Monday, October 24, 2016

A Gloomy Wonderful Day of Birth

***Post originally written 10/16***
I was made for Octobers. Both literally and figuratively. Literally because this is my birth month, but really, because this whole month, the moody brooding of the sky and the bipolar weather just make me so happy!

Today is a day of explicit joy. 9 years ago, on a day very much like today with its glum skies and delicious wind and rain, Keith made me a mother. I remember holding him in my arms for only a moment before they whisked him away to NICU, and the long difficult days that followed until we got to bring him home. I wasn't able to hold him a lot those first few days, but I certainly made up for it as soon as they let me take him home! He doesn't like to let me hold him so much anymore, being a big kid and all. But there are quiet moments where he steals into my room, or squishes in next to me on my reading chair, and we cuddle and talk, or cuddle and read. He is such a wise old soul, and always has been. Keith is such a special spirit, and I honestly don't think there is anyone in the whole world quite like him. 

This morning I woke up to him snuggled under my covers, eyes wide open, looking at me, obviously impatient for the day to begin. His first words to me were, "I'm 9 now! Can I open my presents?" I laughed and looked at the clock. It was far too early for anyone to be awake. I told him to go back to sleep, and I followed my own advice. Half an hour later, I was awakened again. He had found my phone and was trying to watch a movie on it. And then the baby woke up. And then Keith turned on the TV. And then Faye woke up. Sigh. I fed the baby, changed his diaper, rocked him until he was snuggled close, sleeping again, and then sent the older kids into the kitchen to get some breakfast. I promptly fell asleep again. It was sort of nice, being able to go to sleep again, as I knew we weren't going to church today. All my kids are sick, and Vince woke up with a fever, so going to church was absolutely out of the question. I hate the weekly fight of trying to get Keith into his church clothes.

Jeffrey went to our friends' baby blessing while the girls and I cuddled in my bed, nestled in pajamas and blankets, watching Harry Potter. I especially love the drizzle outside and the wide open window which set some incredible ambiance. I submit that one of life's greatest pleasures is the warm coziness of blankets with a cool autumn breeze, coupled with the squeals of delight from children who you love more than life itself!
When Jeffrey got home, we decided to let Keith open his presents.

His face says it all.
That is a Link hat from The Legend of Zelda (his Halloween costume), a Gravity Falls journal, and Ocarina of Time (a Zelda video game). Jeffrey also has a CD for Keith, Imagine Dragons. He is quite pleased with today thus far. I am happy, because I just love his guts, and his happiness makes me happy. 

Nearly a decade old, this boy of mine makes life full of adventures and joy.

Friday, September 23, 2016

My Love Affair

14 September, 2016
Today is simply beautiful. We have been living in the apex of my favorite time of year. Our windows have been open 24/7 for nearly two weeks now, and my favorite parts of the day are the ones spent in bed. That is not to say I don't love being awake and living my day, but there is something so luscious about a chilled room and the supple cocoon of blankets, wrapped, cloaked, shrouded around you with only your face exposed to feel the caress of the changing of the seasons. You may call it silliness, I call it Nirvana.

This season, this paradise, as it were is so evanescent, it is vitally important, to my soul, to take advantage of every single morsel! I am hoping to get up into the mountains this week to enjoy the blaze of colors, textures, smells that are there for the taking. This country soul living the suburban life must find an occasional refuge from the chaos that we call life.

I know I go a little crazy when it is Autumn, but honestly, can you blame me? It is pure balm to my soul.

Right now is a rare quite moment in my life. The Littles are down for their naps, my bread just came out of the oven and the intoxicating scent, mingling with the spicy smell of Fall is engulfing my house. Keith and Faye will be home from school soon, and with them comes the chaos of life again, but now, in this moment, I can simply be me. Sure, there are dishes to be washed, a floor to be mopped, and counters to be wiped down in preparation for the after school snacks, but here, now, this moment, I am free to be and do exactly what my heart tells me. And apparently it is telling me to be a little rambley.

School has been in session for about a month now, and we are all adjusting. We finally sold the rental house, and while we didn't really make any money off of it, we are so relieved that we don't have to be landlords anymore. That is a job that neither of us are cut out to do! There will be no more stress of broken pipes, blown fuses, utilities, renters not paying their rent, etc. What a big huge relief to not have that anymore!

15 September, 2016
I sometimes have mental blocks that stop me from doing things that I really want to do. One of those things that I long to do is spend more time in the outdoors. One of my favorite quotes is by Nathaniel Hawthorne. He says:

While I wash my dishes with the window open, my hands bathed in the warm suds and my nose cold from the nipping air, I long to abandon those dishes, even civilization. I imagine myself grabbing a jacket and just leaving. Heading into the Mountains for some much needed alone time with myself. I never do, though. I have this ridiculous sense of responsibility which really gets in the way of my enjoyment. And so, while I clean the counters and sweep the floor, I tuck aside those longings and go about doing the things that I need to do.

Except sometimes, I decide to abdicate my role as responsible everything, and let my soul fly free for a few hours.

Today was such a day. After I dropped the older kids off to school, I came home, did those darn dishes again, got some responsible papers that I had to drop off at an office, and then Bethy, the Baby and I left.

The whole drive there Beth kept asking, "Are we in my mountains yet, Mommy? Are we in my mountains?" I love that my little girl loves them as much as I do! The thing is, I didn't have a plan. I knew I wanted to go to the mountains, I just didn't know where exactly.

And so I drove. I remembered having accidentally driven through Monte Cristo once when I was young and carefree, so decided I would try to find it again, and hope for a hiking trail. As I drove, I saw a sign for Causey Reservoir. I remembered once upon a time Jeffrey and I had gone camping, and then we went hiking around Causey. It was beautiful, and I was close to it, and Vince needed to eat, so we went there. Besides, I really didn't have a clue as to how to get to Monte Cristo.

Beth could hardly contain her excitement when we got out of the van. The sky was magnificent in its emo brooding stage. The wind a tempestuous child unable to make up its mind, and the air full of sounds of nature. I strapped Vince onto me and we headed out.

Beth chattered a mile a minute, giggling, picking up interesting rocks, and telling me how much she loved being there with me. She is the best hiking buddy I have ever had! As we headed up the narrow rocky path, occasionally a stone was half  or more buried. At first Beth bent down to investigate, brushing the dirt away, trying to clean it off to get a better view. She stood up and announced it was a dinosaur bone, and she was going to step on it. She proceeded to go out of her way to step on every single one, all while delivering a brilliantly thought out lecture as to why the dinosaurs all died. It had something to do with the puddles disappearing, and without the puddles (that were large and muddy, and we were careful to walk around), they wouldn't have any water in their bodies, and they would all just lay down and die. Too bad they didn't think to drink from the lake next to us! I love that little girl's imagination!

Every little bit, Beth would stop and ask what the noise was. She hasn't been in such solitude before, where there is no one but us and nature. We were able to hear the squirrels chattering to each other as they gathered nuts for their stashes. We saw a few with giant nuts in their mouths as they flew from tree branch to tree branch. Our legs would brush dew drops from the slender knee high grass blades leaning over the trail and Beth would again stop us and ask, "What was that?"

As we walked, I couldn't help but think how blessed I am to live in such a beautiful state. I have access to so many different nature-ish areas with relatively little time spent to get there. The jewel laden trees, bursting with life and color, and the odor of autumn in the air was all quite intoxicating. The smell that words cannot do justice. The subtle odor of wet and decomposing leaves, the whiff of earth mixed with crisp mornings and the promise of rain. I admit, while we were hiking, I did secretly long for it to rain, just because I love the feel and smell of it so much. The sky was a delightful brooding grey, and it hinted most severely of rain. As we walked, we could hear the gentle lapping of the waves in the reservoir next to us.

It was a dull jade green color, and Beth would get excited each time she saw it peeking through the trees. One time, as we were gazing at the mesmerizing undulating of the water, we saw a hawk, so near us, take off and begin circling its prey. It was exciting to see it dive! We continued on around a bend and the water was no longer within sight, but the sound of the wind through the trees sounded so much like a gentle ocean roar, it was marvelous. And seeing all of this through the eyes of a three year old is the best way to experience it!

After we had hiked for a bit, I glanced at the time and realized it was about time to turn back, so we could be home before Keith and Faye got out of school. I mentioned to her that it was time we went back, and she turned around (she was the leader, of course), put her hands on her hips and said, "We can do it, Mommy! We don't have to go back yet. Just a little more. You are big and strong, and I am big and strong. We can do it!" How do you argue with that logic? So we kept going.

Somewhere in her little brain she was convinced that we were hiking to play in the water at the end. While the hike does end at the mouth of a river, there was no way we could make it that far and be back in time for the kids. After much discussion, she finally agreed to turn around with me. But I am absolutely convinced that she is the best hiking buddy I have ever had, or will ever need. She offers the sweetest encouragement and the greatest distraction ever!

We turned back, and I admit, I took a lot of pictures. Because Autumn! At one point, she would sit in the dirt every time I said "Wait just a minute, I need to take a picture..." She made me laugh. Apparently I was too slow for her liking. I loved how the wind was tugging on my hair, and this whole time Vince was strapped snugly onto my chest. He looked so warm and cozy in the wrap, and it reminded me of those glorious cool mornings where my body is wonderfully warm and my face is enchanted with the crisp air floating in through the open windows.He slept for a good portion of the hike, and I loved it! Being able to hear and feel him breathing, and to look down and see his sweet chubby face, peacefully gazing around, or sleeping made this mama's heart happy. I was especially delighted to see my breath on the air, lingering from the words I had just spoken. And then, I got my wish! When we were nearly back to the trail head, I heard all around us little pings, randomly flung, little daring raindrops tentatively testing, deciding if it was going to actually rain, or just pretend.

It decided pretending was good enough for the time being.

And just like that, our adventure was over. As we drove home, I went slowly, enjoying the pastoral scenery all around us, envying the quaint farm houses dotting the land with the miles of open land all around.

Of course, it wasn't all wonderful. Right as I was pulling in to the school to get the other kids, Beth got car sick. Ce'st la vie, I suppose.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Mind House-keeping

Basically, I am going through a mind dump of the week. Enjoy.

Remember that time when Faye was sick and I was cleaning her sick off the whole house and it was less than pleasant? Except of course you don't, because I was too tired after cleaning her sick up, and then Vince and Jeffrey getting it, that I completely spaced writing about it. But trust me, it was miserable, and no one enjoyed it one bit.

Especially my couch! Because after Faye had gotten sick on it, I scrubbed that thing to pieces! And yet, like an unwelcome house guest, the odor lingered. I sprayed it down with all kinds of cleaners, I put it out in the sun, having read the sun helps to dissipate smells and stains, but to no avail. It was as if the cushions had been dipped into the Bog of Eternal Stench. I did love that couch, but when we could not get the heinous scent to go away, and it was perfuming the air in the house, Jeffrey declared it was time to go.

My yellow couch made me happy. It was long, and one could easily fall asleep, stretched out full length on it. It had a vintage style that just made me smile. Except it seemed to be a magnet for the children. Beth and Faye had colored with magenta Sharpie all over the side of it. Beth had painted with glue all over the cushions and back of it, so that it was no longer velvety soft, but instead, deceitfully dangerous. It could cut you if you got on its bad side! There were wires and springs poking out of the sides and back, and the kids, ignoring the trampoline we have for them outside, had decided to have jumping contests on it. Because the floor is lava, guys, and you have to have 12 practice jumps before springing from the couch onto the rug 1 foot away. And so, it was time to say goodbye to my beautiful couch. Obviously, we let the kids have a mad jumping party on it before we sent it to the dump. Because there was no way we would inflict that stench on anyone else by giving it away.

Thanks to my lovely friend Lisa who kept a sharp eye out for me, I was able to snag a great couch, oversized chair (obviously it has become my reading chair), and an ottoman for free! To me, that was the greatest find ever! I did have to do some serious rearranging to get everything to fit into my living room, seeing as how one piece of furniture left and three came in to take its place. After a tight squeeze, I have everything in a very hygge manner. I am quite pleased with it, and love curling up in my chair (because it is big enough that I can curl up in it!) with my book (currently reading As I Lay Dying by Faulkner) after the kids have gone to bed, and just enjoy my bedtime tea and my book in the silence. It is glorious!

School has started and so far it is going wonderfully.

Keith is not hating it as much as he thought he would, silly boy.

Faye is in heaven, though she says she misses me. She will soon get over it, I am confident, and be so happy and talkative and popular in school that she wont have time to miss me. We haven't really gotten into a routine yet, but I am planning on doing story time at the libraries with Beth, and going on lots of walks, and hopefully get lots of cleaning done so that my house will once again be organized and I can be a happy, at peace Mommy.

Friday night we were going to go to the ward campout, but I got a call from a dear friend of mine. His son and Keith are very good friends and rarely get to see each other. They were having a wienie roast/s'mores night and invited us to join them. Of course I said yes!

He lives in a place that is like paradise to me. Nestled snug in the mountains, his backyard is a kid's dream with a stream running through it, an old abandoned log cabin, and miles and miles of mountain to explore! I breathed deeply of the crisp mountain air, openly showing my admiration for his location. That is where I will one day end up. Not the same place, obviously, but something very similar. Wild open spaces for the children to explore, crickets as loud as a brass band, and the star painted sky glittering all around. That to me is heaven.

When we tired of the food, we went inside and watched Prince Caspian. I am so happy that they chose that movie. I have been trying, for such a long time, to get Keith to read the Chronicles of Narnia, except he has the weird syndrome that "if mom recommends it, it must be dumb" that kids sometimes get. Finally, he has interest in reading the books! In fact, we started The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe today! He is loving it so far. As I knew he would. By the time the movie was over, however, we didn't get home until after midnight. Keith and Faye thought it was the greatest thing ever, to be up that late. Vince and Beth weren't so keen on the idea.

While the kids have to wear uniforms to school every day, Friday is dress down day. This past Friday, as the kids were getting ready for school, Keith informed me that he doesn't have any dress down clothes. The silly boy never tells me these things until the last minute when I can't really do anything about it! Because of that, Saturday became a big day. First we went to visit my grandmother.

Beth charmed her by pretending a rock was a telephone and calling her over and over on the rock phone. Grandma answered using her glasses case. I laughed so much, as did Grandma! After that, I dropped the younger kids off at my in-law's house, and Keith and I went play clothes shopping. It was miserable. We honestly went to 3 different stores, and I guess his size is very common right now, because there was nothing for him at 2 of those stores! It was incredibly frustrating, because I hate shopping. Especially when the shopping trip is unfruitful. Finally, we were able to find something, and after 3 pairs of pants/shorts and 1 t-shirt, I gave up and we went home. He can wear Jeffrey's old t-shirts if he really needs something. I just think it is funny that he didn't say anything until he needed to be wearing it. He cracks me up, all of the time.

My kids are absolutely perfect for me. I have thought about this quite a bit, and am amazed that Heavenly Father knows each of us so well. He sent me the children that I would be able to connect with, and grow from the most. What an absolute blessing they are in my life! I feel like I just gush over them all the live-long-day, but what's a mother to do when they are as cute as mine?!

And let's just admire this adorable photo of Jeffrey being the greatest dad in the cosmos or history of ever, shall we?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Those Lazy Crazy Hazy Days of Summer's Ending

Anticipation, like a gas, is permeating my home today. It has been flowing through our every thought, action, and procrastination. You see, school starts tomorrow. Faye will be going full time, as a wise and grown up first grader. She hasn't stopped talking about it since we went to Back to School night, where she was obviously bestowed with the gift of "All Knowledge" and "The Gab." If you have any questions about what first grade is going to be like, just ask her and she will fill you in, with excruciating detail, on how everything is going to go down, according to her mind. Keith, on the other hand, has had quite the opposite reaction. Whenever school is mentioned he becomes a dust cloud, a sonic boom, the invisible man.

School has no right to come this early and interrupt his glorious summer vacation of trying to play video games while his mom (me, aka "The Evil One Who Only Wants Me Around To Do More Chores And Clean Your Whole House, And I Already Did My Chores When You Weren't Looking, And The Reason They Don't Look Clean Is Because Someone Must Have Come And Messed It Up Right After I Cleaned It, And That Sock Has Not Been There All Week, Someone Just Put It There!") desperately tries to get him to do something so he doesn't end up like poor Jimmy Jet and His TV Set (Shel Silverstein, in case you were wondering). Beth is dreading losing her playmates, and the convenience of blaming every. single. thing. on Faye. Meanwhile, she is also crazy excited to have so much time with just me, her and Vince. She loves Vince like Golum loves his Precious. She may have attempted to eat him on occasion, because she claims she cannot resist his cuteness. While I agree his cuteness is nearly overwhelming, I have had to explain to her that if she were to eat him, we would no longer have a cute little baby to snuggle, just some severe indigestion. Finally, there is me (just me this time, no elaborate aka). I am excited for them to go back to school as there will be the added structure that school always brings. I do so much better on a schedule, and am excited that I will again have that structure. on the other hand, I will be missing my kids like crazy. I have become accustomed to having them around, and I quite like them. But I am excited for all of the new experiences they are going to have, and the friends they are going to make. I loved school when I was a kid, and I am hoping that Faye's excitements stays forever, and that Keith can catch some of the joy of school, like a virus. Suddenly and violently.

This whole week has been focused on getting ready for the new year. Last year I finished getting them the uniforms that they needed. It should be illegal to grow the way that those two do. Keith had to get an entire new wardrobe, including undies, socks, shoes, pants, shirts. Seriously, everything new because he grew so much and nothing fits him now! We were lucky with Faye because we have wonderful neighbors who share clothes with us. We were given so many new uniforms that fit my girl perfectly, including shoes! All I had to get for her were socks and an occasional par of pants. All that was last week, though. Sunday night I began to straighten up the living room before going to bed, and somehow got sucked into the Black Hole (aka Faye and Beth's bedroom. Aptly named because things gravitate towards their room, and become forever stuck or lost once you pass the Event Horizon, or their door.) I ended up cleaning their whole room while they slept, and it was quite a project!

The door could neither open nor close any more than this because of the gravitational pull of stuff.
I didn't realize how long I had been in there, but I began cleaning around 9:30, and finished around 3. And then as I was going to bed, Vince, of course, woke up and wanted to eat. And he didn't finish and go back to bed until 4. To say I was tired Monday morning would be an understatement equivalent to saying Frodo and Sam went for a leisurely stroll to toss a ring into a little puddle of steam. And yet, I had plans for Monday! 

Monday Annie, Adrienne, and I all loaded up our kids, squishing as many into each vehicle so we wouldn't all have to drive, and headed to a cheese factory to get some squeaky cheese, and shelf stable milk. I needed the milk so that I could have it to put into the kids' lunches this year. And then they went to another food outlet store to get some cheap filler snacks for their lunch boxes. And then we had to stop to get ice cream, of course. Finally, we ended our excursion at an Amish store. Because that is a perfectly normal outing, right? By the time we got to the Amish store, I was exhausted, and I was so ready for school to start. Spending all day long, in close quarters with 10 kids while functioning on only 3 hours of sleep is not ideal. But I have to tell you, if I could marry that Amish store, just for its deli, I WOULD! Annie, Adrienne and I stood at the back and chatted with the guy who sliced the meat and cheese for us. For a good half hour, we stood there, sampling cheeses and meats that he told us about. And can I tell you about the chipotle cheese? It was the smoothest, creamiest, yummiest thing that has ever caressed my pallet. I will be going back soon, just for the cheese. The pumpkin butter was quite divine, too, but really, nothing holds a flame to that cheese! And I didn't even know I was a cheese lover like that before we got there.

Tuesday was Back to School Night. I strapped Vince onto me, and then we headed out to meet the teachers. Keith was much alleviated once he talked with his teacher.

He has the same wonderful woman he had last year. He had his heart set on getting a new teacher, but he is excited now. Faye, of course, bounded in to meet her teacher with a burst of energy rivaling that of the birth of a new star.

She flew around the room, lighting up everything in her vicinity as she explored her new home for the school year.

She met some old friends, and was in and out with kaleidoscopic energy and enthusiasm. Keith was as steady and serious as ever. His teacher wonderfully put him at ease, and even helped him be excited for the year to come. I just love her and am so glad he has her again! When we finished with Back to School night, we went to the local Soda Parlor and got a treat. Then to the hardware store for a growing chart board, and home.

Which brings us to today. We got our backpacks out and began filling out the paperwork that needs to be returned tomorrow. I added the events that will be happening these next few weeks to my planner, and Faye started on her homework. She is so excited to be going back to school! Keith made his lunch around 3:00 and put it in the fridge. His school clothes have been spread out on the ottoman for just as long. He is so careful and meticulous with everything. Faye, on the other hand has barely been able to keep herself from exploding with the excitement of going back to school tomorrow. She practically flew around the house, leaving chaos in her wake. She went to the neighbor's house and played for a bit, and then came home and caused chaos once again. She still doesn't have her stuff ready for tomorrow, because she is having serious difficulty in staying still long enough.

And then the real fun began!

I have been trying to coax Keith into learning to ride his bike for a few years now. Today was the day he finally decided to give it a try. I took Vince out in his bouncer and set him in the shade on the grass. I then pulled out the bike. Faye, being the more adventurous of the two hopped right on the bike, now fear at all. She began pedaling, and with a little bit of coaching, she began to pick it up! But then it was Keith's turn. It is his bike, after all. Her bike has two flats, so we just focused on using Keith's. Oh my goodness, I love that boy's determination! With a little coaxing, he was nearly riding on his own! And then Jeffrey came out and took over, which lovely for me, because I could then pull out the camera and go all paparazzi on them.

Jeffrey is so practical. His first instruction was to teach them how to fall. "Lean into the fall," he taught them. And then he tried to help them learn to ride. After about twenty minutes, Keith asked if I could come back and help them, because I am the better teacher. I laughed!

I didn't teach so much as encourage, tell him he could do it, and help him balance a little bit.

And now my children understand the exhilaration of freedom. The freedom that flying through the air, the wind tugging at your clothes and hair, and the absolute joy of speed that signifies bike riding. They are already planning biking trips, and I am thrilled that they are so excited, because so am I. I haven't gone biking at all since... who knows how long? But I have longed to. Before the kids started to learn, they had to beg me to get off of the bike so they could have a turn. And while it was a very small bike, and incredibly difficult for me to steer, I got a taste of that excitement again! What an apt way to end summer, on the wind of a bike.

And then it was time for dinner, showers, prayer, and bed. Before bed, we pulled out the Growth Chart board and I measured everyone.

Jeffrey may have cheated a little, because there is no way he is that much taller than me, but he laughed and said it is now etched into wood for history, so no one will ever know the truth. Typical. I also presented the kids with key chains with charms for their backpacks.

The smiley face is to remind them to be kind and to help others. We do all we can to make others happy. If we see someone who is sad, we help them. If someone is being teased, we be their friend. We make others laugh. We care about them. When we do this, it will help us to be happy, as well.

The book charm is to remind them that the main reason they are in school is to learn and progress academically. They are to focus and take advantage of the free education that is being offered.

They need to be tough and brave. There will be lots of hard things that they will have to do at school. Many will be scary. They need to remember to follow the example of the Stripling Warriors (the arrow charm). The Warriors were brave because they prayed to God for help, and if Keith and Faye do the same, they can have courage! When they pray, their answers will come to them through the Holy Ghost (Spirit charm).

They will have to stand up for the right. Not everyone will have the same rules as our family (the G charm), and that is okay. They can still be a friend to people who have different rules, but if they do things that make them feel bad inside, then they can choose to not do those things with them. They can walk away. They should do things with friends that help them feel good inside, things that will help them feel the Holy Ghost.

Finally, they must cherish the Word of God. (hold to the rod charm- which I hadn't put on when I took the picture). Throughout everything, they will gain strength, courage, knowledge, and guidance by studying the scriptures and abiding by the things that they learn. If they stay close to the word of God, all things will work out, always.

And I gave them sanitizer because germs. I hope that seeing the key chain with the charms will help remind them to make the right choices. I hope that they are going to have the best year ever!

And now, instead of going to bed so I can get up early and be a happy mommy, I am dangerously close to deciding to cleaning, because then they can wake up to the peace of a clean house with a lovely pot of crockpot oatmeal ready to eat for their first day of school! Hopefully it wont take as long as Faye's room did!