Friday, February 15, 2008

Her Royal Highness Eliza's Birthday

What a birthday this girl had! She planned the whole party on her own and had me write down shopping lists and to-do lists and everything. And it seems that everything turned out just as our little princess hoped (thank heavens). She was delighted and sweet all day and it was a really fun day for everyone. Here's the story in pictures:
We started off the day with Eliza's favorite breakfast - oatmeal (Ashton was appalled that she didn't pick something more exciting but I was relieved) and did family presents before school. Eliza got a tea set - a real porcelain one like she's been wanting for a long long time.
Liza's "Royal Tea Party" started at 2:30pm with her three good girl friends. They were SO delighted about the whole thing and were super polite to each other - "would you care for some more grapes?" "why certainly"... We had classical music playing and they were so darn cute as they politely chatted over their "apple tea" (apple juice), grapes and cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches. Then they diligently worked on making bracelets for themselves until the boys showed up at 3:30.
When the boys arrived, Liza asked me if it was time for the Royal Ball to begin. I didn't really know a Ball was on the agenda but the boys were very obliging and I turned up the music, they paired up and danced together for quite a long time - I was pretty surprised - but they all seemed to really enjoy it. At the end of the "Ball," Eliza chased after her dance partner (Silas) with this toy ring she had saying, "wait, prince, you've got to give me this ring and ask me to marry you!" Silas was a bit confused but finally took the ring and gave it to her - she was delighted, he was still confused but happy to make her happy. Telling of things to come?
After the Ball, we made crowns (I highly recommend Burger King crowns and a bunch of stickers!), had a story about dragons and princesses acted out by the kids, opened presents and decorated cookies.


The whole thing turned out remarkably well considering that I couldn't get the twins down for a nap and they both had stinky diapers just as the girls were arriving for the tea party, then Jared got caught up with stuff at work and I hadn't really planned for anyone else to help me out with these 12 little kids. The kids were really really good - but wow - I was SO tired by the end! I had to be totally "up" and totally "on" for quite a few hours straight there which really takes it out of me. Then Valentine's Day was the very next day so I wanted to have all this stuff ready for Jared and the kids for that - these back to back events (like Christmas, Jared's birthday and Ashton's birthday) really wear me out.
This little girl of ours is everything you could ever want in a little girl - sweet (she's always offering to help me with things and so often tells me she loves me and loves giving me little back scratches while I work on the computer), cute (a woman at a store the other day was staring at Liza and came up to me and said, "that little girl is GORGEOUS" - I have to agree. She's got these striking and unusual features - and these goofy teeth to keep her humble), chatty (sometimes I do wish there was an "off" button), imaginative (she loaned her imaginary friend "Frizzle" to her best friend Olivia for a few days and missed her sorely but kept emphasizing how glad she was that Olivia and Frizzle could have some time together), helpful (she LOVES to help with the twins, set the table, help make dinner), artistic (you've seen her bed-decorating skills - and her artwork is getting better and better - she's got a real eye for color and style, even in the outfits she comes up with), and yes, very dramatic and emotional (watch out if Liza thinks something is unfair or if her feelings get badly hurt or her plans get really messed up - the sobbing and splotchy face is pretty pathetic). Oh, we love our little Liza!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Kids

It snowed last week - crazy rain turned into huge beautiful flakes falling as we enjoyed a delicious Sunday dinner with Jo and Aja last week. The kids were so excited and it was so lovely to be there with a roaring fire, a good meal and good people. Jo topped it off by making some of his excellent cookies. And thanks to the cold temperatures, there are still little patches of snow and ice around here and there. One bad thing about the snow was that it covered up our little satellite dish while Jared was trying to record the Super Bowl so he could watch it later. Turned out that the best parts of the game didn't record. Sad day for Jared!
Jared was in Virginia for meetings from Tuesday night until Saturday this last week. It was great for him to have some time with his sister Michelle who lives in DC and to be away from the daily trucking issues to think about the bigger picture of his company. We all missed him like crazy but we did OK and I scheduled in a lot of fun stuff so I could stay sane in his absence - did visiting teaching, did a crazy clothes-shopping trip with three little kids in tow (I was wearing clothes with holes in them - getting pretty bad!), had a fun girls' night in with a couple friends, had the young women come here for our Wed night activity... Even though it's always hard and sometimes rather disastrous to plan things or get out of the house with so many little kids, it beats the alternative of all of us going crazy from staying in and being on our own too much! The weather's getting better so that makes everything better and I've been able to take the kids on walks and enjoy some sunshine. Sunshine does wonders for me. We're so spoiled here that a few weeks of really cold weather and a little snow and ice can really throw a wrench in the works.

I haven't been writing down and capturing the cute and funny things the kids do and say very much lately - there are so many little things that happen every single day and Jared and I lay in bed talking about them before going to sleep at night - but then I promptly forget them. So here's an attempt to grab a few moments with these cute kids lately.

The other night, I’d just put the twins to bed then heard sirens out on Snow Canyon Parkway. The twins were talking excitedly about what they’d just heard and I went in there to settle them down. I agreed with them that it was very cool that we just heard what they were sure was a fire truck and reassured them that everything was fine and they should go to sleep.

Silas, in the cutest little concerned voice: “But Mommy, what if da fiderfiders have pwoblems wif der ladder? Can I help dem?”

The twins are totally into making a "magic school bus" (from the show that they love to watch with the big boys) several times a day out of all the stools from the bar and chairs from the dining table. Sometimes they make it out of all the cushions from the couches in the living room. So the whole upstairs often looks like a tornado hit it lately. I love hearing them talking with each other: "Shu we go on a field trip on da magic skoo bus?" "Let's go!" "where shu we go?" "brrmmmm" "let's bring pears!" "yeah!!!!" Then I have to go intervene on the loading up of real food onto the bus.

The other day after school the boys sat down to watch a show with the twins. This is how I found them a few minutes later - how cute are these FOUR boys of mine!

And another time, I had Ashton lay down with the twins to help them fall asleep - he loves to do this - and this is how I found Ash and Si:

Eliza’s SO excited about her birthday party this week. She’s been planning it for about a month now, assigning different duties to different family members (“Daddy, you’ll pick up the balloons and the crowns from Burger King, right? On your way home from work, right? And you won’t forget, right?”) and having me make lists of the things we're going to need. Luckily she only has a handful of good friends so her elaborate ideas should work out fine for a small group.

Another major focus for her lately has been conducting a school that she dubbed “Baby School: Teach My Babies” where she teaches the twins about colors and numbers and “reads” them some favorite books and helps them learn to “draw” pictures. She is SO cute about it – sounds like a top-notch preschool teacher as she explains things to them with a great mixture of little-kid words and more grown-up terms and they eat it up - "Come on, Ollie buddy, come join us for reading now... Great job, Si! You're getting to be quite an artist!" They come running in to me to show me their latest scribbled picture that they’ve completed with Liza’s help and they have the cutest little proud looks on their faces. Eliza does get quite put out when they aren’t totally cooperative with her curriculum and sometimes gets pretty firm with them – but generally she’s a great little teacher and keeps things moving at a nice clip so they’re quite willing students. A few minutes ago, she was in there teaching them "Ribbons" (when she explained what this was and demonstrated, I realized she means "rhythms" - she had them clapping the little plastic bowls from Liza's tea set together and I turned on some music for them which was a big hit). Oh, she just got firm on the drawing project they're now doing - Liza: "Si, does that look like a leg?" Si: "yes!" Liza: "No, it does NOT. Here let me help you." Funny funny girl.

One last thing on Eliza - her Joy School goal for this unit on goal-striving is to decorate my room. Not sure where she got it from - but a few times a week, she gets out a bunch of ribbons and quite artistically decorates my bed and the lamps by our bed and sometimes other things in the room as well. She usually also places a carefully colored page from a coloring book or one of her own original drawings on the bed. I don't know where she got the idea for this goal but she's been very diligent about it!

Ashton told me the details of his theory of how certain specific incidents in Spiderman III came to pass on the way home from school today – while I was trying to field questions and issues raised by the many other kids in the car (I had Ana and Olivia as well as my kids). Ashton often has very involved things he wants to explain to me in a very animated way right when I really can’t give him my attention. But I do love seeing glimpses of how his very busy mind works and marveling at the theories and ideas that are always springing up in there. I often wish so much that I had more time to really listen to him. I need to do more Mommy Dates with him and find ways to spend more one-on-one time with him. I know it won’t be forever that he really wants to talk to me about all his ideas and thoughts.

I've had so much fun reading books to Isaac's class every Tuesday afternoon and seeing him in action with his friends. I get lots of hugs from many of these cute little 1st graders when I enter the classroom and lots of interesting comments and questions throughout the stories that I read. But my favorite part is the proud look on Isaac's face when he sees me arrive and his smiles at me whenever I look at him while I'm reading. He's so cute with his friends and his favorite thing to do at recess lately is to play house with his many girl friends.

Isaac's been working so hard to read enough books to earn a reading lamp to go on his bedside table. He finally finished the goal this week and is SO proud of his new lamp. He also lost his second tooth this week (while he was at school - the day after I read the class a story about a kid loosing a tooth at school - very cool) and after 3 days, the tooth fairy finally showed up. Isaac was thrilled with the money and ice cream coupon from the tooth fairy and totally forgiving of the tooth fairy for being so late. He's always totally forgiving of everyone.

One last thing - last week we took the kids to the circus. It was a "total red-neck circus" as my friend described it - done in a rodeo barn at the fairgrounds, very interesting assortment of attendees, pretty decent and varied acts with some pretty cheesy costumes. It was pretty funny to see the same people coming out to do different things with the announcer calling them something different each time - "And here are the amazing Rodriegez brothers" and next time the same people come out in different costumes "And now - the fabulous Marvel duo!" The kids were all totally into it - except Silas who was mostly into doing kamakaze stunts on the bleachers. The kids loved the dancing dogs, stunt horses, clowns (they were the worst in my opinion), acrobats (they were really pretty darn good) - but their favorite (and mine) were the three elephants who could stand on two legs and walk around and do lots of pretty amazing feats. Can't beat the circus for a good family outing complete with great people-watching!

That's it from us for that last couple weeks.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Thankfulness

I've had some major ups and downs in the last few weeks - I've always been prone to ups and downs but they really escalated since Christmas until things were really seeming bad. With a lot of prayer and a lot of good talks with Jared and others, things are now seeming so much better than they've been in a long, long time. I feel like we've really worked through a lot of long-standing issues. We're now working diligently towards a better marriage with a lot more communication and connection and I'm seeing myself more clearly - seeing what I need to change and working towards positive change rather than spending energy on bemoaning the difficult aspects of my life that aren't going to change for a while (I have 5 small, needy kids, finances are tight, lots of things I try to do each day have no visible immediate effect, I don't have a great deal of adult interaction or appreciation for the things I do...). I'm trying to be more pro-active in changing what I CAN change, focus on the positive aspects of each thing in my life and live closer to the spirit, seeking more inspiration and guidance.

I am so blessed. I have the best husband and kids in the world and sure, they could improve and so could I, but that will only happen with patience and small incremental changes. I get so impatient for things to be the way I envision them and get caught up in a feeling of inertia as I wish for the righteous desires of my heart to become reality more quickly than reality allows. I'm realizing more and more that I need to start with myself and make myself more of what the Lord would have me be rather than worrying so much about fixing the organizations and people around me. Don't know if this makes sense - but things that have seemed so confusing and murky are seeming more clear these days. And I'm so grateful.

In a moment of total frustration about inertia, I came across a great deal on a hotel room in Las Vegas and surprised the kids when they got home from school with the news that we were taking off for adventures in Vegas. I just found out that Shawni did the same sort of thing at the same time but her surprise was Disneyland. Our trip pales in comparison - but the kids were SO excited. It turned out to be a really great trip and I felt pretty empowered that I could take 5 little kids to Vegas, successfully get them and our luggage through a casino to the hotel check-in desk then through the casino again to the elevators to our room with all the kids fighting over who got to push the button for the elevator, then all over Vegas the next day.
Picnicking by the Bellagio Lake
Hanging out with the M and M's - OK, not as cool as the Disney Characters
all over Shawni's blog, but Isaac and Eliza were excited!

The kids LOVED seeing the Strip all lit up at night, the novelty of staying in a hotel room (Ashton kept dancing around chanting "I love hotels, I love hotels!"), staying up late eating treats from Trader Joes in our room (made a crazy stop in there for food with 5 kids in tow - not the best part of the trip!), watching some very playful young lions at the MGM Grand for a long time, riding the little train that connects several of the casinos (the twins really really loved this part), and just seeing so many interesting people and sites. I loved just forgetting about everything else for 24 hours and totally being with my kids, going with what they felt like doing and enjoying everything through their eyes. The kids were all really good and it was great just to get away and do something different for a bit and let Jared have some peace and quiet for a while.

The kids were excited about the fake Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty and all that -
but the big boys were quick to point out that they'd seen the real Statue of Liberty
and it was much better than this one
When I got home, Jared had set up a great little weekend for the two of us at Zion and Jessica valiantly agreed to watch the kids. It was SO nice to have some great uninterrupted talks with Jared and enjoy the beauty of the place. We stayed at a wonderful hotel and ate great food and came home feeling rejuvenated and ready to start fresh.

After so many years of kids and craziness, we're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and it feels good to be moving past the "just barely getting it done" stage to the "actually enjoying it" stage. Sure, we've had amazing times and precious moments and we wouldn't trade away anything in the last 10 years - but it's been quite frequently grueling and stressful and there are so many times when so many people are demanding attention all at once and there are no clean clothes and the homework didn't get done and the babysitter fell through and the phone is ringing and there's guilt and crushed hopes from so many things undone in the past and worry over things that need to be done in the future cluttering up the present and making it hard not to react unpleasantly (to put it nicely) to the hard things that keep popping up. As a naturally-inclined control freak and perfectionist and a person who desperately wants to do meaningful things all the time in the larger world, life with five little kids has perhaps been harder for me than it might be for some. But I'm learning to see things more for what they are, to roll with the punches better, to count my blessings, and to appreciate the fact that it will really just be a moment in time that I'll have these kids at home, needing me, wanting me. And I want to look back with love and pleasant memories, not with regret that I missed too much in the midst of the chaos and the frustrations and the "grass is greener" mentality.

So I'd better get going on my pro-active to-do list of things that I'll feel MUCH better once I do - organize a mother's group/book group, get on top of the housework that's been bearing down on me, go read with Isaac with a positive attitude, come up with a fun FHE treat....
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