Monday, September 29, 2014

Life With Me Around

(Keswick Hall, VA--where my BFF and I stayed last week. More on it later...)

I returned home last night from having spent the last 6 days in Virginia and the Washington DC area. I vacationed alone with my BFF for the first part of the week, and then spent the last few days with my brother and his family in the DC area.

It was a glorious 6 days.

I've had the opportunity to travel without Mike or the children a fair amount the last year and a half, and I've done a little evaluating about the pros and cons of my absence. Though the children certainly don't jump up and down at the thought of me leaving, they do look forward to a little slower pace, a little less uptightness surrounding chores and schedules, and they enjoy the definite change in the routine.

Last night, after only being home about an hour, I was sitting at the kitchen table talking with Mike while Luke unloaded the dishwasher in the background. Out of the corner of my eye I observed him precariously balancing a glass dish sideways in the cupboard in a type of Tetris format. I snapped at him, as I also saw several other dishes in the same cupboard that didn't belong there.

Obviously a result of my absence for almost a week.

There were also no eggs, no cheese, no fresh fruit, and very empty fridge shelves. The result as Megan succinctly concluded, "Dad refused to go to the store." "The lack of food and the optimism that I'll grocery shop soon may have had something to do with the fact that just an hour after my return she said, "It's just sooo nice having you home."

On the flip side, the house was very clean (a couple of rooms were/are the exception). Which according to Luke was because, "All we did the whole week is Dad made us clean everything perfectly everyday." I was greeted last night with clean sheets on my bed (LOVE), and all homework was obviously completed and signed. (A pleasant contrast to the spring when I went to Europe and I returned home to find every single homework paper of Joshua's undone in a pile on my desk for me "to look through.") Overall, life at home didn't really skip a beat.

Mike and I are both pretty uptight parents, but in different ways. So in day-to-day life our children often don't get a break from crazy parents. I think they thrive well every once in a while to have a change of pace. I love that when I leave town, Mike and my children fully support me in my absence. Nobody minds that music doesn't get practiced quite as often, or that dirty socks lay in all the wrong places for who knows how long, or that nobody thinks to dust a piece of furniture.

Well, I kind of minded about the influx of dirty socks on the floor. But knowing the big, long list of things that DID get done, and all "the extras" Mike allowed seep into the week for the children makes me feel grateful that though they prefer life with me home, they know how to have a good time and survive just fine while I'm gone.

As Mike said last night, "I'm so glad you're back. I feel like I couldn't do my work well, or the home life well. It takes two of us." Mike and I make a pretty good team. I'm glad to be home. I have absolutely fallen in love with traveling and feel beyond blessed with the opportunities I have had to travel a fair amount, but there is truly "no place like home."

Dirty socks included.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Siblings

(A little Sunday afternoon balloon football game)

The other day, one of my children was telling a story about something a friend's family did, and as part of the explanation, the child explained that the friend was an only child.

The listening sibling said somewhat tenderly, "No brothers or sisters? That's sad."

It warmed my heart to think that one of my children would consider no siblings a "sad thing." I found myself noticing for the rest of the afternoon all the things that my children were doing with each other. 

Things like:
Luke took Drew on a horse ride.
Joshua and Drew were playing Hot Wheels.
Megan and Ellie were doing hair together.
Ellie and Joshua were on the trampoline.
Megan and Drew were singing a song.
Drew was sitting on Ellie's lap.

Yesterday morning, one of the children did their regular morning routine stuff a little out of order, and found themselves in a hurry to get showered and dressed. The change in this child's morning routine resulted in the bathroom being occupied when they were ready to get in the shower. The in-a-hurry-child stood at the bathroom door yelling at the sibling inside to hustle,and yelled further accusations that the occupant was probably sitting on the bathroom floor doing nothing. It resulted in yelling and anger from the in-the-bathroom child.

I kindly (it took great restraint) told the in-a-hurry-child they would need to go get in the other shower instead.

Within seconds of that suggestion, I heard screaming and crying from a third child. Wondering what in the world was happening, I hollered upstairs, "What happened?"

As the story goes, an innocent child was standing naked at the shower, literally ready to step in when the in-a-hurry-child pushed the naked sibling out of the way and took possession of the shower instead.

The in-a-hurry child was the same sibling, that a mere 36 hours previously had declared it to be "sad" that somebody would have no siblings. I'm not so sure (s)he felt that same way about the thought of not having any siblings on Wednesday morning.

In fact, I'm quite certain that on Wednesday morning none of the siblings in the Sowby Home would have agreed with the earlier pronouncement that being an only child was "sad."

Sometimes a houseful of siblings is not all it's cracked up to be.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Luke and Mike

Merely a coincidence that the two most recent blog posts are about Luke. Onto other children later...

On Instagram recently, a friend commented on a photo, "I wish I was one of your children, I'd like to see what trip I'd get to go on."

She was referring to the fact that Luke and Mike were in Seattle, WA at the NFL kick-off game with between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks .


Which I must explain...
In June 2013, we went on a family trip to California. We had an okay time, but for the most part, it was a nightmare.

A. NIGHTMARE.

More than once Mike and I looked at each other wondering what in the world we were doing, and I'm quite sure Mike swore on his life that he'd never go on a family vacation again.

With the combination of that less than stellar family vacation experience, and a high number of airline rewards points we have experimented with a new style of travel this year. In the winter, I took the two little boys to Disneyland, and we have been anticipating a trip to NYC this fall with our girls. One night in July, I started brainstorming about "trip ideas" for Luke and suddenly thought of a football game. His two favorite teams are the Packers and Seahawks, and so I looked at the schedules of each.

I could not believe my eyes that late Sunday night while laying in my bed, with my i-pad in my hand, when I saw that the Packers and the Seahawks were due to play each other on a THURSDAY night and in SEATTLE. (A much more desired destination than Wisconsin?) We had enough miles for free flights, and not knowing anything about typical NFL football ticket prices, it seemed like it was a trip worth making happen.

I take full credit for the idea, the booking, the accommodations, the preparation, the activity agenda, the printed directions, the instructions, the packing, etc. Mike gets full credit for paying for it.

Little did I know that when I bought the tickets, it was the NFL kick-off game. A pretty big deal in the world of NFL.

Megan is an avid football fan herself (this is just her 2nd season), but she is far more excited about an upcoming trip to NYC. She rallied the siblings around her for the big game and they watched it on tv, on slightly damp couches that had been professionally clean that day. (Our whole house was in complete disarray from the carpets being cleaned earlier in the day.)

The rest is pretty much history. Although I must make a disclaimer--that there are no spoiled children around here. These trips are no different than a family trip somewhere for the seven of us, and no trip would happen if we had to actually "pay" for the plane ticket. (We haven't "paid" for a plane ticket for a couple of years now...)
(I totally take credit for their plane seats being on the side that had a great view of Mount. St. Helen's volcano. Go me. (Sheer coincidence/luck.))
Anyway,
Back to Mike and Luke...

 (The view from their room. They're welcome. (Again...pure coincidence/luck.)

 (I loved visiting Seattle last September, and was so excited they got to see the Gum Wall that I had told them so much about.)

They spent a wonderful time together in Seattle last week. Luke wore his Packer's jersey to the game with his Seahawks t-shirt underneath. The day after the game, as they explored the city, Luke wore a Packers hat with a Seahawks shirt. Mike said he got humorous comments all day long from passers-by.


Mike loved it. And even though he did choke a little at the price of the trip, I know he is glad they went and I, we made it happen. Mike's comment to me the evening of their return?

"It was all so low-key. It was really nice, just being Luke and me. Even you there would have changed the dynamic drastically. We were both really laid-back, relaxed and had a great time."

Separately, Luke reported to me, "It was so fun just me and dad. I hope you know what I mean, but I'm even glad you weren't there."

Not quite sure exactly HOW to interpret either of those comments.

And that my friends is probably why full-seven-member-family-vacations are not really in our plans anymore.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Grand Champion

Did I really not blog much this summer? Ugh. I'm rarely one to go back and catch up, but I can't possibly neglect to record Luke's experience at the Davis County Fair this year.

This was the 4th year in a row that Luke entered his goat(s) into the Davis County Fair. Last year, I finally realized the fairs weren't so bad after all if:

a. I have no other children with me
b. I bring plenty to read and/or do and realize no one keeps to a schedule
c. I wear closed toe shoes

This year, I was ready for it. A week before, I was mentally prepared for a day at the fair, complete with a good book to read, some closed shoes and nothing on the schedule that would mean Megan couldn't babysit the other children for me. I found myself actually looking forward to it.

And then a dear friend passed away, and I received news that her funeral was on the same day as the fair. The same day. The same time.

I cried plenty of tears that a dear lady I loved had passed away, and I shed a few tears that I would miss Luke at the fair. Luke completely understood my absence, and I sent my best wishes and luck to him, and promised I'd check my phone frequently during the funeral for photos.

The funeral I attended was wonderful. It was a touching tribute to a mother whose 6 grown children spoke lovingly and humorously of life with her as a mother. I found myself reflecting on my own mothering throughout the funeral, and the fact I wasn't with Luke did pull at my heart a fair amount.

Just as the funeral was nearing the end, I received a text from Mike with the following photo that read, "Packer was just announced as the Grand Champion."

 

"What????" was my simple reply.
Then I shed a little tear that I wasn't there.

My friend who was being honored that day, read my blog regularly. She would comment frequently to me about my children, my writings, and my musings. She wasn't much of a lady for fanfare or attention, and would likely had advised me to go to the fair instead of her funeral. But like I told Luke, there will be plenty of opportunities for me to attend more county fairs, but that was my only opportunity to attend a tribute to her.

Besides, he has a good story to tell at my funeral one day...
"My mother attended lots of boring county fairs where my goats didn't win anything. But one year, my goat won Grand Champion of them all and it just so happened that was the one year my mother wasn't there..."

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What Do I Do?

Just yesterday somebody said, "So Drew is in kindergarten now. What do you do?"

I didn't know what to say. In fact, I think I looked at the person with a blank stare and willed the question to answer itself. Since then, I've asked myself, "What do I do?"

And I can't quite come up with the answer of how I fill my 2 hours a day (Yes, only 2 hours--Megan arrives home 2 hours after I drop Drew off.)

School has now been in almost 3 weeks, one of those days being a holiday, and two of those days Drew had no school. But I'm evaluating what I have done.

I'm not sure.

(One of the 500+ photos found on my phone on a Tuesday morning when Drew becomes the Sinc Office Photographer)

I'm fairly certain there is an abundance of tomatoes on my plants outside waiting to be picked and made into salsa.
There is a couch in my master bathroom waiting to be hauled off to our office.
My most recent blog post is almost 2 weeks ago.
There are a pile of books laying next to my bed, that are waiting patiently to be picked up.
There's an envelope of photos waiting to be put into albums.
There is a corner of the house office that carpet can't be seen, because it is the "I'll deal with that tomorrow" pile.
I have yet to lay on the couch and read a book for the entire two hours of my alone time, but it is something I WILL DO one of these days.
I have last week's grocery store ad on my kitchen counter waiting for me to make a list of case-lot items to buy.
The school year's after school chore charts are still waiting to be made.

The list could go on.

But...
  • I've had overdue lunches and/or spent a couple of hours catching up with 4 different friends.
  • I've had our dinner menu written out on a little chalkboard hours each morning and dinner served every night.
  • I've exercised consistently 4-5 days a week, despite that meaning I am at the gym some mornings at 5am.
  • I have made lunches and breakfasts for my children every day.
  • With the exception of this morning when Mike had no clean jeans to put on, I've stayed ahead of the laundry, except the ironing. That's today's project.
  • I've got the ball rolling and some starts made to a Power of Moms Davis County retreat this fall.
  • I spend my Tuesday mornings at the office trying to take care of work responsibilities while Drew begs the question, "When are we going home?" And then by Tuesday afternoons when I could return to the office and get things done peacefully because Drew is at kindergarten, I'm questioning if this really is the year to be taking on Sinc responsibilities and decide instead to do something else.
  • I spent an hour in emails with a school problem, I am determined to see through and solve.
  • I implemented a new program at work and even showed up briefly at the office at 7am to introduce it to everyone, and still met all the responsibilities of the crazy morning routine with five children.
  • I ordered photos from this summer for my five children's photo albums (yes, I'm old fashioned like that) to bring their albums current.
  • I submitted and got approved an article for a website I write for.
  • I have two trips booked and scheduled, one for September, one for October.
  • I spent an hour on the phone with a computer-fix-it-guy.
  • I've been consistently making it to the grocery store so we don't run out of the basics. Except for this morning. We have no bread.
  • I've been home to greet the other children after school every day but one, and I have lived to survive the mass chaos of 2:45 to about 4pm. It is my least favorite part of the day. Well, maybe I dislike the morning routine  more. 

  • In the mornings Drew and I read books, play games, and go on bike rides. I want to be able to honestly say I made the most of this last year of him home part-day with me. I'm doing a good job of that.
  • My downstairs stays clean every day until at least 4pm, and I've found myself dusting and vacuuming consistently. Yay me. (Now if those toilets would just magically clean themselves more often...)
  • Somehow I got roped into helping with the elementary t-shirts, and I've counted money and order forms.
  • I've been home every day but one when Megan returns home from school and know more about high school classes, teachers, drama, activities, clothes, people than I care to ever know.
  • I've already done Megan's birthday shopping and her birthday isn't for a month!
The list could go on.

Next time someone asks me "What do you do while Drew is gone?" I'm going to decline an answer. I feel like nothing is getting done, yet I'm rarely doing nothing. Brainstorming this list caused me to realize I do a fair amount, even if it doesn't knock much off the never-ending to do list, I'm living life, and that counts for something.

"It isn't the years in your life, it's the life in your years." 
There is plenty of life in my years.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

On the Other Hand

Ellie-5th grade, Megan-10th grade, Luke-7th grade, Joshua-2nd grade, Drew-kindergarten

The first day of school was difficult for me in many ways, but on the other hand. I am sooooo glad to see summer over. I think I thrive better on routine, order and systems, and I am not good about incorporating that too much into the summer. Summer leaves me torn between letting my children be children and preserving my mental health. I think I lent more towards letting them be children this year, and I'm fairly certain my mental health suffered.

So, when my last child was finally gone to school on Monday, I bought myself a bouquet of fresh flowers and then came home and cleaned. I didn't just do the usual twice weekly vacuum, this time I vacuumed behind couches and under end-tables. I vacuumed up crumbs, strings and who knows what from the last 12 weeks of a full house.

I then sat down at my clean kitchen table with one of my favorite lunches...cheese, tomatoes and crackers. I turned on the radio for some noise, (I love peace and quiet but it isn't exactly normal for me.) and basked in my alone-ness.

Then I looked at the clock and realized how soon the early-out elementary children would be arriving home, and I admit to feeling a little bit of disappointment with the shortness of my alone time.

After all those kindergarten tears, it turned out to be quite a wonderful two hours, and I'm really not worried about ever feeling "alone."
(Yes two hours a day is about all I'll get alone this year. PM kindergarten + a high school schedule=not too much alone time)

Monday, August 25, 2014

And Then There Were None

(Drew was more confident going to kindergarten today than I remember any of my others being. But I loved that the second he hopped out of the suburban, his little hand reached for mine.)

I wasn't prepared for the drive to kindergarten today. Despite having jokingly begged Drew for weeks to stay home with me for just a couple more years, I was still feeling in fairly decent spirits as I fixed him a peanut butter sandwich and some chocolate milk for lunch. But then we got in the car, and before I knew it I was crying. I couldn't believe, I was driving my last child to their first day of kindergarten.

I remember taking Megan to her first day of kindergarten in 2004. I had 2 year old Luke dragging closely behind me, one hand carrying Ellie in her car-seat and the other hand grasped in Megan's, as I took her into Shelley Elementary in American Fork. I cried as I drove to Chili's in American Fork to meet my sister-in-law for lunch.

I remember taking Luke to his first day of kindergarten in 2007. I actually think I left 4 month old Joshua and 3 year old Ellie at home this time. I left Luke in the classroom at West Bountiful Elementary and cried as I drove home.

I recall taking Ellie to her first day of kindergarten in 2009. She had her hair in pig tails tied with pink ribbons and she held my hand tight as I took her into the school. I like to think somebody stayed home with Joshua and Drew, but unfortunately my memory is blurry. Although I do remember crying as I walked back to the car.

I remember clearly taking Joshua to kindergarten in 2012. I think I cried on the way there, I know I did as I hugged him goodbye, and I know I did as Drew and I returned home alone. Just me and him. No longer did I have 2 children awaiting my attention at home. Only one child alone with me felt strange for several weeks.

I'm quite positive I will remember today. The day I took my baby to kindergarten. Despite the fact he has gone to preschool a couple days a week for the last two years, kindergarten feels different. It is different. My baby has started the real school system. And even though kindergarten is sort of a wasted year (to me), it still seems strange that just shy of 16 years with someone still at home with me, all of my children are in school.

Though I have never been a fan of half-day kindergarten, I think today I am! After leaving the kindergarten parking lot today, sobbing. (Yes. Sobbing.) I am sooooo glad, Drew will still be with me each morning for one more year. I'm hoping all of my tears will get out this year, and I will anxiously await my all-day alone time next year.

But today was hard. Too many big changes for one school day.
I walked Luke to the junior high bus stop, and even though he hugged me and let me kiss his cheek in front of all of the fellow bus riders, I cried the whole way home. There's something about 7th grade I do not like, and it was hard for me to let Luke go this morning. And Megan going to high school? I'm not quite sure how that happened. I'm pretending it isn't really true. Ellie in 5th grade, and Joshua in 2nd were a little less traumatic for me, but teary nonetheless.

I have anticipated this day for years...I remember taking Megan to kindergarten and wondering how it must feel to be sending the youngest instead of the oldest. Back then I imagined feelings of thrill, excitement and slight jealousy that my time was so far away. But I have realized how quickly it comes around in due time.

It's bitter and it's sweet.
Something only another mother would understand.
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