Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Something Hard. Check.

It would be very accurate to say, I am not a water person. The single "most traumatic" experience of my childhood was being baptized a member of the LDS church when I was 8 years old. That is a story in and of itself, but suffice it to say that was the first (and second!) time I ever put my head completely under the water.

Although I did learn to swim as a child, I have never to this day jumped into a pool or body of water that isn't more than 3 feet deep. I have never passed on my fear of water to my children, they just understand it to be that I don't really "enjoy water."

This year on our cruise, in talking to one of the couples in our large group they brought to our attention one of the "shore excursions" they were going to go on at the end of the week. Immediately, I wanted to do it. Mike looked at me like I had just said we were going to jump off the ship and swim home. He couldn't believe I wanted to do something that used words to describe it like: "snorkeling in the ocean", "kayaking", "strenuous", etc.

For some reason, I had a tight grip on the idea, and Mike stood encouragingly by me a couple of days later as I signed us up for the, "Kayak, Snorkel, Hike" excursion.

 Mike never said a word to discourage me, in fact I think he was rendered absolutely speechless by me suggesting and signing us up for the whole thing!  (He also knows me well enough to know, I'm somewhat frugal, and so if I'd just paid that amount of money for it, he knew I wouldn't cancel or bail.)

Granted. I knew I had  signed up for something completely out of my comfort zone, but I was still surprised the night before our 8am meeting time when I couldn't sleep well. It wasn't just the stress of which shoes to wear first and which ones to pack (both flip flops and tennis shoes suggested) that was keeping me awake, it was the excitement/nervousness/apprehension/surprise/anxiety about the whole adventure I was about to embark on.

Really, one could think I am making far too big of a deal about a simple excursion. But I know me well, Mike knows me well, so do my children. So this was a big flippin' deal that I was doing this! And I can't let it not be recorded into my family history files.

As we boarded our truck/wagon/would be 100% illegal and unsafe in the USA vehicle that transported us to our destination, I knew the experience was going to be one of two things:

a. A complete flop in which either Mike or I, or both would be completely embarrassed of my fears and the potential outburst I could have at either him or anyone else, and we would return to our cruise ship deflated and at odds.

b. Or, it was going to be one of the proudest days of my life. A day which I accomplished something fearful, difficult and hard. And not only lived to tell the tale, but had a smile on my face for days because of it.

The latter occurred.

It was one of the most fabulous things Mike and I have ever done together. I loved it. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't the smoothest few hours. I did speak a little harshly to Mike on the initial kayak ride that he needed to quit moving because it was going to tip us. And I did initially chicken out about swimming out to the 12 foot deep waters to snorkel, and instead told Mike to go on without me. (Mike should have been born a fish,  he loves the opportunity to be in any body of water. Especially, the beautiful clear waters of the Caribbean. I didn't want him to miss out on this experience.)

(I wish I had a photo of the look on my children's faces, when I told them, "Dad and I rode kayaks in the ocean, and went snorkeling together." Their jaws hit the ground and the comments were, "No way!" "Seriously? You?" "I don't believe it. We need proof.")

(I spent the first little while with a death-grip on Mike.)

Mike refused to leave me behind, and in a firm, yet kind way encouraged me to come further. And before I knew it--I was snorkeling in water that was well above any depth of water I've ever been in before, and having the time of my life.

(Me posting this photo, is almost as brave as actually being in the water!)

 (There's a sting-ray down there if you know what you're looking for.)

There were so many emotions, and life-lessons for me personally from doing something so out of my comfort zone. I know it is a seemingly easy experience for most, but it wasn't for me, and I felt pure pride and satisfaction from doing something so hard.

The world is a beautiful place, and I'm so glad I got to see parts of it I've never seen before.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Patting Myself on the Back

I recently returned from spending 9 days away from home. Mike and I enjoyed time alone together in the beautiful Southern Caribbean. For 9 days, we did little to no parenting. Unless you count responding to:

a. the phone call while sitting on the beach from my 5 year old to inform me he was alone in the house (with his 2  neighbor friends) and that the over-night babysitter hadn't locked up the house.
b. the text from Megan asking if she should check Luke out from school because he keeps texting her to inform her he feels like he is going to "barf and poop."
c. the email to Megan to tell whomever keeps purchasing songs on my i-Tunes account to stop.
d. the text to Luke telling him, "No. You can't stay home from school today to ride your horse."

I have to say it was quite nice to have very limited text/phone call/email ability.

(Mike and Tiffany-victims of a blow-hole in St. Thomas)

We returned home very late on Saturday night. Well, technically, Sunday morning. All the children were fast asleep in bed, and I wandered the {clean} house (go Megan!) kissing them goodnight, and noticing a "few things" that sort of bugged me. Mike instructed me to "let it go" and we climbed into bed about 2am.

I'm not so sure how much of my not being able to fall asleep was due to my body thinking it was 5am, or because I was busy thinking about all the things I had just noticed. Things that in my absence, didn't quite seem to happen, but that DO happen when I am home.

The bunch of bananas and bowl of apples would have been consumed instead of sitting on the counter rotting.

Joshua's "Evaluate the moon for 20 days" assignment  that I left hanging in a prominent place would have been done at least one night.

Shirts would not have been in the clean laundry basket. They would have promptly been hung up upon their retrieval from the dryer.

All of the children's candy from their school Valentine's parties, and the candy gift I left them for Valentine's Day, would not have been consumed in their entirety so rapidly. Nor would the wrappers be left strewn on the carpet as evidence. (In fairness, this was primarily the doing of Drew and Joshua.)

Drew's homework packet would have been done at least once during the week.

I fell asleep early Sunday morning, within minutes of my arrival home, mentally patting myself on the back about all the things that occur when I am home.

As if I needed further proof of my mothering and household-running competence...

Seven hours later (yes. that's right.), we sat in church with our family. Drew was sitting close to Mike, and I heard Mike ask him, "Did you brush your teeth at all while we were gone?" To which Drew responded timidly, "Umm. No." Disgusted, I asked him, "Did you bathe or shower while we were gone?" To which Drew replied, "I had a tubbie once."

Just for the record I thought I'd see how Joshua's personal hygiene fared in our absence, and I leaned across Mike and questioned Joshua, "Did you brush your teeth while we were gone?" His face resembled Drew's as he quietly answered, "I did once."

I turned my focus back to the church meeting, but not before snidely commenting to Mike, "I do a lot when I'm home."

In addition to bananas not rotting, and clean laundry being hung up, when I am home, teeth get brushed and bodies get cleaned.

I didn't dare ask if Drew ever changed his underwear.
I honestly, don't want to know.

PS-The babysitter, and the older children did a FABULOUS job running the household while we were gone. Plenty of things were done, and done well. There were just a few things that obviously fell through the cracks. Oh well.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Our Insta-Sort of Life

I had a good phone conversation with my friend Allyson the other day. Among all sorts of other woes we were discussing (solving?), we talked about blogging versus Instagram.

The pros of Instagram, is recording one photo with one simple blurb, rather than write a whole blog post about a particular photo or experience. Instagram captures little moments so succinctly and perfectly, and if you know me well, you know the little moments and things are my favorite parts of life.

But, I'm not a big Instagram-er either. I don't post photos usually more than once a week, and I'm not blogging a ton either, so I'm feeling a little pressed for recording my children's memories. Although, I have been photocopying the family update letters I write to my mother-in-law on a mission to put in my personal journal. I mean, heaven forbid I forget the day-to-day details of running a household of seven...

I mean, as though I want to forget that Luke has a foot issue that is leaving a orthopedic foot doctor "baffled" and him in constant pain. Or that Ellie was a little apprehensive about a new school teacher the first day of 3rd term. Or that Megan baked 150+ peanut butter bars last Saturday for a fundraiser (I think I forget to tell my MIL that part), and then a few hours later came down with a fever and sore throat. (We're hoping none of the PB bar customers caught the germs...) I don't want to forget that Drew had his first lesson on cheating when he dealt out our UNO game and he had all Wild Draw 4 and Draw 2 cards. So much for letting him deal when I'm busy finishing up a task in the next room. I don't want to forget Joshua's dirty knees from playing football outside every afternoon, although I do want to forget the dead grass that is tracked into my house every afternoon.

None of the above have any photos, but I think all could have made some type of Instagram post. But they didn't, and now they are nothing more than a passing sentence on this post.

But here's a few things that were captured in a sentence or less on an Instagram post...

Cookies at the bus stop. Once a month or so, I bake a gazillion cookies (side note: do you know I don't really like chocolate chip cookies?, but I LOVE the uncooked dough) and stand at the junior high and elementary school bus stop. (I did the high school bus stop once this year, but this day Megan had driven to school.)

I try to ignore the germs of a million hands inside the cookie container, and I try to look past the rude children that don't say thank you but instead say, "How many can we have?" I love the junior high kids that get off the bus a stop early to have a cookie, and I love a few of the junior high kids that think they're too cool to get excited about a cookie, but the suppressing of their smiles is awesome. I love most of all the look on my own kids' faces when they see me standing there with cookies. (I never tell them in advance.)
 I told Drew that he needed to practice the latest round of sight words for another day or two before returning it to school. He was obviously too anxious for the full size candy bar they get after passing the testing (I so disagree with the candy bar thing...) that he signed the paper himself. I am hoping this is the first and last time he forges my signature.

(In his defense, I really don't think he had a clue I was supposed to sign it, he just was signing his name and taking care of business himself.)

Somehow, we  have turned into NFL fans, and our last few Sunday afternoons have been spent cheering on the Green Bay Packers. Since before last year's Superbowl, my kids have also loved the Seahawks (but clearly 2nd to the Packers). Sunday's game was a major disappointment to my kids and even hours later I was feeling bummed for my boys.

My brother Casey is thrilled to hear we are sports fans now and the texts between him and I on Sunday made me chuckle. In reference to me still feeling disappointed 4 hours after the Packers loss he sent a text that summed up my life well, "hahahahahahahahahahah...This is almost as good as you now owning farm animals."

Yep. Farm animals and NFL fans. I'd never have predicted these parts of my life!

There's some more serious parts of life I'm gearing up to write about (maybe), but for now, this will suffice as a permanent tidbit of our life.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Parent. Sleep. Repeat.

If I end up in a mental hospital one of these days, I have no doubt it will be because of monotony. It will be because the same words come out of my mouth, and my body physically does the same things over and over again. It will be the result of days and weeks and months and years of repetition.

My words and actions will be similar to these:

Answering the question at least 6 times every afternoon, "What's for dinner?" I thought I once solved this by placing a little chalkboard on my kitchen counter. I instead found myself saying at least 6+ times, "Read the chalkboard." (If every individual could even just limit the question to only once, it would be easier on my mental state. But no one seems to remember they asked 10 or 20 minutes earlier and I'm repeating myself far more than 6 times.)

My body will be stuck into a permanent position of wiping off kitchen counters. It doesn't seem to matter how much older my children get, or how many kitchen tasks they can now assist with or do themselves. I feel like multiple times a day I am wiping off the kitchen counters.

I'm not sure my mouth will ever stop uttering the words "Make Good Choices" when saying goodbye to my children. They seem to naturally follow the words, "Goodbye. I love you." or any such variants such as, "I love you. Have a good day." or "Have fun. Love you." Even the little boy next door that I drive to kindergarten each day now chants, "Good choices" as soon as the word, "Make" comes out of my mouth each day as Drew and his friend hop out of the car at the kindergarten pull-up.

I think I will forever be in the notion of fixing the next meal, or the next snack. And if not actively making it, I'll likely be planning for it, or shopping for it, or cleaning up after it.

My hand will be stuck in the perpetual movement of signing my name. In this day of electronics, I feel like the need for my signature should be dying out. Yet it seems every afternoon, evening, and morning, I am met with a stack of papers that require my signature. Thank heaven, Mike had a stamp made of my signature for the office. I think he was getting scared tired of asking me (the president/owner) to sign papers for the business.

My brain will always be calculating exactly how many minutes a child read the previous night. I will never understand why it can't just be assumed my children continue to read every night as they have since toddlers. Reading isn't hard for us to do. Remembering every book read and the approximate time taken to read said books is.

I feel as though my car will always be on auto-pilot to some type of grocery store. Doesn't matter if it is Walmart, Dicks, or Costco. I'm quite certain a day doesn't pass without somebody needing something.

I'm not sure there will ever be a day that passes without me saying at least 10 times the phrases, "Close the door!" "Turn off the light!" "Put your shoes away!" "Close the fridge!" or the questions, "Have you practiced?" "Is your homework done?" "Is your room clean?" "Are your teeth brushed?"

(Speaking of teeth brushing. I dream of the day we don't have more toothpaste in the sinks than in all the toothpaste tubes combined.)

Best go now.
Drew has just requested a snack.
Oh the irony.

(This photo is completely unrelated. But the amount of nonsense photos I find on my i-pad and cell phone are sure to contribute to any questionable mental state of mind.)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Another Christmas Past

Ellie was the lucky finder of the quarter in the trifle on Christmas Eve. She spent all of Christmas Eve day announcing, "I just know I'm going to win the $5.00 bill tonight. I just know it." Not sure how much of it was clairvoyance versus sheer luck, but she was one happy girl.
(Apparently Megan was struggling with a little envy.)

One of my favorite days in December is "Christmas Sunday." The Sunday before Christmas always finds my children in new Christmas ties and dresses and of course a photo in front of the tree. I was as shocked as Megan's response was when she asked me that morning, "Did anyone get any new clothes to wear?"

No new clothes.
No photo.
Maybe ext year.

Each Christmas Eve day as I spend hours in the kitchn, I ask my children, "Do you really love this formal Christmas Eve dinner tradition?" They always ask with a resounding yes, and every year it continues. Apparently, it is lots of peoples' favorites. Not necessarily mine.
A few of the siblings may or may not have taken issue with the fact Drew was allowed to wear his new pajamas for dinner instead of the *required* best-dress.

Speaking of pajamas. The Pajama Fairy did much better in remembering her yearly responsibility of delivering pajamas on Christmas Eve morning than I did remembering new church clothes. And the traditional photo by the tree with stockings on Christmas Eve night was not forgotten.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions are the sibling gifts they give to each other. In late November, they draw names and each child buys a gift for another. It really is quite tender as a parent to see the excitement on the giver's face, every bit as much as the recipient's face. 
Drew was pretty excited to give Ellie some clothes for her American Girl doll clothes. His instructions to me before we purchased them were, "Just a pretty dress or something that probably will touch the doll's legs."
Joshua was pretty proud of the football necklace and Green Bay Packers chapstick he purchased for Megan. Megan's squeals of surprise and made the long waiting to give it to her worth it.

Joshua was beyond excited to get some football cards and a Pez dispenser from Ellie.
Fortunately, Luke purchased football cards for Drew too. It was a little tense there for a few minutes when Drew saw Joshua open his present up first.
Luke was pretty thrilled with his new socks from Megan, that make a "scene" when both legs are together. Quite over-priced really, for a pair of socks, but the giver and the receiver were both pretty excited about them. 

It was much easier than I had anticipated getting the kids to bed on Christmas Eve. Those two little boys were CONVINCED they could see Santa's sleigh in the distance and on one last panicked run into our room, one of them announced, "We have to go to sleep right now. Santa's on his way."

Christmas Day started earlier than usual. I think it was about 5am when the children first woke up. Santa leaves their stockings their bedroom doors, which was perfect to keep them entertained for a while before they ventured into wake us up. Mike wasn't happy to be woken so early, but it is Christmas after-all, and I think it was about 6:15am when we were taking this traditional photo on the stairs before heading down.

I always have the job of going downstairs first to check if Santa came, and to turn on the Christmas lights. Typically, I pose myself with the camera and attempt to capture all sorts of smiles and squeals with either the still camera or video camera. I'm no photographer anyway, and rarely do I ever get a decent photo. So this year, after taking this one photo,  I opted to just enjoy the smiles and squeals with my own eyes and my own memory instead.
Santa doesn't wrap presents at our house, he instead places the 3 gifts he gives to each child in these bags the children carefully set out the night before. There is typically a very small 4th gift sitting on top to tell which child and which bag go together. (The children claim to each have a specific bag, but sometimes Santa isn't very good at remembering.)

By the end of Christmas day, I did have a few slight regrets that I hadn't pulled the camera out more, so I grabbed who was nearby for one final capture of the day.

And that's how we'll remember Christmas Day 2014.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Things I Love/Don't Love About December This Year

1. I love my children's excitement each morning to run into the dining room and get a piece of candy from the Advent House.

 I do not love that often Megan and Luke don't get their candy until after school and by then it is gone...and then the 5 year old gets yelled at as the culprit, and he cries out of guilt.

2. I love the children's excitement each morning about finding the d*$# elf that my sister-in-law gifted us years ago.

 I do not love that Luke was so enthusiastic that the elf come back this year and promised he'd help make the magic happen. I think he's forgotten about that promise.

3. I love this ceramic nativity set that my children painted. I'm quite certain I will treasure it even more 15 years from now.

I don't love that Luke didn't paint anything. It wasn't so much that he was too cool for it, he was acquiescing to Drew's whiny complaints of not being able to paint it all by himself.

4. I love our Christmas Tree. It's a memory we'll always have.

I don't especially love our tree this year. It's big, over-sized and I let the kids decorate it. As such, the decorations are heavy in some areas, sparse in others.
(This section obviously screams 'Joshua did this part of the tree.')

5. I love that we have a big box of shortbread under the tree! I've always wanted to have something under the tree as a treat each evening. (We had a big tin of Quality Street under ours as a child.) And haven't done it because I always had a young child that would get into it at wrong times.

There's nothing I don't love about this tradition. Well, except for maybe the I-don't-really-need-a-cookie-every-day part.

6. I love our tradition of driving around finding our favorite houses with Christmas lights and the children taking turns doorbell ditching a little gift to them.

I don't love that every year someone gets car-sick and Mike says, "This happens every year. Why do we do this?" (He's not big on traditions. Or Christmas. Or all 7 of us in one car.)

7. I love the lights on my garland and Christmas tree. Especially in the evening, when it's dark and the lights shine out.

I don't love that no one but me seems to be able to unplug them when its time for bed.

8. I love the holiday baking day tradition with my mom and Melanie.

I don't love that I taste-tested one too many treats by the time we were finished.

9. I love dinner parties with some of our favorite friends.

I don't love that I didn't take a picture of the fun evening.

10. I love the Live Nativity that a local church puts on each year. Hardly anyone attends, and so it is very calm and quiet and seems a perfect portrayal of that first Christmas Night.

I don't love that this year WWIII ensued at our house right before we went. Which left me not having the nicest feelings towards 1-2  members of the family.

I love December.

I don't love the long to-do list it causes.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Just a Typical Sunday

Our Sunday afternoons are quite often slow-paced. But let me clarify what I mean by slow-paced... we have little (if anything) scheduled or planned. It doesn't mean everyone walks around in slow motion, or that our voices and tones are slower and more controlled.

It simply means, there isn't a lot of things that have to get done, and for some questionable reason, we all seem to end up for hours in the SAME ROOM!

Mike and I have tried to question our children for years, "What is so cool about Mom and Dad that you want/have to be right here with us?" They don't ever really give us an answer.

We don't have a huge house, but we have bedrooms children could go in, an upstairs "loft/family room" that children could play/entertain themselves in, and we even have a spare bedroom that is often used as a craft room/toy room/school room, etc.

But not on Sundays. For some reason on Sundays, everyone likes to gather in the same room, and as rosy and peachy as that sounds. It usually isn't. Mike lays on the couch, I sit in the chair with my feet up on the ottoman and the children fit themselves (and projects and toys) in there around us.

Lately, the attention is focused on the television screen for NFL football games. So NOT what I want my family to be doing on the Sabbath, but I have relaxed even more since THESE DAYS.

Except no one watches the game quietly. There's Hot Wheels being vrmmed somewhere in the room. Megan is trying to tell us story on top of story as well as random NFL facts that I DON'T CARE ABOUT. Luke is throwing a football to Joshua, Ellie is typically fitting in cartwheels whilst dodging Hot Wheels and footballs.

Someone always yells at Drew to stop making so much noise. Someone yells because they got hit (or near miss) with the football, someone yells at Megan to stop talking so much, someone yells at Ellie to go cartwheel where there is more space, and I too often yell at Mike, who is calmly and quietly laying on the couch and ask, "How do you SLEEP THROUGH IT ALL? It's NOT FAIR!"

On a recent Sunday, the football toss escalated into a chaotic, wild game of sibling football. Obviously knowing how these types of events escalate, I was quite happy when I looked over and saw that Joshua had ON HIS OWN ACCORD separated himself from the chaos and sat in the corner of the family room reading a book. I was so proud (and shocked) of his little move to avoid the inevitable trouble, that I Instagrammed this photo with this comment: "Once in a blue moon, while absolute chaos ensues with all the other children, one child will choose to separate themselves and make a better choice. #hemaybemyfavoriterightnow #sundaysarenotmyfavorite"

(bad, bad photo I know, but I've never claimed to be a photographer...I'm a memory recorder.)

He remained my favorite child for a while...

This particular Sunday evening, we had somewhere we needed to be. So amid this typical Sunday evening, we interrupted the children to get on their church clothes so we could have our annual tithing settlement with our bishop. (Personal, short, family meeting with the clergy of our ward.)

Mass chaos began again as children argued, negotiated, fought, etc. about the task at hand, but within a few moments everyone came back ready to go, only for us to realize we had forgotten it was 10 minutes later than we originally thought.

So...Megan scattered into the front room to practice her harp, and Joshua was told to quit throwing a football and to leave the family room we were all in.

Joshua obeyed.
Unbeknownst to us, he took a soft "globe" and decided to use it as a soccer ball and entertain himself in the hall by himself.

Just as our 10 extra minutes were up, and we were to walk out the door to leave, we heard a sound that we knew wasn't a good sound. We didn't know quite what it was until we saw that it was 200+ pieces of Candy Corn and a large, tall glass jar hitting the hard tile floor.

First we saw this:
And then I noticed this:
(shelf where the fall decoration once stood- it was a tall glass jar filled with lots of Candy Corn and fall decor)

We all followed the sound.

Mike said nothing except, "We've got to go to the church. Megan, be careful not to step in the glass." I stood there, not knowing whether to laugh or cry at the horrible mess scattered into the dining room, living room and hall. Joshua promptly burst into tears, I think most likely at the perplexity that NO ONE RAISED THEIR VOICE at him.

The sound of the crash and subsequent spilling candy and breaking glass was enough punishment for Joshua. He knew what he had done was wrong, there was no need to remind him. (Nice example that once in a while Mike and I do okay at parenting.)

The next morning at breakfast, Joshua expressed his surprise that nobody yelled at him when the decoration fell to the floor. Just as I was about to commend myself aloud to him and remind him that Mom and Dad are capable of having calm, controlled reactions, Joshua surmised,

"It was probably because the decoration was almost 'expired.' It's almost time for Christmas decorations anyway."

I wanted to argue with him about his surmising, but I'm trying to set an example of disagreeing and arguing less with each other. (A frequent big problem around here.)

So, I'll leave it for you to decide instead...

Mike and I remained calm, cool and collected because:

a. sometimes, simply put, we have pretty stellar parenting skills
b. likely we were too worn out and exhausted to care
c. if it's almost the end of a particular season we don't care if seasonal decorations get broken
d. a and b
e. all of the above

Hint, the answer isn't c or e.
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