Friday, May 1, 2015

Heartfelt

April 2015 

The month our dream of a cabin realized

The month my dream of a master's degree materialized 

The month my dream of a kind heart imagined and collapsed 

In hindsight, setting such a lofty goal of performing all of my actions with kindness during the month filled with the most (albeit positive and happy) stress was unwise and doomed from the start. 

I had the worst parenting moment of my life--a moment that, when I watch that DVD in the sky, I will hide my eyes and beg for forgiveness and a merciful fast forward. Not all moments can be Parents magazine-worthy, and my expectations of such disappeared years ago, but I cringe when I think how far I fell from that kindness goal. 

Since, I have been much better. Much calmer. Much kinder. 

And May 2015 stretches before me. 

The month we will retreat to the cabin whenever possible

The month I will walk a commencement

The month I will refocus my heart on kindness

And reap the blessings of forgiveness and second chances. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sidewalk Paint on a Sunday Morning


I found these little tubs of sidewalk chalk paint at Sam's Club a few weeks ago. I thought the kids would like them, but I had no idea how much they would LOVE them.
 Something about the chalk paint was more engaging than the chalk sticks have ever been before.
 Micah took up the most real estate writing the Cub Scout oath:
Hyrum splatter painted a dozen squares of the sidewalk, and I couldn't figure out what he was plotting when he ran into the house and returned with a fistful of small white cards.
He had created a giant game like Candy Land, and each of us drew cards and moved up and back on the splattered spaces.

 Our weather has been unusually spectacular and beautiful this year, and I know these Sunday mornings outside in the pleasant sunshine will soon give way to scorching sidewalks and Otter Pops.
But we have been enjoying them as much as we can until then. Supposed to hit 100* for the first time this week. I'm not really ready, but I know it's part of the contract here--blissful winter and spring/miserable summer spent by the pool. I hear Brad outside cleaning the pool deck as I write. It's gonna come whether we're ready or not. Might as well have a clean deck.

Monday, April 27, 2015

J'ai Finie

Countless hours in this spot, staring at the screen and furiously inputting my ideas as fast as I could type.

Reams of paper and endless sticky notes.

Unnumbered orange highlighters, red and blue fine-tipped Pilot ball-point pens, and Zebra M-301 mechanical pencils.

Cases of silver cans of energy poured over ice into a high-ball glass.

Ten classes.

As my niece used to shout when she was a tiny girl . . . J'ai finie.
I finished.

On Saturday, I submitted my capstone paper and logged in on the ASU website for the last time.

Can two years really have passed already? Did I really complete all of the classes and assignments and reading?

I really did.

J'ai finie.

As I told my professors, I'm feeling a little empty and lost right now.

Professors Brown and McCoy,

Here is my final submission for my final class for my master's degree in gifted education. Hitting "publish" on this assignment will be a very bittersweet moment for me. I have loved every moment and almost every assignment required for my degree, and I don't know what I will do with myself now that I am finished. I already feel the void and wonder what will fill my time--and if it's possible for me to love whatever fills it as much as I've loved what I've learned over the past two years.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
Jenny Denton

Hitting publish . . . 

J'ai finie.


Now what? 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Is It Time?

It's been almost an entire year since Eve watched PBS Kids in the morning.

Why is she not in school today? Is she sick?

No.

If you ask her, she will say, "Daddy and I are getting on an airplane and flying up to Idaho to see Heidi and Sam and Ellie and Nathan and Jonah. And I'm going to play and have fun and change diapers!"

She has been counting the days for a week. She has asked me dozens of times this morning, "Is it time? Will we miss the airplane?"

I'm so excited for her to have this trip with her daddy. Lucky for me--I have Tucker and Karli and Annie here to keep me company!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Preserving the Trees

When we scoped out our property up north, the biggest decision was where to place the cabin. Where would be the best view? Where would the least trees have to be sacrificed? I cared most about the view, and Brad cared most about the trees. He didn't want to lose any trees unnecessarily. The three-acre property is strangely shaped, sculpted by two rocky washes and divided by the main road. Add into the equation an underground septic system and drainage field, and the building envelope became relatively small.

Brad spent days with the plot survey, labeling each tree. He would walk the property and eyeball the space, trying to guess where the cabin would fit best. He reconfigured the driveway and turned the cabin on a slight angle to avoid a few more of the established Ponderosa pine.

This tree was the biggest, most interesting, and in my opinion, the best on the property.
And it was unavoidably centered where the cabin had to be.

While the tree couldn't be saved, I had a great idea for preserving its memory forever at the cabin. In September, I sent the picture to a friend of mine who is an artist and asked her if she could paint the tree--not an exact copy of the tree, but a symbolic representation of it. I wanted this painting to represent our family and all of the memories we have made together and will make in the future. And I wanted Brad to be surprised.

A few weeks later, she sent me this sketch.
I loved how easy it was to see the original tree in her rendering--the angles of the branches and the texture of the trunk. I also love her interpretation of the tree and the exposed roots she added at the base, symbolizing the roots of our family digging into the mountain soil.
Months passed, and she would occasionally email me with updates or questions. I was anxious to see the tree, but since the cabin was delayed so many times, I never thought about it for very long.

Brad's birthday was last week, and I contacted Alyson to see if the painting would be done in time for me to give it to him as his birthday gift. I realize that art can't be placed on a timetable, but I was hoping it could happen. She is ready to deliver a baby at any moment (in fact, she's due today!), but she said she would have it finished in time.

When I saw it, I was speechless. It was exactly what I had been hoping for. And Brad was surprised.
If you look closely, each of my children's names is hidden on the branches, and B+J is etched into the knot on the trunk.

I love it. I love the textures and the colors. I love the mix of realism and impressionism. I love the symbolism--the history of the land and our family merging together.

I've always wished I could create something like this. I can't, but I am so happy that I know people who can. It was so interesting to be part of the process--the birth of the concept, the sketching out of the idea, and the creation of the final product.

It's already hanging above the fireplace, where I hope it will stay forever.
Thank you, Alyson. I will treasure your work every time I gather up north with my family.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Day Camp

One of the best things about turning 8?
Cub Scouts! My fourth and final cub scout.

He may have missed the Pinewood Derby, but he got to go to Day Camp!
 With the theme, "Putting on the Whole Armor of God," they rotated from station to station doing boys stuff. Our ward was in charge of making shields. Each shield was precut from plywood, sanded, and painted, and arm straps were attached to the back.
 The boys picked up the screws and washers and their arms were measured for a custom fit. Hyrum really wanted to use the drill himself.
 Then they painted and personalized their shields of faith.
 This will be the only time any of my boys attend Day Camp together. Micah was the seasoned member of the group at almost 11.
 Every second was pure joy for this chappy lipped kid.


Knowing my boys and the way they play, these shields (and the bows and arrows and rockets) that they made will get worn out around here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Six-Month Project--Little Boys' Room

 My little boys' new room is finally finished. Six months this room took.


Ben left home six and a half months ago to serve a mission in Peru. When he left, I told the little boys that they could move into his room after we fixed a few things. I didn't take any great before shots of the room, which makes me mad. This was Ben's last night at home. Notice how the headboard was navy and the walls were a light khaki color. I thought I would love that wall color, and I hated it from the second I saw it on the walls, but it was too late then.
 Also notice the seat and shelves around the window. When we built the house, I thought this would be a good idea. It really wasn't. The headboards were attached to the wall, so we could never move the beds, and the window seat was a junk collector, not a cozy place to read.
The closet had always been way too small for two boys to share, so plans were to remove the window seat and shelves, patch the carpet with remnants I had in the basement,  and extend the closet.

 The boys got to help remove the debris and knock a few holes in the walls and stuff. Very manly activities for two little guys. Here is the window with the seat removed. Taking that out instantly made the room feel twice the size.
 And here is the the original closet wall coming down.
The construction and painting were done pretty quickly, but it took me FOREVER to get everything in place and done.

I wanted this room to be a place where the boys were surrounded by things that mean something to them and things that will inspire them. Here's the after:
This room is one of my all-time favorites. After painting the walls and trim white and the old headboards green (the color they could agree on), I was free to mix in all the colors and textures of little boys. The dressers were originally Tucker's and Ben's--auction finds that I repainted in navy and updated with hardware.

I love the boat print curtains. I wanted something with a little pattern that wasn't too overwhelming, and when I saw these boat-print toile shower curtains (yes, I said shower curtains) at Ikea, I knew they would be perfect. I had to buy three panels because they were too short, but I added a band of grosgrain ribbon to cover the seam (about even with the top of the dresser), and they work perfectly.

Some of the details that make this room special and individual:

There was a lot of wall space to cover in this room. I found flags online for pretty cheap. I think this 4'x6' American flag was less than $30--and it covered the entire wall. The little chair I found at an auction and had recovered. It's the perfect place for me to sit every night while I read to the boys.

I've fought having toys in kids' rooms since my oldest were little, but moving the legos into their room was a good idea, we've discovered. They play with them more frequently now, and they are pretty good about keeping them picked up, because stepping on legos in the night when you're headed to the bathroom is painful, no matter the size of your feet. The table is from Ikea, with grey lego plates glued to the top. The shelf underneath is perfect to store all of the pieces they're not using.
Heidi made the glass mosaic of Nemo for Micah when she was in high school, and Hyrum painted the dragon at art camp last year. The addition of the boat surprised me.
Over Spring Break, I took all four of the kids to TJMaxx/HomeGoods for a little adventure. Micah and Hyrum both begged me to buy this boat for their room, instead of a toy. I was all over that request.

The lamp in the corner is one of my favorite creations EVER.
Micah spent weeks designing and working on that string art sculpture. It's huge, and it sat on their dresser for a while, but I was always worried it would get broken and he would be upset. I realized it would make a great lamp, so I bought an art kit and shade at Ikea, and my brother-in-law attached them for me. It was a great surprise Christmas present for Micah.
And when the light is on at night, the copper lining of the shade gives the room a really cool vibe. I attached a dimmer switch to it, and they use it every night on low as a night light. Art and light--what could be better?

I wanted this room to inspire them. Both of them have decided they want to be creators--Hyrum still wants to be an artist, while Micah is determined that he will be an inventor and engineer. I found this light bulb canvas on art.com, and it's perfect in between their beds. The distressed metal letters are from West Elm. They were on clearance for about $15, if I remember right. They each placed their own treasures across the headboards' shelves--similar but different.
The bedspreads and shams are from HomeGoods, and the stacked trunks were an auction find.
I'm sure Robert Mazet had no idea when he was labeling his military trunks that they would end up as the night stand for two little boys. Micah usually has this spot stacked with toppling books. How he can read 5-10 at a time, I'll never understand.

Each boy keeps his baptism quilt made by Grandma Tucker across the foot of his bed:
Hyrum's is a twin-size version of his baby quilt--roads and trucks, and Micah's has rows and rows of books.

While still not huge, the closet has become much more functional. This side of the closet didn't change at all, which saved on construction costs--no new shelves or rods needed.
The closet was only extended about 24", which didn't change the feel of the room at all, but those 24" made it possible to walk into the closet and added a second place for shoes, laundry, and a rod. Huge difference--much easier to keep clean.
Hyrum added his own creation to the back of the door--bet you can't guess what it is.
Duh. It's a basketball hoop constructed of a grocery bag and straws and tape. What? It works!

My boys love license plates. I'm trying to decide if we want to try and collect all 50 or just ones that mean something to them. We bought the PA plate on our Summer Grand Adventure three years ago, and the two AZ plates came from a car and trailer we owned. The ID plate I brought back from a trip to visit Heidi. There's room for many more, but it works at this size as well.

 The dresser under the window is a great place to keep their favorite robot battle game . . .

. . . and I found this giant fake light bulb at a salvage market in Phoenix. Brad and Hyrum made the base for me. The ribbon on the curtain just adds detail, and most people would never even notice it.
The wall along Micah's bed is the biggest in the room, and I didn't want to spend a ton of money covering it. They're boys and they break a lot of stuff (although that glass light bulb is still on Hyrum's dresser, knock on wood!).

One of my dreams is that each of my sons will serve missions. (For more information on missionary service in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, click here.) I decided I would turn this wall into the missionary wall. Each of the five members of our immediate family who have served or are currently serving (Brad's stepdad, Brad, Sam, Tucker, and Ben), are represented on this wall.

Across the top left to right: Greg served in Mexico, Tucker in New York, Sam in Spain. Second row: Ben is in Peru, and Brad served in Japan. Each of these flags (2'x3') cost less than $5 and I simply used a staple gun to hang them.
In the center, I added a poster that says, "Who is your hero?" and pictures of each of these men on their missions. (It was hard to get a photo with all of the glass glare.)
I love it. They love it. It is pretty easy for them to keep clean, and it inspires them to create, work hard, and prepare to serve.
Everything I had hoped it would be.

Time for the next project, right?