Friday, September 4, 2015

A Wicked Denton Day

I built flexibility into our Denton Days primarily for times like yesterday.

I mean, Wicked is in town.

After running through a dust storm to retrieve our cousin Tyler from the airport and stopping at a gas station for a quick treat for the little kids to share while we were gone, we squeezed in a little fun.
Micah created a tornado in a bottle--two bottles, a washer, dyed water, and some duct tape.

I threw together a quick dinner then ran out the door to curriculum night at the elementary school, while the kids finished up their chores and got ready for Hyrum's scout activity. Tyler took care of the two littles for us, and we raced out the door to Gammage Auditorium at ASU.

Gotta snap a few pictures in front of the banner on the way in--it's tradition.

 And one or two as we waited for the show to start.
The lighting in there is not great for photography, but no grainy image can hide these two kids' excitement at seeing the show.
One of my favorite things in all the world is sharing things I love with my children and watching them experience it for the first time. Micah was excited to see the show, but he's not very familiar with the music and didn't know the story line until I explained it to him on the ride to the theatre.

Lily, on the other hand, has been counting the minutes until we went. She bounced and gasped and clapped and stood and basked in every note. I love live musical theatre, and there is absolutely nothing like live musical theatre done at the Broadway level. I am always awed by the caliber of talent as one amazingly talented person holds the rapt attention of thousands of people while standing alone on a stage, accompanied by an orchestra. Wow can't even describe it.

And I know Lily will never forget it.
Micah didn't hit his bed until way past 11, and all the kids were a bit grumpy this morning, but I would do it again.

And probably will, next time it blows through Phoenix.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Denton Days

In our life before my master's program, I always set aside one day of the week as our "Denton Day." No friends, no planned activities (like music lessons). Just us. It takes a bit of planning on my part, but my kids love it.

Already this school year we've done a little shopping for football gear and grabbed a quick ice cream.
Oh, and that day we happened to find a storm to chase around the valley. As we were driving home, Micah said, "I hope the next time there's a storm to chase, it happens on a Thursday, too!"

I have good intentions of teaching my kids to cook (even though I really detest it), but I never get around to it. I used one of our Thursdays to engage them in planning the meal, shopping for ingredients, and making the food.

I taught them how to find a ripe cantaloupe by feeling and smelling it. Micah wanted to try a Tuscan melon, but I didn't know how to tell if it was ripe or not. He looked at me a little like I was dumb, and said, "Mom. Ask Siri. Duh."
Turns out, you pick a Tuscan melon just like a regular cantaloupe.

They also learned how to choose the best apples.

Hyrum had a party planned with one of his friends for dinner that night (and this whole Denton Day isn't meant to be a punishment but an enjoyable time so I try to be flexible with out-of-the-ordinary experiences), so the food preparation was left to Micah and Eve.

Micah asks for pizzookies all the time, and this was the perfect opportunity to teach him how to make the cookie dough.

Still needs the stool sometimes, but I know those days will quickly be gone.
The dough turned out great, and I know he learned how to do it right, because a few days later, he asked if he and his friend could make cookies. They followed the recipe, baked all the dough, AND cleaned up the kitchen when they were done (including sweeping the floor).
 Eve asked for a fruit salad with dinner, and she learned how to cut fruit. I took of the rinds and she did the rest. Even wore her apron.
The kids all agreed that crepes should be on the menu for dinner. I wasn't as excited about it as they were, but we compromised and made dinner crepes--stuffed with cream cheese, chicken, and broccoli, topped with a little gravy.
Micah got pro at swirling the batter and flipping the crepes. I think he might be my chef child.
When we all pulled up our chairs to the table that night, they explained to Brad and Lily how they shopped and chopped and mixed and fixed all afternoon.

I love spending this time with them when they are still little enough to love being around me and not feel too sad that they sacrificed a day with their friends. I only have this year left with Micah, since he starts junior high next year.
Any great ideas of what we could do on a Thursday afternoon?

Monday, August 31, 2015

A Heart Full of Love

I was so busy editing pictures and recuperating from our July adventures that I completely forgot to reflect on my goal for the year.

Ever since we returned from our adventures and our family regrouped, I feel different. Different about my family and different towards my family.

All I want to do is be with them. Surround myself with them. Listen to their stories problems more carefully. Call them and text them whenever possible.

I am a little less selfish. A lot more patient. A little less correcting. A lot more loving.

My heart turns to them more fully and I see them almost for the first time. I see their goodness and their humor and their talents and their amazingness. God gave me an amazing family. Wow. Where have I been?

While there are still minutes and days full of strife and trouble, it all seems more trivial and temporary than before.

I don't know what changed in me, because I don't think anything miraculous happened to them. They are still the high energy, loud, crazy, often-disobedient-but-still-good people I've always mothered. I can't explain the change, but I pray these glasses I'm now wearing--glasses that have changed my view of them--are permanent.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Storm Chasers Got Nothing on Us

It was just an average drive home from Target. Hyrum and Eve begged to buy everything in sight, and Mom insisted on sticking to the list. In the back seat, one child teary-eyed and the other sulking against the window. Micah sat shotgun, playing the favorite child role.* The sky darkened a little and the trees bent from right to left--wind from the east almost always means a storm around here. The sky in the direction of our house looked promising.

"Think it's raining at our house, guys?"

My Arizona kids love a good rainstorm, and the word rain perked the ears of even the grumpiest among them.

Our five-minute drive home ended with no rain overhead, and all of us were disappointed. Suddenly, I thought something fantastic.

"Hey. Should we chase the storm down? Find the rain? Doesn't look like it's too far from here."

My stroke of genius generated an unexpectedly weak response, but I was undeterred. Turning right and left and right again--always keeping the giant dark clouds in sight--I tried to maneuver us into the storm's path. With the complicating factor that I had five guests coming to dinner in an hour, I knew I couldn't take long on this chase.

After turning one way and hitting impassable road construction, I decided it was best to head home. I flipped a U-turn, and just as I was about to enter the freeway, I thought, "Just one more chance. Let's head north and see what happens."

It happened.

If you have never experienced a legit Arizona monsoon storm, you haven't lived. An all-too-common blistering sunlit day suddenly darkens with clouds of moisture and desert dust. The wind whips bark off palm trees and topples trash cans. Headlights turn on and power goes out.

And then the clouds open, and it rains. Driving, pelting sheets of rain that last unpredictable lengths of time--a minute to an hour or more.
This particular storm cell was intense--so intense that sheets of rain blew across the windshield faster than my wipers could remove it.

"Should I pull over?"

The boys whooped. "Can we get out and play in it if you do?"

Arizona monsoons were made for rain-starved Arizona kids. How can a mom say no?

In five violent minutes, the fields had turned to mud and I didn't want to shampoo my Suburban's carpets just for a frolic in the rain. Quickly scanning the unfamiliar neighborhood, I saw a concrete circular driveway that I'm sure had been installed for the express purpose of rainstorm enjoyment.

The boys were so excited that doors of the Suburban opened before I could park. Rain whipped in as the boys scampered out, but the wind was so strong that Micah could barely close the door. This was a good one.
Eve elected to stay dry with me. Smart girl.
 Notice the sideways garbage cans?
"Mom, aren't you so glad I stayed in here with you? Mom, aren't you glad we can watch the rain from in here? Mom, can you see the brothers? Mom, isn't this the best?"
Yes to all, my girl.
The boys alternated between hovering next to the Suburban's headlights and racing to the oleander hedge and back.
They also threw in a few good dance moves and sifted through the rocks on the driveway. Hyrum even found a teeny piece of turquoise, "our state gem, Mom!"
I looked at the clock and knew that my storm chasing needed to end. Who would feed our company? Just as I was about to honk the horn (which I knew would scare the crap out of the boys but how else would I get their attention? I wasn't going out there!), the boys crawled back into the car. They couldn't have been wetter if they'd jumped fully clothed into the pool
Shivering with cold and shaking with the thrill of the storm, they both exclaimed, "THAT WAS AWESOME!"

I turned onto the road and drove to the nearest intersection. The street was a name I recognized, and I knew I could meander along it towards home. The closer we drew to home, the softer and fewer the raindrops fell. By the time we reached our house, the sidewalks only bore a few drop marks and the trees stood straight and almost dry.

Boys ran upstairs for warm pajamas (no matter it was 5 pm), Eve found her baby doll, and I popped the pasta into the oven.

With time to spare.

The next time I ask the kids if they want to chase the rain, I expect their responses to be a little more enthusiastic.

*Do your kids do that? When one of them is in trouble, the other decides to be on their best behavior?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

My Favorite Job in the World

6 am to 9 pm seven days a week for over two decades. Some days it's much earlier and most days it's much later.

Three meals a day--plus shopping for those meals, prepping those meals, and cleaning up from those meals.
Hairdos, baths, teeth, laundry, ironing, mending, fixing, folding, cleaning. Tying shoes. Zipping backpacks. Signing slips and sending money.
I've been trying to put my finger on what is up with me lately. Why I feel lost and discomfited and out of place.

Last school year, when my house was empty for the first time during school hours, I had my master's degree to keep me occupied. This year I'm finally feeling it.
This may sound strange. I've tried to explain how I'm feeling to Brad, but I could never find the words until two nights ago.

I am slowly but surely working myself out of my favorite job in the world.

They read for themselves. They brush their own teeth. They make their own beds. Most of them do their own laundry.

I've gone from mothering 15+ hours a day to 7.5-11 hours a day, depending on the day. I've had my mothering hours cut in half. Have you ever been cut from full-time to part-time shifts? It's jolting, that simultaneous loss of responsibility and gain of free time.

When I was a young mother, all I wanted was a day to myself. I remember asking Brad for these free days as birthday gifts, and I would treasure the moments and the minutes. While I still love my alone time, I don't quite know how to fill it. Admittedly, I haven't been the most productive or comfortable with this newfound freedom. The house stays clean from 7:30 until 2:30. Don't need to do that. There's only so much shopping and Facebook and internet surfing and TV and organizing and yoga that can be done. . . .

I find myself a little lost most days, not knowing what to do with myself. Myself--most of my years being myself have been busy being "the Mom." The Chauffeur. The Shopper. The Cleaning Lady. The Laundress. The Negotiator. The Teacher. The Comforter. The Cook.

When they hand you that sweet-smelling, squalling, soft bundle of blankets in the hospital, no one tells you (with a touch of melancholy and a sad smile) that one day they won't need you to hold their hand on the way to school or to cut their spaghetti into small bites. Rude, isn't it--suckering you into loving and caring and giving up every drop of yourself to being the mom, only to have those precious babies grow up to be independent. Then they grow up and leave the house and stuff. . . .


What am I going to do with myself all day today? Let me see.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

He Saw, She Saw--On My Birthday

Thanks for all of the birthday wishes--cards, emails, Facebook, calls. It was a great day.

I haven't been to a rodeo for years (grew up attending the TF County Fair and Rodeo, and I've really missed it). When I heard that the Payson rodeo was on my birthday, I knew exactly what I was going to ask for.

Mmmm. Cheesesteak. Mmmmm. Lemonade. Mmmmm. Funnel cake. Mmmmmm.
And I got to wear my favorite boots. If you can't wear your boots to a rodeo, what good are they, anyway?

These pictures tell both sides of the story--what I saw through my lens, and what I looked like as I took the photos, thanks to Brad.

What he saw
What I saw
It must get boring waiting at the rodeo. It also must be cool as a kid to sit on the chute fence.

What he saw
What I saw
It was the most perfect night ever. Clear and not hot. A light breeze. No bugs and gorgeous light.

What he saw
What I saw
I always love it when they ride the flags around the arena.

And this one's my favorite. What he saw
What I saw

My next goal as a photographer is to learn how to capture better moving pictures when the light is low. Here are a few from the saddle bronc riding.

 All four feet off the ground at once, and that cowboy stays put. Love it.
 If you've never been on a horse when it's bucking, you have no idea how hard it is to stay in your saddle. They make it look so easy.

And the finale--the bulls.
 The cowboys in the arena act all cool in their Wranglers and Stetsons, but when that bull gets close, they climb fast.
We spent the night at the cabin, took a hike Saturday morning, gorged ourselves on these . . .
. . . and headed home. It was the most perfect birthday ever.