Sunday, April 16, 2006

Visitors and Beauty and Easter

Wow - this place is just so pretty. I wake up every morning to see the red hills spotlighted by the rising sun and it fills my heart. We've had quite a few visitors lately to share this beauty with - our good friend from California, the Harringtons (their daughter Emma and Ashton have been hanging out since they were babies- went to preschool together, the husband, Chad went to Boy's State with Jared back in hight school and the wife Jen was part of my mothers' group/book club in CA). We had good talks and did some hiking. There are these awsome caves up in the hills right behind our development and the kids never get sick of going up there and exploring and climbing all over the rocks. The sandstone here is full of all these natural handholds and footholds and makes for some very fun and fairly easy bouldering experiences for the kids. Aaron and Michelle and kids were here overnight on their way through to Disneyland and one of my oldest friends who I've been out of touch with for too long, Alyssa, and her husband and 5 kids (twins the age of our twins) just showed up this evening out of the blue and we'll hang out with them more later this week. It's so nice to have a house big enough that we can actuall entertain. And it's amazingly nice to have people with kids come over and be able to send all the kids down to the basement and have adult conversation upstairs, hardly hearing a peep from the happily occupied kids who have their own space and activities downstairs.

We love this house. Of course, I can't help but think of things I wish I'd done a bit differently - I drive myself crazy thinking about how I could have made a room a bit bigger or what it would have been like if I'd realized earlier on that I should never assume that subcontracters know anything. There are so many things that got done flat-out wrong or somewhat wrong that I was worried about while it was happening but I hesitated to say anything because I assumed the subcontractors probably knew what they were doing. Now I'm quite convinced that at least in St George with the building trades here, you have to oversee and question every little thing or you'll end up with a lot of unpleasant surprises. But I'm trying to learn to block out all the second-guesses and "would have" and "could have" and "should have" out of my life. It's just my nature to worry and to second guess and to overanalyze and I need to work on that!

Easter was great today. The kids really got into it. I got this idea to fill plastic eggs with different symbols of the last week of Christ's life and we opened one egg a day and talked about the last supper, the Garden of Gethsemane, Palm Sunday, the tomb, the cross and the resurrection. I was often surprised at how much Ashton knew about some of the subjects before I launched into the story. And even Eliza really seemed to absorb a lot. Easter is really the most important Christian holiday and I'm glad the kids really seemed to grasp some aspects of it this year. Maybe it's partly due to watching Narnia and being able to explain the Atonement a bit better with the help of Aslan and the Stone Table. I love that movie - just got it on DVD last week and the kids eat it up.

We did a fun Easter egg hunt for the kids of the Cliffs (our development - only three families with young kids that we know of - but it was a happy little group). The kids had such a great time finding and then hiding again and finding lots of plastic eggs down by the clubhouse and it turned out to be a gorgeous day (after quite a bit of rain - the wash has been a beautiful little river the last couple days). Then today we had our egg hunt this morning, our eggs benedict, went to church and had a wonderful Easter feast with Jo and Aja and kids. It's so nice to have them right here! They've got their house in great shape thanks to lots of hard work and Theresa's help last week. We're all finally feeling somewhat settled. And Jared got the kitchen trim installed so 99% of the trim is now officially in. Of course, the painters promised to come again and again this last week and still have yet to show so we're pretty sad that our last 7 doors are still sitting unstained in the garage. I must say the day when we get the right doors installed on our master bedroom so that we can actually close the doors all the way will be a great day! I really can't believe anyone could really be as flakey as these painters have been - but we're learning to be less surprised by total flakiness among subcontacters here.

I taught gospel doctorine for the first time today in church - I've had this assignment for a while but with our trips, this was my first time teaching. I loved really delving into the scriptures to prepare my lesson and I learned a ton. The lesson went well and it made me feel good to have so many people come up and tell me how much they liked the lesson afterwards. Our ward only has one gospel doctrine class so it's HUGE - would be nicer to have a smaller class so there could be more discussion, but oh well.

God did some of his best work here in St. George. I love watching Spring unfold here - seeing the desert plants flower and seeing lovely bursts of different colors and bright new green leaves all over. The green against the terra cotta hills makes such a great combination. There are always jack rabbits, chipmunks and lizards to watch down in the wash and the various colors of green mixed with the red of the dirt and the lava rocks strewn across the hills of the wash makes such a pretty composition.

Better run!

Got to run get a crying baby before he wakes up the other guy. These guys have been waking up at night again and it's driving me crazy!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Updates on the kids

Ashton's really a great kid. He's just such a grown up six year old and he's so fun to talk to and do things with. And he's developing a very strong sense of right and wrong and really wants to do what's right. Lately he's really into confessing random things. He'll wait for a quiet moment and then gently and humbly approach me or Jared with little confessions. The other night I cut the boys' hair (it was SO long - it's just been so hard to find time to do anything about it! I cut it nice and short and it makes such a difference not to have to do their hair as we try to get out the door anymore. Eliza, on the other hand, looks like a cotton-candy-headed wild thing with her fuzzy mop of white blond hair - somehow doing her hair just doesn't often make it to the top of my priority list!). After cutting one side of Ashton's hair, he looked hilarious and Isaac and I were laughing at him so he wanted to look in the mirror. I searched for my little hand mirror (that Isaac found at the dollar store for me for Christmas last year) so I could show Ashton without having him go into the bathroom and get hair all over the place. But it was nowhere to be found. I went back in there and told Isaac I was so sad because the special mirror he gave me must have gotten lost in the move and Ashton figured out that he could see himself in the chrome plating on the hair clippers so all was well. Later that night, Ashton got out of bed a few minutes after we'd tucked him in and came up to the kitchen. "You know how I like to be honest? Well, there's something I have to tell you. When me and Isaac were playing with your mirror at the old house it actually broke and I put it in the bushes outside and I'm really sorry. I know it was special because Isaac got it for you and I can buy you a new one if I can earn some money." He'd obviously thought out his speech carefully and wanted to do what's right! Another day, he found me alone and said "Mommy, I have to tell you something. I was going potty and three drops of pee pee got on my underwear so I had to put on some new ones but I put the wet ones right in the washer, of course." On a mommy date to the grocery store today, he said, "Remember when I went with you last time to that clothes store (I vaguely remembered - it was a couple months ago). Well, when you said I could wait in the car (it was parked right outside this small shop I was in), I actually found some money in the car and bought a gumball and some nuts from those little machines when I came back in the store. I'm sorry I did that without asking." What a boy.

Isaac still says a lot of his words in his own little way. He says "yogrit" instead of "yogurt" and "gill" instead of "girl" and "thinger" instead of "finger" - plus he still uses the "w" sound instead of the "r" sound a lot ("I weally, weally need a dwink!"). He's this big strong 4 year old with this cute little voice (sometimes not-so-cute when he gets whiney, but mostly very cute). He totally blooms with just a little praise. When we point out something he's done well, he'll walk around bursting with pride and telling everyone about it for days. After learning to ride his bike without training wheeles before moving from California, he had a bad bike crash and wanted the training wheels back on. So he's had training wheels again for 6 months or so and Jared said to tell him when he was ready to take them off again. A couple days ago, he said he was ready to get them off and he took off riding without them, no problem. Within a few minutes, he was jubilantly riding down the big dirt hill between our house and Jonah and Aja's - like he'd been doing it all his life. He's a totally steady and great bike rider now. And he's somehow made a breakthrough on letters and numbers - he just hasn't been interested and has become very quickly bored and annoyed when I've tried to work with him on academic stuff. But this last week, as we've been filling out the forms for Kindergarten registration, I figured we'd better get going on this stuff and pulled out a kindergarten readiness workbook. He was totally into it and wanted to keep doing page after page! It seems like Isaac just "clicks" with different things when he's ready, and if you push him too soon, he's as stubborn and difficult as can be.

Eliza's been the best big sister lately. She's always talking so sweetly to the twins - "Don't worry, little guy, I'm your big sister and I'll help you eat this bread and then you'll be happy." She's always playing peek-a-boo with them and doing crazy songs and dances for them to help them stop crying. She definitely fits the phrase "absolutely adorable or absolutely horrible." She completely falls apart at the least provocation and when I tell her she needs to stop, she'll say "I can't get my tears out!" and insists on having me and only me wipe her eyes for her so that she can stop crying. She loves to help me do things and generally is delightful if she's happily engaged in something - but if she's a bit bored and/or tired or hungry, watch out! She loved to pick fights with me. She'll come up and say something like "Mommy, I'm not going to play with you" and when I say "fine" she'll say "well, I'm not going to pick up my toys like you asked me" and I'll say "fine, but you have to do it before we can go" and she'll find something else contrary to say to me and try to get me to argue with her. She's got some Eyre blood, I guess!

Both babies are running around these days. They are totally stable on their feet and have started chasing each other around and laughing at each other which is totally fun to watch. They also love their older siblings to chase them. Whenever I get down on the floor at their level, they'll take turns giving me hugs and kisses - they both do this adorable "awwwww" sound as they lean in for a hug. Silas gives the sweetest tight, fairly long hugs and Oliver's more into short little hugs and slobbery kisses followed by some pats on the cheeks and some pulls on the ears and sometimes a hair pull and nose pull for good measure. They were great sleepers for a while there, but they're back to some bad stuff - mostly Silas again - waking up and wailing away for seriously hours at a time if we don't go get him a bottle. We'll lay there in bed, determined not to go in there and comfort his bad behavior, but he'll seriously go on forever and finally wake up Oliver and then they'll both be wailing away, keeping each other awake and getting hysterical. So we'll finally go in there and give them a little water and if that doesn't work, some milk. They both have little colds right now - but this waking up thing started before the colds so I don't know if its connected. These babies are the best in every way but sleeping! Good thing they're such adorable little guys during the day because it's sure hard to feel loving towards them at night sometimes!

Oliver is totally into playing peek-a-boo and it's so cute to see him pull a blanket over his head and sit still, waiting for someone to say "where's oliver?" so he can pull it off and great us with a huge smile and laugh. He's also developed this great little dance he does whenever he hears music. He'll position himself right under one of the speakers we have in the ceiling and do some knee bends - carefully keeping his balance, very serious about the whole thing, then as he gets more confident, he'll start flapping his arms and smiling while keeping the knee bends going.

Silas seems to be the instigator on getting into things, although Oliver does his share too. Their favorite thing is to pull out all the spice jars on the spice rack and they do it about 30 times a day. We tried to put a child lock on the thing but it won't work and we keep thinking they'll get sick of it - but no luck so far! Silas always has this mischevious grin ready to flash at you as you find him making a mess. When we firmly tell him "NO" or take away something he shouldn't have, he just falls apart, seeming to feel so offended and sad. He's a tender hearted little guy.

I'm re-writing the descriptions of the furniture on the Mountain Interiors website and tracking down new products to feature on the site as well as working on finishing this manual for CareerMothers (in my spare time, ha, ha, ha). Jared's working a lot on Mountain Interiors, on another possible business venture, and on finishing this house. Jonah and Aja lived with us for a couple weeks as they finished their house and now they're in there - it's beautiful! As their house passed up our house as far as how finished it was, we both decided it's time to get this place done once and for all. Jared's got all the towel bars and door stops installed and he's
99% finished with the baseboards now and he's done a fabulous job. I've filled a lot of the nail holes with putty, unpacked the last box, and worked on lots of other little details. Now we just need our painters to come stain the last 6 doors that had been made wrong and had to be sent back and redone. The painters/stainers have promised to come about 30 times and they've yet to come, but they promised they'd be here Wednesday - we'll see!

The weather's been amazing and the scenery fills my heart and soul every day. It was great having Jo and Aja with us for a while and we love having them right next door now. After having their kids here a lot during the Parade of Homes and as they worked on their house and then having them live with us for a while, it now seems pretty quiet and simple to have "just" five kids here some of the time. I keep thinking someone's missing as I put out lunch for just our three big kids. It's been crazy, but it's also been really fun working on our houses together, seeing Jo and Jared working away on doorknobs and baseboards and installing cork and so many other things on these lovely homes. It's really cool that this actually worked out after Jo and I emailed back and forth between New Zealand and California, contemplating the idea of living near each other and brainstorming places where both our famlies might like to live. Who would have guessed we'd be here in St. George in these amazing houses, looking out at the most lovely scenery and watching our kids play on the empty lot between our houses!

We're stressed out and very busy but very happy and very grateful.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Adventures in Hiking and our CaliforniaTrip

We're hanging out with Jo and Aja (who just got back from London and are living with us while they finish the last details on their new house next door), listening to conference while the kids play out on the balcony on an absolutely perfect spring day. Between conference sessions, Jared and I took the three older kids on a hike - you just head right out from our house and there are all these amazing hikes. There are wildflowers and new green leaves bursting out all over and it's so pretty to see the desert in bloom. We hiked way up into the hills (with the boys scampering up everything like little mountain goats and Eliza alternating between whining and delighting in the fact that hiking is so fun - Jared swears she's schizophrenic) and found this great narrows area and Ashton and I decided to try hiking up it. There were some tricky parts, but I was so proud and Ashton was quite impressed that I was able to use different rock climbing techniques to get up several hard parts. Then we got to a place with a hole the kids were able to climb up and through to get to the next level and the kids did it no problems. Given how small the hole was, Jared and I decided to go up another way which worked out great for Jared but not so well for me. I got up to a certain point and couldn't figure out where to go from there and couldn't get up or down with my legs and arms getting progressively more shakey the longer I held on. I finally got back down (with Jared's help) and decided to try the hole the kids went through. I got into it just fine but couldn't get the leverage to get out of it so Jared tried to lift me up and out but my legs were too long and would have had to be able to bend backwards to make it work. We were both laughing pretty hard and the kids were pretty interested and excited to see me totally stuck in a hole. I finally got back down and up another way - and the view from the top was amazing. Wow, I need to work out more! My legs and arms felt like jello after all that. It was such a beautiful hike and a good adventure.

Anyway, I loved conference - got a lot of needed messages out of it. Here are some of the main ideas about what I need to change in my life that I got from the conference talks:
  • Remember that we are free to choose, that we can make our lives what they should be, and that we can and should choose JOY.
  • USE the gift of the Holy Ghost more - find answers, find peace, block out senseless worries with the gift of the Holy Ghost
  • Rejoice in my present calling as a mother more fully
  • Make more of an effort to reach out to non-Mormon friends and become more involved in this community.
  • Make more of a concerted effort to help those around me reach their potential.
We had a great time last weekend in California seeing old friends, seeing family, visiting our old house and neighborhood, going to our old ward, and going to the wedding of a good friend (Phil) from Jared's Applied Materials days. Chris and Hedy were so kind to put us up in style at their beautiful house and it was so nice to spend some time with them as well as Ashley, Ben, Mike and Elisha and kids. And we loved spending a couple nights with Kathryn and MJ and family as well in Piedmont. It was amazing to see everyone's kids so big - it's been almost a year since we moved. But other than bigger kids and lots of new babies in our old ward, not much else seemd to have changed. Wow - it's green in California! It's just so lush with deep green and flowers filling every available spot of earth. The trees seemed so big since we've just got little scrubby desert trees here. And the houses seemed so small and run-down. We were refreshed to see all the diversity of the people everywhere we went. I do love the Bay Area. But while it was great to be there again, enjoy its beauty and see dear friends and relatives, it made us feel all the more sure that we made the right move to get out of there. We've been there and done that. It was really time for a change and we feel so right about having left when we did.
My wonderful friend Amy who's always always done so much for me put together a lunch with a bunch of my old friends and it was great to catch up with everyone. The kids got to play on the swingset at our old house that looks EXACTLY like it did when we left, only it looks smaller since we're so used to the larger homes here now. I still can't believe we sold that tiny house for so much! We took a walk through the big beautiful cemetery near our old house as the kids reminisced that they'd learned to ride their bikes there and shared all these little random memories about things we'd pretended there or things they'd noticed that were still the same. It's so interesting to see what the kids remember. The cemetery was their number one place they wanted to go when we were in California. That and the beach in Santa Cruz and the Boardwalk there - but we didn't quite make it to that one. With Hedy and Elisha's two kids who were staying with her for the weekend, we fought the crowds at the San Jose Children's Discovery Museum on a rainy Saturday and felt glad to be away from such throngs of people as we lost and found each kid a couple times. The kids had a wonderful time - Ashton couldn't get enough of figuring out how this machine that did stuff with tennis balls worked and all the kids were facinated with everything. We got to spend an afternoon with our good friends the Harringtons and ate at some favorite restaurants (there's no Indian food or In and Out Burger or Zackary's Pizza around here).
Church at our old ward was great - and crazy - as we were talking to people left and right - so many wonderfully good people who we were able to serve and who were so kind to us especially with the twins' birth. That ward really knows how to take care of people. I don't know if there could be kinder, more Christ-like people than many of those we knew in the Santa Clara ward!
The wedding was Sunday afternoon at this gorgeous winery up in the hills above Palo Alto and it was really lovely and fun for Jared to see a lot of old Applied Materials friends. We took the twins with us and left the boys with Amy and Eliza with another friend, Lori, whose kids treated Eliza like an absolute princess and gave her a bunch of beautiful hand-me-down clothes to take home (Eliza had just grown out of all the stuff Lori gave me previously, so it was perfect!). The twins weren't great at the wedding, but it was better than worrying about them being left with someone else. Oliver did quite a show throwing up at the end of dinner and we left fairly quickly after that - Oliver doing some more throwing up in the car. We bathed him at Amy's and thankfully that was it. Other than the diarreah. Our kids get this weird throw up twice then have diarreah for a day every so often - and it was great timing for this bout. But luckily Oliver was the only one to get it this time round. He didn't seem sad or uncomfortable at all. It's a weird bug. But luckily we were sitting at a table at the wedding with other peopel who have kids and they weren't too terribly disgusted - plus everyone was a bit tipsy by that time of night which helped.
The kids were generally great in the car and it was so nice to get away and have some family time. It's sort of nice to be stuck in a car where all you can really do is talk and play car games and tell stories and just sort of be together. There are plenty of moments when everyone's a big cranky on long trips like this. But Jared's a great driver and I go back and tell stories and play peekaboo with the kids and we do a few DVDs as necessary and stop at any available playland when everyone really needs a break and it's really pretty decent. I'm so grateful for this wonderful little family of mine.
I'll write about the Bull Sale in Idaho. That car trip (weekend before last) was a lot harder but worth it - a shorter drive actually but the kids were worse - the twins would NOT sleep in the car and entertaining them got old fast. Maybe the trip to California was easier because the kids were sort of used to being in the car since it had only been three days since we got back from Idaho. We sort of had our car routine down for this California trip.
Anyway, got to go shower off all the red dirt from this hike and get to bed.
I'm so blessed.
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