Thursday, September 18, 2014

California--Memories Before Art

I've been avoiding the enormous files of pictures from our family trip to California because I knew I didn't have time to edit them. They may not all be edited the way I would like, but sometimes it's more important for the posts to be recorded before the adventures fade from memory. Art needs to be secondary to this once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Here's Ellie actually playing in the sand--in her swimsuit. It didn't last long. The girl inherited her Gran's aversion to sand.
Once there was sand in her suit and in her hair, it was all over. This is how she enjoyed the beach for the rest of the week:
Fully clothed, never wet, and frizzy-haired from the sea air. Despite all of that, I think she liked the beach.
Eve doesn't love the sand either, but she has learned that she doesn't like to get wet above her knees. If she stays mostly dry and mostly sand-free, she likes digging and playing.

Nathan was the complete opposite of the girls. Smothered in sunscreen and covered in sand, he loved every second on the beach.
 He fell face first into holes and into water. Didn't care.
 He ate sandy peanut butter sandwiches and sucked down sandy juice boxes. Didn't care.
The only kid more mellow on the beach was Jonah. I don't think that kid cried one time the whole week.

I wish these woombies had been invented when my kids were tiny. Whoever thought of them was brilliant. Heidi shared one with Tucker and Karli for Annie, and she was much happier all snuggled up, too.

Most of the time at the beach, Miss Annie was in the baby bed. She was less than a month old at the time, and the beach was not her favorite place to be. She was still getting used to this crazy world, and being surrounded by crazy cousins, aunts, uncles, grandmas, and grandpas was a little much for her.

There was a ton of boogie boarding. Two boards broke, and one nephew was face-planted into the beach by a brutal wave. Otherwise, it was the favorite activity of the boys 8 to adult--just like it said on the age recommendation label.

 There was a little beach frisbee . . . 
 . . . shell collecting and sand crab hunting . . . 

 . . . but mostly it was a couple of lazy days spent with all of the cousins on the beach and by the pool.
 No schedules. No agendas. 
No places to be other than where we were. 

It was a great week.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Odile? Well, She Ain't No Norbert

The Valley of the Sun has been in a dither the past few days.

We are expecting the remnants of Hurricane Odile--just after kicking Norbert out of here about a week ago.

I still saw standing water in a retention basin yesterday. That never happens around here. We live in a desert, remember? People are sandbagging their homes, analyzing forecasts, and watching the skies.

So far?
Eh. Beautiful without the panic--just like usual.

It's funny, because a week ago, everyone was thrilled about the possibility of a huge storm hitting the valley. Then it hit, and we all had to use our unsurpassed swimming skills just to get to the mailbox.

Everyone's on high alert.

What do I have to say about it?

There's a reason the last storm was called a "500-year storm" (or 100-year, depending who you ask). Unless the cycle ended last week, and the clock began counting the next hundred years yesterday, the odds are in our favor.

Maybe I'll be mopping my basement again tomorrow, but I'm putting my money on a nice rain that we all enjoy this time.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Off With Their Heads

Ever had one of those days where you wanted to wield you Mother power and banish every last one of your monkeys to Siberia?

That was yesterday around here.

One none-too-satisfactory progress report.

Five dentist appointments--seven cavities.  Not a bad ratio, but when you consider that those seven cavities are in only two mouths (two are Micah's) . . . And four of those cavities are in Hyrum's four permanent six-year molars. Remember Hyrum and the dentist? Now five more cavities and no sealants on his permanent teeth. Not a happy mom.

Add in Evie's experience. Eve had forgotten everything she'd learned six months ago about the dentist. She refused to even get into the exam chair, crying and carrying on. After a lot of coaxing and encouragement (and a few firm reminders from her mom), she eventually let them clean her teeth a teeny bit. By this point, she was a mess. I dropped her off at school with her little goody bag from the dentist in her hand. It was 9:30 am.

At 12:30 pm, I received a call from the school.

"Evie's teacher called and said that she's been teary and unhappy ever since she came back from the dentist, and Teacher thinks she needs to come home for the rest of the day."

In all of my years parenting, this call was a first. She was too . . . unhappy? . . . to stay at school? I was on my way back to the school with the little boys (because everyone knows that dentist offices can't possibly schedule all of the kids at the same time), so after signing them in, I walked into the nurse's office. The nurse happens to be a friend of mine (a handy asset on more than one occasion), and she smiled and nodded towards a chair under the window. There sat my little kindergartner (the same kindergartner that I was lamenting just two weeks ago that I wish could stay home with me), with a hesitant, questioning smile on her face, backpack and lunchbox in hand, ready for me to take her home. I knew that nothing had happened at the dentist that morning that warranted her coming home from school, but I also knew that I didn't want to set a precedent of her being allowed to pitch a fit and come home whenever she didn't want to be there.

What did I do?

Well, I sternly walked her to the Suburban while telling her that girls who can't stay in school for the day must need a nap. That was a low blow for my big girl who is a self-proclaimed big girl who doesn't take naps any more. Tears were shed and feet were stomped, but I never relented.

Twenty minutes later:
Ninety minutes after that, she was awake and a new girl.

This whole shy/change-averse stuff is new for me. How do other parents handle it?

To top it off, we had invited friends over to our house for dinner and Family Home Evening (for info on FHE, click here). I was not as prepared as I had hoped (meeting with the builder about the cabin took longer than I anticipated), and dinner wasn't quite ready when they arrived. After eating, we all sat together in the family room to look at pictures and listen as Steve told us all about his mission--to the Peru Lima South mission. All five of my kids were wild and distracting and crazy--even more than usual--and I was ready to bean each of them with a pea shooter.

Do you ever get embarrassed as the mom? That describes my day yesterday pretty well. I was embarrassed that I couldn't get Eve to calm down enough for a two-minute teeth cleaning. I was embarrassed that my kids are wild and noisy and not always kind to each other.

By the time our friends left, the two oldest were sent to the kitchen to clean, while all three of the littles got on pjs and were tucked into bed (after some strict teeth-brushing instructions and supervision).

As for mom?

I was in bed and asleep before nine.

The miracle?

Just like Eve after her nap yesterday, a miracle occurred while I slept.

I loved my kids again this morning. I helped the boys practice and made lunches. I commented on my cute daughter's outfit and told her I couldn't wait to hear if she'd gotten a solo in choir. I hugged by man/son as he headed out the door to the temple.

It was a miracle. The beauty of motherhood is that kids forgive and there's always a new day in the morning, one unsoiled by poor decisions, bad behavior, and rotten teeth.

But they will be home at 2:15. Wonder how long this can last?

Monday, September 15, 2014

T Minus 23 Days

My time with him draws ever shorter.
I procrastinated as long as I could, hoping that maybe not thinking about it would make it less real.

The day still approaches. We spent much of Saturday together, this time with lists and goals.
  • 1 suit
  • 4 pairs of slacks
  • 10 white shirts
  • 2 pairs of ugly but sturdy shoes
  • 1 winter jacket--I don't remember if he's ever owned a true winter jacket. He does now.

We wandered around Target for over an hour, snacking on popcorn and checking and rechecking the list.

  • Flashlight
  • Batteries
  • Alarm clock (his biggest requirement--which one has the most annoying alarm?)
  • Band-aids
  • Shampoo

I have no idea what will be available in Peru. Neither does he. Occasionally I can see the nervous excitement cross his face.

His adventure will begin soon. Too soon for me.

Not soon enough for him.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Saturday #36--I'm Not Janet Leigh

I have never been so happy to watch the shower door steam up with the promise of clean hair and shaved legs.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Loin, the Word, and the Water Heater

No, that is not a typo in the title. Three random stories linked together--thanks C.S. Lewis.

The Loin

Hyrum ran to me, excitement in his sparkly eyes.
"I can't believe you bought that! Are we going to EAT it?"

I may have been as confused as you are. Eat what?

"The lion leg in the fridge! Is it a REAL lion leg? I told Eve that we had a real lion leg in the fridge, and she didn't believe me."
I've been trying to teach him that spelling is extremely important in life. One example of many.

The Word

Kesa asked me two questions earlier this week: 
What are Ben's favorite books? My second son is a senior this year and loves to read and reads everything he can get his hands on. Do you or Ben have any suggestions?

Does Ben have suggestions? Do cows attract flies?

Ben is primarily a fantasy/sci fi guy and has recently been devouring anything written by Brandon Sanderson. He writes epic novels (some over 1000 pages) and series and stand-alone stories. A few of his books aren't quite as complicated, and Ben has shared these with Micah (Steelheart comes to mind), and Micah loves them, too. He's quite prolific, and if he hasn't been introduced to Sanderson yet, his books would be a good choice.

Ben will also read any book that appears in the house that he's never read before. I've even caught him with new picture books (have you read The Day the Crayons Quit? It's fantastic.) or Hyrum's Star Wars chapter books on occasion.

I recommended Unbroken, by Louis Zamperini, and he loved that book, as did I. I recommend it to everyone I know above the age of 12. It is an amazing true story of one man's triumph over great adversity in his life, his successes and failures, and reads like a page-turning novel.

A couple other series that he recommended were: I Am Number Four series by Pittacius Lore, Leven Thumps, David Eddings' Belgariad and Mallorean series, and Michael Scott's Alchemist series (this series is more along the lines of Leven Thumps, written for younger teens, but still well worth the read).

Tucker, if you're reading this, any other suggestions? Or anyone else out there? Keeping high school boys in books has always been a challenge around here.

Do you have any advice for the mom of a missionary since you have been through it before? My son has been gone almost a month and I am still feeling a little lost yet soooo happy for him. But sad for me and because it is over--not the mission, he just left, but the little boy I raised is gone forever it seems.

Ben is down to 26 days until he leaves, and that "I'm losing my boy" feeling is beginning to creep back up on me. I can think of no parallel experience in life to that of being a missionary mom. Hugging your child as they disappear into the belly of an airport, knowing that you will only speak to them once every six months for the next two years (or 18 months if it's a daughter), can't be explained, and until you've been there, you can't understand. Kesa was right when she said you feel lost yet so happy for them and sad for yourself. I think what makes it so hard is the finality of it all. When a child leaves for college, you help fluff their nest and buy their books and stock their fridge, they come home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and over the course of two years, you gradually accustom yourself to the notion that they are independent adults. Still hard, but when a missionary leaves, you don't have any transition to the adult stage.

My advice is to let yourself be sad. I used to sit on Tucker's bed and allow myself to miss him. I found a few of his unwashed shirts in the bottom of the laundry, and (this is going to sound so weird) I kept one of them in my closet (not a stinky smelly one, just a worn one) and I would remember how he smelled and almost how it felt to hug him. The dirty shirt eventually lost its Tucker smell, and by that time, I was ready to wash it.

That being said, don't wallow in the sadness. I know some moms that are paralyzed with grief for the first few months (even longer), and that doesn't help anybody. Make a scrapbook, count down the days they've been gone, bond with other missionary moms (I found a few of T's companions' moms online, and we swapped letters and stories--that was fun).

Enough of that. It's making me sad already, knowing how hard it will be so say goodbye to my Benny Jam.

Moving on.

The Water Heater

It's been a week around the Sanatorium.

Yeah, the basement flooded. That sucked. So many people in the valley lost power, lost their vehicles, or sustained $1000s in damage that I felt pretty lucky that all we need to do is dry out and replace one room of carpet pad.

The basement was nothing compared to this:
Really? Clean drying dishes on the kitchen counter are worse than a flooded basement? It's not the dishes, but what they represent in my life.

Today is Friday. Right after dinner on Wednesday, Brad discovered a sizable puddle in our garage. After consulting with a buddy who's a plumber, we found out that we were going to be the proud parents of a brand new 120-gallon water heater. Problem is, water had to be shut off from the broken one and we needed to wait until Thursday night for a new one.

Think of all the things you do that require hot water after dinner each night.

Kids hadn't been bathed. Dishes hadn't been washed. Stinky kitchen rags and towels hadn't been laundered.

Kids were an easy solution--an Arizona bath. Dunk 'em in the pool for 30 minutes, and they're in a state I call "nearly clean."

Dishes were an easy solution--load the dishwasher, and whatever wouldn't fit inside, I washed by hand. It was only a few, and the rest could wait one day to be washed.

Stinky laundry wasn't an easy solution--those just had to wait, and the smell had to be removed to outside.

Thursday morning arrived, and Brad and Ben thought they could take cold showers, but the valves on our showers don't work unless both the cold AND hot water are working. As for me, I showered at a friend's.

Dishes were getting deeper, laundry was getting stinkier--and so were my kiddos.

Unfortunately, here is a picture from this morning:
That light makes our home look like a glowing bit of heaven, doesn't it? Look closer. There's a broken water heater in the driveway, along with an empty box. And a puddle of water coming from a hose not attached to a spigot.

Any guesses?

They installed the new water heater last night. After trips for parts and a dozen mosquito bites, they turned the valves and began filling the tank.

And it leaked.

The brand new water heater leaked.

So. No running loads of dishes. No baths for kids. No laundry. No cold or hot showers.

No hot water for the second day.

I honestly didn't mind washing all of the dishes by hand (some still wait in the dishwasher, I must admit)--what I did mind was heating four cups of water at a time in the microwave to dump into my sink so I could actually clean the dishes.

I do mind not being able to shower. I do mind washing my face in cold water. And the stench from the smelly kitchen laundry is beginning to permeate the house--even from outside. A candle is working overtime to mask that smell.

Brad said that they are bringing a second brand new 120-gallon water heater at 9:30 this morning.

I can wait that long for a shower.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Making Milkshake Memories

I had ten baskets of laundry to fold yesterday.

Jealous, aren't you?

The only time I watch TV is while I'm folding laundry, and one of our family's favorite shows is "Chopped" on the Food Network--family friendly, interesting food choices, and a little competition to boot. When I turned on the TV, the previous show was ending with a mom and her son pouring thick, chocolately ice cream goodness into milkshake glasses and sharing a moment as they drank them. This image triggered a happy memory repeated dozens of times in my life.

My dad loves chocolate milkshakes. I remember watching Mom place the blender attachment on her first generation Bosch, fill it to the line with milk, then add Hershey's syrup and scoop after scoop of vanilla ice cream. We kids would rotate who got to turn the knob and begin the "shaking" stage. It didn't take long until Mom was dumping the mixture into our smallest plastic cups, measuring by molecules as she tried to avoid the "He got more than me" argument.

Dad always got the biggest cup in the house. He would take his big cup to the kitchen table, where he spread out the newspaper and relished both the ice cream and the sports section. Unlike us kids, Dad never used a spoon. He would tip that big cup back and expertly jiggle it until just the right amount landed in his mouth. We would try to mimic him, but we usually ended up with a huge dollop on the end of our nose or all over our face and down the front of our jammies.

I made milkshakes last night.

My kids all asked for colorful straws, not spoons, and no one jiggled a big lump onto their face. They are much smarter than we were, I suppose--the milkshake wisdom from a previous generation passing down to them. Micah told me, "Just sayin', Mom, but you make better milkshakes than Sam's Club."

I learned from the best.