Thursday, January 19, 2017

Time Worth Spent

I took the kids to the library the other day, where they shared the train table with a few other toddlers (well, as well as toddlers share anything).  Once they were starting to get antsy, but before Camille began wanting to run all over the place, I suggested we go and look for books for mommy.  The other moms sitting around immediately took note, "Mommy has time to read?" one of them said, while another chimed in, "What would that be like?"

I would have thought they were joking, but they seemed genuinely perplexed.  I almost felt like I  should sit down and explain to them that just because you have a toddler doesn't mean you aren't allowed to have some time to yourself, too.  But it probably would have come out really condescending, and besides-- I had antsy children and limited time to find books!  But honestly, how could you possibly NOT have time to read???  That's like saying you don't have time to breathe, or something.

I've thought about it a lot.  Maybe they do other things that interest them more than reading?  I have a friend who regularly goes to book club with me-- except she goes in order to guarantee that she gets around to reading at least one book a month.  My snarky side, with its 500+ books that I've reviewed on Goodreads wants to feel all superior to her.  But the fact is, this friend is also super handy and often busy doing projects that involve power tools and stuff that I never go near.  She's also a lot more involved with her children than I tend to be-- she's already taught her young son to read, and they'll often do art projects together or listen to music and discuss it and stuff.  I tend to hide away with my book and hope my kids will leave me alone so I can get through at least a few pages uninterrupted.

So I guess all I'm saying is that we all have a finite amount of time and some of us choose to spend that time differently.  But for me, I can't imagine EVER not having time to read.

What do you have to spend time doing?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Gift

I don't normally blog about presents I've received.  Not that people are showering me with gifts left and right or something, but even if they were, I figure it's not something you would want to read about.  I try very hard to not write stuff that would make people feel bad about themselves, and a big part of that is not bragging-- about the kids, about my husband, about anything, really.  (Disney World pictures aside.)

Anyway, all this to say, please forgive me for totally bragging now.  But I have to share this present that I received from Craig's parents for Christmas:

Isn't it beautiful?  This photo is a bit dark, but can you see that there is a birth stone in the tree for each of my children?  I have a hard time explaining just how much I love it.

It's funny, because I never really knew until I had kids just how proud I'd be of them.  Not necessarily anything they've done-- I'm just proud that I have them at all.  I'm proud that I've grown them and birthed them and kept them fed and clean and alive.  I'm proud that I've managed to do this five times over.  I've worked hard raising these children-- it's been my life's work for the past ten years-- and I'm pleased with the results so far.  And like any parent, I hope that when they're grown I will still feel that they are worthy of my pride.

But my love for this necklace is even more than that.  One of the birth blogs that I read posted recently how to make Tree of Life wall hangings (something my non-crafty self can't imagine ever trying to do), but she began by saying that in her experience, most people who love birth also love trees.  (Maybe it's because a healthy placenta will appear to have a "Tree of Life" in it?)  I read her statement and was dumbfounded because that described me perfectly!  I LOVE trees.  Not in some sappy, tree-hugging way, but in the way that I need them around me.  And when one dies, I'm sad.  And when Craig wants to cut some of the ones in our yard down so we'll have more sunlight, I never let him because I just can't bear to get rid of a healthy tree.  They feel like friends, somehow.  Every place we've lived, my first requirement is always that we have big, full grown trees in the yard. 

After staring at my necklace for some time, I googled Tree of Life and was delighted to find that it is such a huge theme in most cultures that it has been deemed a mytheme-- the page lists some of the many religions that include a Tree of Life and it included every religion I've heard of and them some.  Something about this made me happy-- this universal theme that everyone can relate to on some level.  In this time where our country feels so divided, I like the idea that there are truths to which everyone can ascribe.

I love my pretty necklace.  I love that it showcases both the children I'm proud of and important archetypes. 

Thanks, Tom and Donna!  It's absolutely perfect.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Colton's Speech

I don't think I've ever blogged about this before, but about a year ago, Colton suddenly began stuttering.  It was such a change in the way he spoke that his nursery leaders (who only see him once a week) pulled me aside to ask if something had happened that week to cause it.  Like every parent, we googled stuttering, and at his next doctor's appointment I asked his pediatrician about it.  Pretty much everyone gave the same answer: it's very normal for a 3-year-old to stutter.  For now, just ignore it.  Don't tell them to hurry up when they're trying to talk or act frustrated when they can't find their words.  Let it play it out and it usually goes away on its own.

So that's what we've been doing.  Ignoring it.  And that was fine.

Until a month ago when it suddenly got really bad.  That weekend, he could hardly get any words out at all-- he'd get hung up on the "I" at the beginning of the sentence, and after saying that 15 or 20 times, he might finally pause, look at me sheepishly and admit, "I can't say it."

It broke my heart.

And it worried me no end.  Craig began calling around for speech therapists-- one charged $600 just for the assessment.  I bemoaned the fact that Craig's work changed our insurance this year and doesn't cover anything any more.  And during all this, I got a flyer in the mail for free audiology screenings.

Now, Colton's stutter does not sound like a hearing problem to me.  But, there have been other times where I've wondered how good his hearing is.  I mean-- he's obviously not deaf, or anything.  But when we read scriptures as a family, we'll have him repeat after us, and half the time the words he says are just gibberish.  And a third of the time he just looks at us blankly and says nothing at all.  So while I didn't think his hearing was related to the stuttering, I figured it wouldn't hurt to get it checked out, too.  So I made an appointment.

That was early last Thursday, and of course it was a pain.  We were getting there during peak traffic times, so it took a long time to drive across town.  And I'd brought Camille with me (in hindsight, that was dumb of me, but it didn't occur to me to make other arrangements for her).  But we got through it: he had to wear headphones and point to a picture of whatever the audiologist told him.  He put on different headphones and said "Bird" every time he heard a chirping noise.  And when it was all over, the audiologist politely explained that he wasn't hearing very well: he can't really hear whispering at all, and if you speak to him from the next room, he probably won't hear it.

She checked his ears and said there was fluid in both of them, so we need to bring him back in 6 weeks and have them checked again.  If, after three or four months, the fluid is still there we will need to bring him to an Ear, Nose & Throat doctor to determine if he needs tubes in his ears or something.

So we're waiting and seeing.  Ironically, the stutter got MUCH better after just a few days of being so terrible.  So I'm less anxious about the stuttering now.  But I am worried about his hearing.  And, perhaps even more so, I'm worried about the times I've gotten angry with him for not doing what I asked him to do-- how many of those times was he ignoring me because he's three (and that's what 3-year-olds do) and how many times was he simply not hearing me?

Visiting daddy's office, he decided to don some of Daddy's patriot gear

How could I ever have gotten angry at this sweet boy?

Returning to the Piano

Yesterday, the kids had their first piano lessons in over a year!

This may not seem like anything terribly noteworthy, but I've been putting this off for one reason or another ever since we moved a year and a half ago.  So it feels like a major victory to me.  Something to finally check off my never ending to-do list.

I had Bentley and Kendra taking piano back in Manassas-- one of the girls from my congregation would come on Saturdays and spend a half hour with each of them.  She was really good (she would arrange her own choral numbers for the youth to sing-- something I can't even imagine being able to do!), and fairly cheap, so I was very happy with that arrangement.

When we moved, I had every intention of getting them right back into lessons again.  But our ward is not terribly musical, and there weren't any easy teachers to be found.  We have a community website where I asked for recommendations and got some, but I hate contacting strangers and talking about money and stuff, and then we were busy with soccer, and then it was Christmas and then it just never happened.  I think most of my energy was consumed with preschool and worrying over Craig's awful job.  Another semester slipped away, and with all five kids home with me, there wasn't any chance I'd get around to it in the summer.  I toyed with the idea of starting up with the new school year (yes, this last September), but once again soccer happened and killed any further motivation I might have possessed.  And we were so busy, I couldn't imagine adding anything more to the mix.  But as soon as Christmas was over, I was determined.

I emailed and called all those same people from my first post on the community message board.  I got prices.  I talked to people.  And I picked a teacher and he came yesterday.  (I was even good and informed the other teachers we'd found someone, so they wouldn't be left hanging!)

I like his style-- he showed the kids how learning the scales leads to understanding music and had Kendra playing a simple Ode to Joy just by calling out to her which finger to push down.  He explained to me that he likes to focus on this method, and then later teach them how to read music as a secondary skill for playing.  I don't think reading music is particularly hard, so I'm fine with that being put off a bit.  And I think it's good for Bentley to have a male teacher-- I know before he'd worried that maybe piano was just for girls, and then was impressed when his Sunday School teacher (also male) was very good on the piano.  (You may recall that Bentley never believes anything I tell him.)  Also, this first lesson was spent all together, rather than spending thirty minutes with one and then switching to the next kid.  I don't know if all their lessons will go this way, but I did feel that they were getting more time, even if it meant less individual attention.

So I have high hopes for this.  As I stood in the kitchen getting dinner ready, listening to them all plunking away on the piano, I felt like maybe-- just maybe-- I was doing my job right as a mother.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Leaving the House: Kids Edition

When Bentley was just two months old, Craig and I decided to be brave and venture into DC to see one of the many museums there.  We knew it would be difficult going somewhere with a baby, so we tried to set our expectations low: we wouldn't stress about what time we needed to leave the house, we'd just go when we could.  I think we didn't even manage to leave until 2pm.  By the time we had driven in on I-66 and found parking (or maybe we took the Metro in?), we didn't have a whole lot of time to even see things before they closed, but we did still manage to see the Declaration of Independence and then wander around some of the monuments in the dark.  Success!

Bentley was so little!

Craig was so young!

So was I!

We still laugh about it taking us most of the day to just leave.  I realize now that our mistake was thinking there would be a time when the baby was neither hungry, nor sleeping.  With a nowborn, no such time exists!  The key is to leave as soon as they're done eating and then hope for the best.

Since then, we still try really hard to leave the house with kids, even though it still can feel overwhelming.

Something I noticed around that same time, though, was that whenever we had plans to go somewhere new, when it got close to time to leave, I would feel ill.  Something just won't feel right with my stomach, or maybe I have a headache?  It's a peculiar feeling, but it's very real, and it's the same every time.  And every time, I start thinking we should just scrap our plans and stay home.  I usually tell Craig, "I'm really not feeling great.  We may have to postpone this."  We push ahead anyway, and I turn out to be fine.
Craig put Camille's hair into piggy tails before we left

She was being shy about having her picture taken.  That's Ga, her lovey, at her feet.

I am forced to conclude that this feeling is all in my head.  I've started thinking of it as my "child-induced agoraphobia."  And ten years later, it's still there.  I don't notice it very often (there aren't that many new places to go), but a few days before Christmas when we took all the kids to DC to look at the temple lights, it flared up in a big way.  (I think this time what was really stressing me out was both the long drive and knowing that I would be in charge of all five kids on the potentially cold temple grounds while Craig was in the temple.  That felt scary.)  But I pushed through it.  And when we pulled into the temple parking lot, I felt a sweet calm come over me, it was just like coming home.

We parked the car and I ran into the Visitor's Center to find a bathroom (3 and a 1/2 hour drive, y'all!).  As Craig was getting the kids unloaded and putting coats on, all the colorful Christmas lights around Visitor's Center blinked on.  When I came out for my own coat, I saw as the white lights on the trees lining up directly in front of the temple turned on, too.  Craig headed inside, and I doled out snacks.  And took pictures.
I like that you can see the statue of Christ behind them, the temple model, and the actual temple reflected in the glass

Same bench, looking the other direction.  I like that I managed to catch Bentley smiling here.


Anyway, we had snacks, took pictures, walked around looking at lights.  We went inside, managed to hang up everyone's coats and change a couple poopy diapers.  We looked at the collection of nativity sets from all around the world, and shortly after that Craig called to say he was done.  I had done it!  While I was getting ready to go into the temple (and leave Craig with the kids for his turn!), Ryder came running up announcing that his friend Oscar was there!  We went looking, and sure enough our friends the Johnses were looking at the nativity sets!
Craig's turn with the kids!

As I headed into the temple, I shot a text to Emma asking if she wanted to meet us at the new Shake Shack at Tyson's Corner once we were all done, so we ended up doing that.  Shake Shack food was amazing and getting to hang out with Emma was fabulous, as always.  Sitting outside to eat our food (poor Camille shivering because we didn't know we'd be outside and had left her coat in the car, parked a mile away), losing Camille's Ga, and wandering around lost all over the biggest most crowded mall I've ever seen was the less enjoyable part of that experience.

Never go to Tyson's Corner at Christmas time.  It will NOT be worth it.  I'm going back in May!

Anyway, it was a wonderful, if exhausting, day.  I will continue to fight off whatever fear tactics my body tries to ambush me with so we can have experiences like this.

And we managed to order a new Ga for Camille that night.  The day after it arrived, we discovered the original Ga in the pocket of Craig's coat (which he'd wrapped around Camille while we were outside eating).  So now we have a back-up!  And more happy Christmas memories.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Christmas 2016

I hope everyone has been enjoying a lovely holiday!  We have had a wonderful vacation, and I'm sad to see it end (although there's some weird part of me that's always excited to get back to my routine).  Craig's brother and his family all came up from Houston and we got to keep them at our house for several nights.  Usually they've stayed in Culpeper when they're in town, so that was quite thrilling for us!

The day that they arrived I was a bit of a stress case-- trying to get the house clean while all the kids are underfoot is nearly impossible.  And then on top of that, I had to get Ryder to a doctor's appointment (his 6-year check up) AND have some sort of dinner prepared for 15 people that could be kept hot, since we didn't know exactly what time they would arrive.  And it had to be gluten-free.  So, yeah, this was stretching my abilities to their limits.  But I'm pleased to say that we did it!  The house got cleaned!  And Ryder made it to his doctor's appointment!  I had soup, all ready and still hot when they arrived!  And hot rolls, too!  (Okay, those weren't gluten-free.  I can only do so much...)  It's a good thing I had Craig at home helping me all day (and working his tail off) or it would not have happened.

But the good news is that that was the most stressful day for me, and everything after that was a breeze!  So that's a good way to do things.

So, yes, Jason and Jeni arrived, with their four kids and puppy in tow!  We'd set up baby gates in the breakfast nook for their dog, since Camille is a little leery of dogs right now.  She loves the idea of dogs and gets excited every time she sees one, but as soon as it's close enough to touch, she gets scared and demands that I hold her.  So this way she could see the puppy (and make him crazy by staying just out of sniffing range), but not freak out.

Kids table!

And a puppy!

We had a nice dinner and hung out for a bit before everyone headed up to Culpeper.  The next day we were supposed to join them and spend the day there, but I was paying for everything else we'd been doing while I was fighting off a cold, and the cold came raging back at me.  I stayed in bed most of that day, finally allowing Craig to drag me out around 2pm, when we drove to Culpeper and I hung out in the bed in the guest room (with various children who would wander in to snuggle with me) for the rest of the evening.  I was totally lame, but I needed it.

Saturday, of course, was Christmas Eve, and it was busy!  Craig and Jeni were busy making pies, I was back to mashed potato duty.  We followed with my family tradition of ordering pizza and eating it off paper plates, and then went out to look at Christmas lights-- our favorite tacky house was up to 230 of those blow up statue things in their yard!  It's really impressive, in a very weird, completely tacky way. 
All the cousins with Santa!

Kendra and Maya are best friends

And Ryder, as always, is crazy

And before we knew it, we were at the very best part: the kids were opening up their Christmas jammies,
The Houston Smiths were all matchy

Us, not so much (this year)

And then came Christmas carols (with Jeni and Kamryn accompanying on piano and violin)...
Colton insisted that he get a chance to hold Kamryn's music for her

So of course, then Camille had to, too!

I love this picture
We read Luke 2 aloud together.  And then it was bedtime!  With so many people all buying presents for each other, our tree was packed with gifts.  We had to move furniture out of the way to make room for it all!
Reading "The Night Before Christmas"

Santa came!
 Actual Christmas Day went even better than I thought it might!  We let the kids get up at 7am and begin opening presents.  We'd warned them ahead of time that we would be opening things one at a time so we could see what everyone got.  And it actually worked!!!  And the kids were great about it!

We opened stuff until 9, and then had cinnamon rolls.  Then got dressed and headed to church.  (First time I've ever gone to church without showering first.  Weird.  But I didn't want to spend time right then doing my hair and I wasn't sure I'd get a hot shower with so many people using it...)

After church, we let everyone get comfy and grab some lunch (lots of leftover pizza!) while Craig got the turkey in the oven and I got my ham all ready.  Then it was back to opening presents!
Kendra & Maya loving their new stuffed animals

Camille (and Colton!) could not get enough of her new slide

Natalie sent us a Gryffindor scarf!  (I guess she forgot I got sorted into Slytherin!)

Someone got a new cape and mask for Christmas!
I loved Camille's new outfit.  (It's already stained now.  Of course.)

Ryder has been absolutely desperate to have a big stuffed animal pig-- so these made him VERY happy!

Here's a picture where you can see Peyton better

We finished in the afternoon and went back to cooking, eating dinner around 6pm.  We did the dishes before eating pie and then sent the kids to bed.  And then, my favorite thing of all, the grown-ups got to sit around chatting with absolutely NOTHING to stress about.  The only bad thing about this was that I'd lost my voice.  (But that might be a good thing, if I'm forced to actually listen to everyone else a bit more than I usually do...!)

It was a lovely day.  Christmas is the BEST.

I hope your Christmas was wonderful, too!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Party of the Year

When I lived in Manassas, my friend Anitra began throwing a White Elephant/Ugly Sweater Christmas party each year.  They were the BEST parties-- truly raucous and hilarious, which is hard to pull off when you're Mormon and alcohol is off-limits.  They were so fun, I even tried to recreate it in Charlottesville (and a lot of people came and it was very nice-- but having a party at 10am on a Saturday just does NOT elicit the same craziness that a Friday night party will get you!).  (It also probably didn't help that the average age of the Relief Society in my ward is about 70.) 

Anyway.  A couple pictures from past parties might explain better than I can with mere words just how fabulous these parties were:
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L-R, My sister Tracy, me (very pregnant with Camille), Tracy Scoresby in horsehead and tacky sweater, and Anna Cordner

And the year before, I got the fish that Jen is holding ("Lenee," named for the giver) which now sits in Craig's office.  And no, nothing in those cups is alcoholic!

I was already thinking of heading up to Manassas to visit Tracy on her birthday when my friend Vangie mentioned that the party would be that same day.  And I was sold.  I texted Candace, who was now throwing the party (since Anitra moved to Utah the same summer we did) and begged to be invited, too.  I asked my in-laws to babysit (since Craig had to chaperone a basketball game).  I got everything arranged.  And I was off, returning to Northern Virginia!

You know how they say you can never go home again?  I've been fully aware of the truth of that sentiment.  I've had plenty of times where I've shown up to a place that has significance to me, only to find that in my absence everyone has moved on and no one really cares that I've been gone, let alone that I'm back.  The first few times that happened it was a bit painful (and super awkward), so I know the drill.  I was really excited to see all these friends again, but I wasn't expecting it to be some amazing homecoming or anything.

But, it turns out, sometimes you CAN go home again.  Because seeing these friends was truly like I'd never left at all.  And it was even better than I'd hoped it might be!  A bunch of the ladies there had also been gone-- Jen came back from Chantilly, Christina was home after spending two years in China, Anitra flew in for the party (!!!) and Sarah carpooled there with me.  And miracle of miracles, I managed to spend a good chunk of time talking with most of them!


Halfway through the party, I realized that my cheeks hurt from laughing and smiling so much.  Now THAT is a great feeling!

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I LOVED my friend Andrea's ugly sweater for this year

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Getting ready for the big group picture

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Sarah got the final prize: a re-gift from years ago when Anitra gave away a poster of herself with the caption, "I believe in you."  This inspired a spate of Anitra-themed gifts, pictured below:
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Here we have two t-shirts, two framed pictures, and two mugs, all featuring Anitra.  Bet she'll think twice before she posts any more pictures on facebook!

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The whole, happy gang.

Oh, how I love these friends of mine.  When we moved to Manassas in 2006, I never could have guessed how many wonderful friendships I would find there.  How lucky am I?

I already can hardly wait until next year's party!

Monday, December 19, 2016

It Gets Worse

Yesterday after sacrament meeting, I was walking my three littlest kids to their nursery and primary classes, and I caught up with a friend so I could chat with her.  Her husband came up behind us and mumbled something about a diaper being stuck.  I figured Camille's dress must have gotten tucked into her diaper, and began turning her around trying to fix it.  My friend stopped to see what the issue was, also, and she was the one who figured out: the diaper was stuck to ME.  The back of my skirt, specifically.

Like I said, Constant humiliation.

When I told Craig he laughed hysterically and then said, "At least it was a clean diaper!" 

Just when you think you've hit rock bottom, someone comes up with a new low for you to stoop to...

Anyway.  Sorry I don't have a picture for you.  But, no, I'm not really sorry.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

December Woes

So much has been going on, but most of it not particularly fun, I'm afraid...

We'll start with my vacuum breaking two weeks ago.  The seminary teacher had asked me to leave the vacuum downstairs so she could do a little tidying, so I was surprised when she tapped on the door and walked into the family room.  I was sitting in front of the computer in my bathrobe with crazy, I-just-woke-up hair (NOT the kind you instagram, trust me!) and was both embarrassed and annoyed at the intrusion.  She explained that she couldn't get the brushes on the vacuum to rotate; I tried a few things to get it going, and when those didn't work, I told her I'd just have to look more closely later.  (I wasn't going to get down on the floor and start dismantling the vacuum in my bathrobe!).  I figured one of those ornament hooks was probably stuck in it, so that's an easy fix.  Later in the afternoon I actually took it apart and cleaned the brush head, but found nothing wrong.  I googled it, called the company, they walked me through a few things, decided the motor in the brush head had died and promised to send me a new one.  It's still under warranty, so everything is free at least.  And I could still use the hose attachment, which is useful for cleaning up the piles of cereal my kids spill all over the floor several times every day.  So that was fine.  Not ideal, but workable for a week or so.

On Monday the new brush head arrived and I excitedly snapped it all together... and it still didn't work.  I called the company again, and after waiting 20 minutes to talk to a person, explained what had happened.  "Must be something else wrong, then!" she said, "You'll have to bring it in."  Since there are no Dyson stores nearby, I brought it to a UPS store and they boxed it up and mailed it for me (which is AWESOME, since I absolutely HATE boxing up anything, let alone a big old vacuum!).

And now I'm just waiting.  And watching my floors get grosser and grosser and wondering if it's worth the hassle of pulling out Craig's shop vac to take care of it all.

Also, I can't imagine that I'm going to get it back before Craig's brother and family arrive next week.  So that's been worrying me.  Fortunately, my mother-in-law graciously told me she'd bring her vacuum for me to borrow, so I won't be completely embarrassed that day.  (At least, not by my floors-- there's a good chance something else will happen to embarrass me!)

Anyway, this whole not having a vacuum thing seems to kill any motivation I've ever had to clean my house.  I'll notice that the bathrooms are dirty and be like, "But I don't have a vacuum, so who cares?"  I realize that makes no sense whatsoever, but there you go.  I'm sure the cold snap is adding to my inertia, too.  {Sigh.}  It's a good thing we've got company coming, or who knows how gross I might let things get?


The other fun thing around here is that everyone has been getting sick.  It started the same Friday my vacuum died.  That night, Colton wouldn't settle down.  He never said anything to indicate that he wasn't feeling well, he just kept wandering into my bedroom.  I was staying up later than I should have been, reading a book, so I'd just walk him back to his room and tell him to go to sleep.  The fourth time he came in, I'd finally turned out my light, but I thought I could hear him.  He stood in the dark for a moment, and then I heard that awful splat sound of liquid hitting the carpet.  I hoped maybe he'd just managed to spill a cup of water somehow, but then more splattering and I was out of bed in a flash.  Thrown up pizza: so disgusting.  So staining your carpet.

Then the following Thursday Kendra was complaining that her tummy hurt, and a few hours later she was throwing up (mostly in the toilet-- good girl, Kendra).  And later that night Ryder followed suit.  The next day Craig came home from work early and proceeded to lie around light-headed and ill, trying not to pass out.

The ward Christmas party was Friday night and I was supposed to bring food to it AND sing, so I was hoping to go and worried that I, too, would start throwing up.  Fortunately I managed to avoid it (knock on wood), so I brought most of the kids with me (Ryder slept through it, but Kendra was feeling better, so she came).  So it was me trying to manage everything with four kids.  I'd asked a friend to sit with me and help, but she ended up being over an hour late, so that didn't work.  When she did arrive, she sat down with her one child and said, "How do you manage with all your kids?" and I told her, "Constant humiliation."

Then I had to get up and sing my musical number.  We only had half the people we'd planned, because two were also sick; and the two who came had missed the previous practice.  So we weren't very good.  And then, as if that wasn't bad enough, Colton decided to run back and forth head-butting me the entire time.

Have you ever tried to sing while a small child is hurling himself into your side?  It's not pretty.
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He's revving up, here

I sat back down and thought to myself, "Yup.  Constant humiliation."

We went home.  I put all the kids to bed.  Bentley woke me up at midnight crying because his stomach hurt.  He was throwing up at 4am.  I also got woken up at 2am by Ryder yelling at me and crying because he'd missed the Christmas party.  (I was a good mommy and took him downstairs and fed him some dinner, since he'd slept through that, too.)  And Craig woke me up at 5am because he was rattling around in the bathroom and I suddenly panicked that maybe he actually had fainted and was lying on the floor helpless.  I was kind of annoyed when he was just fine, but noisy.  (He did let me sleep in the next morning.  But he let the kids eat cereal over the rug.  Which I can't vacuum.  Grrrr...)

I got out of the shower and found this

My poor boys


So that's been the last couple weeks.  Everyone is healthy at the moment, a fact for which I am very grateful.  I know of some people who were sick for a week-- the fact that our bug only lasted 24 hours is a huge blessing.

I think it's time to put on some Christmas music and lug the shop vac up from the basement...

Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Story About Gum

I don't chew gum any more.  I used to when I was in college, mostly because I'd be on campus all day, and it was an easy way to get a good, clean taste in my mouth after eating lunch (or whatever I ate back then?).  But chewing gum for longer than about five minutes makes my jaw ache, and now that I'm home most of the time, I just brush my teeth (or, let's be honest, eat something else!) if I don't like the taste in my mouth.  And since it sort of seems like a waste of money and isn't particularly good for your teeth and is waaaaaaaaay too likely to end up stuck somewhere I don't like, I rarely let my kids chew gum, either.

But still, I have this sitting in my cupboard:

And it's been there for over a year, and it will probably be a long while before I toss it out.  No, I don't hold onto it because I just love the color purple (although I do love purple!).  I hold onto it because I like the story of how I got it. 

It all happened when we flew to Seattle for my Grandma's 100th birthday.  Flying with five kids is no small feat, and the luggage we require is considerable (especially when you factor in carseats, strollers, a pack-n-play, and the necessary snacks for a 6-hour flight!).  So when we flew, we checked everything we could at the curbside, and then Craig dropped me off with some kids and a few carry-on items, and took the car to park it in the long-term parking lot.  Camille was getting hungry, so I searched for a chair so I could sit and feed her while we waited for Craig.  I didn't notice until she was happily eating that I'd sat right by the gate for a middle eastern airline. 

I should explain that when I did study abroad to Tanzania back in 1999, I mostly lived on the island of Zanzibar, which is about 98% Muslim.  So I spent four months seeing women almost always having their heads covered-- in Swahili, this covering was called a buibui, but I've never heard it called that anywhere else.  Most Zanzibar women at the time did not fully veil their faces, but on the rare occasion when we saw another Christian, it was always quickly obvious because they were the only women whose hair you could see.  But it's not like anyone looking at me would guess this information about me.  And I do realize that there are certainly some Americans who are not thrilled when they encounter a Muslim, especially at an airport or flying in a plane.  

Sitting with her chair backed up against my chair back was a woman wearing a black hijab that covered most of her face.  Ryder, being four at the time, was immediately curious about her and began asking me about her.  She was very friendly and talked with him, while I tried to smile in a way that I hoped would convey, "Don't worry, I'm not some crazy Islamaphobe!"  She was probably doing her best to also convey her niceness to me as well.  We talked about how difficult it is to travel with children, and she said that her four children were all back home.  I think she was flying back to them.

At some point during all of this, she asked Ryder if he would like to see her face, so he wandered over in front of her and she pulled down her hijab enough so that he could see her face.  Then all the kids wanted a turn, and she was very obliging.  And some time during all this, she gave my kids this packet of gum, which they were ecstatic about.

Before long, Craig arrived and Camille finished eating and we headed towards security.

This wasn't some big deal, life changing thing for me.  But at the same time, when I hear about people being afraid of other people-- both people who are afraid of Muslims, and Muslims here in America who are on the receiving end of that fear, I like to see this pack of gum and remember that it doesn't have to be like that.  That people can be friendly and respectful and learn from and teach one another.  That having children and airports-- and especially mixing the two!-- is something mothers all over the world understand.

And that something as simple as gum can bring a smile to anyone's face.

Vote of Confidence

There was a time, back in Manassas, when my best friend and I were both pregnant and seeing the same ob-gyn.  (Even though I had a homebirth with a midwife, I received dual care from both my midwife and a doctor.)  We were talking recently and comparing notes on this doctor-- who we both really liked-- and we realized one of the things she did that made us both happy: when we would come in for our post-partum care, she would say things along the lines of, "Well, in case you have another baby" or even, "I think you could have another..."

It's not that we thought she was encouraging us to have more babies (although, honestly, if she had been that would probably be a good business practice for her!), but it felt like she was telling us, "You're doing so well, you could totally have another kid and you'd be just fine!"  And it made us think maybe we were doing really well.  It was a small thing, but when you've just had a baby you're at your worst: you're sore and tired and fat and exhausted and overwhelmed by this new baby and your body feels like this alien form that you will never recognize again (did I mention you're also really tired?), and any boost to your confidence is really helpful.

Good for my doctor for talking to her patients like that.  I wonder if she has any idea how kind her words sounded in my ears.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

This Is Your Brain on Clickbait

The other day my youngest kids were sick, I didn't have much to do during the day, and I pretty much sat around staring at my phone or holding crying kids (or begging them to sleep, because they didn't believe me that a well-rested body can heal itself faster).

By the end of the evening, I was a wreck.  I was screaming at Colton because he wouldn't stop playing with the lights (WHY IS THAT SO FUN????) and I was practically crying over how miserable my life was.

When I wrote in my journal that night, it began to hit me just how much time I'd spent on my phone reading about despicable people, because I am a complete sucker for headlines such as, "The 15 Worst Roommates Ever: You won't believe #4!" and dumb stuff like that.  I'd also discovered a tumblr page of terrible advice written to horrible people and gotten sucked into reading page after page of it...

I realized that my mind felt yucky after a day like that.  It was just like when you have those days where all you eat is junk food and then your grossed out by yourself.  But in my head.

I resolved to keep my distance from the internet the next day-- no facebook and no blogs.  (I did allow email and reading Dear Abby.  I'm only human, after all!)  And I had a much better day.  And I didn't hate my life.  I didn't scream at my kids (even when they were playing with the light switches).

Lesson learned.  Again.  And probably not for the last time, either (sigh).  I have real books to occupy my mind.  Push facebook back a bit.  And avoid clickbait like it's the plague.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Camille the Outdoorswoman

Camille is an outdoorsy little soul.  If anyone goes outside, she begs to join them, pleading, "Ow-shy!!!  Ow-shy!!!"  And her favorite time of the day is when it's time to go to the bus stop to pick up her siblings and she gets to run around on the sidewalk.

It's funny, because I think there was a time when I thought of myself as being outdoorsy, but eventually I realized that I'm really not.  I like the idea of being outside.  I love reading about nature.  But when I'm actually in the great outdoors, I'm usually too hot or too cold or there are bugs or it's too bright to read...  I'm kind of a wimp.  Not that I hate being outside, or something-- it's just not usually the zen experience I've managed to picture in my head. 

But I like that Camille likes being outside.  I'll have to be careful not to quash that in her.  (Maybe she'll help me learn to genuinely like it!)

About a month ago, we were having an outdoor evening-- Craig and I were sitting in camping chairs in the driveway while the kids played with balls and scooters and such.  Suddenly, a gust of wind picked up and scattered the leaves all around us.  Camille took one look, raised her arms in the air and began all-out screaming for joy.  She couldn't get enough of the leaves blowing in the wind!  Every time it happened, she'd start screaming again.  (And it really was happy screaming, which parents know is a pretty rare thing!)

So, yeah, she's likes being outside and she likes sports (well, balls, at least).  It will be fun seeing where this girl goes in life!

Just, you know, hanging out in the driveway

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Thanksgiving and Ryder's Birthday

Thanksgiving was delightful.  The best part was just having everyone home-- Craig has been so busy with work and the kids were so busy with soccer.  I really loved having everyone under one roof with nowhere in particular to go, being together

It also helped that Craig and I have finally figured out how we do Thanksgiving, and it all went really smoothly-- no panicking over oven space or not enough hot pads or anything.  The day before, Craig had to work a half day, so I made the turkey brine for him and then took the kids to the library.  We decided to drop in and say Hi to Daddy (since his school is super close to the library) and he gave us a tour of his school!  First time I'd seen most of it, and the kids were super impressed!  (The cutest thing was Camille standing in the doorway of the gym, waving and yelling Hi to the basketball team in there practicing!)

Then we headed home and Craig followed a few minutes later.  He got the turkey brining and then once his parents arrived, he began working on pies with his mom helping him out.  He made this amazing chocolate caramel pecan pie, and not only did it taste delicious, it was also very pretty.  If he ever decides to quit his day job, he just might be able to work in a bakery!

Then we took a break from the kitchen to celebrate Ryder's birthday with Grandma and Grandpa!  They brought him lots of presents, which he was very excited about:
He picked out that outfit.  Nothing I said could persuade him to change.

Very excited to receive his favorite book, Edwina the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct

And his favorite new toy, BB-8!
For his birthday dinner, Ryder wanted to eat at Chick-fil-A.  That was PERFECT for the day before Thanksgiving-- not too much food, fast, and the kids could play!  Even Camille managed to go down the big slide!

We got home, had cupcakes put the kids to bed, and got back to work.

I made ice cream while my mother-in-law (and Kendra!) peeled potatoes.  Craig made a pumpkin pie.  Then I boiled and mashed the potatoes while my mother-in-law moved on to peeling apples for apple crisp.  I chopped the apples for a bit, and then Craig took over and finished the crisp.

The next morning, Craig turned on the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade and the kids watched that while we reminisced about the time we went

I made rolls.  This is a recipe I only make at Thanksgiving time-- they're super yummy, because you dip the dough in butter before baking them, but because of that, they're also a big mess to make.  And despite the fact that the recipe card says on it, "Impossible to screw up!" me and my sisters have managed to screw it up NUMEROUS times.  (One sister forgot the eggs.  That didn't work so well.  Another sister didn't realize that she needed to soften the yeast in water.  That also didn't work so well.  And one time I added an extra cup of sugar.  That wasn't so terrible-- as you can imagine, they still tasted pretty good!)

Anyway, my rolls this year turned out perfect, so I was pleased.  A few days later, I realized that I didn't let them rise like I was supposed to, but it didn't seem to matter at all.  So I'm still screwing them up, but who cares?

Ryder sampling something...  the dough from the rolls?

It was a nice day, so people played outside with some of Ryder's new toys
Craig made stuffing and then got the turkey in the oven.  His parents arrived and Craig and his mom got back to work on the remaining dishes: broccoli bake, sweet potatoes, and carrots.  They just sort of plugged along getting it all done.  I read my book and bathed kids.  Grandpa played outside with kids.  Grandma washed the china.  I set the table and had Kendra make name cards for each place (I remember LOVING doing that when I was a kid)-- she decorated each one individually, it was so cute!  And before we knew it, everything was ready and it was time to eat!  Just like that!  It didn't feel stressful or anything!

Bentley always claims the drumstick

Friday morning, Craig got up and almost immediately began getting out the Christmas decorations.  I told him he could test-drive cars once the house was decorated and all the boxes put away.  That was the best motivation EVER: he finished in a day and a half!  Two trees, wreaths with bows and candles in the windows.  Holly wound around the banister.  Stockings hung by the chimney (with care).  He did it all.  The house looks so warm and festive!  We even put one of the trees in the basement, so the seminary class could enjoy it-- I hope it makes them as happy as it makes me!

While Craig was hard at work decorating, I was addressing Christmas cards.  I planned to do 20 a day, but then I got antsy and just did all of them.  I've never been this on top of sending out Christmas cards before in my life, so they'll probably get lost in the mail or something, just to teach me to not think I can get things done on time.  (Let me know if you get yours!)(And Craig enjoyed test driving cars Saturday afternoon!  I don't think we'll be buying anything just yet, but it was good to figure out what fits in our garage and what he likes.  Fact finding missions are an important part of the process!  And his car is a '95; it can't last forever...  can it?)

And then, suddenly, it was Ryder's actual birthday!

Birthdays tend to very quickly snowball into Big Things, and it all stresses me out a bit, and this one was no exception.  I began the day (after I got everyone off to school) by leaving super early so we could buy doughnuts for Ryder's class at Spudnuts.  The place just sells out and then closes for the day, so you have to get there early to make sure they've got anything left.  But the joke was on me-- it turns out they don't open on Monday at all!  So I had to race to the grocery store and make do with mini-cupcakes instead.

Then I baked Ryder's cake (it was only 9am at this point!), went to the post office (the stuff of nightmares, this time of year), and hit Costco.  Costco took longer than normal because I was waiting around to get a flu shot, but finally had to give up on that idea.  Camille fell asleep in the car on the way home.  I unloaded groceries while she slept, debated letting her keep napping, but worried the garage was too cold to leave the door open so I'd hear her.  Had to wake her up instead.

I managed to fold laundry and then grab a bowl of cereal for myself, all while talking on the phone with my sister.  Then we headed to Ryder's school to distribute cupcakes.  Unfortunately, our timing was off and we were early, and the teacher didn't want kids eating cupcakes until they'd finished their lunches.  But Colton and Camille were getting nuts.  So I finally handed off the cupcakes to a helper and left.  On the way out, my Mom called, but I quickly discovered that I couldn't talk on the phone AND shepherd two (now feral) kids into the car., and I had to hang up before they got run over in the parking lot.

Got home, put everyone down for naps.  Including myself (just for 15 minutes).  Picked kids up from the bus stop.  Tried to frost Ryder's cake while fielding calls for him from various family members wishing him a happy birthday.

And then it was time for the party!  Craig got home just before it began, thank goodness-- we had 6 kids Ryder's age, plus three Bentley's age, so that makes 14 kids all running around the house!  As you can imagine, it was craziness!  But fun craziness, with pizza and cake and presents.  And everyone-- especially Ryder-- seemed to have a good time.  Whew!

Playing in Ryder's room.

He wanted the frosting to be half chocolate and half vanilla.  So there you go!

Half of them are dabbing

And opening presents

And TODAY, I've been home almost all day making turkey stock and doing laundry.  It's gloomy and rainy outside, so it's a perfect day for this.  The Christmas tree lights are cozy.  And I'm resting up a bit before more of the craziness of Christmas can fully kick in.  I have so much to be thankful for, but right now I'm especially thankful for a calm day with yummy turkey smells.  And the promise of leftover cake later on.