Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Moments

The best parts of motherhood come in moments - little seconds-long blips of wonderful stuff that fill your heart and totally compensate for the longer-lasting tedious stuff that fills so much of a mother's life. I'm trying to record more of these moments - so here's what I have for the last couple days:

This afternoon, as I laid down with the twins to get them to sleep for their nap and firmly repeated, "goodnight boys, no more moving or talking," Oliver replied in his deep husky little voice, "goodnight, my sweet mommy." Oh, that made my day. Then the icing on the cake was hearing Silas say, "goodnight, my sweet Oliber" and having Ollie reply, "goodnight my sweet Si Si." I love laying down with my little guys - it always seems like such a crazy hassle to get the twins to the potty and to their beds over their many protests in the midst of the big kids needing my attention, the phone ringing, etc. But once we get in there and lay down together, I get to snuggle with the cutest little boys in the world and stop everything else for 15 minutes or so as I lay by them and watch my sweet sweet angel boys fall asleep.

Yesterday after a crazy morning of teaching 10 little kids in my "Little Chefs" summer workshop about nutrition and recipes and helping them chop and measure and mix for 3 solid hours, I was cleaning up the mess and wondering if all my efforts were actually creating the fun learning experience I had in mind. Jared called and Ashton answered the phone. I heard him say "Yeah Daddy, it was SO fun! We tried these bean sprouts that we grew ourselves and we made pizzas NOT from the freezer - we totally made them ourselves and we got to each make our own little pizza and we put as many different colors of toppings on as we could and we learned about what those labels on packages of food mean....." The excitement in his voice and listening to his description totally made my day and made everything worthwhile.

Lately Eliza's always saying, "you know what, Mommy" - and as I mentally gear up for her to bring up an argumentative topic (one of her favorite things to do - she's often following up "you know what, mommy" with something like "I don't think I ever want to take off the training wheels on my bike"), she'll often say, "I L-O-V-E you!" then flash me a smile and skip off to play. The relief that she didn't bring up another tiresome topic combined with the joy of having her express her love for me really makes for a great moment. She's generally so so good - just has this argumentative streak going on - no idea where she could have got that from...

Isaac just gave the twins a bath. Ollie woke up wet from his nap (he's been great at staying dry lately so we've stopped doing diapers at nap time) and I suggested that both twins strip down and hop in the bath and I'd be there in a minute. Isaac went in there and totally bathed them - ran the water, shampooed them, everything. The three of them came out together, beaming with pride, the twins wrapped in towels all clean and fresh. There's nothing like a couple sweet-smelling freshly bathed tow-headed chubby sweet boys climbing up on my lap while their big brother smiles proudly.

Good stuff. Good good stuff. And to top it all off, Jared's taking me away on a surprise get-away tomorrow - surprise as in I don't know where we're going or what we're doing. And I'm so excited. Yeah! Better go get packed and get the instructions ready for the babysitter. Life is good.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Last Day of School

It's the last day of school and it's COLD! It's rainy and in the low 50's - I had to dig out the boys' long pants and long sleeved shirts (that have been put away for summer for a while now) for them to wear to school today. Weird. It's been fun this week to see the boys' excitement over the big water party they had and the final assembly and remember all that last-week-of-school excitement from when I was a kid. I'm really excited to be done with school and have a more relaxed schedule and be able to do more fun stuff with my kids. I love learning stuff with them! And I really loved seeing them teaching things to each other and playing together. They're all at such fun ages right now. This is going to be a great summer.

I love how the rain brings out the colors here. I'm sitting here looking out at the misty red mountains and the saturated greens and blacks and reds of the vegetation and lava rocks and dirt of the wash. I'm so blessed to have this ever-changing but always gorgeous view every day. There are flowers everywhere right now - a few lingering cactus flowers, orchid-like blooms on all the desert willow trees, scarlet flowers on all the olleander bushes, and tons of random yellow and purple flowers on ground cover and bushes all over. There's a bush in front of my house all gaudy with the most heavenly-smelling flowers - the smell throws happiness at me every time I walk outside. There's nothing like spring in the desert.

It's been a good year for all our school kids. Ashton's had a good challenge with a tough teacher named Mr Garcia who has really made him work hard on writing and Spanish and he's had some tears over how hard it was at times. He's never really had to work hard at anything at school so it sort of came as a shock to him - but I think it's really been good for him - especially since he was pretty much totally bored in his English class with Ms Hammond this year. Ashton's really bonded with some great friends this year - mostly Aiden and Dallin. He's loved the wild atmosphere of Dallin's house with Dallin's 4 big, cool brothers and the skateboard half-pipe they built in their backyard. And he's learned about divorce and showing support and compassion as Aiden's parents have been through lots of hard stuff this year. Plus it's been a great experience for him to get Aiden (who's not a Mormon) involved in his cub scout group. Ashton's loving scouts.

Isaac's really bloomed this year with reading and it's been a much more positive year for him this year than it was last year. He really struggled with minor behavior issues last year - he was so young in his class and hadn't had a lot of structured activities before kindergarten. But this year he was in a class with a lot of rather rowdy boys and he shone in comparison which was very nice for him. He's become a much more comfortable reader and has done really great in math. He seems to really "get" school now and that makes things a lot easier. He's also done great with tennis lessons and is a very good swimmer.

Eliza LOVED her Little Einstein's preschool - she went there 2 days a week (and they learned some sign language and Spanish which she really loved) then had Joy School on Fridays (I LOVED teaching Joy School this year - I've never done it with 4 year olds before - with the big boys, I did Joy School when they were 3 and sent them to preschool when they were 4 - I've decided I did it backwards! 4 year olds REALLY get Joy School and it's so much fun to teach them - 3-year-olds have fun with it but the concepts don't sink in that much and they're hard on the teachers). According to her teachers, she was always right there with a good answer to every question and was the model student. She also got to go to this one-afternoon-a-week pre-K program at Dixie Downs and it got her really excited for Kindergarten there. I'm going to miss her like crazy next fall - she's such a wonderful little helper and babysitter for the twins and I love reading with her and having her bring me beautiful pictures she's drawn for me several times a day.

I've got Pandora radio going right now and I LOVE it. I put in one of my favorite songs "Falling Slowly" and it created a great, mellow station with pretty songs and acoustic guitar and I love having it in the backgroud of my day. My other favorite station is "Today" by Joshua Radin. Good music, good scenery, a beautiful home, wonderful kids (who are currently crying for me to turn on "Wonder Pets") - life is good.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Graduations Galore

So this week is all about graduations. Isaac had his 1st grade graduation on Monday, Ashton had his 2nd grade graduation on Tuesday and Eliza graduated from Little Einstein's Preschool today. They all did very cute singing and dancing programs and quite a few bilingual songs (Liza's preschool is into the bilingual stuff too). Wow - these kids are growing up! Here are a few favorite photos of the big events and a couple good video clips.
Isaac with all the kids his two teachers, Ms. Bosworth (Spanish) and Ms. Trimble (English) teach. Is it just me or is he by far the star of the group?

Jacob, Michael, Angel, Juan, Jair and Isaac. These guys are pretty darn rowdy at recess and sometimes in class and Isaac got a pink slip the other day for too much rough play - they've got a highly energetic group in that class this year!

This was my favorite song to showcase Isaac's super enthusiastic and loud singing. Check it out:




Justice, Lilly, Eliza, Olivia, Easton and Ashton (I know, another one!)

Eliza with her beloved "Miss Kelly" - such a fun teacher who taught them all to sing with her thick southern drawl! Check out this video clip - you can't hear the southern drawl here because it's Spanish (maybe Spanish-speaking people can hear it) but I had to put this in because it's cute to hear them singing in Spanish and the little boy on the left is hilarious to watch.


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The Sun'll Come Out Tomorrow

Here are a couple renditions of an old favorite. Eliza's shortened up the song and come up with a nice little version of it. She's so into singing lately. I'll have to put up some of her more expressive and interesting favorites - but this little clip goes well with the next one.


Since the twins like to do pretty much anything Eliza thinks is cool, they also wanted me to film them singing this song. Ollie went first, then Silas took his turn but apparently he was doing it all wrong - check out Oliver trying to direct Silas' performance. These guys sure are entertaining!



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Monday, May 12, 2008

Mother's Day

Oh, it was a good Mother's Day. Jared and the kids were so good to me. The day started off with the cutest little kids in the world bursting into my room with huge grins on their faces, singing a little song for me as Jared trailed behind carrying a tray of all my favorite breakfast foods. The kids kept me company while I ate and ask me some fun "interview" questions (fun to turn the tables -usually it's Jared and I interviewing them) and only occasionally begged some food off my tray. Church was good - the twins were quite well-mannered and the older kids got up there with all the primary kids to sing a couple songs. I loved how Liza was beaming down at me and I could hear Isaac over all the other kids - he's really into loud singing lately.

After church, the kids and Jared had a great treasure hunt all set up for me including multiple choice questions to test my knowledge about each kid - and each answer was linked to a different place where I needed to go for the next clue so getting the answers right was pretty important. At the end of the hunt my "treasure" was a beautiful digital photo frame all loaded up with our family photos - perfect present! Then Jared made a very tasty dinner for me and Eliza set the table with the china and it was quite an elegant affair. Good job, guys!

There were some great moments throughout the day - the rapt looks on the big kids' faces as I answered their questions about what my life was like at each of their ages (and the fun of remembering), Isaac scratching my back for me and proudly presenting me with a cute card in Spanish and English that he made in school, the twins throwing their little arms around my neck repeatedly and giving me the cutest "I wuv you mommy!" and "you're the best mommy!", Eliza setting the dinner table with such relish and charm, Ashton giving me a rare hug and presenting me with a corny card he'd found and printed out off the internet with his own added words "I love you sooooooooooooooooooo much". I think my favorite moment was sitting around the dinner table with all these beautiful, bright, big kids as we laughed together at some silly thing the twins did and feeling a rush of joy and thanksgiving in knowing that they're mine. How blessed I am!
This will probably be the last Mother's Day that I can hold both of my "babies" at the same time! They're growing up too fast lately - but I have to say I'm liking them more now that they're past their terrible two's. I'd love to freeze them at this fun stage they're at for a while - they get themselves dressed each morning and go to the bathroom on their own and can communicate what they need - and they say and do the cutest stuff every day! They chatter non-stop and are always pretending something cute - usually something to do with saving a baby penguin or gecko or unicorn (thanks to Wonder Pets). On a walk the other day we found a beautiful but injured dragon fly on the street and they were so excited to carry it over to a "safe bush" where it could "find its mudder and be OK." They are so full of exhuberance and wonder and sweetness and really delight in being "good boys" lately.
Oh, I've got a sweet little girl. I love how she's all girl - so into pink and dress-ups and tea parties and princesses and drawing rainbows and doing her hair and carefully selecting her outfits (in very creative and sometimes less-than-attractive styles) and playing with her doll house and "mothering" her little brothers and giggling with her best friend Olivia. I was so sad initially to only get one girl, but I love how we get to have this special relationship and she can be the prettiest and smartest and sweetest girl in our family without anyone else getting their feelings hurt!
Check out those awesome teeth! I had to bribe Ashton to get him to show his teeth for this picture - he's into funny-looking closed-mouth smiles since he's aware his teeth are pretty funny-looking these days. Oh, I love this big boy. I love all the facts he shares with me about space and how things work and science and world records and more. His curiosity about the world around him and excitement about learning is contagious and I love learning alongside him. And he's such a great big brother. I love hearing him explain things to the twins or read to them.
Isaac is still my #1 hugger. He insures that I get several hugs a day and a kiss on both cheeks at bedtime. His beautiful smile and expressive brown eyes always melt my heart. He's indignant about injustice - especially if he's on the receiving end of the perceived injustice. He just came in to tell me they're ready for story time and started scratching my back while I finished this sentence then gave me a kiss on the cheek. What a sweetheart!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Cactus Flowers


For a week or so at this time of year, the cactus flowers come out. We went on a family cactus flower hunt a few evenings ago and the kids gleefully pointed out so many pretty blooms. I had to post pictures of some of the gorgeous flowers we found. I love the juxtaposition of a lovely delicate colorful flower springing from a spiny unhospitable-looking cactus. Beauty can come from pain. Gentleness can be born from strife. Hope can flower in hard situations. I love cactus flowers.




Wednesday, Beautiful Wednesday

We found a babysitter. Her name is Camille and the kids absolutely adore her. She helped out between friends watching the kids while I was on the cruise and now I have her coming every Wednesday morning. She's come now for three Wednesday mornings in a row and it's so great! I've been able to get errands done, catch up on work, you name it. I feel so free when I leave the house on Wednesday morning and set out on my own. Today I cleaned out our increasingly gross car, went to the dollar store and now I'm at the library, catching up on my blog and writing up the curriculum for my summer classes (they're filling up with some really good kids and I'm getting excited about them). Just as I sat down and got settled here, a huge black lizard nearly ran across my toes. I told the man at the circulation desk and he just shrugged and said that lizard's been in here for a couple days and no one can catch him. Now I feel like I've got to keep my feet up! This guy is no ordinary lizard – he must be at foot long. I come here to escape the kids and I've got a lizard after me! But I doubt the lizard will get in my face and insist on my attention like the kids do so I'm good.

Eli and Julie's Wedding

My youngest brother, Eli got married last Friday. He found himself a wonderful girl and they make such a great couple. We haven't had a wedding in our immediate family for a long time now so it was really fun to do all the great wedding stuff again – sharing memories and “roasting” the soon-to-be-married sibling at a big family dinner the night before, sharing gentler and often tearful fond memories at the wedding breakfast, watching the fresh hopeful beautiful faces smile at each other across the altar in the temple, waiting with a crowd of people for the newlyweds to emerge with joy from the temple, doing pictures and trying to get tons of little kids to look in the right general direction and keep their shirts tucked in and dresses down, dancing and eating and chatting with family and friends at the reception.

I love the mixture of the expected stuff that always happens at our family weddings and the wonderful individualized flair that each couple brings to the standard events. I loved seeing how Eli and Julie brought so much of their unique and beautiful styles into the whole thing. The invitations were really different and cool. Julie's lovely dress and Eli's cool brown tuxedo were so perfect for them. Eli mad e mix of awesome classy music for the dancing at the reception and it was perfect. The food had and Asian flair (with a nod to Eli's mission in Japan and the Eastern flair of my parents' new house where the reception was held). The flowers that our wonderful cousins put together were abundant and truly gorgeous in all the vibrant colors Julie picked – deep pinks, oranges and yellows. We all obediently did our best to find these colors in clothing and it wasn't all that easy. In the end, the photographer had a flat tire and we only had a couple minutes for pictures in all our carefully sought-after wedding outfits as all the guests were already arriving – so I hope they ended up with some decent family pictures after all that. They did get some amazing couple pictures, I know, because I saw the photographer's blog and the photos are really really good so that's what matters most. At the farewell dinner and wedding breakfast, I loved learning so many new things about Julie and remembering so many fun things about little Ig Pig WigWam Eli with his fastidious dressing habits, big old 80's glasses, long-lasting gap-toothed grin, temper tantrums on the tennis and basketball courts, and fierce loyalty to all that is true and just and right.

The reception was up at my parents new house in Summit Park. It was great to see that house in full swing after all the work Mom and Dad have done and all the crazy setbacks that have been involved (and all the consultations I gave mom on fixing the floor plan and picking paint colors and tile, etc.). Many of mom and dad's friends were able to see the house for the first time and it was fun to hear them pointing out great features to each other and remarking on what a great and unique house it is. The music mix Eli put together for dancing at the reception was totally fun and classy and we all had a wonderful time dancing. Isaac hardly left the dance floor all night and looked like he'd had dancing lessons or something as he swung delighted little girls around (especially his cousin Gracie who was his preferred partner of the night). He was especially excited when he got a chance to dance with the bride. I loved dancing with my sweetheart – we haven't had a chance to dance together for way too long. The twins spun round and round until they were so dizzy that they'd go careening into different people like the balls in a pinball machine – they nearly took out a couple older people so they had to be removed before long. They loved watching the string quartet upstairs (my very talented cousins) at the beginning of the night and thought they were in heaven when they discovered that there were huge containers of candy free for the taking in the room where Eli and Julie's wedding video was playing.

It was great to see Jared's parents at the reception!

After driving up to SLC in a serious blizzard on Wednesday night and then watching the snow come down all day on Thursday, we were all a bit concerned about the weather on Friday – especially worried about all the mud and the condition of the dirt road that goes to my parents new house. But Friday was a beautiful sunny day – still a bit cold, but really nice. Check out how beautiful the tulips were!

Everything worked out great with limos shuttling guests from a nearby parking lot to my parents' house and my kids thought it was about the coolest thing ever to ride in a big old stretch limo and insisted on clinking the champagne glasses in the limo together and acting like high-rollers – not sure where they got that from.

What a day! What a couple! We're so happy for Eli and Julie.

Science Fair and Summer Camps

Ashton was determined to do the science fair this year at school. The school has a serious problem with informing parents about upcoming events, it seems, but Ashton asked around until he found out all the details and got himself and Isaac signed up to be part of the science fair. Jared did a lot of work helping the boys prepare their projects and they loved working with their dad. Isaac did some experiments to learn about what floats and why and Ashton used his beloved Snap Circuits set to create a device to test conductivity of different materials. I found myself reaching way back into the dusty area of my brain as I helped Isaac use the scientific process and make his display. The boys had to present their projects to judges without any parents present to prompt them and I hear they did a wonderful job. They both won 3rd prize for their grade levels and were so excited about it. Long live science!

I love learning alongside my kids and teaching them about things I love. So this summer I've decided to do my own set of summer school classes for my kids and some of their friends. Last year it was crazy getting kids to the many different camps I signed the up and I was pretty disappointed in most of the classes they did. Because I've designed curriculum for after school and summer programs for years and have tons of experience running programs and improving programs in Boston and the Bay Area, I know what a good program should be and it drives me crazy to have my kids doing things that aren't that great (or in a couple cases last summer, they did programs that were really terrible – the City of St George does all these classes that seem great on paper but in practice they were shallowly disguised and somewhat unsafe day care programs with tons of kids per adult, poorly-planned activities, insufficient materials and kids of all ages put into the same group and crammed into a dark little room at Dixie College – my kids were so bored and I was so frustrated!). So this summer, with the kids help, I've put together some fun little workshops – Little Chefs, Mad Scientists, Great Artists and Fairy Tale Adventures. Each workshop will last a week and will be held on M, W, F mornings at my house. While it'll be stressful getting the curriculum and materials together and finding babysitters for the twins while I teach, I think it'll be so great not to have to drive the kids across town or worry about the quality of the programs they go to and I do love teaching – especially the age groups I'm gearing all my classes towards – 5-10 year olds. This should be fun! I've had quite a few kids sign up already.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Big Cruise

I'm finally finding a minute to write about the cruise and now it feels like it was so long ago. What a time we had! It feels like a dream now. I loved being with my amazing sisters and mom and dad and having so much great uninterrupted talk time. I loved getting outside my regular life and getting some new perspective. I came home ready to really improve myself in a lot of areas - so many things seemed clear while we floated around on that boat - but I've found that since rejoining the complicated reality of my regular life, things have become a bit more foggy and my resolutions have been harder to keep than I thought! When I got home, my kids and husband looked better than they have in a long time. Jared did a fabulous job getting through church 2 weeks in a row with all the kids and managed to somehow get the thousands of things that needed to happen for work done in the midst of shuttling kids from babysitter to babysitter and taking care of all the kids' needs every morning and evening. What a guy!
On the crazy-gaudy boat, we ate ourselves sick and talked ourselves silly and laid in the sun as we watched the endless ocean go by and read and worked out (one day we worked out way too hard thanks to some personal trainers who made us so stiff we could barely walk for a couple days!). Of course we had the occasional huffy moment and disagreement - but time with my parents and sisters would seem strangely incomplete without a little of that! We also got to know some of the really nice people in the LDS tour group my parents were there to speak to - Mom and Dad led some great discussions on what we can learn about relationships from the Book of Mormon. We learned about some theories of where different Book of Mormon events took place and got a chance to visit one archeological site with links to the Book of Mormon - Tulum - so interesting and located in the most gorgeous spot. We went scuba diving in Cozumel and saw some amazing fish (I haven't been since I certified about 11 years ago - I was a little nervous but it turned out great!). We wandered the streets in Belize and met some super cute school kids. We saw rain forests and amazing butterflies and parrots, visited a school, and enjoyed a perfect beach in Roatan, Honduras.

Shawni and Saydi did a great job on their blogs saying more about the trip - so check out their blogs for more info. But I'll throw a few favorite pictures on here and then go on to the many many things that have happened since the cruise!
Tulum

On the beach at Tulum

Hanging out with the cutest schoolchildren in Belize

On the beach in Roatan

Butterflies in Roatan

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