Thursday, May 28, 2015

Shot Through the Heart (at Target)

"What does your necklace mean?"

Normally, Target employees are polite but not very chatty, but she had been making conversation for the past few minutes as she scanned flip flops, tennis shoes, and a $9 copy of the second Hobbit movie.

I've worn a necklace to remind me of my New Year's resolutions for 2 1/2 years now, and this is the first time a stranger has ever asked me if it means anything.

Subconsciously, I reached to my neck, sandwiched the small heart between my left thumb and forefinger, and slowly moved it back and forth on its chain.

What does this heart mean? Had I forgotten? Why did I feel a twinge of guilt from this question? How could I summarize what it was supposed to mean to me in just a few sentences to a complete stranger?

"It reminds me to keep my heart in the right place," I responded.

"Cool. That's cool. Have a great day."

I haven't been working too much on my heart lately. The pendant dangles close to my heart and I rarely acknowledge it's there--usually only when it gets tangled in my earring or if it hits me in the nose while I'm in downward dog (it's the exact size as my nostril and if it lodges just wrong . . .). I'm hoping that the end of kids' school, my graduation, and a little more latitude in daily schedules will get me back on track.

My goal for the month of June will be to remember why I wear a heart around my neck and not just inside my chest--"both universal and specific, both spiritual and physical."

And if you see me around, feel free to ask. Next time, I hope to have a better prepared answer.

Memorial Day Weekend

Lily got out of school at 10:30 am on the last day, and by 5 pm, she and I and her friend were on our way up to the cabin for a quick girls' trip. While they went down to the stream to get a few great action shots for Instagram, I did the boring work of unloading the Suburban. I wasn't paying attention, and when I turned around after shutting the tailgate, 40 feet in front of me was a cow elk standing in the driveway, staring me down. I didn't know what to do, so we stood at detente for almost a minute before she soft-shoed into the trees.

I took a load of stuff into the house, and when I came back out four deer were in our yard. They stayed there while I returned to the house for my camera and got within 25 feet of the porch.
These unpredictable close encounters with wildlife are one of my favorite things about the cabin.

Friday morning, the three headed back to the valley, and after dropping off Lily's friend, I unpacked the Suburban and repacked it with supplies for the whole family's weekend up north.

I love it up there. Eve and Hyrum each brought me a handful of yellow wildflowers before we could explain to them that it's better to leave them and let them grow. They stayed happy and bright on my counter all weekend long.
We had a constant stream of company while we were there. One of Brad's clients has been doing some metalwork for us, and he brought his family up and installed the swing one morning. They stayed for lunch and we visited while their son showed my boys how to shoot his BB gun. The swing quickly became the most sought-after spot on the property.

Brad's sister's family surprised us one evening--texted Brad and asked, "Do you miss us? Won't for long!" And around the corner they appeared. Cousins spilled from every corner. We ate dinner and made s'mores and talked until it got dark. The only bummer was that they couldn't spend the night with us. Lily was happy about that--she'd had a migraine on and off all weekend, and she rode back to the valley with them to sleep in her own bed for a few nights.
I got up early to go on a walk before anyone else was up, and a family of javelina were snorting around the yard. I had never seen one in the wild before, and to see eight all at once was a little disconcerting. I've heard they can be a little fierce when startled.
After watching them meander off into the forest, I headed down the driveway, only to hear a snort and heavy breathing off to my right. I had awoken a cow elk, and she was giving me the eye as I passed by. I love walking that road early in the morning. You never know what animal friends you'll encounter. Besides the javelina and elk, I saw a few rabbits and a squirrel school--all before anyone else in the cabin was awake.

I had another surprise waiting for me after my walk. We FaceTimed with Tucker and Karli the night before, and somehow, after talking for a few minutes, they decided to pile in their car and drive 9 hours to spend a night with us. They had their car packed and left their apartment seventeen minutes after hanging up the call, and they pulled into the cabin just before 2 am.

We put them to work, I'll tell you. Tucker was the muscles for the concrete pouring operation to set our address and property sign.
Hyrum's job was to hold the stake steady and level while the concrete was being mixed.
It was a dusty job that he took seriously.

Karli was the water pourer and Micah observed Dad mix the concrete in the hole.

Eve entertained Annie from the window of the Suburban.

Grandpa Tucker made our Denton sign, and it's just right. And all of these people that I love? Make it even better!
That wasn't all--we cleaned up construction debris, collected garbage, transplanted wild flowers and grasses to cover places cleared during the building process, sewed bed covers, hung pictures and towel rods, and  Tucker and Brad finished another stretch of a rock retaining wall.

And that night, we invited Karli's family up for dinner. It was a little rough--the ribs didn't finish on time and it delayed us for a while--but the s'more contest that night was the best I've seen. Karli's brothers have some pretty mad marshmallow skills.

The day passed way too fast, and before we knew it, it was time to return to real life--them to Utah, and us back to Mesa. It had been a perfect trip.

But it didn't stay that way.

As we were packing up to leave, Micah shouted, "Hey, Eve! Leave the car door open and watch this!" He leaped from a short rock wall towards the open Suburban door, just as Eve was shutting it. It all seemed to happen in slow motion--Micah flew through the air, the door shut . . . and Micah's hand slammed in the door. I ran over to help as he screamed and tried to open the door.
He was lucky. No broken bones, just a real good smashing. It's been swollen and sore, but yesterday he was able to reach an octave on the piano. Think he's going to be ok.

Evie, on the other hand, took it pretty hard.
She sat on that stair, tears streaming down her face, yelling, "It was a ACCIDENT!"

Later, she cowered in her seat in the car and admitted, "It wasn't a accident. I just didn't want to see that. But I didn't KNOW his thumb would get stuck! I didn't mean to! I didn't mean to!"

Poor little girl.

Here's Brad's video of the weekend. Such great memories.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Last Day of School

Here's a brief reminder of how our first day of school looked:
And here's the last. Watch Eve's face:
 Something made her mad . . .
  . . . then madder . . .
 . . . then Dad started pulling funny faces behind me . . .
 . . . and she cheered back up again.
This series of photos makes me miss that tall, handsome guy on the right in the first photo. One year ago, he opened his call. He's been gone almost eight months now.

It was a great year for these kids.

Lily had her last Friday of school ever--she made the decision to attend a different high school in the fall. It was a difficult decision for her--to walk away from cheer and friends--and I'm really proud that she followed her heart. She's a sophomore now? How can that be?

Evie had the same kindergarten teacher the little boys had, and my girl had a fantastic year. Ms. J taught Evie to follow rules, to be brave, and most important--to love learning. Eve constantly pretends she's a teacher, mimicking Ms. J's phrases as she shows storybooks to her pretend class. Thanks, Ms. J! We will miss you!

Hyrum's teacher had to say goodbye to her very first class when Hyrum walked out the door, and she was teary with mixed emotions. Miss R was fantastic. Oftentimes, first-year teachers need a few years to get their footing, but she came out of the gate ready and prepared. When Hyrum pulled his report card, there was a small scrapbook inside the envelope. Miss R had taken photos throughout the year and made scrapbooks for each of the 25 kids in her class. She was a great teacher for Hyrum, and I appreciated how she went out of her way to teach him on his level. Thanks, Miss R!

Micah skipped the other direction after school, and I was unable to get a shot of him with his teacher, Mrs. H. Micah had a great year. He learned how to do big projects on his own, learned to defend his own position (and lose with more grace than he has before--still working on that one), and remembered than learning stuff can be fun. I'm forever grateful he was in Mrs. H's class this year. Thanks, Mrs. H!

And that was it. Last day of school. I remembered how sad and shy Eve was that first day of kindergarten. That girl grew up this year. No more kindergartners in this house. It's a little sad.
And if you're looking for great neighbors, the house behind me is up for sale. I'll bring you chocolate chip cookies . . . 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Whole 30 Day 10

Thought I'd update you on how things are going, Whole 30-wise.

The first few days were really rough.

"Really rough" doesn't begin to define how I felt those first days. I couldn't get enough sleep--nine hours at night and a nap during the day, and by 8 pm, I was ready for bed. I'm naturally a sleep-loving gal, but this lid-drooping, full-body malaise surprised me. I couldn't think at all--I kept telling myself that it was good I hadn't gotten this wild hair while I was still in school, or I wouldn't have been able to finish my final paper. It was that bad. I was short and impatient with my family--little things that I normally wouldn't notice sent me over the edge of insanity. I remember one dinner sitting at the table and holding my head in my hands, convincing myself that they were acting normally and I was the one out of sorts. And the headaches--withdrawal headaches from caffeine, withdrawal headaches from too much processed food, plus the detox of no simple carbs. I found my body begging for a soda or sugar or carbs.

With a game plan and a few friends' support (thanks, Janette and Carson--you talked me off the ledge more than once!), I fought on. It took about four days, and one morning I woke up to a golden morning with a changed attitude and a happier body.

By far, the hardest part of this experiment is the time it takes to eat--the planning, the shopping, the label reading . . .  and the COOKING! It's such a time sucker. For a few years, I've kind of wanted to learn how to cook well, and I invested in good knives and pots and pans this past year (and took my old ones up to the cabin--it was a handy excuse), so I had the tools I needed but never took the plunge.

I have a confession. I hate cooking. I hate it. Here's an excerpt from a text conversation I had this week:
"I've never been a foodie and I don't care about how food tastes or presents or any of that stuff. I eat fast and move on to the next thing. It's a total mindset change and the prospect of [being] in my prison/kitchen is most unappealing. I can't be nice when I'm in there. It's going to take a while before I think it's "fun," if ever. There are so many more interesting things to do and think about and fill my time with that have nothing to do with food. How's that for a crappy attitude?"

Although my attitude toward cooking hasn't changed much these past 10 days, I can see one of my excuses for not cooking disappearing. I used to say that my family doesn't really care what I cook and doesn't even notice. The last few meals, however, the kids have taken an interest in what is being prepared. They ask what I'm making, and every meal has been met with positive reactions, especially from Brad and Micah. So they do care, and if they care, I need to care a little bit more.

Another positive in the kitchen is that I've learned a few good techniques. Honestly, I never really knew the best way to cook a pork chop or sear a roast. I had only minced garlic once or twice in my life (I grew up using powdered garlic), but I've burned through two bulbs already. For the first time, I used (and broke) the food processor attachment for my blender (suggestions for a good food processor would be greatly appreciated). I made my own mayo (twice), ketchup, pesto, Thai, and chimichurri sauces. I made a roasted red pepper dip, and even made my own applesauce.
While I haven't used most of them yet, I hope combining tasty sauces with more meal planning will make these next 20 days a little better. I've gotten really bored of the bland food I've consumed when I haven't planned ahead better.

Soda has been and still is a challenge, but I've found that a splash of 100% grape juice in a high ball glass filled with ice and San Pellegrino takes the edge off. In ten days, I still haven't used the entire six pack. That's a small victory right there.

From where I am now, I can't imagine that I will make Whole 30 a permanent lifestyle change. What I do see Whole 30 doing for me is teaching me some much-needed kitchen skills and giving me a few good, easy, family-friendly recipes that I can make well. I have also become aware of a few bad eating habits. When I started the program, I never tasted what I was eating. I ate fast and didn't taste. I'm trying to slow down and eat meals, properly plated and sitting at the table so my body realizes it's mealtime, not just grabbing something quick on my way to something else. This was my breakfast this morning. First attempt at poached eggs didn't go well (there were two when I started), but I'll keep trying.
Ten days into the Whole 30 program, and the guide says that days 10 and 11 are the most common quitting days.

I'm not quitting today, thankyouverymuch. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Under the Big Top

School talent show every year--Micah has something all ready to go, and Hyrum begs to try out. I had an idea from an act I had seen a few years ago at the high school talent show, and I asked him what he thought. He loved it and convinced his best buddies to join him.

I enlarged photos of three of the male teachers at their school and attached each of them to the backs of baseball caps with velcro. This made instant bobble heads.

That's where Lily stepped in. She chose the music, choreographed the dance, and taught them the routine. The boys listened to her much better than they would have listened to me, and I think one of them developed a little crush on Lily.

Both boys' acts made the show, and I even let Lily skip the first few classes that day so she could come support her "boys."

Micah tore it up on the piano.
And here's a video of the boys jamming to "Classic," by MKTO.
Eve was in the audience and she loved watching her brothers. Can you find her?

End of the year is always filled with tons of programs, projects, and responsibilities. This is one the kids always love.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Graduation Night

 When you're the mom of a lot of kids, your needs and milestones get pushed back on occasion. The night of my graduation was no different.
 Micah had a piano competition (luckily it was at ASU, so that made it a little easier to do two things at exactly the same time), so we were rushed and delayed--Brad forgot his phone and traffic made it impossible for Micah to complete one part of his competition before dinner.
 All online graduates from our program and their guests were invited to the Athletic Club overlooking Sun Devil Stadium for a light dinner before the ceremony. It was cool up there--now I see why people pay the big bucks for box seats!
 Lily needed a few shots for her Instagram--I love that spunky girl.

Because we had been delayed before the ceremony, Brad needed to take Micah to the music building to complete his theory test. That meant that Lily and Hyrum would save them (and Eve) seats in the arena, but they both needed cell phones to meet up when Micah finished. That meant that I couldn't have mine during the ceremony.

And that meant two things--I couldn't take any pictures during the ceremony, but most importantly, I couldn't find where they were sitting (and they couldn't find me until after my name was called).
I did hear them calling "MOMMY!" as I headed back to my seat--and I found my cousin's supporters who cheered loud enough and waved big enough for me to see them. It made me sad that I couldn't connect with them from the floor of the arena.
 I did it! So many hours reading and studying. So many reams of paper copied and highlighted.

 So many words left my brain, passed through my fingertips, and assembled on the screen. Original thought and original work. It was a lot of work.

When I was contemplating going back to school, I had a friend share this bit of wisdom: "Two years from now, will you look back and regret that you didn't do it?" I think I would have regretted not carpe diem this time.

I loved every second of it.
As amazing as the night was, the most important thing to me is that these guys were there to cheer as my name was read.
 No matter the degrees or any outside accolades, my most precious titles are wife and mother.

But I still feel the tug of academia and learning . . .

Friday, May 15, 2015

So. About Today . . .

It's here.

It's weird.

And it's awesome.