody nose. Even after once laying in bed smacking my nose against my bedroom wall in an effort to cause one.

So it only seems fair Drew never gets a black eye.

Thursday, January 28, 2016


When I found out our cruise was going to be stopping in Jamaica, I was so excited! Mike joked that he never knew Jamaica was special to me, and it isn't that it ever was, but there seemed to be something appealing and thrilling about visiting Jamaica!

The group we were traveling with had a group excursion for us to embark on in Jamaica. I knew what it would entail, as it is similar to the excursions they have treated us to in the past. This year, I prepared mentally and committed to Mike that I was going to participate fully in this excursion.

Barring drinking the free alcohol they offer on the catamaran as part of the package, I was going to participate fully by this time getting in the ocean and snorkeling, instead of staying on the boat to read and occasionally take pictures of Mike. (Several people skip the snorkeling part, but after my break-through in St. Thomas last year, I wanted to participate.)

We took a long bus ride from the ship to Dunn River Falls, where we loaded onto a catamaran and traveled out into the depths of the sea.

My nerves began to get the best of me, and as the boat workers started passing out snorkeling fins, I declined to take them. Mike was completely supportive of my decision, and didn't force me, but when I asked him, "Do you think I'll regret it?" He firmly replied, "Absolutely!"

My biggest issue was not wanting to jump in, (I've never jumped into a body of water before, why start now?!) but then I saw a few others climb down the steps instead of jumping, and it started to change my mind. But then... I looked into the ocean, and there in the water with all her snorkeling garb on, was an 81 year old grandmother from our group.

That made my decision.
I didn't look back.
And I never regretted it.

I stayed fairly close to the guide that was helping the 81 year old and her 84 year old husband!! Which definitely had its perks; like holding a sea urchin he cracked open and having fish swim into my hand to feed from it. (I initially wanted to die when the guide took my hand and placed the sea urchin in it. I don't even pet our goats or horse!) He helped us see so many cool things, that I regretted (and I think Mike did too) sending Mike away to explore on his own so as not to hold him back.

Mike had misunderstood the guide's time rotations of being in the water, and he returned to the catamaran long before me. Which was sort of fun, because he grabbed the camera to prove I really did do it!

I returned to the boat, feeling satisfied and with a sense of pride of really doing something difficult. It's hard to describe how much water typically terrifies me, and what a personal accomplishment this event was.

I didn't know that the next activity planned would test my limits and leave me feeling proud too.

Our next stop was to hike Dunn River Falls. We had been warned to wear good shoes, and to not take cameras or anything as we would become completely wet. I wasn't quite sure what to expect. But certainly not this.

This photo only shows a portion of the approximate 1000 foot water fall that we looked up at and they told us we were hiking it!

I momentarily had a little freak out questioning of whether or not it was safe.

After the first 20-25 feet or so, I may or may not have had another freak out moment firmly suggesting to Mike that as parents of 5 children thousands of miles away, we had no business embarking in such a risky activity.

We have no photos of the place--only these Google image photos.

Apparently, it is all sorts of safe. They scrub the rocks each morning to prevent slippery mildew forming and it was surprisingly non-slippery.

So many fun (and not so fun) moments during this hike. I will likely never forget the thrill!

When we returned to the catamaran after this hike, I felt as though I could do just about anything! But I was glad, nothing else was on the agenda to get my heart racing again.

We rounded out the excursion with a lunch at a hotel (dang I wish I'd have taken a photo of the building) that was once an old plantation. I was so in love with the building, that instead of taking photos, I found myself searching out someone to ask about the history of the building. The building seemed to be bursting at the seams with stories it wanted to tell, and I regret we were sort of in a rush to leave to get on the bus for the journey back to the ship.
(Only photo I took was the view FROM the hotel, not the building itself.)

This is where my visit to Jamaica sort of caused a change of heart.

Up until this point, my experience in Jamaica, had been nothing short of wonderful. I felt exhilarated, alive and invigorated with enthusiasm for not only the beautiful world we live in, but the personal satisfaction in my activities while there.

I was anxious to get back to the port by our ship to do some shopping. I had left any souvenir shopping to this day in Jamaica (our first two stops we have been to previously and the last stop I knew shopping would be limited). Plus, I wanted souvenirs to mark such a memorable day.

The bus journey back was due to be an hour plus, and looking at the clock, we knew our time was going to be cutting it very close to get back to the ship on time. The time wasn't the main source of my anxiety however, it was the horrible driving of the bus driver on the 2 lane highway. From our seat on the front row, Mike and I watched as he passed slow vehicles when it seemed hazardous, and downright stupid. As much as I wanted time to souvenir shop, I also wanted to arrive back to the ship alive. It was a nerve-wracking, heart-racing drive, and as several fellow group members were also getting antsy looking at the time and considering the shopping they wanted to do too, we came upon traffic at a complete standstill for miles.

Our entourage included 3 buses, one of the busses in our group was detoured down a side street, yet our driver stopped and yelled in some foreign dialect to the police officers and they moved some cones for our bus driver to drive through.

(If on an excursion booked through the ship (ours was), the ship waits for the passengers to return if they are notified of a delay.I'm sure the bus driver's yelling included something about us needing to back to the ship.)

We passed a horrific accident scene. And though the emergency vehicles/injuries had left by this point, the remains of the scene were disturbing to see. Especially seeing a tour bus part of the wreckage. Having traveled on tour/excursion busses in several Caribbean cities now, we know that their safety standards are nowhere equal to those in the USA. It was sickening to think of tourists, on an adventure similar to what my day had been, end their day in an accident.

Our ship waited for our return, and our group boarded the ship disappointed about little to no souvenirs from our day in Jamaica.

I spent the next few days lamenting the fact Ellie didn't get a deck of cards from Jamaica to add to her collection. I felt bad I didn't get something for myself to remember the day by. And I just plain felt disappointed the way our Jamaica day finished up.

Then on Monday, after returning home, I saw from a fellow group member a link to the accident in Jamaica. (You can read it HERE.) Reading the article erased any frivolous regrets of not having souvenirs. I was (and still am) surprised how difficult it has been to know about a young mother and her daughter from Minnesota, returning to their ship after a fun day of swimming with dolphins in Jamaica involved in the horrific crash. The young mother lost her life on that dangerous Jamaican highway, a husband back home in the US lost his wife, and 4 young children no longer have a mother.

It put all sort of things in perspective. I may not have any souvenirs from Jamaica, but I have my memories, I have my life, and I am living with those I love.

Those are worth more than any memorabilia money could buy.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

My Hands, My Children, My Job

*I'm setting a mark for myself to blog on here at least once a week. So many happenings are going unrecorded, and though I'm doing it entirely for myself, I know there are a couple of readers still out there that miss me. So let's see how this goes.*

During late December, my hands finally succumbed to the cracking and dryness that often happens during the winter months. My right thumb had a significant, painful crack on it and no matter how much lotion/ointment I applied, it wouldn't heal. I dealt with it for a few days, and was hopeful that a week in the Caribbean humidity would cure it. That Caribbean humidity worked a miracle on my skin, although a havoc on my hair. (It's rare I can empathize with my mother-in-law about hair issues.) My thumb healed perfectly, and my hands spent a glorious 8 days rarely needing lotion.

Despite going on our cruise earlier than usual this year, I returned home optimistic that the softness of my skin would last throughout the rest of the cold, dry weeks of winter we have yet to endure, as it has the past couple of years post-cruise.

My visions of smooth skin for the rest of the winter didn't take into account the fact I'd be washing my hands 4,073 times for a couple of days last week, and now this week.

You see.
We have a new identity (hobby?) around here.

The Sowby Family is perhaps now better known as Public Vomiters.

Meet Joshua, third grader that spewed his breakfast, including a red berry smoothie (TMI?) across his third grade classroom last week.

And this is Drew. 1st Grader who five days after big brother's debut, decided to match him by throwing up on the school bus yesterday afternoon.

And this is Ellie. 6th grader who I kept home thinking she had a mild case of I'm-sort-of-sick-but-really-I-just-want-a-day-home-from-school. But the fact a few hours later, a bathroom rug was thrown away instead of washed, confirmed my earlier ambivalent feelings of keeping her home had in fact been the right choice.

Despite Ellie being home sick yesterday (her throwing up didn't start until after lunchtime), I decided to do Cookie Day. Every so often, I greet the children at the bus stop with a container of cookies, and I hear reports of children spying me from a few houses down as the bus approaches with chants and cheers of, "Cookie Day! Cookie Day!" I love the enthusiasm and cheers that greet me as I stand there with my blue lid container full of cookies.

Except yesterday, as I stood by while the bus doors opened, intermixed with chants of "Yay! It's Cookie Day!" and "Cookie Day! Cookie Day!" were more loud and overpowering voices yelling, "Drew threw up on the bus!" and "Drew just barfed!"

Rarely am I at the bus stop to greet my children, but the bus driver knew I was Drew's mother, so I didn't really  have an escape. I wanted to stand there passing out cookies like normal, or even run home to help Drew, but more accurately, I daydreamed for just a moment of running home, hopping in my car and escaping to a hotel for an undetermined amount of time.

I didn't.

Instead, I passed the cookies to a neighbor boy to give out, and turned to the bus driver (who had just retrieved the emergency 'Body Fluid Cleanup Kit') and I said, "I am so sorry." And then quite insincerely added, "Can I help you clean it up?"

(For the record, I asked GENUINELY at the elementary school if I could help clean up Joshua's and they told me, "Oh, the janitor's got it taken care of.")

A part of me thought the bus driver would say, "Oh no. It's part of the job, go home and take care of your child." or even, "Oh, it's no big deal. Keep passing out cookies." Instead, I somewhat stumbled into the bus as he said, "Yes. I think I will let you."

I have cleaned up a lot of throw up in my life. I'll spare you the details of some of the worst (my BFF's teenage brother throughout his whole bedroom, mere weeks after their mother died is likely still at the top), but the floor of a school bus, mixed with my child's lunch remnants come in as a close second.

Wondering how my soft hands relate to all this?

Ellie and Drew threw up more times yesterday afternoon and evening than I can count. I washed my hands more times yesterday than I have in my entire life combined.

By yesterday evening, I could feel the annual crack on the side of my thumb beginning to make a second appearance of the season.

So last night, when a child started spewing in their bucket as they walked to the bathroom, and Mike continued eating his dinner, I said, "That's fine, I'll help AGAIN. But don't be surprised when I HAVE to go alone to the Caribbean next week for medical reasons."

I'm a nice, compassionate, serving mother and wife like that.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Christmas Shopping Habits

I have a tendency to get my Christmas shopping completed early. Which, in and of itself should be a good thing, but I decide every year as the holidays begin to seep into the air, that this will be the year I won't start before Thanksgiving.( I think sometimes shopping early makes me overspend or buy a little more than I should. All a result of, sort of liking to be be in the stores close to Christmas.)

Each year, when I decide to not start as early, the (worry-wart) side of me always has a nagging, unrealistic thought in the back of my mind, "What if something ever happens to me in December? I need to have it done!" (I once confided this to a friend and she laughed.)

Luke's birthday is November 2nd. I don't even think of Christmas before then. But typically, in the days following his birthday I begin planning, looking, and buying.

Last Tuesday, December 1st, at about 1:45pm, I purchased the last of the Christmas presents for my children. Four hours later I was in a hospital ER. Eight hours later, I was being admitted to the hospital and told I could be there anywhere from 5-7 days.

Although the pain from my pancreas was severe and relentless, one of my nagging thoughts was, "I am so glad my Christmas shopping is done!" My other nagging thought, which I voiced several different times to medical personnel was, "It is the Christmas season! I have 5 children! I do not have time for this. I can NOT stay here very long."

My two day stay surprised even the doctor, but not me. A determined mother, who can have all her Christmas cards mailed out, and her children's Christmas shopping completed by December 1st is capable of far greater things, including willing a pancreas to settle down so I could get released from the hospital. (The cards and shopping may have been done-but there was a tree that needed to be put up, and all sorts of other Christmas "stuff" still weighing on my mind.)

I will say though, during the first day at the hospital, when lamenting my woes to a friend about not having time to lay in a hospital bed, she advised me, "Try to chill and take this time to think about or read things or whatever that you don't normally have time for during your usual busy life. Practice patience, patient."

I took her advice, and by the second day, I decided to feel relaxed that I had nothing to do (okay, so I did have to make a few phone calls and answer a handful of emails), but for the most part, I did nothing! I surfed Facebook and Instagram more closely than usual. I read a cheesy Christmas book that was quite charming, and likely would never have justified during "real life", and I actually did some online Christmas shopping right there in a hospital bed from my smart phone!

Although I felt antsy in many ways, I had an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction and contentment that my children's shopping was 100% done. (And had informed Mike of my hiding places while in the ER "in case I die.") Nothing was done for parents or a few others, but I knew they would not be as disappointed as children on Christmas morning.

I've identified myself as a worrier, since 7th grade when the headmistress at my school told my parents I was one. (I still have no idea how SHE of all people in the school would know that about me, not to mention, what exactly WAS I WORRYING about when I was 13 years old????????

Most of my worries are irrational and few of them are ever proven to come to pass. But, I will tell you that
my decade and a half worry of "What if something ever happens to me in December?" question has been proven to have some sort of validity. (So take that BFF who once laughed at my question, and my eye-rolling husband.)

Don't be surprised if I start next year's Christmas shopping in January.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Whoever Would Have Thought?

Starting the last Saturday in August, we have found ourselves on the sidelines of a football field every Saturday cheering on Joshua. And you know what? I have loved every second of it.

I LOVE this series of photos that depicts a pretty stellar play by Joshua earlier in the season. (Photo credit goes to a mom on the team. (?) Pay close attention to Joshua's ability to get away from his opposition.

You likely don't have to know the Sowby family too well to know that our involvement in organized sports over the years has been next to nothing. This comes from a variety of reasons, not the least being the time commitment it would cause a family of seven for only one child.

Joshua's passion for football has been obvious for over a year now. He plays football, he thinks football, he imagines football, and I'm quite certain, he even breathes it. Mike and I fought somewhat against letting Joshua play tackle football at such a young age, but decided in the end to let him try it.

My introduction to the football league at the beginning during try-outs was nothing short of an emotional wreck for me. I can't really describe it, or rather, shouldn't. But suffice it to say, Joshua got his tonsils out on the 2nd day of practice. The first day of practice when reminding one of the coaches that Joshua was having this surgery done, said, "Oh. But he'll still be here dressed tomorrow night though, right?"

Poor Mike took the brunt of my emotional breakdowns that first week regarding football and the commitment it started to be, but before long, I accepted Mike's advice of, "You've made the decision. Just move forward with it and don't second guess it anymore." 

Joshua's tonsillectomy during tryouts turned out to be a blessing! Due to his spotty involvement during tryouts, he was put on the team with the coach that I had secretly hoped he would get.

I can't say enough nice things about Coach Nate (and his dad, Coach Bryan) and their dedication to a group of 22 boys, several of which often disrupt the lessons being taught. These coaches are patient and kind, and seem to care about teaching these boys skills that will benefit them both on and off the field.

Though there have been plenty of times I've sat on proverbial sidelines and watched my children participate in their various interests and hobbies, there's something about seeing one's child committed to a team, dedicated to his position and giving his all to help secure wins. For almost 3 months now, Joshua has put 6 hours of practice in each week, not counting the games. Over the years, I would have (secretly) chided another family for putting this much time commitment into one child, but not only have we made it work, but Joshua has NEVER complained ONCE about having to miss out on free time, other activities and even a missed opportunity for a family trip. I've joked, "We sold our souls to football this fall" but it's worked, and I've seen a side of parenthood I never imagined I'd see.

Joshua clearly knew upfront that Mike and I were not committing to a "life of football", but only to this one season. Last week while driving home from a game, Joshua very quietly from the back seat said, "I love football. I want to play next year too." I can't help but admit, it  made me smile. I'm not sure I mind giving up another fall season of Saturdays to a football sideline.

Before my maudlin football ramblings get to be a bit much, I'll end by simply saying:
There is no doubt, I am Joshua's biggest fan.

Go Joshua!
Go Braves!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Drew's Last Ride

When Megan was 3 years old, Santa brought her and Luke (6 weeks old) a red Power Wheels jeep. That jeep got years and years of love and use out of it. Except by the time Joshua was old enough to play with it, it was old and had been thrown out. Around that time, we inherited a pink hand-me-down jeep from somewhere, and though it barely worked Joshua discovered he loved it, but the frustration of it never working drove us all crazy.

Our neighbors at this time had a 4-wheeler Power Wheels that rarely got used. It sat in their garage in almost pristine condition and really the only time it was ever ridden was when Joshua would wander over and ask to play with it. Instead of Joshua constantly borrowing it, I offered to buy it from the neighbors, and for a pretty decent price my two younger boys have had hours and hours of play with that thing.

My children have worn the tires bare, Luke once used the seat to cut a piece of leather on, leaving some nice cut marks on it, the trailer has hauled children, hay, candy, and I'm quite sure even Hank the goat once rode in it when he was a baby. I'm fairly certain that little 4-wheeler has logged almost as many miles on it than some people's vehicles.

Except for the last several months the 4-wheeler has mostly sat in our garage in a fairly difficult to get to location. The battery didn't last as long at a time as it once did, and the speed of the 4-wheeler was getting slower and slower even with a "full" battery. Every so often I would think about selling it, but I just couldn't, and neither could Drew or Joshua if they heard me talk about it. We all felt sort of endeared to a silly toy taking up way too much room in our garage, but was so often forgotten because BMX bikes and bike jumps came first.

There are so many "lasts" we never know will be lasts. Which I am actually very grateful for. I know my heart would break far too easily if I knew each last was indeed a last. I'm glad I didn't know whenever it was that Megan grabbed my hand to hold in a store for the last time. Maybe I'm glad I didn't know one time laying in bed with Luke that it was the the last time I was telling him a Little Green Helicopter story. I don't remember knowing whenever it was that Ellie was sucking her thumb for the last time. I don't remember knowing Joshua's last time riding Ellie's hand-me-down pink tricycle that he loved to ride would have been his last.

But for whatever reason, I want to remember today. I want to forever hold in my mind, the picture of Drew climbing on the 4-wheeler and riding it for the last time. Drew rode it from our garage out to the cul-de-sac to a waiting car. And in all honesty, I thought I was going to cry.

I know it is only a 4-wheeler. A tangible, well-worn object that likely doesn't have too many more months of life left in it.  My baby rides a BMX bike and daringly jumps off of jumps. The 4-wheeler is no longer his transportation of choice.

But this morning, Drew's last ride was the end of a long era.

This morning as I was gathering up the charger and battery in anticipation of the "online-yard-sale-site-buyer" coming to purchase it, I remembered the experience buying formula for the last time for Drew that I wrote about HERE. And I knew, I needed to give the 4-wheeler away instead of selling it. My older children thought I was crazy not to get "something out of it" and were all quite willing to take over the transaction, so that I didn't give it away. But I told them they didn't understand. I had to give it away. My mother heart didn't care about making any money from my memories.

As long as the younger-than-me-mother who I gifted the 4-wheeler to this morning gets even an ounce of satisfaction and memories watching her children play on the 4-wheeler, I will always hold dear the memory of Drew's last ride this morning.

(Joshua and Drew--August 2011)

Enjoy the little things in life. One day you'll look back and realize they were the big things.

Friday, August 28, 2015

A Back-to-School Story

With all of the recent back-to-school posts on social media recently, I was reminded of this experience last year that I never recorded. It motivated me to write the experience down and make sure it isn't forgotten.

In our family, it is quite traditional for my husband Mike to give "priesthood blessings" the night before a new school year.

Last year, for whatever reason, instead of assuming each child wanted a blessing, Mike asked the children to tell him if they wanted one, and he would happily oblige. Four out of five of the children asked for one. One child, my oldest son, Luke did not. {Here I want to  to say, that though I do put faith into Priesthood blessings, I have always been a firm believer that the sincere prayers of mothers are heard in the same light.} However, with Luke starting a brand new school-junior high no less-I was somewhat disappointed at Luke's lack of desire for any heavenly help.

Sending my first-born to junior high 4 years ago was very difficult for me. Likely due in part to my own difficult experiences with junior high after moving to one from another country! Sending my second child to one last year felt just as hard as it had been with my first. Actually though, it felt worse. Typically confident and fearless Luke acted more nervous than Megan ever had. I think exasperated by the fact that at the 7th grade orientation day just a few days previously, Luke could not figure out how to open his locker.

We practiced and we practiced and we practiced. I was determined to not leave the orientation until Luke had it mastered, but it was clear that either a faulty locker, or Luke's inability to master the lock was causing frustration and embarrassment. Instead, I suggested we take a deep breath,  leave the school and maintain high hopes that on the following Monday morning it would work for him.

Back to the Sunday night before school.

My mother heart could tell Luke was heading to bed nervous, yet neither my husband or I felt it appropriate to force any issue of a priesthood blessing thinking it may calm him. One of the last things Luke said to me before he fell asleep that night was, "Maybe I'll just take WD40 to school with me. That will help with the locker."

The next morning, I'm not sure who was more nervous for junior high. Luke or me! One of the first things out of Luke's mouth upon waking up and facing the daunting reality of his first day of junior high was, "I've figured it out. I know what I'll do, I am taking a screwdriver to school with me. That WILL open the locker."

My tough, can-do-nearly-anything-12-year-old son was nervous for junior high. He wouldn't admit it. He didn't admit it. But I knew. My mother heart knew he was nervous, and I knew the deepest root of his nervousness was that darn locker. Luke built a scooter when he was 5, he could change a flat tire on his bike at age 6, he built a make-shift shed when he was 10 and has likely outdone his peers on building or creating numerous projects.

But my then 12 year old, couldn't independently open his locker at 7th grade orientation.

Luke allowed me to walk him to the bus-stop his first morning of junior high. We didn't say much to each other besides me defending my decision that he couldn't take WD40 or a screwdriver to school. One of the last things I said to him, as a sort of consolation for none of his desired tools was, "Luke-I'll be praying for you."

And I did.
I prayed all day.
If I wasn't on my knees praying, I was praying in my heart. If I wasn't praying in my heart, I was praying aloud while going about my chores. My prayers centered around one thing.
Luke and his ability to open his locker.

Luke returned home later that day and of course one of my first questions to him was, "How did the locker go?" He looked at me, as though he didn't have any recollection of it ever being an issue and simply said, "It opened every single time."

With tears streaming down my face, I placed Luke's face in my hands and looked him in the eyes and quietly asked him a question, I didn't need him to answer.

"Luke. Who needs WD40 or a screwdriver, when you have a mother who prays?"

There are a variety of explanations one can offer for Luke's first day of junior high, but there is only one that matters.

I have no doubt that there are few things more powerful than the sincere prayers of a mother. I am grateful that Luke and I learned firsthand that day, that a mother's prayer can transcend an earthly trouble.


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