Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Giving Thanks Days Later

I love Thanksgiving. I absolutely love it. This year was quite possibly one of the best so far. I keep trying to evaluate what made it so great, and I'm not sure why. It was just a great day. (If you don't count the ride in the car Thursday night.)

It started with me running a 5K with a couple of friends at the local rec center. I'd put up a picture, but I have a bad attitude about the whole photo thing that morning, so I'll pass. I will add it was a great race, and running a 5K on Thanksgiving morning is a pretty swell way to justify 2nd portions of mashed potatoes and rolls. (I can totally pass on Thankgiving pies.)

My BFF is too cheap to do some organized races, which totally makes sense when she wants to involve the whole family and that would add up quickly. So she organized (with her brother) the first annual Julian Thanksgiving 5K. Of course we all joined in and I must say, I hope it becomes a tradition--what FUN! Okay, actually I didn't join in officially for a couple of reasons. 1. I had just run a 5K and wasn't about to do another one. 2. I was going to ride my bike, but Megan opted to ride the bike and pull the 2 little boys. 3. I was very behind on my Thanksgiving meal responsibilities (homemade rolls), so I stayed and got that down.

The great thing about her 5K was it was right by our house and ended perfectly in our backyard! Luke smoked (and surprised) everyone with his fast running and came in first out of the runners. A couple of bikers were ahead of him.
(Not sure about the sunglasses situation...)

I wish I had some photos of the 25+ people gathered in our backyard at the end of the race. It was just pleasant. I can't think of another way to describe it. It seemed like an ideal gathering of friends/family and a perfect scenario of thanksgiving for friendships, healthy bodies, and feelings of accomplishment.

After everyone left we all made a mad dash for showers, last minute food prep (mashing potatoes, loading up pies and games) and headed to our dear friends, the Wielands for our Thanksgiving feast. I wish I had taken a photo of us with them. Too bad. But I did get one of our family taken, after a fair amount of yelling and arguing before everyone finally co-operated.
It isn't the greatest, but we've had one taken of us every year now for several years, and by golly I wasn't going to let this year be an exception.

Of course the highlight of Luke's day was getting to ride this go-kart. What a thrill that not only were our friends gifted one recently, but they live next door to a church parking lot!

Drew spent his rides yelling, "Go faster." and Joshua spent his rides advising Luke to "Go slower."
(Drew also spent his time trying to catch "air" in his mouth. Thus the open mouth in the top right photo.)

All in all it was a wonderful Thanksgiving Season, kicked off the night before with dinner out with my parents and brother's family. It was followed by a Friday visit with Mike's family and a Saturday spent working, visiting with friends and squeezing in a few games here and there.

Our "We are Thankful" papers weren't quite as full as last year's. I like to think it's because we were too busy verbalizing our thanks rather than taking the time to write them down. I could be wrong. But that's the theory I'm going to go with.
And yes, it would be very fair of you to be wondering why Mike doesn't ever add anything to the list. I'm not sure why either.

What a wonderful time of year.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Randoms of Our Life

Yesterday when looking for a specific photo on my phone, I came across all sorts of "spur of the moment" cell phone photos I had taken and forgotten. They represent such random moments in our life, and I couldn't bear for them to be forgotten...

Drew begged for me to tape the Mr Potato Head mustache to his mouth. As soon as I did, he declared, "Oh yes. Now I do have a mustache."
 
Megan wasn't exactly thrilled with the note I wrote to her teacher recently. Megan had a class assignment to organize a space at home (cupboard, drawer, desk, etc.) and for extra credit they could keep their room clean for a week. Megan organized her desk and asked me if I would write the note saying it was done. I didn't have to add the part about her not earning the extra credit, but I couldn't resist.
I can not even describe the grin on Drew's face when I picked him up from pre-school last week and found him standing on his teacher's driveway dressed like an Indian. Drew wore this hat and vest for days with Joshua making one for himself nearly every day too. (Joshua's didn't seem to last more than a day.) I spent the better part of a week sweeping up cut pieces of brown paper bags from my kitchen floor.
Last Saturday Mike and Luke had to go work and Megan was taking (a record) 8 hours to do her portion of the family's Cleaning HOUR. The weather was somewhat pleasant for a mid-November day, and so I decided to take the three youngest to a park. The children were thrilled to play at the park, and I was thrilled to sit in the car and read a book. (I had previously told them it was a"You play at the park by yourselves day." Not a "Mom will play with you at the park kind of day.")
 I ended up watching them play far more than I read my book. They played so well together for quite a long time. After they finished playing on the nearby slides/park toys, they played and ran around in the fall leaves. It was one of those moments that is so very, very brief yet gives a tiny glimpse into what true joy and life and loving is all about.

As they played, a small toddler tottled over to them and Ellie let him join in a game of "Ring-around-the-rosies". The mother sat nearby watching and I imagined for just a moment that young mother (I am assuming the toddler is her only child thus far) imaging how fun it will be to have more children one day down the road. The reason I imagined her thinking this, is because I spent many a day thinking that very thing. Now I do the opposite. I looked at that young mother with a slight twinge of envy about how much less chaotic her life must be.

All envy aside, I really did sit and bask in the simpleness of the moment my children were creating for themselves. It was a pleasant afternoon.
Recently the children  had a day off of school, but Drew still had pre-school. Ellie and Joshua both went to the same pre-school, and they were beyond excited to take Drew into school one day. It was another of those very brief-children-are-getting-along-beautifully type moments.
Mike and Luke finally finished stage 1 of the new chicken coop on Saturday. Luke has been worried about winter settling in before it got built, and was thrilled that Mike devoted his Thanksgiving weekend to the building of a more humane, and sheltered home for the chickens. I know it looks as though it is finished to completion, but I say stage 1, because Luke has big plans for ramps, shelves and what-have-yous for the chickens to enjoy. I'm not sure if Mike has those same plans.
And that about wraps up our simple and random life.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ellie's Entitled Half

I never consider cancelling Half Birthdays, although of course Mike almost cancelled Joshua's last month...

Although yesterday evening, during Ellie's half celebration, she was acting a little too I-am-special-it's-my-half-birthday-and-I-should-get-what-I-want. Ellie has plenty of flaws (like the rest of us) but declarations of entitlement are not typically one of them.

During dinner:
Ellie: *Insert whiny voice*  "Everyone needs to say one reason why they love me."

Luke: "We do that on our real birthdays not on your half."

Ellie: *insert whiny voice* "Well it's my half-birthday and everyone still should."

Daddy: "I love you bec..."

Megan: "The reason I lov"

I tried to be the referee between Dad and Megan's sarcasm of "half-ness" and Ellie's desires.

Then, Mike cut the cake. Which incidentally he never cuts anything "normally", and we always have diamond shaped brownies, or random shaped anythings that he is in charge of cutting. I predicted to him a certain result would happen as a result of his creativeness, of course he was convinced otherwise. But lo and behold--in the middle of all sorts of half-birthday celebrations, we held a moment of silence when Mike looked and me and declared, "I was wrong."

Oh boy! If honoring that moment doesn't take precedence over a half-birthday, I don't know what does.

Although, the moment of silence was interrupted with Ellie,

"It's my half-birthday I get the first piece of cake."

Oh to be 8 and a HALF and bossy.

(PS-Wondering why there is no photo? Yes. That would be Mike's fault.)


Monday, November 19, 2012

Our Quarter Jar

I know (as well as the whole world pretty much does by now) that I have a problem saying a few words that are probably not the best word choices. For the most part, I've even given up making an effort every once in a while to "try to stop saying them." Rightly or wrongly, I've explained to my children that when they are a mother, they may say those three *Bible* words too.

Other than my problem with those three little words, for the most part I very much favor "nice talking." There are certain words I just can't stand my children using. Regarding those particular not-allowed-words, I make sure my children know they aren't "swear words" or "bad words", they are simply words I don't like or allow.

(It's a big pet peeve of mine when I hear children refer to words like "shut-up", "hate" or "suck" as being "swear words." Every family has words they don't like, but doesn't mean  they are inherently bad words.)

One of the big no-no words in our house is the word commonly used for passing gas. Occasionally my older children think it is hilarious to use the word, mainly to see my typical over-reaction.

It hasn't just been alternate words for passing-gas that have me irritated lately, it's all sorts of other inappropriate things coming from their mouths or behavior. I've been meaning for weeks to figure out something to do about it, but actually doing something never really made it to the top of my priority list.

Last week when my 3 year old was using the words "Jesus" and "poo" in the same sentence of his made up song, I realized something had to give.

Followed closely by a child sitting on another child's face to, well, "pop."

I really can't believe I'm admitting these things to the whole world, but in an effort to redeem ourselves, I'll tell you what we're doing to curb the behavior.
We've introduced a "Quarter Jar." It's probably pretty self-explanatory; you say or do something inappropriate, you put a quarter in the jar. Mike and I will use the money to go out to dinner in the near future, leaving the children behind that night to fend for themselves for their dinner.

I know a 25 cent fine really isn't much, but an immediate fine (or threat of a fine) seems to be helping the children think twice before carrying through with said word or action.

Okay, I exaggerate slightly. It may not be helping much at all. If we had fined each child a quarter the other day for all the inappropriate things they said and did (while we had company I might add!) Mike and I would probably have enough money for not only dinner, but a night-stay at a hotel too.

Tonight one of my children came into our bedroom specifically to pass gas. I'm quite optimistic that my Quarter Jar will soon have enough money to either
a. pay a full-time Nanny or
b. pay full tuition at a faraway boarding school.

Except I was too worn-down tonight to institute the fine. So maybe the full-time nanny or faraway boarding school won't happen after all.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Early Learning


(Joshua's Depiction of Thanksgiving 2012)

Yesterday was Joshua's first SEP (parent/teacher conference). He had absolutely no idea what to expect, but I didn't know he didn't and just kept saying things like, "We have to leave soon for your SEP" or "Let's go now. It's time for your SEP."

As Joshua and I got in the car, he ran back in the house to get his backpack. Confused, I told him he didn't need it. Equally confused, he returned it to the house. As we approached the kindergarten doors, Joshua said, "We need to line up here." He acted a little sluggish, nervous and skeptical when I told him we could just walk in.

At some point I must have finally got it through to him that it was just going to be, me, him and the teacher and it was not a glorified "Bring your mother to school day."

Joshua didn't ever quite get over looking nervous throughout the conference, despite the teacher's constant praise about him. She complimented his behavior, his efforts, his academics, his social skills and even went as far to say, "You have raised him very well."

I really quite enjoy parent/teacher conferences. For the most part, they have always gone very well for us as far as the good reports we hear from teachers. We've been to a lot over the years, but I do think my one yesterday afternoon with just me, Joshua and his teacher was one of my favorites. (Mike typically always goes too, but I'd made Joshua's appointment too early in the day for Mike to make it.)

A few of the reasons why I loved it:

The teacher showed me a piece of paper that had basic words and a check mark next to the ones that Joshua knew the beginning sound.

Words like, hat makes the "h" sound, "fall makes the "f" sound.

All the words were checked except for the word "run". When asked what sound/letter it started with, Joshua  had replied, "w". Which completely makes sense to Joshua's little "r"-sounds-like-"w"-type-world.

In Joshua's world if he is going to run to the neighbors, he "wuns". A chair is a "chay" a store is a "stoye" and when it is "dark" it is "dyke". And so really, the word "run" should have had a check mark by it, because in Joshua's head he was 100% correct.

I loved that Joshua got all of his rhyming words right, except "ball". Apparently that rhymes with "bob".

His numbers 1-5 were nicely written with everyone of them backwards. And though I may have panicked had he been a first child, I smiled instead.

On the other hand, his upper-case letters were all written correctly, and the lower-case ones were close.

I loved looking through his journal of simple sentences he had attempted to write over the last few weeks. Things like:

wt t gdmz and gpz hse

Which interpreted means, "Went to Grandma and Grandpa's house."

I loved all the pages, especially his ability to read all of them days and weeks later. I would have had no clue what they said if the teacher hadn't have written in below what they said.

I was enjoying each page, until the teacher turned the page and as soon as I saw it my face went red, and I was immediately horrified at what Joshua's spelling attempts looked like. Innocently the teacher 'read', "Went swimming." and I was:

a. Relieved that Joshua nor his teacher had as dirty of a mind as me, and
b. Beyond thankful that Mike hadn't been able to make the SEP after all. I'm pretty sure the two of us would have wound up in hysterical laughter, and left this young and single school teacher scarred for the rest of her career.

I can't bring myself to write the sentence here. But when I called Mike following the SEP to tell him about it, I was right--he laughed pretty hard too.

The SEP must have turned out better than Joshua had been expecting. As we drove home together, I heard a little voice from the back seat say, "That was 'weally fun."

Love that little Joshua of ours.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Facing a Fear

A couple of weeks ago, I woke up very early to do my Saturday morning shift at the Bountiful (LDS) temple. Typically, I am a pretty nervous person when the house is quiet, and I'm the only one awake, and especially when it comes to going outside/or into the garage (depending on what car I'm driving) to get into the car.

To make a long story short, I happened to not be as nervous that morning. Mike had woken up when I did and we had a conversation, and then I had an e-mail I had to send before I left, so by the time I was ready to walk out the door, I think I'd forgotten it was 5am. I'll make this story shorter: just as I was getting into the car on the driveway, Mike decided to "be friendly" and opened up the bedroom window (directly above our driveway) to whistle at me.

The whole thing is really a blur, because Mike scared me like I don't think I've ever been scared before. My scream was obviously pretty loud, because I had a sore throat for 48 hours following. I quickly got in the car, locked the doors and burst into tears. I immediately called him a not-so-nice name (although it is a word found in the Bible so I think it's excused) and went to grab my cell-phone so I could say the not-so-nice word directly to him. It was right then I realized I had left my cell phone in the bedroom, but at this point I was too scared and traumatized to get out of the car to go get it. Which is probably a good thing, because I was so mad at him I probably would have done a lot more than say one not-so-nice word to him.

 I drove the 10 minute drive to the temple, with my heart still pounding, my body shaking, calling him the not-so-nice name repeatedly for the duration of the drive. (Remember, the word is found in the Bible, so I don't think saying it repeatedly on the way to the temple is as bad as if I'd been calling him a non-Bible word.)

With my 4 hour shift at the temple, and Mike's morning obligation, it was 6-7 hours later before we finally hooked up again. I don't think in my 15+ years of marriage I have ever seen my husband feel as badly and/or as apologetic as he was that morning. He felt awful. Made worse by the fact I didn't answer my phone for him to immediately apologize, or to check I really was okay. Forgiveness took a while, at least until the 48-hour sore throat subsided.

Mike has now earned accompanying me to the car early on Saturday mornings.

That was a pretty long story and probably nothing to do with the fact that this weekend Mike was very kind and loving helping me overcome a fear, instead of helping perpetuate one. And I'm not talking about us driving in a massive snowstorm Saturday night. That fear may still take a while to overcome...

I digress again.

For years and years, I have had a horrible fear of ever leading/conducting music. Within our church we have a lot of meetings, and a lot of singing, and there always seems to be a need for someone to lead/conduct the music. It is something I have always avoided. I know it sounds ridiculous. I could speak, pray or teach in front of hundreds and not even break a sweat, but the thought of leading music has been enough to put me over the edge.

A few fellow church members laughingly remember the time a couple of years ago I was asked to lead one side of the Primary (children's organization) room for a song to be done in a round. My face immediately turned bright red and my body just about went into panic mode before I passed the responsibility off to the person sitting next to me.

It's ridiculous. I should be embarrassed to even be admitting such a pathetic fear publicly, but I'll tell you why I am.

Sunday night we were due to have a very small meeting that would include 16-20 members of our church. Earlier in the week, the lady I serve with in the Primary Presidency sent me an email asking if I would be willing to either play the piano or lead the music for the meeting. I immediately responded I would play the piano, but then I got some wild-hare idea that now was as good a time as any to face my fear.

If you are still with me after this rambling, long-winded story--

I am pleased and proud to announce that tonight I finally faced my fear. After practicing at home all week, (much to Drew's disgust-he thinks HE is the self-appointed conductor of any and all family singing), tonight I stood in front of 16 people and conducted the singing of two hymns!!! Sure I may have smiled a little too much, due in part to trying hard not to laugh out loud, (remember I have a tendency to laugh when I shouldn't laugh).

I had warned Mike not to look at me, and certainly not to make any funny faces, but there were a few times we caught eyes and he smiled a big, huge proud smile at me. A part of me wanted to burst out laughing, and another part of me wanted to burst into tears.

But I did it. I am very proud.
Upon arrival home, I was greeted by Megan who was anxious to hear the results of my conducting debut. It's kind of a rare occasions when a parent/child reversal takes place, but I couldn't help but smile as Megan looked directly at me and said, "Mom, I'm really proud of you. Good job."

Move over Drew. You may have to start sharing your pencils.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Short Lived Super-Hero

The other morning while I worked on the computer,  Joshua sat at the kitchen table coloring. (Which must be a post in itself one of these days.) I'm not quite sure what Drew was doing, but I suddenly heard the back sliding door open, and him walk outside as he said, "I'm going outside to see if I can fly."

His voice sounded quite serious, and I couldn't help but get up and follow him.

I really had no clue that Drew had any idea who or what Superman is, but I guess he does. Because with the paper cape attached to his back and the homemade "S" logo on his chest courtesy of Joshua, Drew believed he was ready to fly.

Drew ran around the patio a few times with his arms flapping.
Until I said the dreaded words,

"Drew, those are just pretend drawings. They aren't going to help you fly."

He turned and looked at me, came back in the house, took off the cape and logo and continued playing with his preferred toys of choice; Hot Wheels. They didn't seem to disappoint.


"So quickly they grow with bounds and leaps but the sweetest memories are mine for keeps."
(Unknown)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Casting a Vote

Not only did I do my civic duty and vote in the 2012 General Election, I spent 14 1/2 hours sitting in a chair as a Poll Worker. As I watched citizens come and go to vote, I was reminded of a time as a young child going with my dad to vote. I was young, and I'm pretty sure it was the 1979 election and I'm assuming I accompanied my dad to cast his vote for Margaret Thatcher. (I'm totally guessing who he voted for.)

Today as I thought back to that memory, I couldn't help but think what a unique opportunity and memory that is: accompanying my dad to vote in one country in 1979, and then 33 years later, assisting voters in another country across the world.

Several times as I watched people come and go from the voting machines I had to blink away tears as I felt blessed to live in a free country. Regardless of political parties, election outcomes, and candidate platforms, I believe America is a blessed land and I'm proud to be an American.

And for the record--being a Poll Worker was one of my favorite things ever! I loved every second of it. I'm thankful for being able to have spent a long day doing it. Hooray for my mother for bringing me delicious food, Mike's mother for watching my two little boys, children who held down the fort, and a supportive husband for filling in all the gaps in the day. (And who just happened to be the most handsome voter I checked in today.)

God bless the USA.

Monday, November 5, 2012

11

The other day Luke walked up to Mike and me and began to tell us something. I can't remember exactly what it was he was telling, but it was a typical "Luke" thing. In that moment, I looked directly into Luke's eyes and couldn't help but see the realization of a Priesthood blessing I received just over 11 years ago.

Perhaps I have referenced the blessing before, but not in detail. It is too spiritual and special to share so publicly, but suffice it to say, if for no other reason than that experience, I know without a doubt God's hand guides and directs each of our lives.

The name Luke means "bringer of light" and I am continually amazed at the way Luke lives up to that name, and the promises the Lord gave me 11+ years ago have come true in every way.

Luke came bouncing into this world 11 years ago. He was in a hurry to get here (19 minutes at the hospital, and 2 hours and 3 minutes TOTAL labor from first contraction to babe in arms), and he hasn't really slowed down since.

Luke wanted to have a "family" birthday. Luke chose to go to a trampoline park with just our family on Friday afternoon, followed by his dinner request of "hamburgers at home and twirly fries you cook in the oven." His cake of choice was an Oreo cake (the easiest cake I've ever made for him) with Nana, Grandpa, Paul and Vickie joining us for that late Friday evening.

It was a very simple birthday, but one of my favorites.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Changing Things Up and Loving It

Typically I'm not a fan of Halloween. I think maybe it's because it isn't a holiday I grew up with. For the last few years I say every year that the next year we won't celebrate it, but every year we still do.

As I went to bed on Halloween night this year, I realized something.

I had actually really enjoyed the evening. I think the reason why, is because I let go of a previous Halloween tradition that seemed to cause me more stress each year than enjoyment.

Typically we have people over to dinner, then a bonfire in the cul-de-sac. It always seems dinner starts too late, I'm trying to get over-anxious children to eat dinner and get dressed, answer the doorbell from early trick-or-treaters, etc. Then late at night when the trick-or-treating is all over, my kitchen is still a huge mess from dinner, everyone needs to shower because of the bonfire smoke and I am swearing next year I'll do something different.

So this year I changed it all up. We had an early dinner alone with just our family, the children leisurely got dressed up in costume, I cleaned up my kitchen from dinner, and then enjoyed all the trick-or-treaters from inside the house instead of out in the cul-de-sac.

My neighbor did call me and say she missed the bonfire, but with the fact the warm temperature set records around here, a bonfire wouldn't have been as appreciated anyway.

Enough rambling.
In no particular order, I introduce you to...
The boy who "ARGH"-ed every time I took his picture:

(Striped pants, red vest and gold sash sewed by yours truly last week. Yes, please be impressed. Just don't look closely.)

The boy who came home and said, "Nobody asked me to work."

The girl who proudly organized her 94 pieces of candy upon arrival home.
The cow that only lasted so long before he returned home to shed the costume and greet trick-or-treaters at the front door in his standard attire--underwear. (A.K.A. "Michael Phelps costume" as one trick-or-treater's parent said.)
And we can't forget the kind teenager that made it possible for Mike and me to stay in the comfort of our own house...
(I'm not sure where she was when the individual photo shoots were occurring with the real camera instead of the group shots with the cell-phone.)

Oh and I let the children choose whether to carve or paint pumpkins. Luke opted to carve an elk, (which I forgot to light up on Halloween night!) Ellie, Joshua and Drew opted to paint. And Megan decided to forgo the whole thing.

Such is Halloween around here.

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