Thursday, December 26, 2013

Pre Christmas life

I remember the years when December seemed like the longest month of the year. Christmas Day was always too far away! Now, there just aren't enough days in the month to get everything done and enjoy the season to my full satisfaction. 

Some of my favorites from this December: 

Watching #2 sing his little heart out at his chorus Christmas concert. 

Attending #1's first bass recital. Her first lesson of the semester ended with #1 in tears of frustration. But after months of hard work, she played her pieces beautifully. 

#3 tried out a cheer class this fall and her parent performance was a lot of fun to watch. Whatever she may lack in coordination or rhythm she makes up for in personality and spirit. I just wanted to squeeze her the whole time! 

The Nutcracker Ballet at Symphony Hall with #3. This used to be my tradition with #1, but I figured it was time to pass the torch. The second picture was taken just after the performance and #3 is still a little sad for Clara who woke up without her prince. 

What would Christmas be without the Mesa Temple Lights? If we had known we were going to end up at the temple that night, perhaps I would have done my hair or forced my kids into better clothes. But maybe that's why it was a great night for everyone.  Sometimes planning is overrated. 

Lastly, #3 is my little spirit of Christmas present. She has decorated our home with nativity scenes she's drawn. She is the one that begs me to read her Christmas stories every night and the one who will come sit with me at the piano and sing along to all the Christmas songs. Christmastime is one of the big payouts of motherhood and #3's Christmas spirit is my big Christmas bonus. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

My sweet #1 turns 11

This is back when she had all her baby teeth.

My #1 turned 11.

I feel like I'm a pretty good mom to young children.  Or that over the years I've learned how to become one. But I don't know anything about mothering maturing young ladies. (I couldn't even bring myself to write a sentence with the word puberty.)

I've been reading about the changes in the brain that start around #1's age and continue for the next decade.  Holy cow! I hope I can keep my hands and arms inside the ride at all times. 

To balance the fear and shock of change, let me tell you some of the bright side of my maturing young lady.

#1 is funny.  She has a quirky, smarty-pants, sometimes sarcastic sense of humor.  It catches me off guard and makes me laugh.  She recently created a 16 page comic book about an Osprey.  It was hilarious!  One scene involved Aunt Turkey leaving Thanksgiving dinner in tears.  The dialogue bubble reading, "My poor husband, waaaaaah!" Spouse and I stayed up late reading and rereading some of the funniest parts; we were genuinely entertained.

No cake for this babe. As requested, we stuck candles in a dutch apple pie.

#1 started playing the bass in her school strings class and takes a lesson at ASU each Saturday. It's amazing how much she's learned in just a few months.  I love the rich, low notes that fill our home every afternoon while she practices.  It's beautiful.

#1 is rocking it in her ALP math class. I'm happy that Spouse's math genes played the dominant role in this child.  I feel smarter just being related to this pretty, little math nerd. (And I mean that with the greatest admiration, I wish I were a math nerd.)

Free babysitting!!! She's responsible, trustworthy and a good leader.  Baby E loves and responds to #1 like she's the second mother.  #1 loves that she can opt out of tagging along to #2's football practice because she can stay at home alone now. 

To summarize: I'm scared about the upcoming years because I don't know if I'm going to be a good enough mother.  But I love seeing #1's personality and identity emerging and I'm honored (and very, very humbled) to be her guide.

No party this year. We celebrated with bowling and lunch with her BFF.  Sadly, #1 got her bowling skills from her mom.  Our scores added together didn't hit 100.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The October that got away

It is no coincidence that just as the outside temperature became livable our family life kicked into high gear. There's something about not sweating 24 hours a day that invigorates you, that makes you want to say, Yes I can!, instead of, No, it's too darn hot.  That makes for a busy month and lots of fun times.

We journeyed to Utah for the kid's Fall break. A week of cousins, Grandmas, no homework and sweatshirts was just what the doctor ordered.

Grandma J hosted a Halloween party where dress ups are a must. Painting pumpkins, tasty treats and looking for the lost bag of prizes made for a happy afternoon.

Nana organized a Fall Scavenger hunt that had my children and their cousins running (actually, they were taxied by willing mothers) around town taking pictures of silly things like, singing a Primary song for someone at the Tabernacle, running a lap at the high school track, and posing on the blue bulls on Main Street.  The final task before heading home for hot chocolate and donuts, was to find four pumpkins hidden among the fallen leaves in Green Canyon.

As my children grow our annual family Halloween party has morphed from a casual cookie-decorating-and-movie evening into a full fledged event that I actually have to plan and invite people.  The trouble is definitely worth it as the party is something the children look forward to and are happy to help plan and prepare for. 

After a ward trunk-r-treat, classroom parties, and pumpkin carving, by the time Halloween night rolled around I was sick of Halloween. But my kids were raring to go.  I accompanied a Viking warrior, a medieval knight and a "pop star dementor" around the neighborhood as they begged for candy. 

I'm in Halloween recovery.  To cope I've eaten approximately 23 Reese Peanut Butter cups in the last 7 days.  I have a problem.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Good things this week

Good thing 1
Baby E attended her first story time for babies at the library. She clapped, giggled and bounced right on cue - cutest thing in the world! 

Good thing 2
Buster made a catch in the end zone, scoring the final points in his team's winning flag football game!

Good thing 3
#1 and I were enjoying dinner together at a yummy yuppy-ish sort of joint when the lady at the next table leaned over and got our attention, gesturing towards #1.

"Excuse me, are those highlights natural? They are? Women pay a lot of money to have their hair look like that.

"You know, I have 12 and 14 year old sons and I am always trying to point out what true beauty looks like. It looks just like you."

Isn't that the kindest compliment? It certainly made #1's night. 

Good thing 4
Spouse took #3 to get her ears pierced! My sensitive little kitten thought it was the most painful experience ever, "almost as bad as shots!" But she's so happy to have sparkly pink butterflies adorning her ears.

I love this photographic journal (by Spouse) sequencing her experience.

Is this going to hurt?

The calm before the storm



(state of shock)

I made it? And I have earrings?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Enjoying it!

The other day, as #1 gave me her home-from-school-hug she commented, "Wow, Mom.  Our house is really dirty.  We need to clean."

Since I had spent my morning sweeping and scrubbing I knew our house was in fact, NOT dirty.  But as I looked around I had to admit #1 had a point.  Across the kitchen floor there were plastic food container lids, cookie cutters and a few board books.  The family room was scattered with blocks, shapes, puzzle pieces and plastic rings.  Behind me in the playroom the little grocery-cart was tipped over with at least 59 pieces of play-food spilling out of its basket.  I was also pretty sure that my bathroom floor was still covered in Q-tips and various plastic bottles of beauty goods. 

At that moment it became official: Baby E's infant-hood was over.  Toddler-hood has begun. 

And just to rub it in, she turned one last week.

{How could she do that to me?  Doesn't she know she's my baby?}

I'm learning the wisdom of the last baby: just enjoy it.  That's why I don't notice the mess or why I don't mind picking it up several times a day.  I'm enjoying watching her make a fantastic mess of herself at every meal.  I'm enjoying the slow days where we don't leave the house because of her napping schedule.  I'm enjoying chasing her down the halls at church.

I've learned something in these nearly 11 years of young motherhood.  It doesn't last, infant-hood, toddler-hood. Each stage is so temporary, there's no reason to worry or stress. The house will be clean again someday. I will be fit again someday.  I will leave the house again someday.   (I wish I could have whispered that into my 25 year old ears.)

And now, Baby E at 12 months:

She is truly a happy and easy going baby.  Highly curious, loves to get into things, watches how things work and solves problems. She loves zurbers on her belly and neck; my little piggy on her toes.

She has learned to wave hello and goodbye and to give kisses.  She claps and bops to the beat of music; walks around our house babbling and making sing-song noises.  She loves to turn the pages of her books, pointing at pictures.

Baby E is a busy body, always on the go.  Sad for me, she's too busy for snuggles and cuddles. She loves it when the older kids come home from school and is known to shriek in excitement when she hears them coming.

True to last baby fashion, her birthday was a small affair.  A few balloons hung by an insistent sister and cupcakes shared with siblings.  I realized that I hadn't even taken a good picture of her lately let alone a nice, professional 12 month picture like my other children enjoyed.

No mom guilt though.  I'm just enjoying it, right?

enjoying some of her presents

Is it possible to take a nice picture with four kids?  No, it is not.
"Thank you, mom for having me and making me nice cupcakes.  I really enjoyed the frosting."
This isn't a birthday picture, but it just makes me smile. It's her first time in a swing and her face is so funny scrunched up like that.  Plus, it kind of looks like she's swinging in the nude.  I love her fat legs and chubby arms.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Farewell to a bright soul

About two weeks before my grandmother passed away my family spent a few minutes alone with her in her hospital room.  Even though I knew her body was failing it didn't really sink in until I saw her in her bed, looking feeble and tired, that I would be saying Goodbye. My stomach clenched up and I felt a bit of panic, knowing how important the next 15 minutes would be. How do you say Goodbye? How can you communicate a lifetime of love and significance in a few words?

I wished I could give her comfort - she would be going somewhere new very soon, and having new experiences. Who wouldn't feel a little nervous? I wanted to summarize her influence in my life. Had I ever told her how important she was to me? I wanted her to comfort me, to share with me her warmth and humor and wisdom one more time. I wanted to soak in her voice, the way she said my name; her eyes, their particular brown hue; her hands, her crippled fingers; the feel of her always-smooth skin.

It wasn't enough time, but it was all I had.

She took a moment to hug and talk to each of my children, listening patiently as they went on and on.  Privately, I was hurrying them. They didn't know how precious each minute was. But I wanted them to remember this day and their feelings, so I didn't rush them.

Finally, Spouse took the children out of the room to give me some time alone.  I took her small hand and stroked her almost translusent skin.  These hands crocheted me a matching skirt and sweater set when I was eight.  She crocheted me many sweaters over the years. I remember one that I couldn't get over my head because the neck was too small!  Where are all those precious things now? Why didn't I keep even one? How did she make so many things with arthritis in her thumbs?

"I love you Grandma.  I'm going to miss you."

"I'm going to miss you too, Jen. But I'm going to be watching over you. That will be me over your shoulder telling you what to do."

"You are so special to me Grandma. You have made me happy in so many ways."

"You are special to me too, Jen. I love you."

I put my cheek next to hers and felt her familiar softness. I breathed in deeply, trying to inhale her scent, to keep it with me. I kissed her head and she kissed my cheek.

I looked at her for another moment. Her eyes were looking up at me.  They looked hopeful, peaceful. Ready.

Down the hallway there was a private place with chairs and a big window overlooking the Salt Lake Valley to the west.  I sat there processing, grieving.  Through my tears I watched a commuter train stop and people get on and off. In the distance the Oquirrh Mountains stood tall, creating shadows.  Green trees filled the valley. An airplane was climbing into the sky.

I thought of my grandmother, just down the hall, sharing this view with me and wondered how it might feel to say goodbye to this life, to this earthly home - this marvelous earth and sublime life experience.

Life is so good. It is hard and terrible. It is beautiful and heart-breaking. The earth is a wonder - pulsing with power and energy. The smallest particles are miraculous.

I hope to be like my grandmother. I hope to be able to say goodbye to earth with honor, having worked and struggled and sacrificed but having found joy. Joy in relationships, nature and God.  I hope to leave this earth a little brighter.

Here is Grandma last October, meeting Baby E
July, 2005 at her home in Germantown, Ohio. 

I love this picture because this is how I remember her most, laughing! October 2004, Ohio

This 2004 trip to Ohio is a special memory for me. I got Grandma all to myself!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

More Utah fun: Lagoon!

After all of our years of spending summers in Utah, we had somehow neglected to introduce our children to Lagoon. This summer I wasn't pregnant and all of my older kids were tall enough to ride anything they wanted; it was time. 

I left Baby E in Logan with my sister and mom and took my niece and nephew with us to meet my other sister and her children at Lagoon! 

I hadn't been to Lagoon for 18 years and I remembered  it being hot and dirty. Kind of like an expensive carnival. I was happily surprised to find it clean, beautifully landscaped and lots of shade. There were a few of the old carnival style rides I remembered but most of the rides were newer and really nice. 

I discovered early on in our day that I've lost all my nerve. I'm basically a spectator now. So sad! I used to love exciting rides. Now I'm just a nauseated, nervous wreck. 

My kids were crazy with courage. There was almost nothing they weren't too scared to try. 

It was fun to share the experience with cousins. I loved watching them run off a ride together laughing and recounting their thrills, then plotting their next move. 

It was a day of memories. A happy, happy day. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Summer Memories from Utah

Almost a week ago, on Friday, August 2nd I was driving my four children back to our desert home after a month in the mountains of Utah.   Admittedly, I was feeling down.  Yes, I was going to miss our families, the shady trees and blooming flowers, a break from the daily domestic grind but at that moment all I could think of was my dread of returning to the awful Phoenix HEAT!!  Ugh! 

Today, I'm putting off showering and the compulsory hair drying which I detest because it just makes me sweat and puts me a rotten mood, and I'm going to take a walk down our Utah memories lane.

Provo, Utah 4th of July Fireworks viewed from the lawn by the Harmon Building.

This area of lawn has been in our family for many 4th of July years.  I remember rolling down this hill when I was about Buster's age. 

#3 and Nana putting together some glow bracelets.

I'm catching up with my cool brother in law while holding sleeping Baby E. That poor girl had had such a rough day, not a minute of sleep until she finally zonked out in my arms around 10:00 pm. 

The first thing Buster wanted to do was show Papa the new moves he had just learned at wrestling camp.

#1 and Papa riding home, 4th of July style, in the back of the truck

Sandy, UT July 5th extended reunion with cousins from my Dad's family 

My extended family gets together every other year but I haven't ever been able to attend one of these reunions. It was so fun to see my cousins and their children!  The reunion was held at this wonderful park in my cousin's private neighborhood.  There was lots of good food, swimming and organized games.

Here's #1 completing the obstacle course competition.  It was hard! But she did awesome!

Spouse and Baby E waiting for dinner.

Buster waiting in line with some cousins to do his world famous, huge cannon-ball!

Buster and #2 digging into their pinata loot with some 2nd cousins.

 July 9-14 Logan, UT my family reunion

My siblings (minus 1 :( )  and our families gathered at my parents home for a week of togetherness.  There was lots of trampoline jumping, playing at the park, Aggie ice cream and 4 wheeler rides.  Each day we had one or two organized activities.  Some of these included a fun run, water games at the park, the 2nd annual family dance!, a service project at the pioneer cemetery.  We also spent a day at Spouse's family cabin riding four wheelers, roasting marshmallows and competing in a billiards tournament. We took a day to visit my grandmother in the hospital in Salt Lake City and then tour Temple Square.
#3 and cousin Joph-fes
One day I was looking all over for Buster, calling for him.  I finally found him tucked away in the library reading "Battles of Freedom." He was so engrossed, I didn't want to disturb him so I took this picture through the glass door. He loves military histories.

Family Fun Run! It was a mile for most of the kids or 2 miles for the older boys.  My nephew on the right of this picture was the first to come in.  He ran the two miles faster than anyone ran the one mile: 13 minutes.  And that is with a lot of hills!  I was impressed.

#1 and her cousin racing into the finish line!

Buster really wanted to beat Joph-fess!

Fresh donuts are the best reward after a grueling one-miler :)

#1 and her Papa

Nana, Spouse and Baby E, post race. I gave Spouse a free pass on the run since he helped me get the music, tables and water set up.
My nephew Zack on the 4 wheeler at the cabin in Logan Canyon

"This is hot, don't touch it!"

All these years coming to Utah, I've never taken my kids to Temple Square.  So glad to have remedied that.  But I think we need to come again next year and plan to spend a lot more time.

The Conference Center roof was really cool. But actually it was really hot up there. 

#3 and her cousins at the Children's exhibit in the Church History Museum.  That's another place I could have spent another hour.

 July 15-21 Bear Lake with Spouse's family

This is a week my children love and look forward to with great anticipation.  They love running free with their cousins.  Making little trips to the resort store for ice-cream, jaw breakers and candy. They love the beach and boating.  They love going to the Pickleville shows and go-karting.  They love making a Bear Lake t-shirt every year.

I told #1 I bet she could climb to the top of the "difficult" coconut tree in 15 seconds.  She did it in 16!

#1 and #3 will cousins out on the deck trying to pick up the weak wi-fi signal.

Early morning scooter ride

Digging ponds is hard work!

Baby E loved being on the beach and digging in the sand. She also loved to eat the sand. 

I remember #3 as a baby and pushing her in the baby swing of this very swing set.

Cute cousin Matthew helping Baby E take some steps

Utah photos and memories to be continued...