Monday, September 29, 2014

Just Kickin' It a Little Bit

September. It's soccer season.

 Hyrum is #5 for the Fire Chargers.
He plays in the U8 division, and that places him on the older side of the bracket.
The one-year age difference is quite evident in this group.
 He's more aggressive and a little more coordinated than the first graders. 
Ironically, he is only taller than two of other players. My boys start small, I'm afraid.

Here's proof--Micah and his best buddy, John. Same grade. Almost a head shorter than John. It's not a completely fair comparison, since John is one of the tallest in his grade, but it's always interesting to me how height can vary so much in one grade level.
Micah is playing U12 this year. He's one of the youngest on his team (the Griffins), along with being one of the smallest.

The boys had games on adjacent fields at the same time on Saturday (that NEVER happens), which made it easy to sit on the berms between the two fields and bounce our attention from one to the other.
 Wish that shot of John was in focus. 
The weather was pleasant, with just a light breeze. We had quite a bit of rain again this past weekend, and AZ fall is in the air--overnight temperatures below 80 and daytime highs below 100.

I know. Doesn't sound like fall, does it?  I keep trying to convince myself that it IS fall somewhere, even though I can't feel it.

Do me a favor, would you? Go outside around 5 pm tonight, feel the chill creeping in the air, gaze at some changing leave and smell fall for me?


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Saturday #38--Baby Steps

I couldn't resist. The pull was too strong.
After my completely ordinary morning yesterday, I grabbed my green smoothie, my camera, and  my audio book (Zusak's The Book Thief--as beautiful as his language is to read, it's even better when the words pierce your imagination effortlessly), and I headed north on the Beeline Highway.

North past saguaro, sandstone, juniper, and scrub oak. North to the small grove of Ponderosa pine where a sliver of my heart is finding residence.

 Piles of lumber and buckets of nails.

 Bundles of trusses and boxes of screws.
 Plywood and support beams.

 All impatiently waiting like me.
 Foundation is poured. Stem walls have been reinforced and allowed to cure.
The plans have been reviewed, edited, and tweaked here and revised there.
I watched as the contractor and framer carefully palpated the concrete like a nurse looking for a juicy vein before pounding a hole in the floor for the kitchen drain--my kitchen drain.
 Workers' traces linger--gloves, tire tracks, an open tool box.
 And these two arches, currently framing mountain views . . .
 . . . and standing sentinel over the construction site . . .
. . . will one day frame two rows of windows in the great room of the cabin.

Our cabin. Our dream.

The temperature, although more comfortable than the valley I had left behind, still hadn't reached the bite of fall, and the trees were still firmly attached to their greenery. 

Still, I took a few moments and sat.
I sat on the five still-curing front steps that lead up to the still mottled front porch and listened to the laughter of the trees as they were tickled by the almost autumn-like breeze. I could hear the years of laughter that will fill the air and see my children and grandchildren as they sit on my lap on these steps for years to come.

Then, reluctantly, I turned the Suburban around, found my place in my book, and headed back to Mesa.

South past scrub oak, juniper, sandstone, and back to the saguaro. South to responsibility and life and those that I love. 

One day. One day soon, these two lives will combine into one.

Soon. Patience. Baby steps. Baby steps.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Nothing Out of the Ordinary

I want to remember today, not because it was spectacular or because it was catastrophic. It is just a day.
Hyrum helped make his favorite--chocolate chip pancakes.
Evie had to sneak just one more--accompanied by her starfish head, of course. Who combs hair before breakfast?
Hyrum wraps himself in his blanket every morning and every night. My own little Linus. He also was using it as a cape and dashing through the house proclaiming he was "Captain Underpants."
We've adopted a green smoothie routine every morning. The kids weren't too keen at first, but they've come around. They know it's first on their menu.
See that striped lump in the background. What is that?
Just Ben, where he rolled off the chair after scriptures.
No more starfish and keeping those teeth healthy. Heaven knows what she'd do if she had another cavity.

We spent fifteen minutes looking for Micah's vocab packet, which was never found. A quick call to his teacher, and he will be spending recess redoing it. Although he left with a tear in his eye, I hope one day he will learn that he has to put things away if he ever wants to find them again.
Now they're all gone. The house is quiet. The kitchen is messy.

Just another ordinary morning.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sit Down, Buckle Up, and Hang On. Lily's in the House

Lily Jane. That girl is rarely still.

She leaves for school at 6:15 every morning and gets home around 3:30 most days. Some days, she has cheer practice or choir rehearsal after school; some days, it's piano or voice lessons or Young Women's activities.

Her room is an outward manifestation of her tornado life: clean clothes in one pile, dirty in another; school books and papers haphazardly added to the mix; bathroom counter cluttered with makeup and cleanser and discarded ice cream bowls.

Her chores sometimes get neglected and sometimes she is up late finishing homework. Sometimes she's hanging out with her friends or planning a party.

It must be high school.

Cheer. Choir. Friends. She's loving every second of it.

She worked with her voice teacher extraordinaire to audition for the solo in her first choir concert of the year, and she was ecstatic when she got it. Singing stuff in front of real people is scary, and I asked her as we left for the concert if she was nervous.

"I don't get nervous, Mom." Wow. Wish I'd had that kind of confidence when I was 14. Here's the video. I don't know who forgot to turn off her mic, but you'll notice she's a little dominant through the rest of the song as well.

High school is going to be an incredible adventure with her. Can't wait.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Dear Hyrum,

Dear Hyrum,

I wish my writing could capture the image of you in the dentist's chair.

When in the dentist's chair, my little whirling dervish--my Tasmanian devil--adopts an alter ego.

Yesterday, you climbed into the chair, fully aware that this experience would involve shots, drills, black lights, and disgusting numbing gel that tastes like the bananas you despise.

Not a moment's hesitation. You calmly waited. No iPad. No iPhone. No TV. Placid and chill.

The dentist began explaining what would happen. No reaction. He used the banana gel. No gagging. He inserted the shot and gently jiggled my little boy's brown-eyed face. No fight.

Three fillings and . . . nothing from you. The dentist repeated, "Dude, you're a rock star! Doing great, Buddy." He even sang part of "Everything Is Awesome" from The Lego Movie and asked you if you liked that movie. Not even a nod.

Thirty minutes in the chair was all it took--and that included waiting for the anesthetic to work. The dentist explained that you needed to be careful not to chew your cheek while it was numb. Barely audible, you said "Ok."

And we were out of there, two treasures from the token machine in your hand--a white ninja and an orange bouncy ball.

I knew it was lunchtime and I also knew that you wouldn't be able to eat what I'd packed for you that morning. Before stopping at the school, we came home and I mixed up a quick smoothie of your choice--strawberry yogurt, strawberries, mangoes, and peaches. I filled a thermos with your treat (you'd think I'd taken you to McD's or somewhere equally awesome), and we got back in the Suburban.

After signing you in at the desk, you gave me a quick side hug before walking to Room 18. I couldn't help myself: I watched you until you turned the corner, a thermos in one hand and a candy-striped straw in the other. I felt like my heart would burst with love for my littlest boy. My brave little boy who faces the dentist too frequently. My wild little boy who often plays too rough and hits too hard. My loving little boy who tells everyone that I'm his girlfriend. My tender little boy who still hugs and kisses his mom no matter where we are.

That last glimpse before you turned the corner: I knew in that moment that this time in life is almost over. The time when I can make you so happy with a paper straw and time together in the kitchen. The time when you'll kiss me before class, and the time when those big brown eyes always search for me first.

I don't want you to ever grow up, my little boy.

I'll love you forever, Rum. I'll like you for always.

As long as I'm living,


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Food, Family, Fun--pre-Peru

With Heidi and Tucker home for the weekend, we planned a few family activities--all seven of my kids together for the last time before Ben leaves for Peru on October 8.

One of his best friends, Marissa, flew home from Provo to surprise him. Ben has the best friends ever, and I love how supportive they all are of each other.
Marissa even postponed submitting her own mission papers this weekend to be home with Ben. In a few weeks, she will know where she's going. Weird to think that Ben will have to find out through email, since he will already be gone . . . (not going there).

There are very few Peruvian restaurants in the valley, but we did find one in Chandler--Tumi, a little hole in the wall.
 It was so small that our party of thirteen took up half of the tables.

I know these pictures look the same, but look for Heidi in this second one. As Brad said, that is a very un-Heidi-like picture. The food was really good, the kids were mostly obedient, and the service was great. If you're in the valley, I recommend it.
Ben spoke in Sacrament Meeting on Sunday. I was so overwhelmed by the reality of him leaving that I sobbed for most of the meeting. Don't get me wrong. Having a child on a mission is a great blessing. They learn more in those few months than they ever could at home or even at college. I love hearing from them and reading their letters and . . . it's still nearly impossibly difficult to let them go. I never fully understood it until Tucker left for NYC 3 1/2 years ago, but now? Now I know. And it's even harder, somehow.

When the meeting was over, all of his friends and family spilled into the foyer to hug him. Ben looked around the crowd and said, "Someone grab a camera. I need a picture with my three moms."
I couldn't have raised this boy to be the amazing man he is without these two ladies. Both have chauffeured him and fed him and listened to him and counseled him and loved him for most (if not all) of his life. I will be forever grateful for their influences and examples, for their friendship and for their listening ears. Shauna's son, McKay, is currently serving a mission in Korea, and Karen's son Logan is serving in Leeds, England. Who would ever have guessed that when those three boys were still squirrelly little bookworms that they would grow up to be men of goodness and strength and conviction?

Normally, I would have invited everyone over for some festivities, but since Ben isn't leaving for a few more weeks, we only invited family over for dinner--stay tuned for an open house on October 5th. There will be chocolate chip cookies. Just sayin'.

Three of his favorite cooks were invited, and he asked each of them to make his favorite. Amy brought salad with her trademark dressing, Shauna made pizza rolls ("If I have Shauna make pizza rolls, then I can have Karen . . . "), and Karen made cinnamon rolls (always thinking, that boy).
Karli's mom brought yummy carrots, and I made bac 'n' mac, cut up peaches and watermelon, and we had a carb fest.

No rice. No beans. No chicken. All that will be plentiful in Peru. For now?

We feasted.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Heidi, Remember That One Time I Taught You to Can Chicken?

We were busy around here this weekend.
Heidi brought Jonah down on Thursday, and Tucker and Karli and Annie arrived Friday to see Ben before he leaves. (Pictures coming.)

Before my kids got home, I bought two boxes of Utah peaches, and Heidi and I decided that a great use of our time together would be to bottle some fruit and stuff. On Friday, we bottled fourteen quarts of peaches and determined that Saturday would be peach jam day. We were discussing the art of canning and I told her how easy it was to can meat--cheaper, yummier, and so easy to open a bottle of chicken to make enchiladas or chicken salad in an emergency. That clinched it--along with jam, we planned to bottle chicken on Saturday.

We were busy--can you tell from the stove? On the front right is the peach blanching water. Heidi is stirring a batch of peach jam, and on the back left is a batch of jam in the water bath. On the back right--our four quarts of chicken in the pressure canner.

Here is where the story begins.

Canning is a crazy process. Stirring, peeling, blending, stirring, measuring, stirring, bathing. It's exhausting and hot and sticky--and fun if you do it with someone else. We got the chicken in the pressure canner first, because once the meat is in the canner, you just have to monitor the pressure gauge and the canner does the rest. I haven't used my pressure canner in a few years, and since the last time I used it, my kids had bonked the gauge somehow and the protective plastic case had come off. The arrow still moved and the valve was clear, so I didn't think about it much. After building up the steam, I dropped the weight over the vent and went back to the jam with Heidi.

We were talking and laughing and jamming it up when I noticed that the pressure gauge hadn't moved much in the past 30 minutes. I flicked the arrow and realized that my kids had bent the backing and the bent backing was impeding the movement of the gauge. I didn't think it would be that big of a deal. Once we got it up to 11 pounds of pressure, I'd monitor it like I've always done in the past.

Then, the weight (which is supposed to bounce around and whistle during processing) stopped moving.  That was odd.

Although it would mean the meat wasn't shelf safe, I thought it best to turn off the canner and cut our losses at that point. I would order a new pressure gauge and try again another day. After turning the burner off, I turned back to the peaches.

Ten minutes later, the weight began bouncing and whistling again, and it was frenzied this time. How could that be? After looking at the stove dials, I realized that I had turned the front burner off and cranked the back burner up to extra-high--the jam in the water bath was cooling and the chicken in the pressure canner was heating up. I quickly reversed the temperatures, and we finished up our jam.

It takes a while for a canner to cool and come down from pressure, and there's nothing you can do until the lock drops down, indicating that it's safe to open the lid. When the lock finally dropped, I removed the lid and the bottles, then took the canner to the counter by the sink. Instead of the canner sitting flat on the counter, it rocked and rolled around.

That was odd.

The bottom of the canner had bulged out during processing and was now convex instead of flat. And instead of dumping the excess water in the sink, I tipped a dry pot upside down.

Yeah. I had boiled off all of the water, and the pressure inside the canner had built to such a high level that the pressure inside the steel pot had permanently pushed the bottom out. Not to sound flippant, but the Boston Marathon bomber had used pressure canners as bombs. That's how dangerous canning with pressure can be, and I'd never given it a second thought.

If I had left the canner on the heat, it probably would have exploded. I still can't believe that none of the four chicken bottles exploded inside the canner. I almost blew up our house. And my daughter, who had been slaving over the stove that morning.

In hindsight, it was dumb to use the canner when the gauge was broken, but I didn't think it was BROKEN broken, just missing the cover.

We were pretty lucky that we walked out of the kitchen Saturday afternoon with fourteen pints of jam and no chicken.

The round-bottomed pot is headed to the dump, and I'll be ordering a new canner.