Saturday, June 27, 2009

Spoiled Rotten

Last year, my husband instituted a new family tradition: The Daddy Trip. His itch to see the whole world, or at least the Western United States part, combined with his love of our children, and the dynamics of our family (it's not easy doing some types of trips with infants and toddlers), led us to my favorite part of the year.

Last summer, I was given eleven peaceful, wonderful days with just two children to care for while DH took the rest on a whirlwind trip through California via the Extraterrestrial Highway.

They slept one night in a ratty motel in Rachel, Nevada, where the population believes wholeheartedly in aliens, and the "motel room" was actually a trailer with a shared bathroom whose door didn't close all the way. Not to worry, though, it came with generous amenities, such as the microwave and fridge sitting next to the toilet.

Several of the next few nights were spent camping out in various locations near the Sierra Nevadas. (Don't look too closely at the picture below, or you might embarrass Sarah).

They spent their days hiking, climbing mountains, traveling around, and being grand adventurers.

Are you starting to understand why a pregnant mom just six weeks from her due date was thrilled to stay home?

This year, DH took five kids (ages 5 to 10), my van, an old 1980s tent trailer, and headed in the opposite direction.

While he was gone, I went to two family reunions where I answered questions like, "So WHERE is he again?" "He took HOW MANY KIDS with him?" and "You didn't want to go along?" (No one with more than two kids asked that last question!). I think one of my cousins might hate me now because his wife immediately said, "Wow, WE should do daddy trips!"

My main project while DH was gone was to finish up our 2008 Book.

Every year, I pull together my weekly emails, my blogs, our photos, and any scrapbook pages I manage to crank out and create hardbound books from There are fewer and fewer of the scrapbook pages as the years pass and the demands on my time increase, but didn't the ones below turn out cute?

This past week has given me such a positive lift. For eight days, I had just two sweet little girls to take care of instead of the whole crew.

We took long naps, ate at Subway, read The Very Hungry Caterpillar several times a day, walked to the duck pond three times, and thoroughly enjoyed the peace and quiet. I kept wondering why I didn't fully appreciate the freedom of having "just" two kids back when that's all I had?

I read several books. I ran the dishwasher twice. We gorged ourselves on strawberries from our garden. I hosted a bridal shower.
I bought two honeysuckle vines and planted them in the front yard. One day, I got really creative and made french bread pizza for lunch.

I had time to think in full paragraphs -- without being interrupted. Working on our book from last year gave me lots of time to reflect on the work I do every day and the memories my children will have. As I read through all my blog posts and weekly emails, I started to see that I'm doing a lot more than I give myself credit for.

I'm doing enough.

Last night, my six adventurers returned. They fought over who got to hold Harmony and for how long, they twirled Eliza around in circles, and they climbed all over me. All five of them talked over each other as they rushed to tell me about their trip. I've gotten more hugs in the last 24 hours than I have in the past month. They all missed me terribly, but I still had to hound them -- a lot -- to clean their rooms this morning, so I guess we're back to normal life.

I'll post more about their trip later as I get the pictures uploaded and sorted.

I'll leave you with a glimpse of some of the pages of our 2008 Book:

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Reasons I love my husband

1. He has never, in all ten years of my being a stay-at-home mom, come home and said, "What did you do all day?"

2. He gets mad when people suggest he's "babysitting" the kids when I'm not around. "I'm their FATHER -- it's called being a dad."

3. His favorite hobby is traveling with his kids. Last year, he started the "Daddy Trip" tradition, taking four of our oldest children on a trip to see the Oldest Trees in the World, the Biggest Trees, Area 51, and a dozen things in between. This year, he's at Mount Rushmore with five kids, camping out, hiking, preparing meals, and having the time of his life. Me? I get to stay home with the youngest kids and enjoy some peace, quiet, and time to catch up on some much-needed projects.

4. He likes to cook and does it every weekend and on days when I'm particularly stressed.

5. He doesn't hound me about my faults.

6. He meets with me almost every night (a new tradition started this year) to discuss things going on, what our kids need, and to pray together.

7. He pays the bills. Seriously, he takes care of all the bills and our finances. I did it for the first six years of our marriage, so I know it's a pain, but he takes care of it.

8. He works hard to support our family financially. He's done so ever since Lillian was born. He has allowed me to stay home with our children, even when that meant giving up a more secure financial situation. He worked several jobs even during graduate school so our children could have a full-time mother.

9. He takes our kids to the doctor when they're sick.

10. He is great during a crisis. I'll never forget the day Sarah cut her head open at a mall playground. After the paramedics cleared her and said I should rush her in for stitches, I called him. Five minutes later, he met me at the doctor's office, took her in his arms, and stayed with her while I went home with the other children. He gave her a blessing and held her hand during the stitches.

11. He loves children, both our own and the others he meets. He is willing to be fully a dad to our large and growing family. He's always reacted with joy and excitement when I tell him I'm expecting, even when the timing isn't always convenient.

Happy Father's Day!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Desert in Bloom (nearly Wordless Wednesday)

It was hot in Arizona, though the locals told us we were blessed to come during a "cooler week." Every day the temperature reached 100 degrees. We planned well, doing our activities and hiking in the mornings, resting in the afternoons, and swimming in the evenings.

Before we went, I really questioned if I wanted to go hang out in the heat. But afterwards, I'm just so thankful that I didn't miss the desert in bloom. I was amazed everywhere by all the flowers. I hadn’t realized cactus plants could bloom so prolifically or so beautifully. The saguaro blooms were particularly stunning, and even somewhat odd -- many of the blooms made the cactus look like Gumby with gnarly hair.

I also enjoyed the dramatic skies against the desert landscape.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

My daughter is a Care Bear

Eliza has decided that she's a Care Bear. And not just any Care Bear: she's Wish Bear. It's been that way for the past week. Before that, she was Funshine Bear for several months. She loves being a Care Bear, watching Care Bears, and playing with her Care Bears.

She protests when I say, "Hey, princess, let's get your shoes on."

Her lower lip thrusts out and she says, "I'm not a princess, I a Care Bear."

A little later, I'll call, "Sweetheart, can you put this away?" "No, I a CARE BEAR!"

Her daddy called encouragement to her on our hike yesterday, saying, "You're doing great, girl!"

"I not a girl, I a CARE BEAR! I'm Wish Bear." This is our cue, for we are all Care Bears too. I choose to be Grumpy Bear (hey, that guy's a genius inventor even if he is slightly crabby). Teasing, DH always chooses to be Grizzle. Sarah is Share Bear, and so on through the family.

Eliza's only need to be in control of the universe manifests itself in her alter-ego. Do you know much about Care Bears? I didn't before, but I'm learning.

They care a lot.

They sing silly songs and make mistakes that they learn from.

When the world is in peril, a group of them stand in a circle and save it by doing the "Care Bear Stare."

This is my first stint as a Care Bear. Lillian liked My Little Ponies when she was younger, but her games mostly involved creating elaborate homes for them out of Legos, not pretending to be one.

Joey was a superhero for a while, the kind that ride around on trikes with buckets on their heads and gloves on their hands.
After that, he spent several years as a Jedi Warrior. It came naturally to him, as this video of the first time DH allowed him to watch Star Wars shows.

Michael was always some sort of character. (this is the video to watch, by the way, for those just skimming the blog, yeah, you know who you are!)

His pretend play has always been the most elaborate -- he wore his superman cape nearly every day for two years -- and lately he's settled on Pirates (the honest kind) as his favorite hero.

Allison and Sarah have been content to (mostly) be themselves. Perhaps having a twin sister beside you keeps you firmly grounded in the real world. They love princesses and dressing up, but they never had a particular hero they pretended to be, unless you count digging through Lillian's drawers and trying on her nightgowns.

And now Eliza has matured enough to express her imagination. I don't know how long I'll be a Care Bear, but I'm trying to enjoy every minute.

Sometimes I think about what life would be like if I'd done what many expected and stopped having children after the twins. I always feel a great loss when I consider life without Eliza and Harmony. They fill a space we needed filled, even though we didn't know it beforehand.

One thing is certain. I would have missed out on my calling as a Care Bear.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

On top of the world

I started this week absolutely tired and overwhelmed with cleaning up from our trip, getting our house in order, and at the same time determined to start our summer schedule and chores off right. Every room I'd walk into had huge projects needing to be tackled, put away, sorted, organized, or cleaned. It was quite discouraging.

Today, though, and for the last few days, I've been on top of the world. The daily efforts to catch up and make progress have really paid off. My house is clean, the floor is mopped, everything's been vacuumed (well, except the van -- we'll get to that next week), we mowed the lawn, our strawberries and roses are mostly weeded, I swept and sprayed off our back patio, the kids have been doing their chores and I've been keeping up on the housework, and DH cleaned out a good part of the garage. That last one? A huge boost to my sanity. I'm tired, but it's a good, "Look how much we accomplished" tired, and I'm so excited about the rest of the summer.

It's amazing how much lift a few good days can bring. And counting your blessings is always good.

I've got quite a few to count:

* I've really felt blessed with energy and wisdom in catching up this week.

* Right on schedule, at nearly ten months old, Harmony is now sleeping through the night, at least most of the time. I'm emerging from the fog that is interrupted sleep. I've gotten a few naps this week and woke from them overflowing with energy (I even tried a new recipe for dinner one night, which for me is huge!). It's as if my cup of sleep is finally full to the brim and I can drink fully enough to cover my thirst, rather than just limping along with just enough sips to get to the next resting point.

* I love watching my children grow and growing along with them. I have marveled this week at what great children they are:

Lillian, with her love for cooking (she didn't get that from me!), has taken on making lunch every day for us. She loves it, and it is a huge blessing, since I use that time to help the others work on cleaning downstairs and their own rooms. And at age ten, she is responsible enough to look after the younger ones so that both DH and I can work on a project like the garage. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and it's called having responsible older children! This is the first summer where I've been able to be outside working on a project while the kids are inside with Lillian. I look forward to a bit more freedom to come and go without dragging the whole gang with me as she grows older. She's also been amusing herself this week by playing lots of games and teaching them to her younger siblings. The other day, she had the twins enthralled for an hour playing war and a few other games. She spontaneously engages lovingly with her siblings. She is such an amazing, wonderful help. (She also hates getting her picture taken, so I have to be sneaky about it)

Joseph, with his zeal for learning, is always asking questions I can't answer. He loves to read and explore. He's taken to reading some of the newspaper and asking me to explain political cartoons and various headlines. He loves to help read to Eliza at night. We struggle with helping him learn to do chores without complaining, but when he's engaged in a task, there is no better worker. Tonight, as I told DH I'd clean up the kitchen and do the dishes, he offered, of his own accord, to help. Then he stayed with me until the kitchen was all clean. He even filled up the dishwasher -- his least favorite chore -- with nary a word in complaint! He's always surprising me.

Michael, with his loving heart, is so blessed with two good friends nearby. They are daily off on adventures, including visiting Ben's secret hideout that no one knows about except Joey and probably Sam and Ben's mom and dad and Conner and maybe some other people too. He thrives on friends. He also thrives on learning the gospel. I've been reading Old Testament stories to the kids this week, and every time, he's told me, "I love these true stories." Tonight, he asked me to read him more. He'd rather learn about the scriptures than read any other book. What a tender, believing heart he has.

Allison loves life and lives it to the fullest. She and Sarah have made friends with the gals at the bakery at our grocery store. The bakers are always excited to see them and hear them walk up and say, "Do you have cookies for good little girls?" They love to pick dandelions and weeds and take them to Sister Hatch across the street, who always accepts their gift with graciousness. This week, I brought five kids to the dentist. When we walked in, Allison grabbed a reader's digest and sat down next to an older lady on a couch. "Will you read this to me?" she asked. The lady, though taken aback, was delighted at the attention and found a kid's magazine to read to Allison instead. Allison believes that the whole world is her best friend.

Sarah is sweet and smart. She loves to fill her mouth with sweet strawberries from our garden and wants everything to be exactly fair and equal. She thinks I'm the best mommy in the world, (that is unless she's in trouble, when she tells me she wishes I wasn't in this family). When she picked out her prize at the dentist, she had to rush back to show the technician what she chose, "Look, it's Nemo! Oh, I love my Nemo SO MUCH!" When Allison chose a bracelet, she worked out a trade. "Allison says she will share her bracelet with me and I will share my Nemo with her. We're so lucky to be twins!"

Eliza, oh sweet Eliza! I never cease to marvel at what a special, sweet girl she is. DH and I often remark at what a perfect stage Eliza is at right now. She's fun, loving, excited, cute, and a whole bunch of other positive adjectives. When I was pregnant with her I was stretched to the absolute limit of my endurance. My two two-year-olds were some of the toughest two-year-olds on the planet. We were facing delay after delay on building our new home and I was trying to keep my home immaculate so it would sell for a good price. Soon after my ultrasound revealed a little girl, I was pondering on what her name should be. Eliza came easily, and both my husband and I agreed on it, but as I considered different middle names, I felt the Spirit whisper, "Joy." That moment moved me to tears and brought me hope and strength as I carried her beneath my heart. Now, two and a half years into her life, she is such a joy. I've never had such a loving, sweet, fun, and yes, compliant child. She learned on vacation how to get out of her pack-n-play herself. DH and I cringed, hoping it wouldn't give her the idea to climb out of her crib at home. It did. She's now in a toddler bed and while I wouldn't say the transition has been easy, it's been much smoother than I expected and she's been so excited to sleep in a big girl bed.

Harmony also lives up to her name. She was a patient little traveler last week, enjoying our hikes and putting up with a strange place and strange activities like swimming. Since we got home, she's been walking around all day long like a drunken sailor, and grinning about it. Today she climbed up five steps on the stairs! So little and yet so active.


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