Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sweet Babies and Interesting Conversations

Ollie and Si - 3 days old
At Costco yesterday I saw a girl with some little twins - two infant car seats crammed into her shopping cart, two sweet sleeping baby boys in the car seats. I just had to talk to her for a while and hear her story. Meeting her and seeing those little guys took me back big time and made me yearn to hold my tiny little babies again - but also made me so very grateful that the twins have passed through so many hard stages and become such fun little guys now. The twins really couldn't be more fun or more sweet these days. They are so eager to help, so eager to please and so darn cute with their bright blue eyes, their white hair and brown bodies, and their deep baby voices saying the funniest things. Eliza and both twins decided they wanted to try waterskiing when we went out to San Hollow with Jo and family for FHE this week and Jared was pleased as punch that they had that desire. Even after Eliza screamed her head off after her quick try, the little guys were still determined to give it a shot. They probably could have actually skiied it but their little feet just couldn't keep the skis on. They both hung onto the rope for dear life after immediately popping out of the skis and ended up dragging through the water for a while. But after a quick cry, they thought the whole things was great. According to Si: "The skis fell off my widdle wegs so I went down down down in the BIG water!" No fear in these boys! You should see them jumping into the pool with a gleeful yelp and then swimming all over the place on their own. They're swimmers through and through now - remind me of little puppies the way they swim.
Sand Hollow Sunset last Monday night

Just a little sound-bite of the stuff I hear in the car as I drive the kids around:
Ashton: Did you know there was once a feathered dinosaur? It wasn't a bird, it just had feathers. I know because scientists found a feather that got trapped in the dirt and became like a fossil.
Isaac: Do you think there are dinosaurs in outer space?
Ashton: Actually, I can think of a way to get a dinosaur into outer space - but it would be really complicated and really expensive. I'd have to buy a space shuttle which would be really really expensive and then I'd have to find a mosquito that drank dinosaur blood long long ago and then got frozen in sap for about a million years. Then using that blood in the mosquito, I'd clone a dinosaur and then I'd take it on my shuttle into outer space and then there would be dinosaurs in outer space.

Oh, the interesting conversations they have! All the kids say so many interesting, clever or weird things each day - I always mean to write more of them down. Got to work on that!

We're taking off next Tuesday for a month - Ashton, ID to see the Looslis and go to Jared's 15-year high school reunion then on to Bear Lake to be with my family there (Jared will have to go back and forth as he manages his business where there's never a dull moment. I'm doing laundry like crazy and trying to get lots of Joy School stuff taken care of before we go. We're all getting excited!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Oh, the Bickering!!!

I woke up this morning and laid in bed for a few more minutes, feeling so relaxed and happy that I have no camps to worry about today - I've got a free week ahead of me with very few things scheduled - just time to read with the kids and go down to the pool when we feel like it and get some little projects done around the house and just bask in unscheduledness. But right now, as Ashton and Isaac bicker their little heads off while doing the dishes, it's not seeming quite so fun to have all this unstructured time with the kids this week! The boys just finished fighting about whether or not a spot on a plate was a stain or could be scrubbed off and then went on to whether or not the water has to be on when you turn on the garbage disposal and Ashton just pushed Isaac and Isaac said "That feels good" so Ashton promptly pushed him again, harder, and now Isaac's crying. Oh, these are beautiful moments! Unstructured time and doing the jobs I assign them seem to lead directly to a lot of bickering between these boys about some of the dumbest things ever. I should write down more of the topics of their arguments - truly silly stuff for the most part. Then the twins get into it - poking each other and proding each other until someone freaks out. Then Liza gets in the mix and gets in someone's way and ends up squealing - hate that squeal. But the great part is that nothing seems to last for more than a few moments and then everyone's happy and playing together as best friends again - until the next issue arises anyway.

It's interesting to see how arguements and bickering breed more of the same. And happiness and sharing and being kind breeds more of the same. If I can just get things going on the right track, they pick up their own momentum and keep going pretty well. So I'd better stop this blogging for the day and go get the kids going on something nice and happy - maybe another read-a-thon. A little structure goes a long way for these guys in setting the tone and setting up good patterns for how they treat each other on into the rest of the day...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Great Artists - My Last Summer Workshop

Well, my summer workshops are officially over. This was really fun. The kids got a lot more out of these workshops than I even hoped and their friends and friends' parents were really enthusiastic and excited about the whole thing. My last workshop was Great Artists. We learned about different artists and went over the basics of different mediums and different styles of art. We did a lot of sketching, tried our hand at sculpting and did lots of painting. One of the kids' favorite parts was learning about Jackson Pollock and creating our own big Pollock-style painting. We all had paint all over our clothes and in our hair by the end of that day! But we created a fun masterpiece.

The twins got in on the action at the end of each class. Ashton or a girl from the ward babysat them downstairs during class each time, but at the end they got to try their hand at art. Here's Silas with what I'll call "Brown #1". What he lacks in talent he makes up for in enthusiasm!
Here was my best attempt during the class. Looking back at all my art history stuff to do this class reminded me how much I love art and inspired me to pull out art stuff more often and do a lot more art alongside my kids. There's nothing like art to really get your creative juices going.

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Jared's First Complete Triathalon and Father's Day

Jared finished his first triathalon. We're all so proud of him! This is the fourth triathalon he's tried to do - on the first one he tried to do (a year ago now), he missed the turn-around for the bike ride and did the olympic distance by accident - so by the time he got back from that LONG bike ride, the whole event was pretty much over so he didn't bother doing the run. Then at the Kokapelli Triathlon, there was a huge storm and just as he was about to jump in the water, they cancelled the whole thing. Then at the St George Triathlon, there was more bad weather so they cancelled the swim but Jared did the bike ride and the running. Last weekend, at the Utah Summer Games Triathlon, the stars were alligned, the weather was perfect, the turn-around spots were obvious and Jared completed all three parts of the triathalon and did really well. We were all there to cheer for him and it was a great day! Jared finished the swimming without drowning (which was his main goal on that part) and did his best-ever times for running and biking - made up some time on that to compensate for the swimming and ended up doing pretty darn well in his division. What a guy! It was a fun pre-fathers day activity to head out there and cheer for him and the kids were so excited to make signs and do a lot of cheering. Go Jared!!!!

Jared got some of his father's day presents early - going flying with the kids the weekend before and having us all come cheer him on for the triathalon. But we saved some fun stuff for Father's Day itself. We all worked hard to shower Jared with at least a portion of the adoration, appreciation and love he deserves as the best dad ever. The kids made cute, thoughtful cards and helped make a grand breakfast and dinner for their Dad. I made a slide show of Jared doing fun stuff with the kids reaching back 5 years or so (as long back as we have digital photos) and it was fun to remember all the great times he's shown to me and the kids. We threw in a few gifts and the kids were really cute to Jared all day. One of his favorite parts was when Liza sang him his favorite Jack Johnson song that she decided to memorize for him - nice touch, little girl. What a marvelous, fun, adventurous, brave, patient, smart, handsome, talented guy I married. What a lucky mother I am to have Jared for my partner in parenting. What blessed kids we have to have Jared as their father!
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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Fairy Tale Adventures

Rapunzel marries Prince Roderick
(after getting to know him over the course
of a year and sacrificing her hair for him)

I think "Fairy Tale Adventures" has been my favorite summer workshop I've taught so far. I had 6 cute little kids (three boys, three girls) all enthusiastically listening to stories with wide eyes, getting dressed up to act out the stories, and making up stories and little plays of their own. I told some of my favorite fairy tales with no book - I love really looking into kids' eyes while telling stories and seeing them get so into it and I love embellishing a story with my own new twists and pointing out every possible applicable lesson taught by each story (Snow White's great for learning about not eating things from strangers and learning that just because someone is beautiful dosn't necessarily mean they're good - the wicked queen was beautiful outside but SO ugly inside, Rumplestitskin teaches us not to brag and not to make promises that would be too hard to keep and how to use our smart brains to find answers and fix problems...).

The queen feels terrible that she made a bad promise to Rumplestiltskin and
fixes the problem by doing lots of research to find out his name and gives him
a position in the palace as a jester and magic tutor to the young prince
so he won't have hard feelings over not being able to take the baby
(Rumplestiltskin's the little guy in the vest)

The kids got to write their own books (so interesting to see what they came up with - robots eating frogs, flower-people who loose their legs if it gets too cold and have to stay rooted like regular flowers, a pig who goes into the woods when her dad told her not to and get's caught by bad guys, a pony who looks different from her friends and feels so sad...). I love stories so much!

Eliza as Rupunzel, Isaac as Roderick and little Jonah as Roderick's trusty horse, Stan

Young men escorting the young ladies to the Royal Tea Party

Here they are making toasts to the various lessons we learned during Fairy Tale Adventures. We had quite a tea party - cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches, banana and peanut butter sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, finger veggies, fruit, cream puffs... The only thing missing was tea but no one seemed to mind - I don't have nice tea cups and the kids like apple juice better anyway!

Next week, it's on to Great Artists. Should be fun (and messy)!

Friday, June 13, 2008

The twins can SWIM!

We just finished our two weeks of swimming lessons and all the kids have improved but the twins have totally taken off. They loved their teacher "Weesa" (Lisa) and were very sad to hear they wouldn't be swimming with her every day any more. When we went down to the pool today to swim, Silas asked "Mommy, will you peetend to be Weesa today and swim with us?" Whenever Lisa would tell them about something new to try, they'd both jump up and down with anticipation and say "me, me, me! I raised my hand! I'm ready!" "It's my turn! I can do it!" If you want to see enthusiasm, just spend a little time with Ollie and Si!

After showing off the stuff they learned in swim lessons to their proud Dad today, they went on to become even more confident in the water. They're swimming like little fish now - jumping off the side of the pool with glee and swimming over to the side by themselves, doing flips in the air when Jared tosses them up, swimming both under and over water really competently. And the best thing about it is that they're so totally happy and proud and excited about the whole thing and they're SO cute as they come up out of the water sputtering but somehow keeping a huge grin on their faces the whole time.

Here's the best video clip I got during swim lessons:

And here are some favorite swim lesson photos:
Liza and her best friend Olivia who can never quite get enough of each other -
they both really progressed a lot in swim lessons!
Ollie and Si in one of their favorite places - they crank up the hot water
and hang out in the pool shower for a long as we let them.
Liza's super cute swimming class - teacher Lisa, Natalie, Liza and Olivia

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Life is Good

Eliza's currently telling her doll stories about her life: "I guess you're big enough now to hear some stories about your family. When I was two, I went on a big airplane to Boston and when you get big, I'll take you there too. When I turned 8, it was time for my baptism and my mom was so happy and I hopped in the car and went to church and ALL of my best friends were there and my uncle. After it was done I went home and had SO much fun and then I went to sleep and then weh the sun started to rise, it was morning. Now I'm going to tell you about Bob - he's my cousin's dad - and this is Wendy and she's my aunt." (I looked over and it seems she's using a Bob the Builder story book as her family album.) Oh, this little girl of mine keeps me entertained. She takes such good care of all of her dolls - and of her little brothers two.

I'm loving this summer so much! Being a mom is really getting to be much more fun than stressful for me lately and I've so enjoyed really teaching and being with my kids now that school's out and I get to have the big kids around more. The big kids entertain the twins so well and everyone really enjoys each other quite a bit these days (yes, of course, there are still many incidents of kids bickering and bugging each other every day, but it's generally pretty fleeting). The summer workshops are going great. It takes quite a bit of energy to plan everything out and keep a bunch of kids totally involved, entertained and learning for 3 hours, 3 days a week - but it's energy well spent. What gets me as a mom is expending energy when it doesn't seem to be producing much of a benefit and I'm just sort of treading water to keep my head above the water rather than feeling like I'm moving myself or anyone else forward. I've loved the feeling of really moving forward as I've been able to teach kids and learn alongside them.

Here are my Little Chefs - should have photographed them in action, but I was too
busy trying to keep some semblance of order in the midst of so many small cooks!

Little Chefs (week before last) was a great success - the kids are so excited about cooking and nutrition now and it's fun to hear them repeat things they learned from the class ("Yeah, let's do a fruit smoothy because we've got to eat our 5 a day!" "Look, with all these different vegetables, there's a rainbow on my plate!" "I want to make breakfast! Can I PLEASE?"). Last week was Mad Scientists. Ashton helped me plan the curriculum and it was fun to have him as my special helper. We oohed and awed over lots of cool chemical reactions, tried building strong structures using various materials and principles of engineering, played around with electricity (thanks to Ashton's cool "Snap Circuits" set), learned about the scientific process and the importance of observation and thinking and guessing and testing... I had 5 boys plus Eliza (who was sort of in and out - she was a little young) and it was an ideal sized group. I've never been a big scientist - this workshop was definitely outside my comfort zone - I learned a lot and really had fun! This week I'm doing Fairy Tale Adventures with Eliza and Isaac as my special helpers and I'm excited to make up and act out wild stories with all these cute little kids as we all use our imaginations. This one's a little more up my alley. Then the final week will be Great Artists and I'm looking forward to sharing my love for art with my kids and their friends as we learn about artists and try our hand at different art mediums.

Here are my Mad Scientists doing some engineering
Did you know if you put an egg in vinegar for a couple days the shell gets all soft
and it looks like this? I sure used a lot of vinegar, baking soda, oil,
corn starch, and food coloring to create some pretty interesting stuff.We started swim lessons this week. I've got the same lady as last year coming to our community pool to do lessons so it's very convenient and there are just 3 kids in each class. Liza's really learning her strokes and the twins are really starting to swim. Silas made it all the way across the pool on his own when we practiced on Saturday! Ollie's a little more cautious but he can do it too. Ollie and Si are SO cute in their lessons. When the teacher tells them about the next thing they're doing, they call out in glee "Oh, Yeah!" and jump up and down. They're so excited and so eager to please. My favorite part of swim lessons so far was seeing Silas swimming underwater for his first few strokes with his bright blue eyes wide open and a big open-mouthed grin on his face, drinking in water like crazy but totally happy about it. The twins are getting to be more and more fun every day!

We've really been living at the pool this last week - swim lessons every afternoon, the first quarterly Miller Gordon Trucklines BBQ there on Monday night, a swim party for the ward on Tuesday morning (ongoing play-group thing)... We're so grateful for the pool! It's getting so that we can relax down there for hours and the kids are all safe and great at entertaining themselves. We did have a bad incident as we got to the pool on Tuesday morning - Ollie stepped on a big red fire ant and was crying inconsolably for about an hour and a half. Poor guy! He never really cries for more than a few seconds about things so this must have really been bad. He just wanted me to hold him and he kept shifting around, trying to get comfortable. Besides the physical pain, he was so offended and hurt that an ant would do such a thing to him! So Ollie and I didn't enjoy the Tuesday ward swim party quite as much as everyone else.

Last minute, Ashton, Isaac, Eliza and I decided to head down to Phoenix with Jared for a business meeting he had down there. He was renting a plane and had room for a few passengers and our babysitter Camille was already planning to come that day so she could watch the twins for most of the day. So how could we pass up a chance to go on a fun flight and spend a few hours with my sister and her kids and my brother Josh who all live there? It was a great flight down - right over the majesty of the Grand Canyon.

Jared did some fun climbs and dives to give us all some thrills (and a bit of an upset stomach for me - but it was worth it!). The kids LOVED being with their cousins and I loved talking with Shawni and Josh. We headed back that evening and were only about an hour and a half late getting home to my sweet friend who was watching the twins for the tail end of the day. Luckily she's still my friend! It was a great day and a great chance to do something special with just the big kids. And Jared was grinning from ear to ear - that guy can't get enough of flying! It's fun to hear him thowing around all the pilot lingo as he talks to air traffic control -47 Echo Romeo requesting permission to land... taxiing to position Yankee Hotel... Good stuff. He's such a great pilot.
Since the twins missed out on that flight and since I'd told Jared part of his Father's Day present was taking all the kids flying, we headed out to the airport again on Saturday morning and the kids traded off going on little joy rides with Jared. The twins had never been before so they were SO excited - and pretty darn cute with their headphones on. What a fun Dad these guys have!
Then we swam all afternoon and Silas was swimming all the way across the pool by himself by the end of the afternoon - Ollie was a little less enthusiastic but did some swimming on his own as well. Several of our good friends showed up at the pool and it was just an all-around great day. Jared topped it off by taking Ashton and Isaac to a football game - one of our good friends is playing for this new semi-pro football team they have here. The twins zonked out after so much excitement during the day and Eliza and I had fun making chocolate covered strawberries - yum!

If you're still reading, I'm impressed. Sorry this one's so long but I've fallen a bit behind and there's so much GOOD stuff to report - seemed like there was a pretty long stretch of hard and bad stuff for a while there so I feel like I'd better celebrate the good all I can! One last thing - the surprise get-away that Jared planned was WONDERFUL. We went up to Bryan's Head Resort and had a great time hiking and mountain biking and enjoying the beautiful cool weather up there. We stayed overnight at a great place and explored places we'd never been before - Navajo Lake, Bryan's Point Peak, Cedar Breaks National Monument (sort of a miniature Bryce Canyon - so majestic and wild and beautiful). We forgot our camera - so I guess you'll be spared any further photos. But it was a really, really wonderful weekend and Jared planned out each detail so well - couldn't have been better.

To top it all off, we've had a really beautiful spring so far - very little HOT weather so far - lots of 80's, some 90's, just perfect with a spectacular summer storm thrown in last Wednesday. I love storms in the desert - the smell, the dramatic scenes in the sky, the saturation of colors once the clouds roll in...

Life is good.


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