Monday, April 25, 2011

My hat is off to photographers of children everywhere!

When you have children you figure out pretty quickly that in order to get pictures like this:

And this:

You will also be dealing with a lot of this:

You also learn that you will put up with a lot of this:

and this:

and this:

and this:

just to get this:

And by then you will be super grateful for it whether Sis is actually looking at the camera or not.

I just love my babies :-) We had a great Easter!

Easter Morning

Bubba woke up with the most awesome bed head I have ever seen. Happy Easter to me!

Sis couldn't quite understand the egg hunting thing. Her brothers would try to help her out and would put eggs in her basket for her, but it only made her angry that they were messing with her basket and she pitched them back out.

Junior was, is and hopefully always will be Junior forever and ever, amen.

Bubba was just happy with the gum. He willingly gave away his chocolate to me and Sis.

Sis found a quiet spot away from the confusing egg hunting mayhem to eat her jelly beans in peace.

...until she discovered the easter grass in her basket. Then the smile finally came out (she isn't much of a morning person and she gets it from her Mama.)

I made and tried to get the kids to eat this yummy french toast casserole for breakfast but they turned it down in favor of sugar coated marshmallows. More for me (and the neighbors I brought the rest of the pan to.)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Reason For The Season

Junior brought this picture home from Church today. Yes, that is a toilet and a plunger. Below is what was drawn on the back of the paper.

I'll admit that I might not be the best at making sure my children understand certain Gospel principles but I am almost certain that sharks leaping out of toilets and attacking people has never been part of any church story I've ever taught them.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Who needs a spoon?

...or bread...

...or jelly...

...or manners...

That jar of peanut butter? It's hers now. But then, I suspect that was her plan all along.

My Favorite Things: My Car

I'm not a major car person. There are some I like more than others and a few that will never make my short list even if they were only $1. I do love this car though. It's a Honda Pilot and although it is not necessarily a head turner, I love how much easier it makes my life and I love what it represents to me.

I bought it a year ago when it became clear that I might be pushing my luck regarding the mileage and well being of my Explorer. Being neither technically single nor married, or having done any official work (i.e. anything that wasn't in the background in support of J's companies) I was starting to get worried about how I was going to be able to qualify to trade in for a more reliable one. In becoming a single adult/single car family I wanted a little more vehicular security. What do you do when your car is in the shop and you don't have a second car to rely on? How would I ever get to the store to spend the grocery money I didn't have anymore because the car needed a new thingamajig? :-) Because most banks don't count alimony or child support as income I was told by a few dealerships that I would have to ask someone with a job to co-sign for me. I hated that. Not because I don't have awesome family members who would help me (I do) but it just increased my sense of helplessness about my life and feelings of dependence. This alone may not seem like a huge thing, but pride rarely goes all at once. It slips away in pieces and leaves jagged wounds whenever you realize that something that you are now unqualified for something as a single person simply because you spent years in tandem with another person who is no longer there. Trying to find a place that would rent to a single mom with three kids is a very similar story.

Ultimately, I figured I would cross my fingers for awhile and hope that all the Explorer's thingamajigs had some good life left in them. Then I got a marketing letter from a local dealership that promised that all forms of income would be considered. I contacted them with a fairly cynical heart and I got really lucky. The dealership salesmen were awesome (Menlove Toyota if you are interested). It seemed like everyone I worked with had some kind of personal sympathy for the divorce situation I was currently in and made it their extra mission to make sure I got financed and into something that would be good to me for the long run. I know how to car shop and I know what I am looking for on a car contract. In my double checking, researching and price matching, I was relieved to see that the price we haggled down to with very little trouble was incredibly fair. I was so grateful to not have salesmen who were going to mess with me because I was so very tired of being messed with. Driving off that lot with a car that had a good reputation for safety and for durability felt good. But more than that, I felt the first triumph I had had 9 months. Being able to secure a car that was in my name and through my credit gave me back a little of my independence. It was the first thing that was 'mine' and not 'ours' and it was on my terms. I can't even begin to tell you how big that was for me.

I love my car for that and I also love it because I really, really hate to drive. Back during the first year of marriage, I commuted an hour to school and work and the time in the car made me nuts because I wasn't working, wasn't doing homework and wasn't spending with my new husband. I still feel like driving time is wasted time and I get bored and frustrated quickly. However, this car has so many fun extras that I never would have paid to put in but am loving. For instance, the day the DVD system breaks down will be the day I check into the looney bin. There are so many reasons to love that particular feature, especially when you are the only adult in a car of children who have inherited their mother's penchant for hating car time. Or, when you are on hour ten of a road trip and you are glad you have some way to entertain the kids. Since I can count on one hand the number of times that I have been a passenger in a car in the last 6 months, I can now really appreciate the comforts that make being a driver so much better. Who knew heated seats could make me so happy?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

My Favorite Things: Scentsy

I have read a few articles lately on the close associations between smell, memory and mood. I'm not a big perfume wearer, but I like for my house to smell good. This is why I am so very fond of my scentsy warmer. I received it as a gift from my in-laws a few years ago and although it has been dropped, tipped and had little fingers dipped into the wax, it has served me well. I have a stash of smells that I either simply love or they remind me of something (i.e. I have one that smells just like my first trip to Mexico and one that smells like the honeysuckle bushes from one of our homes in Tennessee.) Some of them smell like I just cleaned my house or washed my laundry or baked cupcakes. Some of them take me right to Halloween or Christmas or Spring or Summer at the pool. Whatever scent I choose, it instantly does something for my mood level (and satisfies some of my control issues :-)

I do have a few ideas that I wish Scentsy (or the knock off brands) would cooperate with me on:

*Ikea (plywood and cinnamon rolls)
*Jasmine Rice (so I can pretend I am in a Thai Restaurant)
*That One Spring Morning in Ireland When We Had to Leave Early And Walk To The Train Station (self explanatory)
*That Smell In The Air Right Before It Snows (ditto)
*My First Truck (unexplainable :-)
*Just Washed New Baby (because I miss it)
*Disneyland (vanilla and cinnamon churros)
*My Favorite Teenage Job (movie theater. It smelled like popcorn and Windex)
*Elementary School (crayons and unjaded enthusiasm. I have noticed that most Elementary School hallways smell the same.)

Right now, my house smells like Maple Butter in honor of the remaining cool weather although Junior requested that we switch it to coconut tomorrow. I think he thinks it might bring the sun.

**For the record, no I do not sell Scentsy :-) I just really like it.

Friday, April 15, 2011

My Favorite Things: Facebook

I might be officially outing myself as a nerd, but I really love Facebook.

Anything that makes the world a little smaller is good in my book. My first experience with it was a invitation from a friend I had made while living in the Netherlands and had kept up with a few times a year by email. So, I signed up and within days I had people who I never thought I would hear from again find me. Many of them live in other countries so the chance of bumping into them in any other setting were pretty slim, and I had long since lost email contact. Old high school friends! college buddies! blogging friends I have never actually met in person! You are all on there and I love you all :-) I love that I can keep up with baby, wedding and general life announcements in one spot. I can see pictures of my friend's children and families and catch up with relatives that I don't see often. These things are all awesome, but I think what I like most about it is it helps keep me from feeling as isolated.

Here is the thing. I am a stay at home mom for the moment. I am very aware of and grateful for the opportunity as long as it lasts. I adore my children, but there is no denying that it can be lonely, especially when you don't have another adult walking into the house at the end of the work day to remind you that you are more than the maker of food, changer of diapers and warden of the crazy house. All the things I used to be able to text J during the day or save until our evening talks about the funny/sweet/frustrating things the kids did or to discuss something I heard on the news isn't really an option anymore. I like being able to tell my facebook friends about my 6 a.m. conversations with Sam or send out into cyberspace that I have accomplished folding every bit of laundry in the house (that's a big deal! You try it...) It's tiny little things, but it generates feedback and conversations and it makes me feel a little less lonely on a daily basis when I am too busy doing kid things to stop and chat with someone in person.

That being said, like so many things, Facebook is abusable. I do not ignore my kids to be on it but when I have a spare moment, it is nice to take a break or log on in the evenings when the house is too quiet and see what the rest of the world is up to. Being a mom is hard and being a mom without another adult around on a day to day basis is even harder. I can't put a price on the things that help me keep my sanity and help me feel like a person outside of my mom role, so facebook makes the list. Interacting via the Internet isn't a good permanent substitute, but it's a decent temporary one until life shifts again. :-)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Favorite Things: My Couch

When you have a post with ten pictures dedicated to something, you know it has to be pretty good. I have this couch that is more comfortable than your couch :-) Looks -wise, it's ok but not my favorite. We almost walked by it when we bought it but took a minute to sit down for a break from the strenuous job of couch hunting. I think we decided to get it before we even saw the price tag (which thankfully, was reasonable.) One of us stayed to guard it and beat off any other potential couch buyers while the other went to find a salesman for the easiest sale in the world. It is one of the few pieces of furniture that I didn't get rid of in the great furniture/memory/moving purge. At my old place, it was in the family room and generally covered with toys but still the most comfortable seat in the house. Here, it plays a more central role. You sit down and sink into squashy oblivion. And then if you are anything like my brother, you will ask a lot if I will leave you the couch when I die.

It was the only place besides their beds or the car that my kids would fall asleep. When I read on it at night, I fall asleep half the time and don't wake up until one of the boys come looking for me. Who needs lullabies?

Its squishiness makes cuddling far more reasonable, even with warring siblings and bouncing baby girls.

Boundaries are clearly defined so no one steals anyone else's cheetos.

You will get sucked in like quicksand if you aren't careful. But, you'll die comfy.

When you lay down to watch a movie, the seat perfectly fits two adults, or one adult and two children (three if Sis happens to be sitting like a cherry on top.) If you lay down on this couch, you WILL have Sis climb up and cuddle with you (as Britny's husband Jared found out one evening.) This is how we watch Barney every morning. Getting the snuggles from the girl is worth having to watch shows I can barely stand.

There is room for all...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My Favorite Things: My Blue KitchenAid

I like to cook and bake. I do NOT like to mix things up by hand, but that's what I did all through college and for the first 6 years of my marriage. For at least 5 of those years, I did marketing treats for J's companies and once you have mixed your millionth batch of cookie dough at 3 in the morning, you really start wishing for a mixer. Any time I made bread, I would turn it over to J when the mixing got heavy. Eventually, I found a reasonably priced one on ebay and all but kissed it good night every day. I recall telling J that I loved it only a little less than him and the kids. I was pretty excited about it. Unfortunately, it was plain black. It blended into the kitchen but wasnt anywhere near as fun as the rainbow colors that KitchenAid is known for.

A few Christmases ago, I recieved a new one as a gift. This one was a pretty blue green. Just walking past it and seeing it on the counter makes me almost as happy as when it is effortlessly whirring ingredients together without the aid of either of my arms. I recently got a small job making marketing treat baskets for a local Home Health Care Company so I get to use it more often and the boys get to turn it on and watch it mash ingredients together. Everyone wins :-)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My Favorite Things: Pink

Maybe this is cheating because it isn't one specific thing, but for today I am picking the color pink. All pinks are nice, but it is particularly the pale, bubblegum, super girly pink that makes me smile. It's feminine and lovely and unfortunately not a hugely popular color if you are over the age of 5.

To this end, it is really helpful to have a girl to dress and decorate for because there weren't a lot of occasions to use my favorite hue. After Sis was born, she went through several weeks of pink outfits until one day she graduated to a coral orange dress and I took a picture to commemorate it. It was very cute but I still preferred the pink. We have branched out these days and she wears many colors, but I still find myself drawn to whatever is pink on the rack (and the pink barbie section in the toy aisle.) I opened a bag of plastic easter eggs for the boys, snagged a pink one and it has been sitting by my computer for a few days now just because the color is so darn perfect and I like looking at it. I gave the other one to Sis and she keeps it with her other treasures in her little shopping cart. Smart girl.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Favorite Things: My Kindle

I'm a reader and have been for as long as I can remember. I used to be certain that I was strictly a 'book with paper pages' kind of a person and turned my nose up slightly at those who needed modern gadgets to read. I felt a little sorry for anyone who didn't understand and appreciate the essence of how the weight of a book feels in your hands and the simple act of turning the pages. I have only to walk into a book store or library and I am immediately a little bit in love with what I might find there. The musty, booky smell of my little hometown library is carefully filed away in my brain as one of my most pleasant memories. I never travel without a book and recall at least 5 that I carried with me in my back pack when I travelled Europe for a few months. I may or may not have gone on an overnight hike in the Tetons with a book stowed away just in case. Books are my getaway and when I have spare time, I will choose them over any other leisure activity. Reading is the one thing I can do where I don't feel like I have to be multitasking and it is one of the few things that completely occupies my brain and gives me a rest from constant thinking. These days, that is huge. I rarely re-watch movies but I have books that I read every year.

So, as a vehemently self professed bookworm, you can assume that I find books sacred. I had heard about the Kindle and J had even approached the idea as a gift once or twice over the years but I turned it down, certain that it would defile what I loved most about books. But, I was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.


I received the Kindle as a gift for Christmas and figured out fairly immediately how awesome it was going to be. My sisters had all gotten one from Santa as well and we started an online book group. When one of us buys a book we are all able to download and share it. I can read reviews and browse genres that interest me. One of the down sides of being a voracious reader is the speed reading skills that sometimes come with it (no, really!) Whether or not I want to savor a book, I generally finish it pretty quickly which is both a blessing and a curse. I have a constant wish list of books from the last decade that I can finally afford through the Kindle version.

There is no electronic device that will ever replace the smell and feel of a real book, and my boxes and shelves of books aren't going anywhere. As I collect, I will still pick them up and they will still feel like old friends. However, I have found that I have to bow (and maybe apologize a little) to this modern electronic convenience that I was determined not to get to know.

Santa, go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back :-)

these are a few of my favorite things...

I have been trying to set a weekly goal for myself. Generally, it is a better payoff if the goal I set can accomplish something, like getting the closets cleaned out. But sometimes I have to be more realistic about where I am at that week (i.e. get out of my pajamas before noon or make sure I talk to at least one adult per day.) This week I am going to do something a little different and I am going to share it with all of you (yay!!) If you are tuning in for angst or funny kid stories, I can probably oblige you next week ;-) This week, I am focusing on a little more gratitude.

Please assume in this scenario that the things I have the most gratitude for are not tangible. My kids, my family, my friends and my beliefs far outweigh anything I could ever own. But, when I am down or uncomfortable, I find myself appreciating many of the little material things around me that make my life easier or happier. I am a creature of comfort. When certain ones have been taken away, I tend to notice more the things that give me other forms of satisfaction. Gratitude for everything, right?

Stay tuned (or not... :-) I plan to pick one thing every day for a week (in no particular order.)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Official Retraction

When I was younger, I often heard grown-ups mention how much they loved listening to the speakers from General Conference and I privately thought they were kind of full of it. At the time, GC was only exciting because we got to stay in our jammies all day instead of getting dressed up for church. We were allowed to lounge and eat yummy food and draw or color as long as we were quiet and at least acted like we were listening. My parents would turn on the Saturday session as well and listen as they went about their regular work. I thought they were nuts for wanting to voluntarily listen to church stuff on a saturday. As I got older, experiences helped me value the messages shared in conference more, but I still wouldn't say that I looked forward to it other than that I still enjoyed the novelty of not getting out of my pajamas. Part of me continued to think that people who who claimed to crave hearing wisdom directly from our prophet and leaders were exaggerating a tiny bit.

I am here to officially retract that. I now genuinely look forward to General Conference. While I still have a healthy and genuine respect for being not having to get myself or my children into church clothes, I find myself excited to hear what is going to be said. I am surprised at how much I look forward to hearing what Elder Holland is going to say this time or that I perk up when I hear President Uchtdorf's now familiar accent. His talks touch me often enough that I find myself seeking out copies of past ones when I am having a particularly down day. I am genuinely reassured by the consistent reminders that the Lord holds a special interest for me, not only as a mother, but as a single one and will help me fill in the spiritual gaps in our home. I need to hear that my kids and I will not want for lack of in-house priesthood ;-) Raising my kids in this gospel is important to me but it is never a job I thought I would have to tackle alone. Teaching, encouraging and hoping that my children choose the path I know is best for them is a scary thing for me, as is the idea of bearing the burden of heartbreak alone if they stray. More than ever, I am grateful for the assurances from the lips of leaders I trust that I am not alone in this area at least. I do need those reminders often as well as testimonies of the importance of taking the hard road even when quitting feels more do-able. I finally feel like I can fully appreciate the "mortal messengers with angelic messages" that gather to speak particular comfort, encourangement and guidance to anyone willing to listen throughout the world twice a year.

So, when my kids complain now that General Conference is boring, I get it. But, I really hope they also 'get it' someday as well. In the meantime, we have established a few traditions over the last few years to make the day more noticeable for them. I hope that in the years to come, it will help the kids associated GC with good memories and good traditions. Aside from being good instruction, I remember General Conference as being good family time as well. Behold our creation:

I can make a wicked fort when I need to. It has rooms and everything. We are lucky that we don't have any more chairs in the house, or else it would have been bigger. Cleaning it up wasn't as much fun as setting it up. They emerged every hour or so to get more food or add toys to the collection inside. I don't think they have ever been so entertained or so quiet for so long.

Junior even designated a bathroom, although he was a little miffed when I wouldn't let him use the red cup he is holding as a real toilet. I am more than happy to be the bad guy on that one.

And in the tradition of Mormons everywhere, we make cinnamon rolls. The boys get really into helping me cook and this is a good treat for little helpers. General Conference around here means strengthening your soul while blocking your arteries a little.

Listen to/Read General Conference Here and if you only listen to one thing, let it be Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's talk in the afternoon Sunday session.