Monday, July 21, 2014

A Non-Birthday

Birthdays are a BIG deal.
A HUGE deal.
The absolute best day of any person's year.
Who couldn't possibly feel that way about their birthday?


Every year as his birthday approaches I ask, "Anything you want for your birthday?"
His reply is always the same, "Nothing."
And then I purchase a bunch of "stuff" that he really doesn't care about, but politely opens and either consumes, wears or uses.

A couple of years ago I quit doing balloons for him. (A Sowby birthday tradition anyone else would be devastated to miss out on.)

Last year, I quit "trying" for him, and he chose a quiet day with activities of his own choosing.

This year. I got him NOTHING.
Not one single present.
Not even Hot Tamales. Or Werthers. Or Orange Slices. Or cashews. Or Cinnamon Bears.

He didn't even care.
And guess what?
I didn't really either.
(I thought I would, but I didn't.)

All he asked for this year was, "Good kids."
Which he didn't exactly get, if you consider Drew's behavior during dinner. Of course in front of our out-of-town cousin/dinner guest.

It was one of my favorite birthdays of his. So was last year.  Too bad it took me 17 years of marriage to figure that out. But alas I did...July 20th won't really be anything special around here anymore except for a dinner of his choosing (maybe), and ice cream pie (definitely).

Happy Birthday Mike.
This is how he feels about it for me.

 This is how he really feels about it.

Works for him.
But if he thinks this is the new norm for birthdays when October 22nd comes around, and it is time to celebrate ME, I won't be happy.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The grand Grand Canyon

During our recent trip, Mike and I woke up on Monday morning in Kanab, ready to drive somewhere! We had already decided that we wouldn't go "straight home", but we had misunderstood each other about what detour we would be taking. I was pleasantly surprised when Mike announced we were going to the Grand Canyon! I was so excited. I had started reading a book the night before titled, 'I am the Grand Canyon', and I was regretting I was "so close" but wouldn't be visiting. The children weren't exactly thrilled about adding more driving to our road-trip, but Mike gave them all some Dramamine (3 of the 5 get extremely car sick if we don't, and the other 2 get the medicine for good measure.)

The drive to the canyon was a beautiful, steep, peaceful drive. We saw so many different scenes, from the red rocks, to forests of pine trees, open fields, roaming buffalo, etc. It was a testament of God's creation, and I was (for the most part) able to ignore the "How much longer?" and "Are we there yet?" questions from the back seat once the drowsiness of the medicine wore off.

I'm saving my initial experience at the Grand Canyon for my personal was a spiritual and enlightening experience for me.

Luke's cell phone's screen is a photo of the Grand Canyon. It makes me smile every time that I see it. I love that my children appreciated the beauty of one of God's greatest masterpieces.

Drew was a the entire time we were at the canyon. I particularly didn't want him to go into the gift store with me when I went to purchase some postcards. Joshua on the other hand did go with me, and I let him pick out a Grand Canyon key chain. Somehow, Drew made it into the store with an older sibling and immediately started whining about wanting a silly toy telescope. Not even giving him the time of day, I purchased my items and exited. While we sat outside writing postcards, Drew went on and on about the silly telescope, and Luke politely asked if he could have a key chain too. I went in the shop to buy Luke a key chain, and on a whim decided I would buy the (pretty cheap) telescope for Drew and give it to him later as either a souvenir, a bribe, or a reward. (This family trip was beginning to wear we down in more ways than one.)

I sent Megan off in search of some ice cream as a treat (FYI-there is none to be found at the North Rim.), Joshua was trying to use the compass on his key chain, Luke was viewing his key chain, Ellie was quietly enjoying the surroundings, I was trying to get some remote cell phone service to look up my in-laws mission address, Drew was crying and whining about why he didn't get a key chain and why can't he get the telescope, and Mike was...

Let's see. I think Mike was off enjoying some beautiful views A.L.O.N.E.

Mike soon returned, as did Megan with the bad news there was no ice cream to be consumed, and everyone was mildly disappointed my promise of ice cream would not be fulfilled. Except for Drew, all he cared about was the telescope he so desperately wanted.

In a very weak parenting moment, and throwing all sane parenting lessons of entitlement and giving-into-tantrums out the window, I pulled that brown paper shop bag out of my purse turned around to Drew, shoved the bag against his chest and said, "Here! Have a telescope!"

I turned back around and began marching towards the car. Much to my dismay, I knew full well I had a 6 person entourage following me. Which really, what did you expect them to do? No words were needed, but my body language had just announced, "Our time at the Grand Canyon is over."

For about 15 seconds I heard no sound from Drew behind me and began silently praying thanks that toy telescope manufacturers exist in this world. Before my toy manufacture prayer of gratitude was over, without having to turn around, I heard Drew's silence stop and the tantrum start again, this time more passionately than before. Mike--the sane parent among us, was not going to reward Drew's behavior, and took away the desired telescope from Drew almost as quickly as I had handed it to him. In my heart I knew I should be thankful for a good, sane, deliberate co-parent, but all I could wish for in that moment, was why couldn't Mike make a bad parenting choice with me and shut our child up by giving him the damn telescope!

(Disclaimer: Drew is soooo not typically like this. I'm not sure what had gotten into him!?! Too many late nights? Too many hours on the road?) 

We loaded into the car, with a couple of brave children courageous enough to speak say, "Is there a chance we could eat before we begin the long drive again?" We pulled over to a nearby picnic area, pulled out our trusty cooler and sat in one of the most beautiful places we have ever "picnicked". Yet no one really spoke, no one enjoyed themselves, and no one basked in the beauty of our location.  
If you look at nothing else but where Megan chose to sit, you'll see why this photo speaks a thousand words.

Although I have chosen to share only the "negative parts" of our trip to the Grand Canyon, I know from hearing children speak of it since returning, that it remains one of their top highlights of our recent trip. We made some wonderful memories and had a fabulous time together, but the fact remains, I want to be able to remember the realness of our time together too. I don't want to look back and think traveling with five children in a car for hours was easy and blissful. It isn't and wasn't, but it is the difficult parenting moments, that make the good moments so much better.

The Grand Canyon was beautiful! I wish I could have spent more time in such a wonderful place. I wish I could have sat in a chair overlooking the canyon for hours with a journal in my hand, recording all of my thoughts and feelings. One day Mike and I will return to the Grand Canyon sans children.
(I had no idea Mike took this photo, until I saw it on my computer! Very fitting.)

Our journey home, took us via the Pipe Springs National Monument in Arizona. It was very, very hot, but a nice step back in time to the history of the American Indians and Mormon Pioneers trying to negotiate land, water and rights.

Hours after our ice cream search at the Grand Canyon, we rewarded our children with ice cream at a Indian Reservation gas station before beginning the long drive straight home. If you don't count the few times Joshua had to stop and pee, our non-fast visit to a fast food restaurant, we made it home with relatively few detours and stops.

It was a grand adventure I'm not sure we'll repeat anytime soon.

"Sometimes we become so focused on the finish line that we fail to find joy in the journey."
~Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Joy (?) in the Journey

I don't enjoy road trips. They give me anxiety (real anxiety, not traveling with 5 children induced anxiety). However, I have to say, that I did very well on our recent trip to and from our family reunion in Flagstaff, AZ.

(Okay, if you forget the part on the way down that I yelled at Mike and he snapped back, "I think you're overdue for another dose of your travel medicine." Point well taken.)

Although driving to Flagstaff is absolutely do-able in a day, Mike and I decided to emphasize "joy in the journey" instead of "joy in a final destination", and we split the drive up. On the way down to Flagstaff, we stopped over-night in Kanab, UT. It's a charming little town, and I love the Holiday Inn hotel there. After a take-out dinner from the local Pizza Hut, some of the children and Mike swam. At one point, Mike and I left the hotel room with 5 fighting children and escaped downstairs to a lounge. We were fairly certain at one point that the sounds above us would get us removed from the hotel, but alas we stayed the night.

The bright spot of the hotel stay? Three queen beds in one hotel room!!!! Fabulous. Why don't more hotels have that option!?!

We left for Flagstaff the next morning with a stop at one of Mike's favorite places...Lake Powell.

We had anticipated grand tours of the Glen Canyon Dam, but only 2 tour spots were left, so we opted to do it upon our drive via again on Sunday afternoon. We enjoyed some snacks in the shade, beautiful views, but not each other. This was a tense time in our trip, but look how the photos (kind of) fool you all.

Our days in Flagstaff have already been recorded, so back on the road again for the ride home. Loading our car up at the hotel in Flagstaff was another tense time. I wondered why in the world I hadn't driven back to Phoenix with my Cousin Jennifer and caught a flight home from there instead of torture the car ride home. I wouldn't have done that to my dear Mike though, although he likely would have supported it. (He not only puts up with 5 children in the car, but a travel-anxiety wife too.)

(Ellie was with us, but I'm not that flexible to have secured a photo of her sleeping too!)

Mike was so proud of the miles per gallon he got our suburban up to a couple of times. I acted enthusiastic and excited for him, even though I really don't get too pumped about 13.7 mpg, 17.8 and no, not even 21.0. But I did secure a few "proof" photos for him of his proud suburban-owner moment.

As we drove through the Indian Reservation filled areas of Arizona, Mike and I got carried away in a conversation about Native Americans. Realizing I have never had those basic US History classes that he (and my children) had/have, Mike gave me some Indian history lessons. I fell in love with some of the history I heard, and upon arrival at the Glen Canyon Dam visitor's center a few hours later, bought myself a book I am thoroughly enjoying.

 Upon arrival at the Dam, we were all in need of some food, leg room, and bathroom. I went and secured tickets for the 3:30pm Dam Tour, declining to join  (due to aforementioned "needs") the 3:00pm one  that was being led away. At 3:20pm, we arrived at our Dam Tour meeting place, only to be told that essentially we were part of history at the Dam... Due to extreme temperatures, for the first time ever, the tour was being cancelled. I am NOT a tour type person, but Mike is, and he and the older two children were very, very disappointed. I was disappointed for them, and then disappointed for myself that if we hadn't have been so excited about getting to the DAM tour, we could have taken a different route home via the Grand Canyon instead.

We loaded disappointed and heavy-hearted children back into the suburban, and continued our journey home, via another night in Kanab.

Now, I have to interrupt myself to mention a little fact about (road) traveling with Mike...He isn't much about junk food and snacks....for the children. While he is up front chowing down Hot Tamales and guzzling Mountain Dew, the cooler offered grapes, apple slices, carrots, string cheese, etc. for the children. (I exxagerate slightly...they did have the occasional permission granted to also partake of some Hot Tamales.) Anyway, it turned into somewhat of a (not funny) joke that upon someone mentioning they were hungry for an actual meal, Mike would tell them there were plenty of snacks in the cooler. Luke especially tired of this overheard line, and complained and moaned the loudest about how desperately he needed a "real meal."

Our arrival in Kanab didn't come any too soon, and we rolled into that small town on Sunday evening hungry, tired and a little weary. We entered and exited the McDonalds in a single step (most disgusting, gross, dirty, fast food place I have ever seen!), and found ourselves at a charming little diner. We ordered a few plates for us to share, with the exception of Luke who was granted his own $8.95 hamburger. I know it's a blurry photo, but for the sake of what will always be a Sowby Family Trip Memory, we must preserve the remembrance of Luke not having a bite of his $8.95 hamburger. Instead he visited that little diner's restroom more times than he would have liked. We'll preserve Luke's dignity from here on out, but that $8.95 REAL MEAL he was finally granted ended up in a hotel garbage can the next morning.
Mike and I broke all our own rules of not swimming on the Sabbath day, and allowed the children that wanted to, to swim at the pool on Sunday night.
At the risk of losing our parenting license, I will refrain from sharing the story about Mike and me laying on the hotel bed. Him watching television, me reading, Megan in the joining room watching a different television. All of the sudden the hotel fire alarm rings. I went into a momentary state of panic that we are separated from our children and grabbed my purse and we headed out to the halls to evacuate with the other hotel guests. We saw Luke from a distance, and I relaxed slightly at the sight of him, and then tensed up to my maximum state when his response about the other three children was, "Oh, I don't know, I left them at the pool."

That night wasn't exactly one of the most stellar parenting nights in our experience. But we all lived to tell the tale, and I'm sure the hotel guest that put birthday candles on a birthday cake won't do it again anytime soon.

Wow! This post is long, and I've changed my mind about adding to it. Besides, the detour we took to the Grand Canyon the next morning complete with my mini-temper tantrum as I shoved a telescope against Drew's chest and marched off to the car, deserves a post of its own. Forget the grandeur of nature, and the beauty of the canyon, that little "telescope moment" remains the highlight of Mike's visit to the Grand Canyon a couple of weeks ago.

I promise.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Sowby Reunion 2014

When I attended my first Sowby Family Reunion in 1998 in Newport Beach, CA, I didn't know anything about the reunions. As such, I spent a lot of time by myself (I was 6 months pregnant) and didn't make any deliberate efforts to interact or get to know the other attendees that had gathered from California, Arizona and Utah.

From that "non-interactive" reunion, it seems ironic that the next one held, two years later in Utah was organized greatly in part by no other than... ME!

As the Sowby Reunion rotations go, the next one in 2002 in Greer, AZ finally made me realize these reunions really are a big deal, and I was suddenly "on board" and in love with the majority of the extended Sowby Family. 

I wrote about my 2012 contributions to the UT Sowby Reunion here, and have plenty recorded in a scrapbook and journal about the 2006 reunion I organized. It is hard to put into words why exactly I feel such a kinship to these reunions. Perhaps it is because of the effort that has been put into having them happen every two years since 1979. Perhaps it is the efforts that so many individuals and families make to use their vacation time and money to travel to (perhaps for some less than ideal) locations out of state to spend time with loved ones. Perhaps it is the great stories, the good memories and the lasting relationships that come from time spent with descendants of two people who they have never met. More than perhaps, I know it is also likely because of a couple of personal experiences I have had with these two people with whom I have never met, and with whom I share no flesh and blood. Annie Martine and George Isaac Sowby on their wedding day, June 25, 1904.
A hundred and ten years later, from their love has come this:
(a small sampling of the reunion attendees--I'm trying to get my hands on the large group photo that was taken.)

Onto, our recent expedition to Flagstaff, AZ last weekend. Oh what fun! Love, love, LOVE these extended Sowby families that make sacrifices to attend a reunion far from home. What a weekend! Loved every moment of it.

Love, love, love Cousin Jennifer. She did a terrific job planning this reunion. Having planned a few reunions of this scale myself, I can't imagine sustaining a head injury during the reunion set-up. Hooray for her having a sister who is a registered nurse, a husband who is an EMT, and a tube of Super-Glue.

The beautiful surroundings, certainly aided in making this reunion a spectacular one.

Unfortunately, during Saturday night dinner, Cousin Seth told Megan that he once ate kangaroo. I've never thought Megan the animal activist type, but apparently telling her one has eaten kangaroo produces tears. Cousin Seth has an impeccable memory, so this incident is sure to be remembered for years.

I am doing my best to instill a love and the importance of family reunions to my children, as I know other family members are too. I am hopeful that one day, Hannah and Ellie will be at family reunions decades from now, just as these cousins are.
(Cousins Karen, Susan and Bonnie and Cousins Ellie and Hannah)

Oh my! I have so many photos, so many memories, and so little space and time. But, I'm quite certain, that as my little family spent time with so many extended cousins last weekend, we each captured memories and moments in our minds and hearts. And those are the ones that matter most.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Ambiguous Photos

Recently my phone broke (less than 2 months old I may add). It just so happened that the day before it broke, I realized my Dropbox was full and clearing it out hadn't been checked off my to-do list yet. A handful of photos on my broken phone were irretrievable.

This morning, while finally getting around to doing some Dropbox organizing, I was pleasantly surprised to find that a few of the photos from our Memorial Day hike to Ensign Peak were saved. As I glanced through them, I found myself finding such hidden meaning and a type of metaphor in the series of snapshots.

For once, I really am going to keep my mouth shut. Interpret them as you wish.

This is my life.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

No Attitude Here

My friend had the audacity to ask me the other night if I "had attitude lately?" I really, really like this friend, and that was the saving grace in not verbally vomiting on him my "defense." I know I haven't been sitting around "shooting the breeze" much lately, and my days are flying by faster than I could ever imagine, but it isn't because of any poor attitude on my part. It is because I feel like I am walking upstream in a fast-moving creek--which if I was an eloquent metaphorical writer would translate to being understood as: I am a mother in the midst of summer vacation. And maybe that in and of itself produces some kind of "attitude"...

1. My floor will NOT stay clean. I have towel mopped my floor more times than I can count in the last few days. I refuse to put in the effort of fully mopping it because: a. I'm not sure anyone would really notice. (Exception. Joshua would. He complains about sticky floors almost daily.) and b. The clean floor wouldn't last more than 5 minutes.
2. Our backyard is always full of more than just my children. Neighbors, friends, cousins, even visiting animals seem to be around more often than not. As such, popsicles, Otter Pops, or some other treat is often consumed, and the remains discarded somewhere on my property. I am convinced none of the children know what a garbage can is

3. Socks! I swore when school got out that my boys would no longer be allowed to wear socks. Who wears socks in the summer? It should be flip-flops only! But not my boys. Between horse riding and bike jumps, their shoe of choice is not a piece of foam with their toes exposed. I can't get them to quite wearing shoes and socks, nor can I get them to pick them up from all over the house. The other day I had a dirty pair of socks in my dining room, a pair on the back patio, a pair on the garage floor and one on my bathroom floor. (More pairs of socks than sons, I know. But someone changes them far too frequently... the woes of horse hair and straw in socks.) I threaten to take them all away, but to no avail. I am losing the sock battle and some of my sanity pair of dirty socks at a time.

4. Food! My kids getting bigger combined with them home all day every day is causing A LOT of food to be consumed. My wallet and my fridge feel like they are being depleted daily. It also causes more crumbs, more sticky messes (see #1), more wrappers and garbage (see #2), and more dirty dishes than I ever imagined. Life was less messy when my kids couldn't fix their own snacks and meals. (Or so I like to think.)

5. No one leaves me alone! Despite the fact I can leave my children home alone, they all know how to use a telephone. I can't escape conversation, texts, or phone calls no matter how hard I try. Please don't suggest I silence my phone when I go out. I have tried that and the return home is even more brutal. I would rather have the airing of grievances separated out by phone calls and texts than be greeted in the garage by 5 children speaking over each other AT ME at the exact same time.

6. I have hay in places I never thought there would be hay. And that is something I NEVER thought I'd complain about. It is tracked into every single entry way into our house. It is in the dryer vents. It is stuck to dirty clothes and socks. (See #3) And just the other day I found a piece of hay on the kitchen counter. Aren't you glad I haven't invited you to dinner lately?!

7. I feel like I have been so organized and on top of chore charts and family systems thus far this summer, only to have it backfire on me by mid-day. Each child has the responsibility to make sure their rooms look nice in the morning, but by mid-day they are all a wreck. If one needs a pair of sunglasses they turn over every item in their room looking for them. If they play with a friend, they use every possible object imaginable in their room. If they do a project, they forget to clean it up. Get my point? By late afternoon the house resembles the aftermath of a tornado, yet I can't get anyone to really help clean because they all claim "I already did this morning." I am trying to find a delicate balance of not yelling too much and letting them be children, yet teaching them some responsibility and basic housekeeping skills. Who am I kidding though? I'm not really finding any balance--we are instead tilting towards living in disarray and disorganization all in the name of summer vacation?!

8. My kids entertain themselves. Which COULD  and SHOULD be a good thing, but it results in things like, big brother giving little brothers mohawk haircuts (yes deja-vu from last summer), our trashy, well-worn bike ramps all over the cul-de-sac, Ellie playing "restaurant" and inviting the neighbors and distributing cookies and drinks to them all (see #4), and girls trying new recipes and me eating too much of what they try.

9. The late nights! Having all young children was hard and tiring, but I felt much more in control. Though I had to do most things for them, times were much simpler. Not easier, but simpler. Bedtimes were consistent, and earlier. Now our children stay up later than us most nights. Yes, even the 5 and 7 year old sometimes. But Mike and I are too worn out some nights to care.

10. The talking is non-stop. (see #5) Questions, stories, complaints, tattling, ideas, suggestions, requests, etc. It never ends. It is on-going. Incessant. Relentless. Ceaseless. Perpetual. Non-stop. Continual. Steady.Constant.

In response to my friend's question, "Have you had attitude lately?"

No. I am a mother of five active, busy children in the height of summer vacation. 

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