Friday, October 31, 2008

The Candy Tax

We had a great Halloween. I helped drive Michael's class to a play this morning, and took pictures of class parties for the yearbook this afternoon. As I was driving kids home from the play, one girl begged me to take her trick-or-treating "right now." I told her that wasn't possible and she explained that she wanted to go right now because they aren't allowed to trick-or-treat anymore because candy isn't good for you. I thought that was a bit sad.

When I came home from taking pictures this afternoon, I saw we had some early trick-or-treaters in our backyard:

When the kids got home from school, we loaded up the van and drove downtown to trick-or-treat at the businesses there. This is probably the third year we've done that. I love it because it's light outside, there's plenty of candy and lots of costumes to see. Allison kept going up to complete strangers and giving them hugs because she liked their costumes. She's my most exuberant child and her friendliness can be downright scary sometimes.

Eliza thought Halloween was the greatest thing she'd ever seen. She can be so funny and shy sometimes and so bold othertimes. Tonight was her night to shine. She'd say, "Peas?" in a cute little voice or "teet!" and then say her own little version of "Thank you" as she walked away -- "Di do!". I think she got 50% more candy than the other kids just because she was so cute. Michael was pouting through a lot of it because he'd been eating candy and then denying it (he was in trouble for lying, not eating the candy!). He stomped and pouted, but we wouldn't let him trick-or-treat until he apologized. After a while, he finally told us he had been eating candy because he was hungry. It was sweet to see how quickly his face brightened after he told the truth.

After trick-or-treating downtown, we headed home. I'd put dinner in the crockpot, but everyone was too excited to eat (or perhaps too full from sneaking candy!). DH stayed with Harmony while I took the other kids around our culdesac. After that, I offered to take the older kids out through the neighborhood, but no one but Lillian wanted to go. We tracked down our neighbor (thanks, Christian!) who let Lillian tag along with him for a while.

We get a lot of candy because of all the kids (Don't believe me? Check out the picture below!) but we impose a strict candy tax. The rule is they can eat as much candy as they want on Halloween night itself, but after that, all candy belongs in a big bowl up high. I dole it out a little at a time for homework snacks, practicing piano prizes, and the like. It usually lasts quite a while that way, and I don't feel like my kids are going overboard or ruining their teeth.

I feel sorry for families without toddlers. Eliza's joy and excitement this week has made this Halloween one of the best ever. Besides trick-or-treating, Eliza's other favorite part of Halloween was her jack-o-lantern. She had the small, cute one, and she was so thrilled when we carved it for her on Monday, laughed with delight when we put a pacifier in its mouth, and sat by it for a long time after it was lit tonight.

I hope your holiday was also good! We have an exciting weekend ahead of us. My son Joseph will be baptised tomorrow, and then Harmony will receive a name and a blessing in Church on Sunday.

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween, everyone!

a look at Halloween 2008 . . .

2007 . . . (the vampire belongs to the neighbor)
and 2005 . . .
Halloween is awesome!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

For Better or For Worse

The pictures are taken. I haven't seen them yet, but I hope we have at least one that is okay. Allison and Sarah were silly and crazy and pouty and difficult. Joey kept smiling weird. Michael was standing awkwardly. After a little bit, Eliza decided that was IT for her and started screaming. DH and I tried to smile while whispering bribes and threats in certain children's ears, reminding everyone to look at the camera, calling Sarah to "get back here NOW" and in general feeling a bit stressed out. On the bright side, Harmony was sweet through the entire thing and so was Lillian. Two out of seven ain't bad. I'll show you the pictures -- good, bad, and crazy -- when I get them later. While we waited for Toni to come, I got some beautiful pictures of Harmony in her blessing dress.

Isn't she adorable?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Please reassure me this won't be a disaster . . .

Tomorrow, we're getting our family pictures taken. I'm so worried it's going to be a disappointment; that my kids won't look at the camera or will pull one of their cheesy smiles or worse, that one of them will start sulking. Our cousin Toni is an amazing photographer, but I don't know if the kids will cooperate.

The last time we had our family picture taken, we went to a studio and tried to simplify it by making the appointment for right when it opened so there wouldn't be any waiting around. We had them keep the same background through the whole thing and we didn't even change poses that much. They took over a dozen photos and I was very excited to see them, thinking surely there would be at least one where we all looked good. Nope! We had lots where most everyone looked great except for the two or three children who didn't. The picture we finally settled for is this one:

Great, isn't it? Just don't look too close, or you'll notice Michael has a weird look on his face, Joey's grin is more of a grimace, DH looks very stiff, and Eliza isn't smiling. And this was the best one. Is it any wonder I'm worried about tomorrow?

If you'll notice the pictures of everyone from our vacation, it is rare for everyone to be looking at the camera or even paying attention. So this afternoon, I took Allison, Sarah, and Eliza outside to "practice" looking at the camera and smiling. I took a ton of pictures and ended up with just three that I liked. I hope we get better luck tomorrow or I might just have to take a couple of the pictures and photoshop the kids in.

Allison & Sarah (Sarah picked up a pretty rock and wouldn't put it down for the photos):

Just Allison (I tried to get some of just Sarah but none turned out well):

And the picture that was worth the whole photoshoot . . .
Eliza, Sarah, and Allison

Monday, October 27, 2008

I love Photoshop

It's been a while since I've just played around in Photoshop, but tonight I've been having a great time. First I worked with Eliza's two year old pictures:




And then I played with photos from our gold-panning at Calico Ghost Town:

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Growing up and looking back . . .

Harmony is growing up way too fast! She's quick with a smile, loves to be held and rocked, and she likes to look around when we put her on her tummy. She's been rolling from front to back for about a month and just this week started rolling from back to front. We'll be blessing her in Church next Sunday, and she's two weeks shy of 3 months old. The time flies!

I look at this picture of her on her tummy and it brings back memories -- Since the twins, I have always thought a single baby on a blanket always looks a bit lonely. Below is one of my all-time favorite videos of the twins.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Something seems a bit familiar . . .

Oh I know! This reminds me of the way my kids sing at the Primary program! Enthusiastic and off-key.

Identity Crisis?

As I drop the twins off at preschool this morning, I apologize to their teacher,

"They wore their nametags home last week, and now I can't find them."

"That's all right; if you can't find them by Monday, we'll make them new ones."

"I do feel bad, though. Of all the kids to lose their nametags, it would have to be the two who look exactly alike."

A few hours later, I walk in to pick them up. I notice Sarah right away, throwing a temper tantrum. "It's not here! My picture isn't in my cubby!" Stomp, stomp, glare, pout, "they said they'd put my picture in my cubby!" Stomp over to the books and start picking them and dropping them on the floor. She stops when I tell her how mean she is being, and goes back to pouting. I leave her to calm herself down while I go over to Allison.

Allison is fingerpainting on a picture that says, "Sarah Jane" on it. Ah ha! I've discovered the missing picture! "Is that one Sarah's?" I ask the two girls there.

"Yeah, for some reason, she wanted to do two today."

"Uh . . . this is Allison" I say, as I notice that there is another picture on the table that also says, "Sarah Jane" on it.

The two girls look at me like they're worried I'm about to yell at them. They start apologizing, "Oh, we thought this was Sarah." "They look exactly alike."

"Don't worry about it; I'm the one that forgot the name tags, " I reassure them.

"We wondered why she wanted to do this activity twice!" "We can change the name on it!"

Meanwhile, Allison is so engrossed in painting that she never notices that she's being mistaken for her mild-mannered alter-ego.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Taking the Freak Show on the Road

There's nothing like a vacation to remind you that your family is far from the average size. Most of the time I don't mind the looks or the comments, and most of the time the things people say to me are positive. I do start to wonder sometimes if I'm the only woman in the world with more than a few children, the way people stare, count, and comment.

This trip, there was no hiding the size of our family. After all, we were driving this monster:

And even when we divided the kids up, someone always had four or more kids. Four seems to be the magic point at which reaction goes from, "Cute kids" to "You must be crazy."

But being a bit unusual does make for some fun vacation memories, such as:

*A few years ago we took our family of five children to Universal Studios. Right after we walked in, we were surrounded by Asian tourists eager to take our picture. We were the main attraction that day. One Japanese woman came and stood next to me and put her hands on my stroller while her husband took her picture with all our kids. At one of the shows, we were about the only people without black hair. I saw lots of folks pointing our way and talking excitedly in Japanese. One woman near us turned around and said in broken English, "one, two, tree, fo, five, All your?"

*In January, we went to a nice Mexican restaurant in Arizona with our six children. I was on edge, hoping everyone would behave. The kids did great, which made me feel a lot better about all the other tables staring at ours. One man came up to us on his way out and asked us if they were all ours. When we said yes, he said, "Large families are awesome!"

*Not everyone likes kids, though. We went to the Heard Museum -- a renowned Native American Museum -- in Arizona in January. As soon as we walked in, a docent saw how many kids we had, and she tried to herd us towards the small children's area on the far side of the museum. The docent gave us detailed directions. We started off that way, but then looked at our watches and realized they had guided tours beginning soon. We went back to the front, where the woman didn't even try to hide her dismay, "Couldn't you find it?" When we told her we wanted to have a tour, she set us up with our own guide so we wouldn't disturb the patrons in the other group. Our tour guide was as nice as could be and really geared his information towards the things the kids would be interested in. It was a fascinating museum, and I'm glad we were able to enjoy the whole musuem, not just the small area for kids.

*I'm always amused by people who think I'm amazing when I only have half my kids with me. I was walking around Disneyland with just four of my kids, when one woman noticed me and said, "Wow, you're a brave lady!"

*Last April, when I was pregnant with #7, we were in line for a show at Disneyland. A woman noticed our children, and said, "Wow, five kids?" "Six actually," we said, pointing to the one she had missed. "Don't you have a TV?" she asked. We stammered something or other, and I think she felt really bad because she then told us about a family she knew with five children and how she thinks it's neat.

*In line for Pirates of the Caribbean, I could hear a woman the next row over counting, "one, two, three, four, five, six . . . SIX children?" she asked me incredulously. "Seven actually," I said.

*We met a family from Tennessee at the Las Vegas Children's Museum. The mother had five kids, the youngest 3-year-old twins. She seemed shocked that we had seven, which in my mind isn't much different than five, but then I realized the incredulity was because we'd been brave enough to have two more kids AFTER having twins.

*If people are impressed with me (for good or ill), they are absolutely flabbergasted at DH. On his trip to California with four of the kids, he got lots of looks and comments. One man assumed he must be the non-custodial dad, taking his kids for "his week," and was floored when DH told him he'd left his pregnant wife home with two more. At Disneyland, DH probably went on more rides with more little kids than I did. At times, he took six kids in line with him while I fed Harmony. He also took six kids swimming a lot while I stayed in our room with Harmony. He has no problem being a very involved dad, and it surprises a lot of people.

Sometimes I like the attention, especially the positive. I don't mind being asked, "Are they all yours?" because I know that people do take other people's children along on adventures -- their kids' friends or their cousins or whoever. I don't mind being asked if twins run in my family, because I know people are curious about that. I like being asked specific questions about how I handle things, because I think I have figured out some good organization methods that I don't mind sharing.

But other times, I get tired of being the oddball. I get tired of moms assuming I must be a totally different person than they are because I have more children. I get tired of being asked, "how do you do it?" because I think I do it the same way they do: one day at a time, the best I can, with lots of mistakes thrown in for good measure. We met one family near the elevators at our hotel who had four kids, one with down syndrome. Even they asked us, "Wow, how do you handle seven kids?" when I was thinking the same thing about them.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Vacation Memories

Southern California is such a magical place. We just got back from our last trip to Disneyland for several years. It was a long trip and we had a great time -- it’s hard not to when you spend four days at Disneyland! Here’s some of the highlights of our trip:

On Friday the 10th, we picked up the kids from school at 1:00, had them put their backpacks away and go to the bathroom, then got in Clifford the Big Red Van and we were off. We did our best to find things to see and do along the way so we weren’t in the car for more than 3 hours at a time the whole trip.

We stopped at Cove Fort in southern Utah at about 4:00. We watched a video and got a tour of the grounds. The beds from that period were so small and the workload enormous.

After a few hours, we had snacks and were on our way to Las Vegas.

We spent the night in Las Vegas at a Residence Inn and DH took everyone but Harmony swimming.

Eliza is obsessed with swimming. She loves being in the water and laying her head back. When we were packing for the vacation, she kept pulling out her swimsuit from the open suitcase and yelling, “Smimming! Smimming!” That was our first taste of the rest of our vacation. Once we got to Newport Coast, I put all the swimming things under the sink in the bathroom. Every day, Eliza would run in there and come out with a swimming suit yelling “Smimming! Smimming! Suit on!” She threw a few tantrums when we tried to explain we wouldn’t be swimming until later. Even when she was dead tired from being at Disneyland or a day of museums, she insisted on going swimming nearly every night.

Saturday, we took our time heading to California. We had a complimentary breakfast at our hotel, then DH took the kids swimming again before we packed the van and went to the Las Vegas Children’s Museum. We got in free with our membership to the Salt Lake Discovery Center, and the place was really fun. They had a temporary exhibit about refugee children where the kids got to put together their own shelter and hear stories from refugees. On display were actual toys children had made out of garbage at one refugee camp – trucks made out of cardboard with milk caps for wheels, cell phones carved out of wood, dolls made out of strips of rags. I was amazed at humanity’s imagination and resiliency. In the face of so much trial, the kids are still finding ways to have toys. I also learned that the average stay in a refugee camp is seven years. Can you imagine seven years in a situation like that?

The rest of the museum was really well done. They had science displays and hands-on learning and the museum staffers were all teenagers eager to help and play with the kids. In one corner, they had a dress-up theater. The twins dressed up and danced on the stage. It was so sweet, even when Michael dressed up like a superhero and tried to crash the party. Near the theater were water tables with various channels and stop gates that could be rearranged to divert the water. Joey spent a long time there, to no one’s surprise. There were also places to make giant bubbles and a playhouse and a moonwalk simulation. It was a ton of fun, even if we didn’t make it upstairs to see the rest of the museum – we figure we’ll go back again sometime.

After an hour and a half, we were on our way to California. We stopped after two hours at the Calico Ghost Town. They were celebrating Calico Days there, so there was such a busy and fun atmosphere. Tons of people were dressed up in Old West clothes. We walked the town, did crafts in a pottery shop (necklaces for $1 each), made our own rope for $1, and then panned for gold for $1 each. It was actually fool’s gold in the pan, but the kids were just as excited as if it had been real. We watched a huge group of people participate in an egg toss. Allison & Sarah were especially thrilled to watch the eggs splat and break open on people.

A few more hours in the car brought us to the Marriott resort in Newport Coast. Our place for the next week was a two bedroom, two bath villa with a full kitchen (bigger than the kitchen than in my first apartment!) and a stacked washer-dryer. It was nice to settle in and have a home for a week. We had planned our meals and snacks well and didn’t have fast food at all, unless you count our stop at the original Tommy Burger in Hollywood on Saturday. We went swimming most evenings and had a beautiful ocean view and a small patio. There was a pull-out couch in the living room and another in the second bedroom so everyone had a bed to sleep on. The hotel provided a pack-n-play for Eliza and we brought one from home for Harmony.

Sunday, we went to church, then we went back to our hotel for lunch, rest, and then a trip to the tide pools at Crystal Cove. We saw lots of beautiful creatures and played in the surf. Allison and Sarah dragged seaweed around pretending it was their own sea creatures.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday we spent at Disneyland. We hadn’t counted on the Columbus Day crowds, so we had to plan well and use lots of FastPasses to really enjoy the parks. Wednesday was the least crowded, and Friday the most. It seemed like half of Utah was there, including our next-door neighbors and the family down the street. We ran into both of them.

Our best memories of Disneyland:

*Lillian finally overcame her fear of the California Screamer roller coaster. It only took us a dozen trips to Disneyland to convince her to try it; in the past she’s told us she’ll go then chickened out. Then it only took one ride for her to decide it was the greatest thrill ever. She rode it seven or eight times. She and Joey got in the single rider line on Tuesday and rode three times in a row.

*Eliza loved so many things at Disneyland. There was virtually no waiting around for anyone in our family; we separated a lot for rides that Eliza and Harmony couldn’t go on, but there was always snacks to eat, lines to get in, places to FastPass, and other rides to try. The younger five kids and I rode the fishy merry-go-round five times while the older kids and DH were on the Screamer. Each time the ride would stop, I’d ask Eliza if she wanted to get off. “Again, again!” she’d shriek. She also loved the Monsters Inc ride I took her on while the others were on Soaring over California. She waved at all the monsters and cried when we had to get off.

*Sarah was so excited about the thrill of scary rides. She learned to put her hands up on Space Mountain and went on Splash Mountain twice in a row (once was enough for Allison). She and Allison both loved to Soar over California.

*Allison and Michael were both chosen to participate in the Jedi Training Academy in Tomorrowland. Both were so eager to be chosen and we only had one chance on our last day. Both fought Darth Vader one-on-one and emerged victorious.

*Michael was thrilled to get into the magic of pretend. His favorite ride was Pirates of the Caribbean. We put fruit snacks in the heel of his shoes so he could be tall enough to ride the Indiana Jones ride. He’s such an imaginative kid.

*On Monday night, DH took Lillian and Joey back for their own thrills at the park. The fireworks were canceled, but they had fun going on tons of rides together.

On Thursday, we drove to San Diego and went to two museums there. We went first to the Natural History Museum. It was fascinating. They had a special display on water that was interesting to read and very cleverly hands-on for the kids. There were also fossils, plate tectonics interactive displays, and even a few live animals like frogs and snakes.

Next was the Fleet Science Center, where the kids went wild for an exhibit called “Grossology” about slime and germs and dung beetles and the like. It was pretty irreverent, but we did learn why the cow is the gassiest animal and about how long tapeworms can grow inside your body. Highly useful information, I’m sure. The rest of the museum was tons of hands-on science stuff that was great fun. We stopped for a time in Kid Village, where young kids could work in a factory, build with blocks, set up shop in a grocery store, or play learning games on some computers. Michael kept getting frustrated because he was trying to be the grocer and organize things, but people kept playing with the things he was putting away. There were two exits to the room, so DH sat by one and I sat by the other. Somehow, Eliza got past DH and got lost, our only missing-kid experience of the whole trip. DH found her quickly because she was screaming with fright around the corner. She calmed down rather quickly, then we went to the building area. We finished off with lunch outside on the cafĂ© tables.

We thought about going to Disneyland after dinner for the evening, but we took a vote and everyone wanted to go swimming instead, especially Eliza.

Saturday morning, we packed up and checked out of our hotel. As we put the last of the gear and kids into the car, we couldn’t get the passenger door to close. We finally figured out what was wrong – the latch was twisted out of place – but we had very few tools. DH was trying to reposition it using a pocketknife and a book to cushion his hand. I tried to follow Elder Wirthlin’s advice from last conference and laugh about it. DH was not amused. I drove to the main area, where we were able to borrow a screwdriver. It still wouldn’t move correctly, so while the kids played in the fish ponds, DH worked on the door and I tried to call a locksmith. Just when I’d reached the locksmith, DH came in and said it was all fixed. We loaded the kids back in the car and were off to L.A.

L.A. was not the best choice for the last day of vacation. The traffic was horrid, so it took 90 minutes instead of 30 to get to the Natural History Musuem. Once there, we did have a great time. The place was packed with people, though, and the many entrances and exits and twist and turns in some of the exhibits were a recipe for losing children. We kept a tight watch and didn’t lose sight of anyone, but it was hard to relax and enjoy what the museum had to offer.

The exception was the first room we visited, where they had a huge display of live crazy insects from across the world: furry ants, huge millipedes, strange beetles, and more. They also had huge rocks to touch, furs of various critters to examine, and enormous shells. We had Joey partner up with Allison and Lillian with Sarah to view the room. We don’t do partners a lot since our kids are so young, but this time it worked. Joey was especially good about staying with Allison and examining each creature in turn.

Their rock and mineral exhibit was amazing, with tons of gorgeous rocks from all over the world. They even had a precious gem room that was actually in a vault and had a guard outside the door – I think some of those rocks are pretty expensive!

After this museum, we had planned to have lunch and then go to the Science Museum, but fixing the van door and traffic had cut into our day too much already, so we settled for a drive by Pinks (a famous hot dog stand where the line was out the door and around the corner so we didn’t stop) and then a drive down Hollywood Blvd to see all the freaks and eat at Tommy Burger.

Finally, we got back on the freeway and drove to Las Vegas. The first 30 miles took us over an hour, but the rest of the drive was smooth sailing. We stopped to feed Harmony once and then everyone fell asleep in the car before we got to the hotel in Las Vegas. We set up the beds and carried in our overnight bag, then brought the kids half-asleep into the hotel room to change for bed and go right back to sleep. The next day, we drove home, with a stop near Parawan to hunt for rocks. We found beautiful wonderstone and brought home many small rocks and some larger ones for our rock garden.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...