Monday, December 7, 2015

Christmas Shopping Habits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Whoever Would Have Thought?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Joshua!
Go Braves!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Drew's Last Ride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Joshua and Drew--August 2011)

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

Friday, August 28, 2015

A Back-to-School Story

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

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

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

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

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

Back to the Sunday night before school.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 24, 2015

The End of An Era

Here we have our traditional stand-on-the-valve-box-photos for back to school complete with early morning squinty eyes and the glare from the sun.

Megan-11th grade

  Luke-8th grade

 Ellie-6th grade

Joshua-3rd grade

Drew-1st grade

I have no eloquent essay to explain this monumental day for me as a mother. My children are now all in full-time school.

I have no words.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Megan in Peru

In July 2014, Megan decided she wanted to go to Peru on a HEFY expedition. Though there were several different country options to choose from, Megan has talked about Machu Picchu for years, and the realization that she could actually visit there so soon was thrilling to her. The registration didn't open until December 1st, but from that July day forward, Megan put her heart and soul into making the trip a realization.

Mike made it clear early on that Megan needed to earn 70% of the money towards the experience, and she moved forward with full commitment to make that happen. I wish I had photos of the couple of Saturdays she spent in the kitchen making 100+ Peanut Butter Bars, (one of the times coming down with strep throat in the last hours, but we never told the customers that! ha ha) or the neighborhood pancake breakfast she hosted. But fortunately, our favorite and most successful fundraiser, a neighborhood carnival was captured in pictures by our kind neighbor.

As the time for Megan's departure approached, people kept asking me if I was nervous. I wasn't! I had a little apprehension about her connecting with her group at the LA airport as she was flying from Salt Lake to LA alone, but that left as soon as she went through security and I saw a boy wearing the same shirt and realized he was on her same flight. I was reassured knowing they'd retrieve their luggage and get to the International Terminal in LA together.

I thought once all the preparations were finished (woah! was that hard!) and she was off on her flight, my natural worrying self would over-take, but I truly never worried once. Not once.

It was a long 21/2 weeks with little to no contact with my first-born. Although one of the parent coaches did a fabulous job of updating Instagram with photos, and that was so nice to be part of.

Megan has already finished a short 3 minute video of her Peru highlights. And she plans to have more detailed video reports to follow.
There is so much I want to say about her experience there from a mother's perspective thousands of miles away, but all I really can say is how deeply grateful I am for her to have had this experience. The experience tested and strengthened her physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and socially. She gained insight, personal growth and understanding that I'm sure she will never forget.

How great Megan was able to cross Machu Picchu off her bucket-list at 16 years old!

This is the village of Monterrey that Megan and her group served. As a mother, it is an awe-inspiring feeling to know that my daughter was able to experience and serve such devastating poverty.

Yet despite the poverty, Megan quickly learned the people of that humble village are among the kindest and happiest she has ever met.


 This photo shows a lovely "trophy" that was gifted to the HEFY groups by the grateful village. Mike and I were fortunate to see this trophy first-hand when we picked Megan up from the Salt Lake airport, as one of the trip leaders was on her flight. Though I don't read Spanish, the leaders' translation touched me deeply when she read the words, "God bless you always."

Though the group enjoyed downtime at dances, sand-boarding, touring the Lima MTC, and visiting the Lima LDS temple...

The majority of their time was spent physically laboring to build the village a medical center. 

What an honor that Megan's name is engraved on a beautiful plaque that now hangs in a small village in Peru.

The possibilities and examples of service in this world are endless, yet this last week as Megan has told us story after story of her experiences, and as we've seen all the clothing and shoes she DIDN'T bring back home with her, and we've heard stories of the villager's responses to our small gifts and tokens, this Bible scripture keeps coming to my mind.

Matthew 25:35-40
"For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

We are deeply appreciative to all those who helped make this experience for Megan possible. Not only did people's donations of time and money bless the people of Monterrey, Peru, it has blessed Megan's life, and for that, my mother heart is truly thankful.

(The sign that hung at the entrance to Megan's fundraiser carnival.)

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Two Patients Not THREE

Joshua and Luke had their tonsils out on Tuesday morning. After 10+ bouts of strep throat since December, we're hopeful this procedure puts an end to it. In addition to the removal of tonsils (and adenoids), Joshua also had a procedure done on his tongue, which has set him back a little more than Luke. (He can't lift/move his tongue much and so it makes eating a little trickier for him, and more pain than his throat alone.)

Upon being given the hospital gowns to wear, the boys became a little too animated and excited. I think perhaps it was a combination of nerves and the fact Luke was given lavender colored pants and a star gown to wear.

Poor Luke. It didn't help that he didn't comb his hair that morning.

Joshua went to surgery first and thus was done first. By the time we saw him, we was fairly awake and alert.

I think he felt like he had to stay awake for us, but we assured him he could sleep. We certainly weren't relying on him for conversation.

Luke was wheeled into the recovery room while we were with Joshua. Typically they don't allow parents to come in there for a while, and though they kept the curtains around Luke so we couldn't see them wake him up initially, they called us over to him probably sooner than they would have had we not already been in the room.

They warn you before surgery that everyone wakes up from anesthesia differently. Yet it still came as a little bit of a surprise for Luke to:

a. tell the nurse to "Shut up!" when she asked him a question
b. kick me when I was rubbing his leg
c. tell Mike to "Stop! Go away." when Mike said, "Hi Luke."

The nurses assured me they have "seen and heard it all" and told me not to apologize for Luke's abruptness. I still did. I'm not exactly going to stand by and laugh with them when my son covered his face and told everyone to stop talking to him and LET HIM SLEEP.
Within a few minutes, Luke and Joshua were wheeled into the final recovery room. Luke was a completely different person! He was pleasant and saying all sorts of "Please" and "Thank yous" to the nurses questions of slushes, drinks, and pain.

Luke had/has absolutely no recollection of his earlier outbursts to those caring for him. So I'm quite confident it was the anesthesia talking and not him.

I've been extra-attentive to the boys since their surgery. I've been checking on them frequently, getting them popsicles, ice cream, drinks, etc. It's a fair amount of work, as I tend to stay downstairs and they are spending most of their day upstairs. Drew has sort of been laying low with them.

Here's an example of an exchange: "Hey boys! Are you guys doing okay?" To which DREW will respond, "Yeah. I'm fine." And then 30 minutes later or so, I hollered, "Hey boys! Do you want a popsicle or something?" To which DREW responded, "Yes. Get me an Otter Pop."

Note to Drew: You ARE NOT the patient.
Luke and Joshua are.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

July Briefs

Uhh...yes. This may or may not have been a result of a Hot Wheels being thrown at her by a sibling who SHALL remain nameless.

 This is on my summer must-do list every year. I'd never do it any other season, but for some reason at least once each summer, I eat Fritos and Bean Dip WITH a CAN of A & W rootbeer. My children LOVE this day!

One of Ellie's Summer Goals was to host a little lunch for some friends. It was a little out of her comfort zone, but she did it and had a wonderful time!

We've had a few summer evening rodeos over in the pasture! Goat riding, horse barrel racing and national anthem singing, provide entertainment for children and adults alike.
My dad bought a cannon. Yes. A cannon. He says calling it a new hobby is a little bit of a stretch, but I'm not sure what else to call it. Obsession? Warfare collector? Weapon hoarder? I'll just say he has a new hobby firing off his cannon. It's fun! Who doesn't enjoy candy shooting into the air and loud noises.
 Mike had his 43rd birthday. It passed very quietly and with very little fanfare. All he wanted was a "big piece of meat" and we went a step further with his traditional ice cream cake. No balloons, presents or parties.
 (Luke was sick with strep throat-thus the fact he's wearing a pajama shirt, and his hair is a little crazy.)
 Of all the birthday traditions, Mike has asked not to be done on his birthday, Mike has never complained about the birthday hat tradition. Granted, he doesn't wear it all day long like I tend to on my birthday, but the fact he wears it for the 2 minutes or so of candle lighting, singing and candle blowing, makes me smile.
 For some reason, Mike was extra generous with the cake servings this year. Though each slice was very thin, he let the children have about 5 servings each. I'm quite certain Drew thought he had died and gone to heaven.

At the very last minute, I decided to get tickets to the Days of '47 Rodeo in Salt Lake City. It was so last minute that Megan already had plans for the evening.
We have had a globe in our family room for years. Years. For over a decade we've had the same globe that has served us well in our spontaneous country conversations, or geography discussions. A couple of weeks ago, Drew apparently thought globes were to sit on. Ugh. Of course, our broken globe happened to coincide with Megan's trip to Peru, and I can't tell you how many times I've gone to reach for the globe when a child has asked me a geographical question about Peru.  A new globe is on my back-to-school supplies shopping list.

In addition to Drew breaking the globe. He also broke our electric pencil sharpener recently by seeing what would happen if he sharpened "the metal and eraser end of it instead." Of course this is the same child that also caused a large circular crack on our windshield from a golf ball a few weeks ago.

Speaking of Drew. He still loves music. This is one of his favorite songs lately:

July was a little busier than these handful of photos show, but this is a decent recollection for now.


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