Monday, April 26, 2010

Just a couple of idiots...

As I was doing yard work today, I noticed that the Bubba and Junior (who were running around with a toy sword and a plunger, respectively) were playing a game that required a lot of running, hiding and silly voices.

Me: Are you guys having fun out here?

Junior: yeah

Me: What are you playing?

Junior: We're saving the queen. We're pretending that someone took her and she is making us do things and we have to get her back

Me: (thinking this sounds nice and normal, plunger notwithstanding) Sounds fun!

Junior: (seriously) Um, and we're idiots.

Me: (confused but too seasoned in Junior's speeches to be surprised) Idiots?

Junior: Yeah, we are just a couple of idiots and we are trying to save the queen.

Me: Let me know how that goes.

Junior: Ok

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Well, it's HIS dollar...

Junior did some work around the house and earned a few dollars. Last night was the big trip to the dollar store to get rid of the cash burning a hole in his pocket. The evening's main purchase?

A plunger.

As in, toilet plunger. I have banned him from touching any of the regular household plungers for obvious reasons, but his little heart has been pining after one. We wrote his name on it, he took it to bed last night and took it with him to his dad's today. I underestimate little boys sometimes. I had no idea how much fun a toilet plunger could be for a kid when you can see past its more practical uses.

Think giant suction cup dart....

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A really nice thing for some really nice people...

Everyone in a crisis needs a good friend. I have had many willing ears and shoulders, but I have found that I am only comfortable expressing myself to a few people. One of those people is my friend Britny. If anyone reading this is ever unfortunate to go through my situation, I sincerely hope you are fortunate enough to have a Britny as well. We realized at her 30th birthday party the other night that we have known each other for fifteen years! She knew both me and J before we were "us" and has loved us both for years. She is a good friend, a good mama, and an all around good person and I don't know how I would have made it through the last seven months if she weren't around. She would (and has) dropped everything to talk sense into me when reality sucks a little too much. She has come over at midnight when I couldn't face being alone and she was the one to help me pack up J's stuff when over a month passed after he walked out the door, he still hadn't mentioned it and I couldn't face seeing it in the closet anymore (but couldn't face putting it away either). She has loved on my kids endlessly and her boys and mine are the best of friends. Not a Sunday has gone by in seven months that she hasn't encouraged us to join them for dinner and she makes sure I text when I leave her place late to let her know that I am home and that my house is axe-murderer-free (or she knows I am coming home late from somewhere else). More than once she has gotten alarmed at my lack of timely text response in general and has threatened to put all the kids in the car and come make sure we are ok. She has been protective and caring and if she is tired of emotionally picking me up off the floor, she has yet to show it. Her husband, Jared, is equally awesome and has put up admirably with his wife being on the phone with me all the time throughout the day as well as me and my kids being at his place often. He is a great conversationalist and it has been nice to debate and discuss the kinds of subjects that I used to with J and have missed. He has never come to my house and not fixed something and is always asking what else he can do to help. He wrestles my boys, holds Sis and is a constant reminder that there are good men out there. They have one of the most amazing relationships and I have actually learned a lot in watching the way they interact.

However, like many good people, they have had their trials. The last year or so for them has been almost as crazy as mine, in a different way. It started when their twins were born and were immediately admitted to the NICU. About three days later, Jared found evidence that a partner in his company was both embezzling money and had fraudulently used his info to buy thousands of dollars worth of trucks and equipment. Their very promising company had to declare bankruptcy and Jared got a job to fill the gap in Wyoming for a week on and a week off, leaving Britny with two boys and newborn twins. When layoffs (and his lack of seniority, which overrode his awesomeness) affected his Wyoming job, they found themselves with little choice but to rent out their home, and pack up all four kids to Alaska to live with his parents, while he captained charted fishing boat tours (incidentally, the week they went, they went to and were turned away by last minute cancelled flights seven times because the of volcano in Alaska). They returned home last September and Jared started work again. For the next few months, Britny became my sounding board and all around emotional crutch. Several months ago, both twins were admitted to the hospital for a few days with respiratory problems, not long after that, Jared had to be rushed into a midnight surgery for a nearly ruptured appendix. Last week, seven year old Josh went into anaphylactic shock and had to be rushed from my house to the hospital by ambulance for yet another hospital stay within their family. Britny and William have another 7 months or so for their own overnight stays. Throughout all this, they have also been dealing with litigation regarding the former partner. They recently received a ruling, but will not see any money owed them until the guy is out of jail in ten years or so. They are dealing with shattered credit and debts incurred on the company's behalf that have now become their personal responsibility. They are great people and have met their challenges with a lot of optimism and character and they definitely deserve to have a break in their favor.

What is the point?

They have entered their adorable twins in a baby idol contest sponsored by a local radio station. The winner gets free diapers for a year!!! Given the amount and the cost of just Sis's diapers, I wince when I think of doubling the amount. It tends to be hard on a budget. There are over 800 entries at the moment and at this point it is just about who can garner the most votes from family and friends before they narrow it down to a more manageable ten. So I am sending out a plea on their behalf :-)

This isn't something where you have to sign up for junk email or to be added to a sponsor list. You simply follow the link, click on the twin's number: 590 (you don't have to scroll through all the pictures...), fill out a few fields with your name and info and click 'no' on receiving information from the sponsors and that's it! I did it over a week ago and have not received any junk mail or calls.


Someone has to win, right?! It might as well be some really nice people with some genuinely gorgeous children. Think of it as good Karma. You do not have to be a resident of this state or even this country to enter and I promise it only takes a minute or two...The contest ends on Tuesday the 22nd. One entry per email.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

There is no place like home, even if it is all wet.

By Wednesday, we were saying good-bye to the Binghams and their picturesque 100 year old house that I have fallen in love with. I love the Bingham home. I have lived with them for six summers of my life (different homes) and the smell and feel of it is always familiar and welcoming to me no matter where they are. The Binghams themselves couldn't be more awesome and supportive. They are a great place to vacation to!

I was lucky enough to have some of my relatives in Sacramento heading toward Idaho for a graduation and so did not have to travel all the way home alone. They took Sis in their car and played with and loved on her and I got to just set up DVD's for the boys and listen to my ipod in peace. Sis is a good traveller but she is still a baby and requires quite a bit of managing (i.e. "Junior, help her find her bottle," "if you play with her for the next twenty minutes, I will give you a quarter," etc. etc.) We stayed in Winnemucca and I had more hands to help than I knew what to do with getting us shuttled into the hotel and unloading the car. It was great! We split off from them about four hours from home and despite having to play an hours worth of the "animal game" (as well as trying and failing to properly explain "I Spy." Junior kept saying things like "I spy a blue car....") the rest of the trip was uneventful. As I drove up my street I thought "I just want to lay in my bed for 10 minutes and then I will unload the car and start the laundry." Then I walked into a house that looked like this:

And this...

and this...

The universe will always find another way to test you even when you feel you have hit your limit. I found it incredibly ironic that a hot water pipe had burst under the sink during the first time in over seven months that I have left the house for more than part of a day. Because it was hot water, it had ruined the finish on many of the lower cabinets, steamed up the walls and warped both the paint and my pictures in their frames. The insulation downstairs was soaked and the water had run along a duct in the ceiling to better soak the entire basement, not just directly underneath the sink area. Right now we are looking at replacing cabinets, the kitchen flooring, repainting at least one or two walls as well as general maintenance and clean up in the basement. As I walked into my steamy front room and heard the water gushing in the kitchen, I should have probably been more surprised. I wasn't. I don't think that makes me a pessimist, just resigned at this point. What's a flooded house? Annoying, definitely, but certainly not worse than what I have behind me. It's amazing how trauma can give you perspective. I ran for a neighbor to help turn the water off, called my sister to come get the kids and dug through soaking file folders to find our homeowners insurance information. I gained even more perspective when my hero Britny showed up with her shop vac and her four kids (to turn loose in the back yard while we cleaned). As she pulled into the driveway, her seven year old began complaining of stomach pains. He made it as far as the bottom steps before he started itching all over and breaking out into hives. Upon entering the house, he immediately threw up and then had to run upstairs to the bathroom. In almost no time, he went from being fairly uncomfortable to being critical as he started to pass out and couldn't stay on his feet. It was probably one of the scariest ten minutes of my life as Britny held him on the hallway floor and we struggled to keep him awake and alert as I called 911 and dealt with the dispatcher and prayed that we would not have to watch helplessly as he lost consciousness. The ambulance was a little delayed by the train nearby, but it felt like forever and I have never been so relieved to see medical personnel in my life. Britny's husband, who had been on his way to help with the water situation anyway, showed up shortly after the ambulance and they all took off for the emergency room with sirens blaring.
I still had standing pools of water to deal with and had kept Britny's other three (including her 18 month old twins!!) She has come to my rescue so many times, I would have gladly let the water sit there all night while I watched her kids for her, but fortunately I didn't have to. Word of our situation (probably sparked by the ambulance, fire truck and police car outside my house) broke within the ward and the neighborhood and within a half hour I had at least ten men at my house helping drag everything up from the basement and depositing it in the garage or anyplace else that was dry! Women from the ward also came and helped chase kids when I was needed to direct any of the moving proceedings. It was so heartening to have so much help from those around me who have already taken such good care of us. Even now, people have been stopping by and checking in to see if we have everything we need. I am so grateful to everyone who served us so kindly that day. It was a rough one. We got word a few hours later that Josh had had an allergic reaction to gelatin (they think) and had gone into anaphylactic (sp?) shock but was stable and doing better. They kept him for the next 24 hours for observation and medication. The kids and I went to see him at the hospital the next day and he seemed almost back to himself. It was such a relief after my last vision of him as a blue, barely conscious boy who had to be carried to the ambulance.

Junior, after observing that Josh got a kit full of toys, any kind of drink he wanted, an Xbox brought in as well as a bed that moved up and down at the push of a button, remarked wistfully that he wished HE could have a sleepover at the hospital. I felt compelled to remind him that in order to be in the hospital you have to be sick and it usually required shots. Weirdly enough, Josh happened to be in the same room we had Sis in when she was admitted for a few days last summer. It felt familiar. As we left, Junior referenced an earlier conversation about allergies and why Josh was there in the first place. He told me that he himself was "allergic to hot dogs. Not because they will make him sick, but because he doesn't like the taste." (And I recalled telling people when I was young that I was allergic to spiders - not because I was, but because I hated them and I thought that would keep them away.) His logic made sense to me. We went with it.

Making the bed go up and down. We figured that was better than them jumping on it.

If I mentioned now that my itouch got stolen when we returned the rental car that afternoon, would you believe me? I had rented the car from airport andparked my car in extended stay parking. We returned the car and headed to the shuttle that would take us to the Explorer. As we sat down to wait I noticed that the itouch Junior had been playing with moments before in the car was no longer with him. We trooped back and inquired. The car had already been carted off to be detailed and when they called over "no one could find it." Not a great day. The manager gave us a ride over to check out the car myself and to drop us off at our car and now we can add him to the list of people who have seen me get weepy (just a little, but still...). It was not THE roughest 24 hours of my life, but it gets a spot up there. I had been doing pretty well until then, but it was kind of the last straw. I just wanted to go to bed for a few days.
So now we have bare plywood floors in the kitchen, workers in and out every day, a garage full of stuff from the basement, a front room full of stuff from the kitchen and boxes full of soggy stuff to deal with. But I have been given some interesting perspective and oddly have found a lot to be grateful for. I'm grateful that I came home in the afternoon when there were people who could help me deal with the mess and not at midnight. I am grateful that so many people were around and willing to help take my kids and lend me their hands for the evening. I am grateful that the situation with Josh was such that Britny could just go with the ambulance rather than worry about what to do with her other kids, could focus on Josh rather than the 911 call and that his dad was so close behind. I am grateful that although the damage to the house is fairly extensive, I didn't lose as many personal possessions as I could have (although what is a basement flooding without having to cry over some lost, irreplaceable memorabilia? I'm dealing with some of that, too.) In a weird way, I am grateful to have a crisis I feel like I can deal with for a change. So much of the drama in my life over the last year has been open ended and spawns further worries. With this, I tell insurance, they assess the damage and fix it. This, I can handle! Either way, I hope to have filled my quota for crap for awhile. And I feel a lot better about being a hermit for a bit longer.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Beach Day!

We were glad to see some sun before we had to leave Santa Cruz. We never did make it to the boardwalk but we got to get sandy at the beach. Bubba was genuinely terrified of the little sand flies hopping around and wouldn't get down. Having a three and a half year old hanging around your neck in terror sort of makes looking at tidepools harder, but I happen to be amazingly skilled! Junior couldn't get enough of the beach and although the water was a little too cold to swim without a wet suit, he had a good time getting his feet wet.

We made a great sand castle that we could see from our room when we went back to the hotel.

Sis taking a break from shoveling handfuls of sand into her mouth to fly a kite.

Tiny little Norah wasn't too sure about the beach in general, but she liked the digging. Jacob really wanted to bury something in the sand and thought Sis might be a good candidate, but was voted down.

My fearless girl. The beach was so big and empty that she could crawl in any direction for quite awhile before I had to go retrieve her. She did not look back once and only ever got upset when Aunt Bek tried to brush the sand off of her face.

Collecting seashells. Lulu found a whole sand dollar.

Next time I go back to Santa Cruz, I want to learn how to surf! We ended the morning by taking a dip in the hotel's heated outdoor pool.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Day 2 in Santa Cruz dawned a lot less cloudy but still a little chilly. We ate our breakfast on the deck as we watched pelicans soar by at eye level. Then we threw the rest of the cookies from the night before down to the beach below for the seagulls until they got wise to where the cookies were coming from and attempted to intercept them at the source.

We left Santa Cruz for the day and traveled to Monterey to the Aquarium there. It had been years (pre-Lauren) since I had been there and it was as amazing as I remembered. Junior and I had been prepping for weeks for this visit by watching the video of the Giant Pacific Octopus they have there as well as playing all the interactive games. The Octopus did not disappoint us and made a show of crawling along the front of his tank, but what excited Junior far more than that were the planktons he saw in the jellyfish exhibit. Planktons. Boring. You can't even really see them. They look like small bubbles, but my little Spongebob Squarepants fan was seriously excited to finally see them for real.

The trusty Binghams :-) Some of my favorite people in the world!

I'll say it first! I need a tan. I had thought the California sun would oblige me better.

Sis loved the hands-on baby exhibit. This section was like crawling on a waterbed. It was supposed to feel like being in the waves and Sis loved it. Normally she comes to me like a little puppy when I hold out my hands, but this time she knew that meant going and crawled to the far side. She is no dummy :-)

This may be my favorite picture of the entire trip.

Bubba would not even consider touching the starfish, but Junior got a kick out of it.

Resisting a much needed nap. She never did give in, stubborn girl...

Jacob, Bubba and Junior in the wave room. Clear glass walls let you feel what it is like to be under a wave without getting wet. It was oddly soothing. If I were a billionaire, I would seriously consider getting one of these rooms installed.

Lauren and Junior trying to coax the Rays (who were tired of being manhandled) over

The jellyfish room - my favorite!

After the Aquarium, we walked down Cannery Row and had dinner at an oceanside restaurant. We all ate pizza and pasta but Sis preferred a lemon. Anyone in the family remember Junior and the lemon at this age? She did the same thing. She wasn't particularly enjoying it, but kept right on going.

After dinner, we walked down to explore under the pier and watched a little girl and her brother get soaked by a unusually large wave. Our kids thought it was hilarious. The wet kids were not nearly as amused.

Lauren and I finished off the night with milk and cookies and home pedicures. Lauren did my blue nails with silver stars. Love, love, love that girl!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Chillin' (literally) in Santa Cruz

After our Japanese Easter meal, we headed down to Santa Cruz where we had reservations at a beach side hotel for a few days. The weather still did not cooperate and made a huge mockery of all the shorts and t-shirts I had packed. I did feel a little better about the pouring rain when I heard about all the snow everyone was getting at home. More than one friend texted me pictures to remind me what I was missing out on! Our room had a deck and great view of the pier and we shivered and turned up the heater as we watched the really, really dedicated surfers in wet suits out riding the waves.

Gracie J came to hang out in our room for a little while. She and Sis would square off and Sis would reach out and tug her hair. Gracie would move a foot or two away and 'roar' at her in an attempt to keep her out of hair pulling distance. Sis was neither scared nor deterred.

Getting comfy after an exhausting 20 minutes jumping on the beds.

I know this picture is blurry (she was going for the camera), but when I see it, I see something of me. She so often looks like a mini J, I thought it was worth noting.

On such a rainy day, the famous Santa Cruz boardwalk was closed, so we played some indoor games.

Junior was NASCAR driving. It took both feet to work the pedal, but he actually did a really good job and stayed on the track long enough that the rest of us got bored.

Lulu - stylin' as always...

What Bubba got with his tickets. These were well worth the $10 in tokens, don't you think?

Junior's winnings. Whoopie Cushions are hilarious every time...if you are six!

Warming up with french fries and vinegar (which reminded me of Europe) and Hot Chocolate on which Lauren burned her tongue (causing much drama).

You know it is a good hotel when room service leaves out cookies and milk for you each evening.

Bubba has to sleep like this no matter what bed he is in. It's awesome when your three year old climbs in with you on a nightly basis and can make a king size bed feel small. Wierd. Fortunately Junior is a sound sleeper.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Day Three - Happy Easter!!

Bek is a woman after my own heart when it comes to making the most out of holiday celebrations and we had a lot of fun preparing for Easter. After a dinner of Boston Market (which is like crack to me and it is probably a good thing there are none in my immediate area) we let the kids color eggs for awhile.

Junior and Lauren trying to out-do each other on cool designs.

Norah just liked the pink :-)

Jacob and Bubba were partners in crime (literally. It was a constant battle to keep these two from shooting everyone in the face with their nerf guns.)

Tired eyes! Norah wasn't down with having her picture taken so early in the morning.

Veggie Tales Marshmallow candies. He was a lot more excited about them than he looks in this picture. You'll have to take my word for it...

Sweet Little Gracie!

Jacob and his loot

Easter Bunny tracks on the front porch

The Easter Bunny even found me! Apparently, moms get pottery barn pillow covers, Philosophy lotion and Lindt chocolate, among other treasures. Thanks again, Easter Bunny!

It didn't take Sis and Gracie long to find an unattended Easter Basket. In this case, it was Bubba's.

After Egg Hunting, it was breakfast with the missionaries who are renting out the studio apartment attached to the house.

Easter Morning aftermath. Any attempts to talk about Jesus or the Resurrection were met by blank, chocolate drugged stares. Maybe next year...

We had supplies and plans to have a barbeque on the beach, but those plans were derailed by the freezing cold and pouring rain as we started to load up. So, we had a nice traditional Easter meal at Benihana's instead. Bubba was intrigued by the chop sticks and kept them for the entire trip using them for everything except eating.

A little nervous about the fire and smoke on the grill.

Sis loved watching the chef flip his spatula around. I couldn't get her to turn her head and eat her food.

Post meal - Jacob gave being a chef a shot. He might just have a Benihana career. A job that involves fire and throwing knives around. What's not to love?