Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My Real Feelings

I am once again feeling brave enough to bring up the subject of the Boy Scouts of America. I've done it before HERE.

I do not DISLIKE the Boy Scouts of America. Sure, there are a lot of the procedures that make me crazy, namely the emphasis of the program as it correlates to the LDS church, and the price of any item in a Boy Scout store, or the background check necessary to even say the words Scouting Program. Oh and this one that I'll interrupt myself here with: I wish I had a photo of me last week at Luke's pack meeting when he was presented with his Webelos award. I was wearing all of the "Mothers' Pins" I have "earned" thus far in the BSA program. Luke presented me with my 4th one that night. I might add, that I'm fairly certain I was the only mother wearing any previous Mothers' Pins. (I wear them to each pack meeting I attend and every once in while to be funny, sarcastic or overly sentimental. Okay not ever for that last reason.) Really, what do those pins mean anyway? That I helped out? That I'm thrifty, cheerful, kind, trustworthy, courteous, etc? Or that somehow all my nagging, all my patience, and all the biting of my tongue somehow qualifies me for a tiny piece of metal that should be worn on a shirt not stored in a jewelry box?!

I digress. Here's what I really struggle with...

Last Sunday, Luke was working on finishing up his last few requirements to receive his Arrow of Light award. (The passageway from the Cub Scout program to the Boy Scout program.) One of the requirements was to memorize the Boy Scout oath and law.

The oath being:
On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

The law being:
A Scout is:
Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful,
Friendly, Courteous, Kind,
Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty,
Brave, Clean, Reverent

As Luke was attempting to get all those positive character traits recited in the correct order, it hit me what my big pet peeve with the BSA/Mormon connection is:

It seems so much emphasis is placed on getting the awards, achievements and advancements and very little is ever said about what really matters. Learning to swim, or to communicate via email, or read a map, or to start a campfire, or do a 50-mile bike ride are great things, but what about the other stuff?

As Luke continued to recite the law (all jumbled up I might add), I interrupted him, and with a surprise lump in my throat said to him that if he lived a life true to all those declarations he was making while reciting the law and oath, he would be an outstanding boy and man. Having an Arrow of Light patch sewn on a shirt, or an Eagle Scout certificate gathering dust in a closet mean little when it comes to real life. Living a life true to the Boy Scout oath and law will mean a lot more than any over-priced patch.

I can't help but think of the big chart in the foyer of our church building that shows publicly the progression of each of the Boy Scouts in our congregation. I wonder how cheerful it makes the boy and his parents feel for everyone to publicly see how far behind he is from his peers. I wonder how kind the other boys are about the supposed encouragement they are supposed to be offering each other. I wonder how helpful the chart really is in helping those Boy Scouts internalize the oath and law.

I know plenty of Eagle Scouts that don't fit the bill of the BSA oath or law.
I know plenty of good boys and men who are not Eagle Scouts, that exemplify many, if not all of those traits mentioned in the oath and law.

I finished my impromptu speech to Luke by telling him that awards, certifications and advancements are great. But in our family, being a Boy Scout will mean trying one's hardest to live the Boy Scout oath and law. Any other achievements within the program will be a great accomplishment, and certainly a worthy goal. But those will come secondary to living the oath and law first.

I then allowed him to continue reciting all the qualities I hope he embeds deep into that little heart and brain of his.

I'm not a BSA naysayer. I'm really not. In fact, I would be one of their biggest fans IF it became less about earning awards and more about making good quality boys into good quality men.
Luke at Webelos Wilderness, June 2012

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Summer Nothings & Everythings

Although some summer events may not have gotten a blog post dedicated entirely to themselves, they are worth noting nonetheless. Some of these events happened as recently as last week, others last month, but they are all equally important. Okay, not really but I'd hate to start rating memories. Be forewarned, most of the photos are pretty poor photos. I'm no photographer.

Luke left bright and early last Saturday morning (5am) to go fishing at Deer Creek with his best friend, Paul. Luke has fished a handful of times this summer with no luck. I was thrilled for him when he came home having caught these four fish. (Probably helps that Paul takes him to better quality lakes than the small ponds and streams we take him to.) Luke cleaned and filleted them himself, wrapped them up tightly in foil until Mike gets around to grilling them.
I was pretty irritated the evening I met Mike in Salt Lake with Megan for her Temple Square organ playing event and found out Mike was wearing a work t-shirt. I stopped at a mall store and bought Mike a collared clearance shirt to wear. I believe it is still sitting in the shopping bag. I never have a doubt where the stubborn traits one of my children exhibits come from.
My favorite garden in the world is my BFF's dad and his wife's beautiful back garden. Seriously, it is like stepping into a magazine or movie scene when there. It is even more charming to enjoy a dinner at dusk sans children on a warm summer's eve.
 (Can you tell we were trying to act "natural" for the timer photo!)
Can you see why it is one of my favorite gardens EVER? Every single nook and cranny of the garden are beautiful.

  1. The boys grilling (above) while the gals chat (below). Every few minutes Melanie and I switch around to a different part of the garden to sit.

If you want to know more about the garden, visit HERE.

Luke participated in a horse reigning competition.
 Two siblings watched Luke participate in said horse reigning competition.
Sister quickly bored of the aforementioned horse reigning competition and sewed instead.
Megan went to Girls' Camp. Oh how we missed her, although her room being tidy all week was nice.
Lunch with my BFF for her birthday. I find it funny that we go to lunch only once a year, always on her birthday. Never on mine. Never any other time. Although food is always a very important part of our almost bi-monthly "couch days".
(It's a blurry, cell-phone quality photo. And it's even better that the waitress is in the photo too.)

The children and I spent a glorious day at Lagoon with my parents. It was a near-perfect day. It really was. None of us had been there in 5 years, so it seemed like "a first" to the majority of the children. Mike kept texting me, I think waiting for an exasperated, stressed-out text from me telling him I was worn out and tired of the children. It never happened. It was one of those rare, rare, days that I wish we had more of. The photos are not great, but the memories were. That's what matters.
Megan was asked to make a birthday cake for my grandma. Megan was thrilled to try fondant for the first time. She did a pretty exceptional job. I love that she'll always remember her first attempt at fondant as a cake for my grandmother, "Mimi" to my children. I got all choked up that night talking about how blessed my children are to know a great-grandparent. She's a pretty special part of our family.
One of our family summer bucket list items was to go ice blocking. Most of the photos are blurry, but the memory was captured.
And that wraps up some of the miscellaneous summer items that make me remember, "Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you'll look back and realize they were the big things."

I'm quite sure that I don't have to wait for "one day" to recognize the tantrum that happened as we left the park after ice blocking that Saturday evening as a "big thing." It was no little tantrum.

Such is life around here during the summer.
The random events that is, not the tantrums.
Actually, tantrums are part of our life too.
Summer or not.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Culture vs Culture

Several years ago, I visited New York with my mother and two younger brothers. We saw a lot of the popular New York must-see places, and attended a Yankees/Red Sox baseball game. I went to the ball game somewhat grudgingly and even took a book to read during it. (I did not end up reading it, mostly because of threats from my brother not because I didn't want to!)

When I returned, a somewhat hoity-toity person asked me what I had seen while there. Several of the places he mentioned were not even on our radar. Really, the main point of the trip was the Yankees/Red Sox game for my brothers. I was simply tagging along.

Despite the fact I was (and still am) not a baseball fan, walking into that Yankee stadium was absolutely one of the most spectacular places I'd ever visited. It was the highlight of my New York trip. I don't know baseball rules, and I clearly didn't understand a lot of what was going on, but being in that full stadium, and being a part of something so "American" still stands out as one of the best experiences of my life. I came home from that trip and told Mike if and when we ever visit New York with our children, we will attend a baseball game there.

I tried explaining my Yankee Stadium experience to the hoity-toity person all those years ago, but he was too busy asking me why in the world we hadn't visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art. I gave up and instead made a insincere commitment to visit the museum the next time I returned to New York City.

Over the past few years, Mike and I have found ourselves "in circles" we never thought we would be in. Namely, rodeos, county fairs, and 4-H meetings. Of course thrown in are a few harp performances, and Temple Square organ opportunities. (Not to mention a personal favorite--monster truck shows!) It is all such a dichotomy. Hauling a goat somewhere in the morning and a harp somewhere that evening was not something we'd have ever imagined doing.

Last week, Mike and I sat among a pretty diverse group of people as Luke showed Lily at the county fair. With the exception of making a mental note to wear shoes and socks next year, (I think I made that same mental note last year, but forgot.) I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The next morning I took Luke up to the fairgrounds to feed Lily. The Steer Competitions were about to begin and the area was full of people brushing and washing their cows in preparation. As I walked through the stalls, with the sounds of cows all around, I suddenly recalled the conversation of The Metropolitan Museum of Art versus a baseball game at Yankee Stadium I had eight years ago.

They are both so full of culture, in their own way. I can't put into words the experience in the fairgrounds the other day, but I know it wasn't just my love of a good steak that was soaking up the "spirit" of the steer competitions.

The next night we attended a rodeo. As a cowboy riding a horse and holding the United States flag galloped around the arena to the sounds of a patriotic country song, there was no denying the feeling of love for one's country among the hundreds in attendance. Attending a rodeo is an experience in and of itself. One of my favorite events to attend. Luke and I were both bored last year when visiting the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. I felt uncultured and even guilty for feeling that way at the time and couldn't help but contrast it with the fact I thoroughly enjoyed watching cowboys fall from bucking broncos and bulls last week.

But then...

I thought again of the Museum of Art and Yankee Stadium conversation.

What does it mean to attend a "cultural" event? I know as a fact it isn't just my hoity-toity friend from 8 years ago that think symphonies, operas and art museums are far superior to rodeos, county fairs and baseball games. There is so much rich culture and experience everywhere. I'm glad for my exposure to a genre of life I never thought I'd experience.

Soccer Mom was obviously never in the cards for me.
I'm proud to be a Cowboy Mom.
(I know this isn't a great photo-but oh those little boys of mine holding their hats while they put their hands on their hearts was touching.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Two Goats, Ten Chickens and A ....

(Hank and Lily)
I'll make this short and sweet.

Last week, Luke showed Lily at the County Fair. Do you remember Luke chose a girl goat this time around for a specific reason!?

 From April 27th, I quote,
"The reason I didn't sell Hank last year was because I knew he would die for someone to eat his meat. Rob (the 4-H instructor) told me girls are popular because people get them to breed. They don't kill the girl goats as much for meat because they want them to breed. It will be easier to sell Lily knowing she won't die."
Yeah well, that didn't exactly happen.

Luke will no longer be "raising" animals for county fairs. We don't have anymore room. Two goats is the limit. I'm not going to allow Lily to breed, we'd end up with a darn goat farm.

With the exception of the hay that supplements Hank and Lily's diet that our dear neighbor won't charge Luke for, Luke pays for the feed himself for the chickens and goats, Today after our Money Grab, Mike pulled Luke aside and helped him understand how much money he spends on animals--pretty much everything he earns and/or receives. Mike lovingly suggested perhaps it is time to sell an animal.

You'd have thought Mike was suggesting selling Luke.
I don't think the conversation went the way Mike hoped it would.

If nothing else, Mike and I have come to the realization that, not only does Luke have 2 goats and 10 chickens, he has a pretty big heart.

Guess there could be worse things for a 10 year old boy to have.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Unique Opportunity

As part of a workshop Megan attended at BYU a couple of weeks ago, she had the opportunity to play an organ at Temple Square. The participants had the choice of three organs, the Assembly Hall, the Tabernacle, or the Conference Center.

Although the organ inside the Tabernacle is by far the most historic of the three organs, I kept my opinion to myself about which organ Megan should choose. Megan chose the Conference Center organ. When I asked her why she was choosing that one she replied, "I see it on television for General Conference, I've been in the Conference Center for conference a few times and I think it would be really cool. I've never even heard the Tabernacle one played."

As Mike and I watched her play her hymn that Wednesday night, we were absolutely thrilled she chose that organ to play on. She will always remember it. I think every time she watches a General Conference broadcast and sees a close up of the organ, she will remember fondly her unique opportunity. I was touched by the spirit as I listened to some workshop participants play various familiar hymns. Of course I sang along despite Mike next to me saying, "You really should stop singing." Nobody could hear (except him), and I really didn't care that his fine ear for music had to tolerate my off-key singing.
Of course when Megan played, I did not sing along. I was disappointed I forgot the video camera, and I could not figure out the lighting on my camera's video option in such short notice. A little disappointing that we can't exactly see it is Megan. But I promise it is.

The dress she was wearing was very long, and just before she played the last verse the instructor told her to adjust her dress to make the pedals easier. Thus the laughter and clapping at the end of the video. I'm sad I didn't get the last verse, with the loud "whatever musical term they use" holding of the last note. It was loud, it was strong, and it capped off perfectly a unique and awesome opportunity.
PS-We found out that the "field trip to play the organs" only happens every 4 years of the BYU Organ Workshop not every year like we previously thought. She lucked out on that one, now didn't she?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ellie's Dream

Ellie is 8 years and 3 months old, and still adores playing with baby dolls. I know not all girls her age still do. In fact, I'm pretty sure by 8 years old, Megan's were long put away. Not the case with Ellie. With Ellie there is always a baby doll, a baby blanket, a car seat or some doll paraphernalia lying around. Saturday afternoon, the boys decided to play outside in the water but Ellie opted not to. At first, I wasn't sure why in the world she wouldn't want to participate, but then I got it. Without anyone really knowing, she was "being the mom."

She pulled up a small chair, gathered her baby, convinced Joshua to "join the game" and "mothered" on the side.

For the record, I was being a mother at the other end of the patio too. But instead of babying anyone, I had my feet up on a chair, a book on my lap and a delicious sugar cookie hidden within its pages.  I would occasionally look up when a child said, "Watch me, mom!"
Ellie on the other hand was really mothering. I could overhear the "motherly" conversation she was having with Joshua. And I loved that he was whining to her about wanting to swim with the other boys, and not to me. (How she held him off from swimming sooner I will never know!)

As I glanced over at Ellie lovingly lay her baby in the baby carrier, so she could attend to Joshua, I began to wonder if I have ever really written about that baby carrier thing. At about the same time, Joshua asked, "Ellie where did you get that car seat from?" As I listened to her reply, I knew I had to put down my book (careful to hide my sugar cookie from any tempting fingers or spying eyes) and snap a photo.
In Ellie's words (said with a mature-I'm-a-mother-not-your-sister-tone of voice), "I got the car seat when I was 3 or 4 but the handle broke. So then I found the basket to put it in once. I got the car seat cover for Christmas when I was 6."

That car seat/basket will surely never end up being given away to a thrift store like so many other belongings do. It is a keeper for sure.

I'm really not sure how much longer we will so frequently see Ellie in a chair rocking a baby doll, or carting around this basket. But I will be sad when it is over. Not only because it will mean Ellie is growing up and leaving one of my favorite little girl stages, but because I will no longer have a visual reminder of what I am doing.

A visual reminder that I wanted the exact same thing as she did.
A visual reminder that my little girl dream to grow up and be a mother came true.
And some days, I need that.

One of the deepest desires of my heart, is that her dreams come true too.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Family Vacation Continued

We ended our camping trip with a stay at a nearby Marriott. I am still mildly embarrassed about what I looked (and smelled!) like as I checked us into the hotel. I'm not sure that shower floor will ever be the same after the seven of us were done showering for the first time in a few days.

Obviously the hotel was a big hit as Joshua has suggested several times since,
"We should go and stay at that 'inpartment' that we did when we came out of the mountain."
(I think it is hilarious that in the only photo I have of the hotel, Joshua has a bag of potato chips and a juice box--I can't tell you the amount of fruit and vegetables Mike had the children eat for the previous 3 days. Vacations to me are kind of about junk food, not so much for Mike. So following yet another healthy portion of apples, carrots and leafy lettuce on his sandwich, Joshua was allowed one of the Koolaid Jammers given to us by the campground hosts 2 days previously. Perhaps I was subconsciously rejoicing with Joshua and that is why I took the photo at that particular moment.)

I love the city of Logan. I'm not sure why every time I visit, I feel a slight longing to live there.  (I'm sure it has a lot to do with many wonderful memories I have of time spent there.) We ate at a little diner, that Megan ate her first ice cream cone at when she was 2 1/2, but only because my Grandma was there with us back in 2001 and she was appalled Megan had never had one before. In my defense, Megan was my first child and I was uptight that ice cream cones were too messy.  Believe me when I say I have certainly relaxed over the years.
At one point during our so-called vacation, Mike and I left the five children in the car with Megan in charge while we left for maybe 7 minutes total to get Aggie ice cream at the USU ice cream parlor. Those 7 minutes were bad news for the children in the car, and when Mike pulled over a few blocks later and I had to climb into the back seat, I was not a happy mother. I was even more mad that in the attempt to maneuver myself back there, I had to eat my ice cream cone more rapidly and couldn't enjoy it like I had planned on. Next time I will be the driver when I have an Aggie ice cream cone and Mike can be the acrobat.

We loved the little tiny zoo even though we had a hard time coming up with the "over 600 animals" that their marketing team seems to think they have. Although the turkey that gobbled at Mike was well worth the on-your-honor $9 it cost our family to get in.
(Can you see that startled expression on Mike's face?!)

We ended our little family vacation at the American West Heritage Center. The activities were right up my kids' alley. I enjoyed the potential of it too, but honestly, by about day four together, I wasn't quite feeling all the positive-how-fun-to-be-together feelings much anymore. It didn't help that while Mike decided to go back to the car to fix everybody lunch (which by day four I was judging to be more about maintaining control over the cooler and food container than kindness of heart) I opted to bond with the children at the "panning for gold exhibit." No bonding occurred, unless you count the moment I snapped at Megan to quit laughing when I discovered I had some sort of varnish all over my skin that would not come off. With every effort I made to wipe it off in the panning for gold water, I smeared the sticky brown stuff worse all over my two hands.

With a less than kind tone, I told the four children to stay together and meet dad at the car in 10 minutes. I would take Drew to the restroom with me while I washed my hands. The brown sticky substance on my hands was irritating enough, but when combined with sensor water faucets that apparently could not sense my hands beneath them, and further compounded by the fact that I was on day 4 of a family vacation, I took on a less than friendly tone with a worker dressed in period costume who began washing her hands next to mine. I told her exactly what I thought of the panning for gold exhibit but refrained from sharing my true feelings with her about the sensor faucets. (She wouldn't have understood anyways. The water seemed to be coming in a perfectly steady stream for her.)

I gained a small sense of satisfaction when a few minutes later I saw a large tarp being placed over the panning for gold exhibit. As I glanced down at my still stained brown hands, I felt no remorse for the children who would be told panning for gold would not be available during their visit.

With all that said, I was bound determined to return to the car, cheery faced with all five children happy and smiling to greet Mike and our waiting sandwiches. I was going to appear a nice, cheerful, happy mother on day 4 of a family vacation. As I led my entourage back to the car, Drew wanted to be carried and I didn't want to carry him. It was 165 degrees outside and I was hot. As Megan and the children opted to detour slightly towards the store to exchange their $@#% gold for a small prize, I snapped at Megan to take Drew with her. In a slightly louder than I thought voice, I said, "I'm done with him for now. Take him."

With that, I returned alone to the suburban and the waiting sandwiches. Just as I was about to put on my nice-cheerful-happy-mother-on-day-4-of-a-family vacation expression to let Mike think for just one brief moment of our parenting career that I really was all about being a nice, cheerful and happy mother, Mike greeted me with, "I could hear you from here announce to the whole park that "You were done."

The day sort of went down hill after that. But it is a memory nonetheless.
I don't even regret that I ended up having my phone only for the after-lunch photos. Remember by this point I wasn't exactly "feeling the love" so mediocre cell phone photos may actually be a more accurate portrayal...
Here's hoping time dims some memories more than others.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Camping for Seven

For the first time in about four years, we had a proper family vacation planned for the second week of August. It had been planned for months, and we were all anxiously awaiting the time of departure. I'll leave all the details for a personal journal rather than a public blog, and suffice it to say that the vacation didn't come to pass in the way it was originally all planned.

Though we all felt plenty of disappointment and regret, we also knew without a doubt that the right decision had been made for our little family.

We took our five children camping for a few days.
Oh boy.

First of all, I have to say we are blessed to have a decent, running, big enough for us family car. It is a suburban for Heaven's sake But when you need seven sleeping bags, seven pillows, seven chairs, seven pads, food for seven for a few days, not to mention a change of clothes or two, plus a tent to sleep all seven people in, the suburban seems significantly smaller. Oh, especially when it wasn't really an option to leave a child or two home alone and so all seven seats in the car were occupied too.

Luke wasn't exactly thrilled to travel the almost 100 miles with an 8-man tent on his lap, but considering Megan had two camping pads on her lap, it only seemed fair.

For being a pretty "insignificant vacation" I sure ended up with a lot of photos. But that's okay. It really was a wonderful few days. If we don't count the "rattlesnakes in the area" risk, a difficult child, a child that pee-ed in the sleeping bag, a parent that was extremely uptight if anyone rearranged the food container or cooler (not me by the way), it would have been nearly perfect.
But even with all those not-so-great things, there was plenty to make it a trip to remember.
Luke's Sunday assignment to go into nature and capture with a camera things that make him appreciate Heavenly Father's creations...
Grandpa's Sunday nap visit to our campsite. (I liked to think he genuinely wanted to come and visit us, but Mike insists "Your dad has a brand new convertible Mustang, why wouldn't he want to enjoy a beautiful Sunday drive."
The swing that went from this...
to this... courtesy of a physics lesson from Grandpa Peter...
The darn "Vacation Fairy" (that had supplies from the "cancelled trip") that somehow found us at our campground...
I have many fond memories camping in Logan Canyon with my family 22+ years ago. We were just a few miles away from where we camped when my brothers Casey and James were the same age as Joshua and Drew are now. It was a stark realization how quickly time really does pass.
Mike always acts as though he is doing me a giant favor whenever he offers to put Drew down for a nap...
Playing games and eating our some of my favorite things about camping...

Due to the potential of rattlesnakes nearby, we were pretty vigilant about keeping all of our children in long pants, and shoes and socks. For those that know Drew, this was no easy feat. By the last night, we were picking our battles...
Surprisingly, our campfire programs were quite entertaining. If you don't count the number of times we had to tell the children to either quit being too hyper or to stop crying, or to demand Luke quit aiming his behind into the fire...
I wish I had a photo of our family testimony meeting on Sunday morning or of the impromptu family gathering in the tent late Sunday afternoon. Between some really cheesy jokes from a Phineas and Ferb jokebook, a pillow fight among the five children, and a few funny personal stories thrown in, it was a highlight of the trip. I loved that as we drove home after having done a fair number of activities for the last few days, "Sunday afternoon in the tent" was what nearly every family member recalled as their "favorite part of the trip."

It's the little things...
And that's what makes the sting of the cancelled vacation a little easier.


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