Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A worthy drive

Kelly had a birthday and came up with pretty much the best idea - a Sunday drive in the mountains to enjoy a bit of Fall.  Knowing that I was still morning sick, Marty kept telling Kelly we probably wouldn't do it so he could spare me the winding roads.  I kept telling Marty it was totally fine and he said, "Are you sure?  It's like a 2 hour drive."  Thinking that we would be in the car 2 hours total, I assured him it was fine.  What I didn't know until we were loading up the car (much later than we were hoping) was that it was at least two hours to get into the mountains from Kelly's house.  4 hours round trip.  6 hours including the drive to and from our house to Kelly's, in one afternoon/evening.  I was still totally up for it, but feeling very unprepared with snacks, water, car activities.  But Christy really had our backs from the moment we got there and I was super grateful!  And I loved every minute of the adventure.  I actually love those kinds of spontaneous, crazy ideas.

I think we had already missed some of the more vibrant colors, but the cold air and the smell were exactly what this hot, sick, cabin-fevered mama needed.  This is the only out-of-the-car-window shot that actually sort of turned out.

In Utah I didn't realize what a blessing it was to be able to drive 15 or 20 minutes and be up in the gorgeous mountains.  But aside from family, that is for sure the thing I miss the most being in AZ.  Each year I find the AZ desert more and more beautiful, genuinely.  But...it will never be UT.  Also, I didn't fully appreciate the Fall in UT.  I was excited to wear my sweaters and drink hot chocolate, but mostly it meant that winter was coming and I HATED winter.  Still do.  I do NOT miss the snow.  But here in AZ I am absolutely pining for just a few weeks of a UT Fall.  It is still hot here in October and we are all pretty sick of it by that point.  But at least it cools off at night, and you usually get a few chilly days thrown in there at some point.

We were definitely not expecting snow, as evidenced by my family's flip-flops.  At one point we pulled off the side of the road and quickly shoved some snow in a bag to pass around the car.  The Johnson cousins were slightly less excited than my kids, having just moved from UT 7ish months ago.  But it's a pretty big deal for our kiddos.

Bryce was not impressed.  He really hates being cold.

Camille had a blast playing with that cold, white stuff.

Gabe was a trooper too, considering how he was dressed.

She is so darling!

It didn't take too long before it was too cold for almost all of us.

So we sat in blankets, ate some super yummy chicken salad sandwiches (a staple for our road trips), and headed home not too long after we had gotten there.  We got home pretty late and the kids went right to bed - they were really dragging getting ready for school the next morning!  Totally worth it, though!  I want to do this every year....

Friday, November 20, 2015

This last week at our house (Nov 13-Nov 20)

The last week at our house (Nov 13-Nov 20):

I am so beyond ready to post something current.  So even though there was nothing particularly noteworthy about our last week, I am going to record it anyway.

Last Friday was fun, if not super eventful.  That morning I put the kids in the bath to get Gabe ready for a haircut.  He is the only kid I send off for haircuts because the only cut I know how to do doesn't really suit him.  Anyway, I snapped a couple of pictures of Camille because I got such a kick out of her dumping the "bathtub barbies" on the rug and setting up her precious action figures.
Her curls, when I take care of them, just kill me with their cuteness.  They are probably half the reason she gets her way as often as she does.

And here is the handsome hair-do (and the suckers)!  They are always so impressed by Gabe and his ability to sit so still for so long.  But don't worry - Camille makes up for it by being doubly energetic and difficult.

On Thursday I had been at Brynn's school helping out with their fundraiser fun-run.  When Brynn was in soccer she was a little self-conscious of her running.  But then when I saw her at the fun-run she was running laps around lots of the kids there and had SO much energy.  So I mentioned to her what distance running was, and that maybe she would do well with that type of thing because of her energy level.  As is often the case with Brynn, my casual mention of it was all she needed to start planning.  She was going to be a distance runner, Daddy and I were going to take her out to practice, she was going to find the best tracks, etc.  So later Friday afternoon Bryce had football practice at a park that just happened to have a perfect "distance running track."  She got a paper and pen from my purse and had me start marking laps.  She had a couple companions who would follow her pretty much anywhere.  I hope that continues, because don't know how she could set a better example for them than she already does.

This year we put Bryce in flag football rather than soccer and he is really liking it.  It's his first time and he is still getting the hang of it.  I am still waiting to see my aggressive little tornado make an appearance on the field - he has surprised me with his passiveness...

...And Gabe has surprised me in soccer!  I told my mom I was worried he would hate it, but she said he might just surprise me.  I thought he might cry when everyone was loud, and kicking the ball from him, and in his personal space.  But he is doing amazing!  I guess all those times we dragged him to the soccer field for his siblings he was really taking it all in and understanding.  He is assertive, gets a hold of the ball and kicks it from the other team all the way down the field often.  Getting it in the goal is another story, although he does that sometimes too.  He just needs a little practice.  It also helps that he is one of the older kids.

And Camille is less of a nightmare on the field than she was last year.  Still rough, but willing to be distracted and understanding she can't chase after the ball with everyone else.  We spent a lot of time burying Spiderman in the dirt.  She tells me often she wishes she could play soccer.  Next year is your year, Millie May!

So Saturday was full of the typical.  Games in the morning.  Brynn had an extra choir rehearsal in the morning that Marty went to as well but at a different time (he is in it now, too).  It made the morning very complicated because four people were supposed to be in four different places at the same time.  But we finally found someone from choir who could do a swap and brought Brynn to the field after choir.  By then it was lunch time so the kids and I stopped at Subway.  I always want to keep my kids under control at places, obviously, but when I have a pregnant belly on me I have even more at stake.  I try not to notice the, "if you are struggling with the ones you have, why are you having more" looks, but they are hard to ignore.  Moms know what I mean.  We were doing so well until Camille fell off a barstool and was screaming at the top of her lungs.  We ran out quickly and had a successful lunch around our own kitchen table. 

The rest of our Saturday was also typical.  I'm 17 weeks along but still sick, so I'm not able to keep on top of things as well as I would like during the week.  I had the brilliant idea this summer that I would start hosting choir at my house every Sunday.  So you can imagine the frenzy we all go through on Saturday trying to recover the house before Sunday, haha!

Then in the evening we got a baby-sitter.  Things have gotten a bit dicey with baby-sitters since we've had Camille.  She is our first kid with separation anxiety, so we just don't get them as often as we used to.  It hasn't been too big of a deal because my parents are here now.  But they weren't able to sit that night and Marty had a dinner planned with the rest of the teachers and secretary at his school, which I was NOT going to miss.  I have always loved getting together with the other teachers and their spouses a couple times a year, and this one was as fun and pleasant as always.  We all met up at Mod's pizza and stayed until we realized we were the last people there on a Saturday night.  Then got the fun report from the baby-sitter that indeed, Camille had cried a LOT.  The next morning I woke up Brynn for church and she greeted me with, "Oh Mom!  You would not BELIEVE what I went through with Camille last night!"  I had told Brynn and the baby-sitter that if Camille wouldn't stay down, then maybe Brynn should try to take over because she is used to Brynn helping me put her down.  I couldn't believe all that Brynn did that night for Camille - she took her duties very seriously!  And the baby-sitter did awesome too, but that little thing can be such a handful.  It's ok, I gave Brynn five bucks and she was proud.

Sunday was typical, too.  EARLY church for which the kids and I are on our own.  I bring granola bars upstairs on a blanket so I don't make 50 trips up and down the stairs while I'm trying to get ready.  We need to be there early because I'm often involved in the prelude.  That day was the primary program and Brynn was singing prelude with the other girls from senior primary.  Brynn and Bryce took the primary program seriously and did a great job singing the songs.  They also have zero stage fright and delivered their little speaking parts clearly and directly.  Gabe was pretty uninterested in the congregation.    When it was time to sing, he completely turned his back to the audience and watched the rest of the kids sing.  Eventually he got going with one of his little playgroup friends and they started head-butting each other.  There on the front row.  He spent the rest of the time on his teacher's lap. 

Then we had ward choir at our house, which is going so well!  We have tons of people coming, couples can let their kids play upstairs in the loft, I can split up to do sectionals and take a group to the other piano and shut the door, I have an awesome pianist and we are singing songs I have been dying to try the last few years.  This is my fifth Christmas program as choir director and I love it!  I love bringing out dynamics, strong-weak syllables, momentum, building tension, bringing out the Spirit in every way we can -I love all of it.  Sometimes I get sick of doing publicity and being in charge and I just want to sing.  I was pianist for them a few years before that, so I have held a calling in choir for about years.  But I feel really blessed I have somewhere I can use my music!  I have given up a lot to be a stay-at-home mom, but if I gave up music completely I think I would shrivel up and die.  After choir we have refreshments and chit-chat.  This week was more social than usual and by the time everyone cleared out we had just a few minutes to FLOP down on the couch.  Then a quick dinner and off to stake choir for me.  It's just for a few more weeks and I will miss it when it's over.  I go with my friend/neighbor/choir pianist and it's fun to talk music together.  

On Monday we had Family Home Evening at Marty's seminary (or church gym since the sem building is STILL not completed).  He is teaching Old Testament this year and had set up a tabernacle, and talked with the kids about the symbolism.  I seriously can't believe how "with him" the older two were and how much they understood.  He says they understood as much or more as his students. Brynn totally put together the three last phases before the veil as representing the godhead - which he and I had never put together but it was totally there.

Millie spent most of the time washing at the laver. ;)

It was amazing to have us all together on the other side of the veil at the holy of holies.  It was another time Marty and I were struck with just how much we want all of us to be together in the Celestial Kingdom someday.  And then comes the pressure that accompanies the gravity of our calling as parents.  To me it is scary, thrilling, and humbling all at the same time.

On Tuesday before Brynn headed out for activity days, Millie was whining and pulling at me for "school."  I don't pay for two years of preschool, nor do I have any desire to send the kids off early.  So I do a special three-year-old mommy school, which both the Littles are doing right now.  It is really short, nearly devoid of crafts, and totally not pinterest-worthy.  But we are consistent and the kids love it.  Anyway, I was trying to finish the dishes and there was no way I was going to stop everything going on at the time to do an extra random session of preschool, so I asked Brynn if she would just, ya know, do it.
The DANG kid did a better job than I ever do.  She knew our whole routine and took them outside with their back-packs to knock on the door.  She taught them criss-cross-applesauce, which I've never done, and they were SO with her while she was doing ABCs, counting, and having a moment to go in a circle to talk about their day.  She read them a book, then they acted it out, and she came up with a super-cute "recess" activity, which I also never do.  Seriously, I wonder if Brynn's siblings know what they really have in her.

On Wednesday and Thursday winter finally hit Arizona.  We woke up with the house at 66 which was SO cold to the kids and me.  I know. I looked up the weather and saw that this weekend it would shoot back up to the high 70s.  I was absolutely determined to not turn on the heater.  I really hate switching back and forth from heater to AC in the same week.  So we had hot chocolate at breakfast then went up to play.  Millie was making it hard on me - she was SO cute playing with toys and had this silly grin on her face while she shivered like crazy.  It made me feel guilty.  I decided if we were cold, I wasn't working hard enough and they weren't playing hard enough.  So I put them both in a nice warm bubble bath while I cleaned both bathrooms and got the washer and dryer going.  After that we chased a little and we warmed up just fine, haha!  By Thursday night it was up to 75 so it all turned out just fine. :)  

Thursday was another complicated evening between choir and soccer.  Brynn's rehearsal was later than usual.  We got there early and could hear the combined choirs out the window.  So I left Gabe sleeping in the carpool lane and went to sneak Bryce and Camille out of the car for a few minutes to go up to the doors to listen.  As I was getting Camille out, she poked me in the eye and my contact fell out.  So Bryce and I were on the sidewalk, in the cold, in the dark, shining my phone's flashlight desperately searching for my contact which I really couldn't drive home without.  Bryce was so good helping me look pretty much everywhere we thought it could fall and finally found it.  Then I sent him around the car with the flashlight (still trying to not wake up Gabe) to look for a water bottle to wash the contact.  Of all the times to not have someone's school water bottle kicking around the car!  Bryce finally found one in the very back with just a few drops of water in it.  So I'm trying to wash the contact, Camille is screaming at me that she needs to go potty, I'm putting her off because I just barely took her before we left, and then I hear, "I go potty car, Mom.  Sorry, Mom."  So I let her sit there in her mess while I finally manage to get my contact in, change her pants and panties right there in the pick-up lane (I always have a pair in my purse!), and THEN we were finally able to go listen for a few minutes.  Bryce loved hearing it and is so excited for next Fall when he can be in it with Brynn.  Everything worked out fine.  Brynn came out early, we got right home,  I carried Gabe right to his bed and he never work up, and had the other kids down within five minutes.  Then while Marty's choir was still finishing up, I got some hot chocolate, turned a show on Netflix and went through and bunch of my old college binders (I've been on a purging kick lately and almost all papers are getting the ax!).  

So all in all a good week, now that I am starting to feel better and remembering how much I love being busy and accomplishing things.  

Today is Friday again and as I'm writing this, things are very laid back.  I visited a friend this morning and spent a couple hours at "park day" with some other friends.  The kids got home and we had "documentary Friday."  Brynn was disappointed because Gabe and I fell asleep and Bryce spent the whole time riding bikes with Taylor.  So she was trying to tell me about this ancient Greek computer and I really had no idea what she was talking about.  I'm not sure she did this time, either.  This afternoon they made "lands" in the loft (this time it was princess land, lego land, and planes land - pretty obvious who was building what).  And now they are watching TV and I am writing this.  Marty came home exhausted having to move offices in the stake center AGAIN and is taking a break.  And then we will reconvene for a frozen meal and Star Wars episode...4?  Marty wanted to watch them again with the kids before the new one comes out.  We got tickets through the UVU alumni association for a special preview the day before it comes out!  They have these nights every so often in AZ and Marty gets to watch cool movies he is excited about and I get to answer all the trivia questions and win free stuff (I am still UVU's biggest fan!!).  

Not pictured above from the last week: kid fights, mommy tears, homework battles, no piano practicing whatsoever, more crumbs in every carpet than I care to admit, and a car with a suspicious smell I'd probably be able to trace if I would just go out and clean it.  On the plus side we did our nightly routines almost every night!  Even if the bedroom standards are lower than usual....  

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

More bday fun and a concert

Last year I put Brynn in the East Valley Millenial Choir Organization (EVMCO).  Marty and I have been to a bunch of their concerts and they are SO edifying.  They sing in the the best concert halls available and the aim of the organization in excellence in music; classical, sacred, patriotic, etc.  The main attraction is the adult choir which is truly just one step down from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  But several children's and youth choirs perform on their own and alongside the adults as well. 

I think Brynn really enjoyed her time in it.  The drive is the biggest downside, but it's only a once-weekly commitment so that was fine.  At first she loved it and then she wasn't so sure she wanted to stick it out because the choir director was so strict.  She got called out several times (for sneezing, having a frog in her throat, and raising her hand to use the bathroom!) in front of everyone and I think she was just starting to crumble under the weight of all the structure.  She has a very can't-we-all-just-love-and-watch-the-butterflies type of personality.  But you know, so did I as a kid, and being pushed and taught discipline in music was probably the best thing for me.  But just as I predicted, it was all over for Brynn when it came time for the performances and she caught the bug.  Now she's excited for the next semester in the choir.

This year they did they did Mendelssohn's Elijah Oratorio (there is Handel's Messiah and this is THE other oratorio).  Mendelssohn is one of my absolute favorite composers so that was exciting for me.  This was also somewhat of a historic performance of it because they transformed it to be a bit more like an opera (more staging, costumes, etc) which the director says there is considerable evidence that that's a bit more how Mendelssohn intended it to be.  The other cool thing was that this was an opportunity for a rite of passage with Brynn in the Oldham family - I took her on a couple dates those Thursdays to buy her first two cheap classical CDs!  My dad's and my favorite past-time!  She picked Tchaikovsky.  Yum.  My kids, especially Brynn, can identify a number of classical composers and their works but I'm feeling like there is so much more I can do in that area.  It's one of the greatest gifts my parents ever gave me.


Also in April Bryce finally had a friend birthday party!  Two years ago we had the invitations all ready to go out and we got in the car and he threw up.  So we decided to put it off a week to let a stomach flu run it's course and then Camille was born a week early, so we just bagged it.  Last year we once again made up invitations and threw them out when we headed up to UT that weekend for my grandma's birthday.  But we had a family bday party up there at a Carl's Jr and it was perfect and so much fun.  But he still really wanted to have a friend party so we pulled out all the stops.          

Well actually, just one of the stops.  We got a dang bounce house.  The thing I thought I'd never do.  But I thought about all those boys running around my house and wondered what on Earth I was going to do with them.  Then as I started researching prices I was really surprised at how affordable it actually was.  So I asked him if this was what he wanted for his birthday present and he said yes!  It was SO.  Much. Fun.

They called me the day before and asked if they could set it up that night because it was going to be busy the next day.  So when Marty and Brynn and I got home that night at 11:00 from her concert and saw that thing set up in the back yard...well, naturally we spent a fair amount of time jumping our hearts out. Then the next day they came back for it pretty late so we paid for 6 hours but had it for almost 24!

There's sweet Taylor being a great sport about being the only girl there.
It's so cool that we can easily invite cousins to things like this these days!

Bryce is really social and loves this kind of thing.   And in the moment, nothing is really ever  "too much" for him.  Bring on the noise, the people, the activity, the energy.  But as soon as it's over and it quiets down he'll nap for two hours!

The Littles did pretty well with all the action.

Pizza, root beer, Star Wars cupcakes and ice cream.

The chameleon had a birthday 2 days later!  I can't believe she's two.  She is hard to shop for because I have a hard time going to the boy's section of the toy store for such a beautiful girl!  But she does love this Frozen microphone from Grandma and Grandpa.  She can sing all the songs.  Brynn sang  them with her every night in her crib.

She also loves to snuggle the daylights out of her new huge stuffed dog.

Her birthday was pretty laid back.  My mom and I took her shopping for a couple presents and then to the Chick-fil-a play place.  She HATED the playplace.  She refused to step foot in there if I wasn't in there with her.  So that part was a bit of a let-down but that's ok.

That's enough.

I said it's enough!!  It's all too much for a brand new two year old!

Marty's mom, my dad, and I had April birthdays too (that's why we just refer to it as "cake month").  My birthday was on of my favorites I have ever had.  My mom had only lived in AZ for a couple weeks at that point.  We went shopping and I bought a couple cute things at DownEast Basics.  Then my mom took the Littles home with her and I stayed to meet Marty on a LUNCH DATE.  What?!  What's that?  Then after Marty got home from work we all went to dinner at my fave restaurant, Joe's Farm Grill and sat out by the trees.  Then came home and had cake and ice cream.  The next day I wanted to wake up and just pinch myself, it was all too good to be true.  Dramatic, yes, but I think I had just started to repress hope and how much I actually did want to live closer to my parents someday and I couldn't believe it was actually happening.  

Later that month while the boys were off on their father-son campout, the girls and I transformed my old dollhouse from this:

to this!!  It was cheap and easy!  The only thing we bought was a square of laminate and a rug for the upstairs carpet.  The paint was leftovers from various parts of the house that I mixed and messed with and the wallpaper is just some scrapbook paper.

My favorite parts were the displays.  Brynn is so sweet and imaginative and funny.  This did exactly what I was hoping for; over summer break she totally got back into her dolls and lived right here in front of this house.  But just like last year, now that she's back in school it doesn't get used as much (boo!).

At this point Camille was still eating up her board book collection (not literally, she's two), but she's less into them right now....

An awesome Spring!  And now I am going to skip some months and start putting summer vacations etc. on Throwback Thursdays or something.