Sep 26, 2013

Top Ten(s)

From the last week or so....

Top Ten Ridiculous Experiences

10. Missing the call of my number at the JoAnn cutting counter
9. Saying "go away" to my alarm, and then regretting it
8. Ruining a crock pot meal by "shredding" the meat with the mixer (don't do it)
7. Watching Kate getting a bloody nose after face-planting at pack meeting
6. Forgetting to treat my blood-stained undershirt before washing and drying it
5. Losing one of Kate's Crocs in a random parking lot
4. Burning the rice for dinner so badly that we had to eat at Taco Bell to escape the smell
3. Realizing I left out a measure/phrase of my song after printing it for the "last" time
2. Messing up a Young Women lesson again (yay for three week breaks)
1. Calling Poison Control because Kate ate adult vitamins

Top Ten Happy Events 

10. Visiting my sweet Barbara and playing Scrabble for an hour
9. Attending Zach's latest cross country cross country meets--he ran fast!
8. Going to the temple with a friend
7. Having another fun backyard movie night
6. Reading "The Racketeer" and loving it
5. Getting a weekly letter and pictures from Sister Holly Dixon
4. Running three miles without pain (at least during the run--haha)
3. Watching Kate learn to ride a tricycle
2. Hearing Zach ask for a haircut--soon
1. Welcoming my mom to town for a week-long visit!

Sep 18, 2013

Life Lately

Thanks to all of you who supported my last post.  I love comments, and the Facebook and Google+ feedback was so validating!  The last two mornings have been so much better, but with a twist: Zach decided he wants to go to school at 7:00 (it starts at 7:45) so he can practice his bells and drums in the band room for 30 minutes. Reading scriptures just with him and Tyler is smooth sailing.  It means reading again with the Littles when they wake up, but the peace is worth the effort.

Here are some other snapshots of our life:

I am struggling to get to the gym, and my waistline shows it. One morning I took the girls on a walk and we got caught in the rain (after Lexi gave up on riding her scooter).  Note: I was not pushing a double stroller, and yet I managed to push 65 pounds of kid. We still traveled 3.3 miles.

I adore fall clothes. I tried this on just because I wanted to wear orange tights.  But I had nowhere to go, so I changed back into sweats.  Why waste a good outfit on the ironing?

Tyler had a bike rodeo for Cub Scout pack meeting last week. It had to be indoors because it was raining buckets outside. He's a little big for his bike!  He has requested a new one for Christmas.

Kate has given up the crib. {Insert weeping and wailing from Mom.} She was climbing out on a regular basis and ending up in the kitchen--or wherever people were--when she didn't want to sleep. I converted the crib into a daybed so she wouldn't hurt herself, but that made everything worse.  We started locking her door (from the outside) to keep her in, but then she would sleep in her closet, crammed between the play kitchen and the closet door, or under her bed.  Last week was pretty awful in the sleep department.  Garry finally put up a safety rail on her bed, and it seems to be keeping her in bed better.  We still lock the door, but we are all getting more sleep.

Zach's cross country meets are on Wednesdays.  Taking the kids to see him run is ridiculous, but I like being there for him.  Last week when he crossed the finish line, he was deathly gray.  He looked awful, and clearly felt it.  It took hours for him to recover.  If he'd learn to eat....  Here are some of his best buddies from the team.



Lexi has a new BFF: our next-door neighbor.  These girls run back and forth between houses, engaged in all manner of girly play.  I absolutely love it.  So do they.

I pick up Tyler and Gavin after school every day, since Gavin is too young to ride a bike home (a major street is involved). Lexi does not like to wait, so she entertains herself by plucking my nerves.  Kate generally screams because she wants to get out, but sometimes she's happy.

One day we had some time on our hands after morning errands, so Kate and I played in the park before picking up Lexi from preschool.  Her face says it all!

Sep 16, 2013

Tough love

Sometimes parenting our children requires creativity.
This morning, after griping and moaning
through our family scripture study/breakfast
(and generally ruining it for everyone--again),
Zach vehemently declared that
he no longer wanted to be part of this family. 
I'm tired of dealing with his attitude every morning,
so today I required an apology
before I would drive him to school.
He refused, so I got out of the car.

This was new territory for both of us.
I usually put up with his frustrating behaviors
that always happen before school,
and then cheerfully take him when and where he needs to go.
Something snapped in my brain today,
and I stood up for myself.

There was no yelling.
No arguing.
No threatening.
Just a quiet request for a sincere apology
to the person who serves him unfailingly from day to day.

For about half an hour, Zach raged and cried
about how unfair his life is.
I cleaned the kitchen.
When he repeated his request to be emancipated from our family,
I suggested he pack his things.
He balked.

After another hour (he missed his first class),
he came out of his room and started begging me to take him to school.
I calmly reminded him of my terms.
He growled in frustration.
I took a shower.

Eventually, we both realized someone had to budge.
Since it was time to take Lexi to preschool,
I quickly scrawled out a rental agreement.
Zach could either agree to be a respectful member of the family
or pay for room and board in our home.
Happily, it conveyed the message Zach needed to understand.

He chose Option B and gave me a big hug.
It felt really good.
Then he apologized, with emotions and remorse and everything.
And then I took him to school.
When I signed him in at the attendance office,
the secretary asked if he was just late,
or if he had been at an appointment.
I explained that he had had a rough morning at home.
She gave me a knowing look,
then handed Zach the slip he needed to get into class.

I will hold onto this signed contract.
I'm sure it will come in handy the next time
(I have no doubt there will be a next time)
Zach wishes to defect.

I just hope that next time ends in a warm hug, too.

Sep 15, 2013

B is for Book

Garry and I had another date last night (twice in a month...pretty amazing!).  We went to the temple and then to dinner at Cafe Rio, but the B in our date was this BOOK:

We spent our hour-plus drive to Denver answering questions from the book. It was great. We talked more about important things last night than we have in...{insert embarrassing amount of time here}.

So, if you're like us, and it's time to get reacquainted with your spouse, we recommend this book.

P.S. As part of our discussion, we decided to continue our ABC dates in random order.  We're going to make a list of the alphabet and match dates with letters at will.  Who needs to be confined by convention?  (Isn't that a spontaneous thing to say? Go me.)

Sep 13, 2013

Aren't they cute?

I don't often buy matching things for the girls to wear,
but whenever I do, I think they look darling together.

Yay for sisters!


The good news is that Lexi is going to be fine.  The bad news is that Thursday was a really hard day.

I wish that yesterday had a reset button.  I would have gone to the gym with the girls instead of taking them for a walk and getting caught in a downpour a mile from home.  I would have kept track of my keys and spent the hours between 10 and 12 shopping for little girl fall clothes instead of tearing the house apart looking for said keys.  And mostly, when I was out to lunch with friends, I would have walked Lexi ten feet to the bathroom instead of letting her go by herself.

Here's what happened when I did that:

Lexi caught her finger in the hinge side of the heavy bathroom door.  Her piercing scream made me sick to my stomach.  When I got to her and saw her injury, I knew it was more than the usual smashed-in-a-door finger.  The fingernail had popped out at the bottom.  Blood was dripping.  Lexi was hysterical.  I struggled to control my emotions, too.

Luckily I was out to lunch with angels.  Jennie has a medical background, so she calmly told me what needed to be done.  Audra scooped up Kate (who adores her) and took her home.  April covered Audra's carpool duty so Kate could nap.  Melissa grabbed all of my things and gave me a desperately-needed hug as I left.

Lexi and I went home.  We iced her finger a little bit, put on a Band-Aid, and snuggled in my bed.  We watched Beauty and the Beast until Lexi cried herself to sleep.  After she'd been asleep about half an hour, I called my pediatrician's office to make sure my watch-and-wait approach didn't equal negligence. I was surprised when the nurse urged me to come in right away.  After asking a neighbor to pick Gavin up from school, I scooped up my sleeping girl and off we went. Amazingly, she didn't wake up until we were in the building.

The second she woke up, however, Lexi started crying again. She was shaking her hand really fast, too.  Poor baby.  It killed me to see her in pain!  The PA we saw decided not to push the nail back into the bed (that might have done me in) because the draining blood was good for the finger.  Because of Lexi's continuous crying and the places that hurt, the PA prescribed Vicodin and an x-ray.  Lexi was so relieved to get a Band-Aid back on the wound.  The air made it sting even more.

After we left, we dropped off the prescription, picked up Kate from Audra's, picked up Tyler from his news crew meeting at school, picked up Zach from cross country practice, and picked up Gavin from the neighbor.  Garry met us at home at about 4:45.  He had picked up the Vicodin on his way home.  We debriefed in the kitchen and then I took Tyler to art on our way to the imaging center.  (Are you tired yet?)

Once I walked into the lab and handed over the x-ray order, I thought, "You don't need to be here."  We sat down anyway (settling in for a two-hour wait), but Lexi, hopped up on Vicodin, was almost giddy.  She was bending her finger ("Look what I can do, Mom! It bends all the way!") like nothing had happened.  It still hurt when I pinched in certain places, but I was quite encouraged.  So we put on her little splint, wrapped it with gauze and tape, and went home.

Lexi woke up crying in the night because her splint fell off and the pain meds weren't in her system.  But this morning she is doing well and I think the worst is over.  What a relief!

Sep 9, 2013

100 Things

For Family Home Evening tonight, we talked about gratitude. I shared a story from this month's Ensign magazine, which told about a high school student who wrote an essay on 100 things she was grateful for.  She took the assignment a step further and set a goal to make a list of 1000 things.  Her family joined the cause, and at last count, the gratitude total was 1,213.

I decided our family should take the "100 Things" challenge. We had fun making a list of our blessings, from the basics (home, electricity, clean water) to the entertaining (music, sports, books) to the very specific (individual family members, toothbrushes, soap).  Everyone contributed, and our list now hangs on the living room wall.

Before we started, a little neighbor girl came to play.  I told her we hadn't eaten dinner yet, but after we ate we would be having FHE.  She was astonished that the kids couldn't play all day Sunday and again Monday night.  I told her about our activity and encouraged her to go home and make her own list (she didn't want to come in and join us).  She thought such a feat would be impossible.

To close our lesson, I shared another Ensign article in which a woman set a goal to pray only prayers of gratitude for an entire week.  She pledged not to ask for a single favor or blessing, and she had quite a transforming experience.  I took that challenge a couple of weeks ago and loved it.  I found that as I expressed my gratitude for the blessings in my life, I felt much less concerned about what I needed or wanted.  It was still hard; of course my natural instinct is to discuss my lack rather than my bounty.  I felt an increase of faith as I put my needs on hold and focused on the good in my life.  The experience changed the way I prayed and made me realize, again, that my Heavenly Father knows what I need before I ask Him for it.

He also blesses me when I don't deserve it, and for that I am especially grateful.

Sep 7, 2013

Videos of Kate

Kate was charming the other day, so I pulled out the camera.  Perhaps this is video only a mother (or grandmother) could love, but here it is anyway.  I love how her personality comes out in each one.

The first video is in our back yard. It gets a little more interesting after about two minutes.

The last three videos are in the van.  Kate and I were waiting for Zach's cross country practice to end.  She was babbling in the back seat and eventually landed on Pat-a-Cake and her rendition of Brown Bear, Brown Bear book.  With the camera on her, she got some performance anxiety, but I still think she's pretty cute.

Lexi's turn

Preschool f.i.n.a.l.l.y started last week.  Finally!  Lexi has been waiting what seems like an extra long time to be in preschool again.  She was soooo excited when Wednesday morning finally came...and then she freaked out when I left her at school.  Miss Rachel said she calmed down really quickly, so these happy pictures from before school capture the essence of her preschool experience.

Lexi practiced her name over the summer and has made great progress with "e" and "s."  The glint of victory in her eyes when she forms those letters correctly is so fun to see.  I also love the hand print she brought home on the first day of school.  It gets bigger every year.

Here's to another great school year....the last one before kindergarten!  Yippee!

Catch-up on Zach

Middle school looks good on this kid.

I'm so impressed with the way Zach is handling sixth grade and all that comes with it.  He's responsible about homework, generally pleasant in the morning before and after school, and diligent with his cross country practices and homework. He seems eager to please his teachers and wants to get to school early so he can be organized for his classes but still have time to talk to his friends.  It's all good news!

Just after school started, Zach and Garry joined all the 11-year-old scouts in the stake on a camp-out at the Air Force Academy.  They had a great time!  Zach had been diligently practicing his knots for a knot-tying race, so he did well in that competition.  He also won the orienteering event, which he was very proud to report.  I'm glad he and Garry had that time together.  Zach made great progress with merit badges, too.

This week Zach ran in his first cross country meet.  His school hosted the "Wolf Pack Classic," so the course was close to home.  Zach was super nervous but did an amazing job.  He completed in the 1.7-mile course in 10:17 (he can't remember the exact time, but that's close) and came in 16th place among 6th grade boys. The strong finish has given him a big confidence boost for next week.  Now we just need to get him to eat like an athlete!  The video below shows the first few seconds of the race.  Zach is right in the middle in royal blue.

Zach's paper route is going well.  Tyler opted out just before school started, so Zach is carrying the load himself.  He is pretty efficient in rolling and banding or bagging the papers, and we've got the delivery route down.  I really enjoy the 30 minutes we have together as Zach throws the paper and I drive slowly up and down the streets.  He tells me about his classes and his friends and his life.  I love listening to him talk.  Zach finally got his first paycheck a few weeks ago.  He has some money saved, so with the new influx he decided to buy a basketball.  It was interesting to watch him weigh the options at Walmart.  He settled on a mid-grade ball and has been happy with the purchase.

On Friday night we had a fairly impromptu movie party in the back yard.  Zach invited six friends and they all came! 

It was fun for me to meet the boys that Zach hangs out with at school, especially when I saw that they are clean-cut, well-mannered, happy kids.  We hope our little gathering was the first of many adventures for Zach and his new friends.

September letters

Dear new neighbors,

I'm delighted you moved in next door, and not just because you have a four-year-old girl who loves to play with Lexi (that is a huge bonus, though).  It's so nice to have a young family in the neighborhood, and it will be fun to see you at church, too.  Let's do another babysitting swap.  I'm pretty sure that's a gift straight from heaven--hopefully for you, too.

The Bartles

Dear self,

Never, ever take children to the grocery store immediately after school, because they will be positively wild and you will forget what you have gone to the store to buy, and you will have to go again.


Dear parents of Zach's new school friends,

Thanks so much for letting your kids come over last night for our backyard movie party. I know the invitation was last-minute, so I'm glad you trusted us enough to leave them for a couple of hours with people you don't know.  The kids all had a blast, and it was good for me to see that your kids are kind and polite and wholesome boys who will be good friends for Zach.  Here's to more play time in the future!

Zach's mom

Dear Giana,

Thank you for giving Kate your old tricycle.  She absolutely loves it. I'm happy to see her smile, because she was quite forlorn after her trike was stolen from the park while we were playing on Labor Day.  The only trouble is that Gavin and Lexi are equally obsessed with the tricycle, and it's hard to share.

Kate's mom

Dear Finale Songwriter,

You are neat.  I love that the notes and words in my head have become a legit song printed on paper.  The score has my name on it and everything.  So official!  I hope that sometime I'll have the confidence/patience to play with you again, although since Kate HATES it when I play the piano, my future relationship with you is a little iffy.

An amateur composer

Dear anonymous friend,

I have to say, when you commented on my disproportionate figure and the mental implications it must have for me, I was surprised.  Hearing you give voice to my biggest insecurity shattered my hope that other people aren't as judgmental about my body as I am.  The fact that you also listed all the reasons I might be upset about the change in my calling wasn't super helpful either.  Do I need to locate and destroy the bug you placed in my brain?  That being said, I know you didn't intend to upset me, and that does count for something.


Dear flat-chested friends:

Cry me a river.

Your disproportionate friend--in the other way

Dear Tyler,

Unbeknownst to us, after you helped Dad install the sink disposal a few weeks ago, you retired to your room and read the owner's manual.  Can this be your job from now on? When one of our household appliances malfunctions in the future, I'd like to come to you for technical support.


Dear Physical Therapist,

You literally raised your arms in victory and gave a little cheer when I told you about my new back pain.  According to you this is a sign of progress, but for me it's just more pain. This is getting ridiculous.

A regular Friday patient

Dear Ms. Stevens,

I think I love you already.  We have been in email contact since Gavin started school, just for little things. I'm so impressed that you asked how you can help Gavin with his Sensory Processing Disorder. You pledged to spend some of your weekend studying the information I sent you, and then we'll get back together to discuss our options.  I think Gavin is in good hands.


Dear sippy cups,

You have been hiding in random corners of the house, but I have hunted you down.  The gross part is yet to come: I have not yet opened you, and I am sure you are full of rancid and curdled milk.

Gagging in advance

Dear sunflowers,

I'm sorry.  You must be dying because of my neglect.  Oh wait, you are, right before my eyes.  I think I'll yank you out of the ground and put us both out of our misery.

Woeful gardener

Dear Best Buy,

Thank you for taking our old and broken TV and recycling it for free.  The garbage men left it on the curb, and the city's recycling service was going to charge a hefty fee to recycle the dang thing.  You were close and you were free.  Excellent combination.

A satisfied customer

Dear soap and water,

It is truly amazing to see you work on dirt and smudges on my doors and their jams.  Clean!  Fresh!  Less embarrassing! Why did I wait so long?

Saturday scrubber

Dear summer,

You are hot, and I want you to go away.  Check the calendar.

Autumn enthusiast

Dear Kate,

Thanks for being so darling.  Your vocabulary is delightful, as are your personality and sense of humor.  It's kind of fun to have a few hours a week that are just for us, isn't it?  Your rendition of Brown Bear, Brown Bear is so charming, as are your goofy songs and princess dance.  There have been a few times lately when I've had the thought that I want you to stay little forever, and that's a rare thing for this mama.  Just stop climbing on the family vehicles, OK?  Love you.


Sep 1, 2013

A is for Anything

Two weeks ago in Sunday School the lesson was about eternal marriage.  We believe that family relationships can extend beyond this life through temple ordinances, and of course that family begins with a husband and wife.  Well, we were sitting in class and, in order to start a conversation on strengthening marriages, the instructor said, "So, tell us what you and your spouse like to do to have fun."  Lots of hands went up and people made suggestions and many heads nodded in assent. But Garry and I looked at each other and went, "Ummmm...we've got nothin'."

It turns out that we are exact opposites in nearly every respect.  We have the usual Mars v. Venus relationship issues, of course, but after 15 years of marriage we are still hard-pressed to find a recreational activity we both enjoy.  This is pretty pathetic, but here we are.  One day all our kids are going to leave the house and we'll look at each other and go, "And you are....?"  Probably a bad time for that conversation, right?

So there was a couple in that Sunday School class that I consider to be an amazing example of parenting and marriage and pretty much everything.  The wife said that they recently started something called "ABC Dating," where each weekly date activity starts with a different letter.  It helps them think outside the box when it comes to date nights.  I decided to copy them, and Garry agreed to go along with the plan.

Well, that meant that (1) we needed to go on a date, and (2) we needed to make a plan starting with the letter A.  We got stuck on #1.  Friday rolled around and we (meaning I--it's my job, right?) didn't get a babysitter.  We had pizza for dinner and the kids played outside until dark.  I sat down at the piano and played for a long time while Garry worked on something in the garage.  We got the kids to bed, and, defying my usual pattern of going to bed after the kids, I went downstairs and watched TV with Garry until I fell asleep (which was like 10 minutes after we started a show).  It was the closest thing to a date that we've had in a while.

So then we rescheduled for Saturday.  We actually talked about some options.  A movie starting with A?  A for Applebees?  A for Albertsons?  A for....A lot of ice cream?  Yeah, real creative.  We knew that A was going to mean After the Littles are in Bed, so we didn't have to pay for a babysitter. Finally we thought of A for Aerobics--we'd go to the gym.  Ha!  That plan was fine and good until we remembered a wedding reception we wanted to attend.  Who wants to exercise after getting dressed up for a reception?  Well, we didn't.  

After the kids' bedtime on Saturday night, we decided A is for Anything.  We watched "The Host," which I (finally) read recently.  We both enjoyed the movie, which is a rare and remarkable occurrence!

When it comes to dating my husband, I think that A for Anything is better than N for Nothing, but hopefully as the weeks go on, we'll be a little more creative with our ABCs.

pass it on!

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