Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Summer is fun

A few weeks ago, Kyle was in charge of FHE and so hiking we went, up to Donut Falls in Big Cottonwood Canyon. He had hiked this trail back in his pre-Tiff days and remembered it being an easy hike, so easy that he didn't stop any of us from donning flip flops for the occasion. Didn't take long to figure out the kids' feet (and ours) weren't going to last long this way. Erik got picked up first since he was slowing us down, but an hour later when we finally reached the falls, Ellie had earned a free ride back, as well. (Actually the hike is only 1.5 miles round-trip and not very grueling, but imagine that at a two-year-old's pace...)

This was as close as we got to the falls and I still can't figure out where the donuts were.

Oh yeah, I guess if you hike to the very top you get to see something like this.

Still, we enjoyed the babbling brook and being in nature, especially Kyle. In fact, Kyle hasn't stopped nagging me to have a family camping trip ever since (ha! Kyle nagging me for once!). I'm not opposed to the idea, but I am also the one who gets eaten alive by mosquitoes even when I've bathed in bug spray, and even after a year in China I am still not quite fond of squatting...
However, I've informed him that when he has provided a tent, sleeping bags, a flashlight, and some tin foil, I will oblige him by accompanying the family into the woods.

Actually, we agreed that a good compromise would be to camp in Kjerstin's backyard. They even have a vegetable garden, which I figure is at least as outdoors-y as wooded shrubbery, and that way I could still sleep on a cushy mattress and use a flush toilet. I know, I'm a wimp. I'm also a wimp with three little kids, without whom, I like to believe, I would surely cast my reservations aside and embrace the opportunity.

We've also been seizing opportunities to get wet, like here at the Murray pool, which has a lot of wading room for the kids and a water slide that none of us could get enough of, even Bob, I think.

We are still adjusting to life with three kids, and Erik is the definite wild card. Most of the time he pretends to love Charlie by pressing too hard on his belly or head and watching for our reaction-- that trite admonition to be gentle--, but then sometimes when he's not feeling so jealous he plops down beside me, arms outstretched, and proclaims, "me ready hold Charlie," and then he coos and cuddles him and genuinely loves being the big brother.

Ellie remains my stalwart helper, fetching things for me nearly always without complaint and giving Charlie adoring attention when I cannot.

Another recent pursuit has been the development of a cupcake business. It's Mish's brainchild really, but I have the Wilton tools so I'll be her assistant and make us cute matching sister aprons to wear while we frost away in the kitchen (wait, already did that but never finished mine...).

This was our first experience with fondant, and actually we didn't have any decorating tools or shape cutters at the time so the piping was very amateur (we used the food coloring cap to make circles), so rest assured that it will get much cuter than this. We have grandiose plans for this business, things so cute that you don't even care how delicious they are (but this is Mish, so of course they will be), so dare to come to us from now on for all your cupcaking needs! And believe me, when you stop to consider it, you'll be hard pressed to find an occasion that doesn't merit the sharing of beautiful homemade cupcakes.

The spontaneity and enthusiasm of my kids continues to keep me more interesting than I would be otherwise. I love all the small and simple activities that give them thrills and make me smile, like making play-doh statues, baking cookies, and painting a cookie or dinosaur on their faces.

We've recently picked gaming back up (which had been replaced for a while by crafting and then baby) and I still love scum like I did back in my high school glory days. And yes, I was always the scum back then, too.

Like auntie, like nephew.

Um, or like mother, like son.

I thought this pool was a great idea, right up until I realized that with no hose nor a yard or drain, filling and emptying this pool quickly becomes a chore not always worth it for the $2 my mom paid for it. Still, even for wading and splashing the kids got a thrill from it, and that is worth more than $2 in my book.

Hee hee this one looks like Carter's showing off his melancholy bride-to-be, just another victim of an arranged marraige. We parents did in jest betroth our children, but then Carter whipped out that proposal that we'll never let him live down, so I don't see what Ellie's pouting about after all.

Nothing entertains little boys like live crickets being devoured by a dragon right before their faces. Aside from the cost of the crickets, the show was free, my favorite price.

I also wanted to mention that even though I don't craft anymore, my heart is still quite fond of it and longs for a day when I'll be organized, motivated, and well-rested enough to resume crafting. In the meantime, I've started a blog highlighting projects other people have made. That will suffice for now. The link is quelquejour.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Parties, pigs, & proposals

I've never really enjoyed cooking--why? An investment of $10 and two hours, fifteen minutes later, translates only into dirty dishes. Despite this, I will inevitably be a cook for the rest of my life. Therefore, since our move to Utah, I've resolved to put more effort into building a quality culinary repertoire. I may not love to cook, but I do love to eat, after all.

Allrecipes.com and Mish have been superb resources for my recipe box. I've even thought about starting a cooking blog. But I've thought of starting a lot of things, so don't count on it. Anyway, a sale on cherries at Sunflower Market facilitated the making of this flavor-packed chicken dish and, unlike most of my dinners, it actually looked decently tasty. I hope my family enjoyed it because it's highly unlikely that I'll spend an evening halving and de-seeding that many fresh cherries ever again.

Laurisa and I knew we'd be bosom friends upon discovering our shared taste in children's birthday party themes. When I met her, I was in the midst of planning a Little Einsteins birthday party for Erik, the very theme she'd chosen for her two-year-old's b-day party (I ended up changing to underwater theme later because I thought it would be cheaper-hahaha, joke's on me). And then she mentioned that Carter's last b-day party was Curious George themed, and which animal had graced every corner of Ellie's last b-day party? None other than the monkey, some of you may recall. Coincidence? We thought not. And we went on to discover that we share a great part of our thoughts and preferences, like Smiths' cheapest brand ice cream and birthing sans drugs. At first we had so much in common that we seemed like the same person, but over time we've seen that our personalities are actually quite different (and we proved it taking the color code test with our hubbies until 3am one night, and boy was the test hilarious at that hour). Still, we relate to each other as well as any two bosom friends could hope for, and all that remained was to ensure that our children are equally fond of each other. I think we have done remarkably well. Here are some shots from Carter's birthday party last month.

"Dibble dipple dop," a play off of "duck duck goose" was simply an excuse for the older boys (aka the grown men) to pour cups of cold water on each other with a vengeance.

Everyone seemed afraid to "dop" Ellie, as a three-year-old girl's reaction to a cold splash is a bit less predictable than that of a five-year-old boys'. She was the very last to get splashed, but actually loved it and ran a large loop around the park before triumphantly returning to the circle.

Mish and I may be the queens of cupcakes (more on that later), but Laurisa's Wall-E cake showed us up big time in the solid caking department. Most of it is even edible.

And apparently it was even delicious.

This is just one accumulation of confiscated toys, mostly the result of the kids resisting bedtime. Our tactics must be working, right?....

We have provided chore opportunities for the kids to earn back their toys, but the size of the pile indicates we're not giving them enough chores. Either that or two months living with Grandma has bolstered their toy supply to the extent that they don't even notice half of them are missing.

Happy birthday to Kjerstin (last month)! I attempted an ice cream cake and I think the part of the cake that didn't melt off all over my freezer tasted quite good.

To make room for the ice cream cake, I had to empty most of my freezer, and kinda forgot to put most of that stuff back in until later that night. A few frozen bread loaves took that as a cue to get all raised and puffy, so the kids helped me whip up some monkey bread the next morning. This is probably the best treat in the world to let your kids help you make because no matter how enthusiastically they "help," it cannot be ruined. The taste, at least.

Ellie has been a superb babysitter for me when I need to do something hands-free for a minute (relying on a three-year-old to babysit? Scary, I know). This is what she would look like all day if I had had twins.

Overnight Rowan went from being the littlest baby in my life to being Gigantor-- an adorable gigantor, of course. We hope that in a few months, when Charlie has caught up to him in size, they'll more realistically pass as identical twins.

Already fighting like siblings--

But quick to make up with affectionate foot-holding

Carter showed up to walk Ellie over to his house and on the way decided to pop the question. Yes, the big question! Casually and matter-of-factly, he'd told his mom earlier that Ellie was his best girl friend, so he should marry her. He asked her if she wanted to, she naturally consented, and he said, "good, because I want to marry you, too!" We've been teasing him about it in terms he doesn't understand ever since (like, "Hey Carter, when are you going to buy a ring?"). With the sweet chivalry of a five-year-old, he shared his towel with her between glee-filled runs on the slip-and-slide.

Erik and Holden like each other, too. Or at least they both DON'T like getting water in their faces so were content to hog up the mini-pool at the end of the slip-and-slide.

This made them giggle so much that...

... we had to pile all seven kids on each other bellies and soak in their warm, fuzzy-toweled delight.

Another day another friend introduced us to a local free farm, and all I need to know about anything is that it's free and I am there!

The pictorial evidence on this blog may indicate that I only promote crafts I like making, but I really enjoy doing crafts with the kids, too. And I really, really like it when they craft outside so I don't have to scrub the table, chairs, and floor when they're done. Please stay forever, summer weather.

Our four little artists:

And here's the closest our camera has captured to a smile from Charlie, at least pre-Zantac. Since he's been on acid reflux medicine the past week we've seen a whole new array of pleasantries, including abundant smiles and coos that were virtually non-existent before. We're soooo relieved he's feeling better and are loving this little guy more and more all the time.

P.S. These pictures were taken at least a month ago. More recent updates coming soon...

Monday, August 03, 2009

On motherhood, at one month postpartum

I was thinking about a wonderful family I met with twelve children! The kids bickered about this and that, but they seemed to get along swimmingly and be perfectly amiable when it related to the baby of the family. I mentioned this to the parents and they joked that that's the reason they keep having children-- to give the rest of the siblings one thing about which they are united!

I don't know how much my older siblings doted over me (except I know Christie definitely did), but I do know that this same concept was/is true of the baby in our family. I don't remember anyone ever fighting with Mish, but we definitely fought over her. No matter how old she got, we were all in complete agreement that she was the most sweet and adorable kid, and if anyone would have had a bone to pick with her, he'd have had the five of us to reckon with, too.

I am seeing a bit of that with the new baby in our family. I know it has only been a month, but I am pleasantly surprised to witness how much Ellie and Erik still unabashedly adore their baby brother. When it comes to the baby of the family, we are all smiles, snuggles, and goo goo noises. Yes, having a baby around unarguably increases the spirit of love, cooperation, and peace in our home.

This increase has led to many reflections of gratitude. I think I have always been grateful to be a mother, but now more than ever. I was married quite young and started having children quite young. I think much of the world shakes their fingers (or at least their heads) at me about those decisions. I admit there have been times I have dreamed of doing something easier, like maybe having a career. I am smart, driven, and confident. I don't doubt I could have succeeded at whatever career I would've put my mind and heart into.

I am so glad I chose motherhood. Someone else is being the lawyer/doctor/entrepreneur I would have been, but no one else could have been the mother of my children. Nothing could have been as rewarding as this. Nothing approaches this in importance in the grand scheme of things. Sure, there are daily frustrations that almost give me an aneurysm at times, but when I've actually stopped to observe the proportion, I spend about 20 minutes a day being stressed and/or aggravated with mothering tasks and most of the rest of the day being completely enamored with the funny and delightful habits of my children.

Kyle and I were just reflecting this morning about how miraculous parental love is. We are sometimes flabbergasted by just how OBSESSED we are with our kids without even trying to be, and I'm pretty sure all parents (unless completely desensitized to all things good, warm, and fuzzy) feel the same way about their kin. This is just the way human life and families had to be designed to ensure that as many as possible of us would be taken care of.

I was talking with a stranger the other day who could not get over how cute Charlie is, and in between oohing and ahhing over his newborn sweetness, she kept adamantly asserting that she did NOT want to have kids. Say what?! There was a serious disconnect. As an explanation, she actually came up with this lame excuse of having to babysit for friends and family often, always coming home exhausted and relieved to be done with child rearing. Is this laughable to anyone else? If I had thought I would only love my own kids as much as I love everyone else, I never would've had any. Probably. But the great thing is, I love my kids way more than I love anything or anyone. Waaaay more. (Kyle's right in there, too, but I'm not as obsessed with him.) Babysitting is nothing at all like parenting. The rewards of parenting far surpass whatever mediocre compensation you get from babysitting. Hers seemed a very silly and immature reason to not want children, but then again, after having these kids and loving them so much, I can't think of anything that could stop me from wanting to be a mom.

This third child has presented the biggest physical adjustment, Erik came in the wake of the biggest circumstantial adjustment (living in China, not that it was his fault we were there), but Ellie's birth certainly brought about the greatest emotional adjustment. There were a lot of days just in those first three months before I went back to school on which I wondered if I was doing anything significant with my life. Spending half of the day nursing, burping, and changing that child felt like piddling my life away.

My then bishop's wife must have read this in my face and made a simple comment to me: "No day spent caring for a child is wasted." Hmmmm... could this be true? If I was being paid to take care of a baby, would life feel empty? If I was volunteering to watch a friend's baby to help her out, would I feel my efforts were meaningless? Of course not! So how could caring for my own baby be less important?

Thankfully, I quickly matured in my perspective and now I actually feel my day has been most productive and meaningful if I spent it changing diapers, reading the same book [three times in a row], finger painting, wiping messy faces, and shaking baby toys. I no longer doubt that I have the best job on earth. Grueling at times and often thankless, but so very much worth it. And if I can say the sleep deprivation is worth it while I'm only one month post-partum... that's saying something.

I don't usually blog much about the glories of motherhood, mostly because I don't want to come off patronizing or as gloating to those who, through no fault of their own, are unmarried or unable to have children. But I think they agree with my sentiments regardless of their circumstances.

I just wish the world had a little more of the conviction I have about motherhood. I have a friend who waited several years to have children and after she had her first baby asked me, "Why didn't you tell me it would be this great?" My thought was, "I tried, but you wouldn't have believed me. Nobody really does." Our culture truly devalues the work of a mother, but no matter. I'm not doing this for recognition. I'm doing it for smiles like these.

Hugs like these.

Cuddles like these.

And a whole slew of heavenly intangibles.