Sunday, May 28, 2017

First week of Summer

May 21-27

I love summer!  It's so nice to have a little slower schedule and to have the kids here with a little more free time.  It has been toasty HOT already which is a crazy contrast from the long cold winter we had this year.  No complaints from me though!

Okay, first of all.  Look at Sadie.  She is spayed.  These puppies are Annie's puppies not Sadie's but she can't resist nursing them.  The crazy part is that she actually has milk.  Have you ever heard of such a thing?! I love natural mothers...

I am so happy to have kids home!!

I have tried to figure myself out--why do I feel so much more balanced with the kids home?  It wasn't always this way for me.  When everyone was really tiny and I was nursing babies and not getting nearly enough sleep it was really stressful to keep kids occupied with something that wasn't fighting, TV or video games.  I didn't always succeed.  We used to have to have a seating chart for the car just to keep kids from killing each other as they tried to get to the front seat first.  Yikes.  It was super worrisome then but now I find it oddly charming.  I miss those days when I regularly had a car packed with six kids.

As the boys got a little older, they started driving themselves and making their own schedules.  It wasn't long before Austin was in all the same activities as Dallin and Landon and suddenly I only had three kids in my car!  It's crazy how fast that happens.

I've really enjoyed having older kids as well as younger.  It's a different type of parenting with 16, 17 or 18+ year olds.  I enjoy more of a support, encouraging and re-directing role.  There are definitely the moments where choices have potentially long reaching consequences that are terrifying for a parent. But those moments have also bonded me to the Savior more than almost anything else in my life.

So back to the nuts and bolts of summer.
We have the same system that we figured out when the twins were about 12.  Everyone gets a zone.  It used to be just a room when I had five kids who needed assignments.  But now we have zones.  Front room, entry, dining room and hall.  Kitchen.  And back family room (that includes puppies).  Jackson has the bathrooms and he's actually really excited about it.  I think we'll just keep him with the same assignment all summer!

So how is the system working? So far Jenna earns an A+ for always doing a great job in her zone.  Benson is a C+ and Austin isn't even on the grading scale yet.  He gets his jobs done but requires constant reminding. That kid is ridiculously busy! He has his Jump Company play and football workouts and young men.  I'm really hoping we can find a way to have him participate more in Young Men next year.  It feels like he misses everything. We need to have a good, better, best discussion...

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Last week of School!

I love it when kids get out of school!  This year was no exception.  I am seriously the worst public school mom ever.  We limped across the finish line for Jackson in Kindergarten this year.  Jenna and Benson went to three classes each at the middle school this year and they barely managed to get through the last week also.  

First day of school--cinnamon swirl pancakes. 
 Last day of school?--the last hotdog bun left in the bread drawer.

This is Jackson and I three minutes before the starting bell.  Still in our pajamas... (we did make it to school eventually...)

Last day of school for the big kids?  I didn't even try to make them go--I just gave everyone their summer chore assignments.  :) 

Jackson 'graduated' from kindergarden.  This was the best smile he could muster.  I don't exactly know why but he wasn't super excited to sing the cute little songs!  He did sing and smile for most of them but one particularly ridiculous song was just too much for him (too-ta-taw-ta-too-ta-taw-ta-toot-a-taw-taw) and he stood completely still and refused to sing or do any of the moves. Kindergarden was fun but I just can't--for the life of me--get excited about homework or IRI reading goals or timed number tests.  I'm sure they can provide some helpful information to teachers but it's really not been helpful for Jackson.  But the friends and activities and recess were great!

This last one's a public service picture for everyone who says they wish they have my hair.  Because I really want you all to feel content with your own awesomeness.  
This is just minutes before I left to {finally} take Jack to school.  Thank heavens for hair bands.

Happy last week of school! 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Shakespeare and stuff

The kids performed a fantastic play--Taming of the Shrew--for their Shakespeare class this year.  During the first semester they studied Julius Caesar and watched/read 14 different Shakespeare plays! They also did presentations about Shakespeare's time with awesome things like blood sucking leaches and strange medical masks. The second semester the read Taming of the Shrew and then prepared for the play.  All the lines were perfectly delivered.  The younger kids did a fun 10-minute version of the play so the audience would know the plot.  It was fantastic.

The best part was the really great kids they got to hang out with.  Such fun kids!

Jenna had national clogging finals at Lagoon which was also super great. Jackson is big enough to ride all the big kid rides and he loves them all!  This is the first time at Lagoon that I haven't spent the day in kiddie land! No complaints from me...

The water going over the falls this spring has been absolutely stunning.  Normal summer water flow is 200 CFS and this spring it has been 20,000! The highest water ever!  Our crazy snowy winter has filled the reservoirs and made all the farmers happy. We went out to Cauldron Linn which was also amazing.  There is no way pictures or words can capture the power of that much water pouring through that small gap in the canyon. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

On a mountain high or over a stormy sea...

We have mission assignments!

After waiting more than four weeks we were so ready to get these mission calls! Once we saw that their calls had been assigned we started waiting together in the front room each morning for the mailman to come.   When Benson came skipping up the driveway with two big white envelopes we were seriously so excited.  We have video of the calls but not a lot of pictures.  So here it is:

Landon--Texas, Houston mission Spanish speaking.  Mexico City MTC in August 30, 2016
Dallin--Tennessee, Knoxville mission Spanish speaking, Provo MTC August 31, 2016

We will miss having these two in our home but we wouldn't have it any other way.  I have spent the better part of the last six months tearing up over every 'last' with these two but mission calls brought nothing but excitement and joy.  I'm so happy that they can begin the next phase of their lives with this opportunity for intensive self-discovery and service.

One of Landon's doctors commented that he thinks its great that we Mormons "send our kids out to explore the world" before they settle down for real life.  I have been thinking about that comment.  I feel like this is more like the 40 days of fasting that Christ did before he began the ministry portion of his life. It's not about becoming a world traveler or about having a cool vacation.  It's about becoming who they really are--who they will be in the next life and who they were before they came to this world.

All of the life experiences we have tried to facilitate over the last 19 years for these boys have focused on having them learn that they are sons of God and that He has a bigger plan for their lives than they can possibly understand.

These boys have had so many hard and great experiences that have brought empathy and understanding and hard work and joy and tears in their lives.  Rustin and I have cried and despaired and rejoiced and hoped with them.  My relationship with them has changed so much over their lifetimes.  I went from being the total and complete giver of life to the parent who enforced broccoli at dinner and bedtime at eight.  I was the parent that wondered if my child would ever learn to play well with anyone but his brother. I became the parent who cheered at ball games even with they sat on the bench.  And who rejoiced when things went the way they hoped.  I shook my head when they played just a little too hard (seven surgeries to repair injuries between these two...not including broken bones and stitches...) and I brought them ice packs and ace bandages.

I turned into the mom who brought the assignment that was left sitting on the kitchen table just because I could, knowing that the 'cruel world' would teach them plenty of lessons about responsibility without my help.  As time progressed, I became the mom who went to bed before they did. The mom who talked with them about girls and friends and heartbreak. And the mom who wished they would talk MORE about girls and friends and heartbreak. I became the cheerleader who prayed and hoped and encouraged knowing that they had to make the results happen on their own. And I became confident  that they would be able to live with whatever joy or pain life handed them.

Years ago, in the months before Rustin was called to be the bishop of our ward, I had an enlightening experience.  I was trying to figure out the why's and how's of (what we knew would be) Rustin's new assignment at church.  I wasn't sure how I would manage a house full of young kids and I had a thousand other questions.  Rustin and I were driving home from Boise by ourselves and I was pondering.  I suddenly became completely and totally overwhelmed with the weight of the sorrows and sins of the world.  It was a physical pain.  I started to cry and then to sob with sadness that Christ had to take all the sins of the world on Himself.  I couldn't bear the thought that one Being would have to carry so much horror.  I was overwhelmed by the knowledge that I couldn't make a dent in helping with the sorrow of the world.  Just as I was about to give in to despair, all of the weight and sorrow lifted.  A clean and pure knowledge came to me that indeed God can 'handle' the world.  That Christ is more than capable of shouldering the load but He has a role for me to play.  My role at that time was as a mother, friend visiting teacher and especially as Rustin's support.  Over the next five years Rustin played a huge role in helping our friends and neighbors find their way to the Savior.  In order to do what was needed, he needed me to hold things down at home. I didn't mind one bit.  I was so thankful that Rustin could help the Savior with His work.  Thankful that a little bit of that sorrow and pain and weight could be lifted here on earth according to the plan of the Savior.

I feel the same way now.  These two boys of mine have valiant spirits.  They have kind, generous, hard working spirits with a healthy dose of competitiveness and impulsivity. They have a lot to learn but I think they are willing to learn. It doesn't matter where the Lord needs them.  There are brothers and sisters all over the globe that need the help that only the Savior can give.

I will miss these boys like crazy.  It will never be the same here.  Once they leave they will come back to stay on occasion but they will forever live their own lives.  I pray that these next two years will prepare them for whatever the Lord has in store.  That they will gain perspective and connect with their true spirits.  I can't think of a better way for each of them to begin the rest of their lives and I feel thankful to have a front row seat.

Ensenada and Catalina

We two day excursions off the boat.  Catalina Island was the first and it was really the only beach time we had.  It was enough time that I still have sand in our swim bag!

We rented a little golf cart (did you know the only cars on the island are golf carts?!) and we drove a loop around the island.
We also god a couple of paddle boards and just played in the water. And we got fingernail polish that changes color in the sun. Very fun.

Our second day trip was to Ensenada.  We met up with a guide on a bus that gave us a screaming deal on some fun activities.  For $52 each we went to a zip-pline park with five different amazing LOOONG zip lines. In-between each zip line there were unique bridges.  One had narrow skateboard size planks to walk over a ravine.  Another had a barrel and then planks to cross.  I thought they were scary and hard.  I skipped a couple of them in favor of the ground route. The kids loved the bridges but some of them were HARD.  Jackson cried when he he couldn't go on one of the bridges because he was too short to clip in to the safety lines.  He inherited his big brothers' lack of fear of heights.

He rode with one of his brothers or dad on each of the zip lines.  Two were over 1000 feet long.

The guides that clipped us in were cute.  They looked like eagle scouts to us.  They could scamper across the bridges and zip lines like squirrels!

 They taped our flip flops to our feet with duct tape.  Our guide called them Mexican nikes.  HA!

After the zip lines we went to La Buffadora with is basically just a big blow hole at the seashore.  The best part of that was the tacos.

There is just no way to describe these super fresh handmade tacos with meat cooked over a wood fire grill.  And fish and shrimp battered and fried.  And they cost like $3.  My mouth is still watering.

Right next to the taco stand a really fun outdoor market.  We were at the end of the day so we got some awesome things super cheap.  Dallin and Landon both got knives.  I wonder if knives will ever loose their appeal? I doubt it...

If we had gotten off the boat a little earlier we would have had time to go horseback riding on the beach as well for another $20 each.  If we had purchased those activities from the cruise line we would have paid over $250 per person.  I think the guide is Ensenada Hector on Facebook and instagram if we ever go again we will definitely look him up.

Overall I think the best part of the trip was the lack of stress.  We didn't have to make decisions about what to do or where to go to eat or which activities would appeal to which kids. If I go again I would love to go somewhere that has snorkeling or scuba diving.  Scuba diving is definitely on my bucket list! But time with all of us together is definitely the best vacation of all.

Sometimes we escape...

We have had so many changes around here--sometimes we just need escape it all!  Ninety percent of our family vacations are family reunions or camping.  Which we love! We haven't ever been to Disneyland or rented a house on the beach.  (both are on my to do list...) With Dallin and Landon leaving any time this summer we wanted to do something with our whole family.  Juli and Shon helped us find a CRUISE! We went with the Robinsons and Kendricks (minus Jeremy who was home with pneumonia...) and we boarded the Carnival Imagination cruise ship on Sunday afternoon.

For perspective on how big that boat is, look at the little tiny boat pulled up alongside the ship.  That boat holds 250+ people.

We had rooms in the bottom back of the boat where we could get rooms all together.  And it was affordable. And really--how much time do you spend in your room on a cruise?!!

We had a king size bed and two twin bunks.  And not much room other than that! The bathroom was tiny and we had to duck  under the bunk to walk around the bed.

Our room steward Joey knew us all by name and did a great job! He lives in the Phillipeans and works 6-8 months on and 3-4 months off.  He has two kids who cry every time he leaves.  He has been working on cruise ships for more than ten years and he can make more than 100 different towel animals.  How awesome is that!

Jackson spent every second possible on the waterslide and splash pad...

And he ate banana splits at every meal...
And climbed down from his bed and slept in the middle of our bed every night...
And he did not care for the kids club so he hung out with us.  We didn't mind.

We pretty much didn't see the older kids.  They hung out with their cousins and checked into the kids clubs a few times.  Mostly they just did their own thing.  The got freshly cooked pizza at all hours of the day. And ate ice cream--Abby set the record with fifteen ice cream cones in one day...

 The big boys played miniature golf and met other kids on board the ship.  (One boy who was also waiting for his mission call!)

and went to concerts...

They looked super handsome at dinner...
 And played ridiculous games of 'what are the odds' which made me laugh so hard I almost peed my pants...

I loved hanging out with my sissies. And I missed the ones who weren't there (Kendra, Emily, Ashlee, Lindsay, Heidi, Jamie, Melanie, Jessi and Ariel...)

And I loved having an easy laid back schedule!
We had a couple excursions off the boat.  I'll post those later!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas card 2015

I finally got all our Christmas cards mailed yesterday.  The printer wasn't working so I just mailed them without a letter! For our own records we like to have a Christmas letter every year as a summary of the most memorable events of the year .  So Here it is:

Merry Christmas!
As always, this time of year reminds us of family and friends. We love to hear from you all and hope all is well in your homes!
Our family is growing and changing faster than ever. Dallin and Landon are seniors this year and are hoping to leave on missions early next summer. Austin will graduate and leave before they get home so it may be quite a few years before we have our whole family together for Christmas after this year!

Jackson is definitely the sweetheart of the family right now.  We hope we don’t ruin him! He adores Dallin and Landon and is forever climbing on them but only gets their names right about half of the time.

Jenna and Benson have been home for school again this year. We are enjoying our time to learn at home knowing it won’t last forever.  Benson is easy-going and plays equally well with everyone. He and Austin are the glue of our family--they can hang out with anyone. Ben reads to Jackson at night and he teases him during the day. Ben still loves all sports and managed to break his collarbone for the third time (ouch!) during this football season.

Jenna joined the curly hair club this year, which is so fun! She is growing into a kind, gentle young lady. She reads every second she gets and plays the violin and has memorized the recipe for chocolate chip cookies. She is a huge help around the house.

All three big boys played football together this year. They won the district championship and made it through the entire season without any serious injuries!! It is a joy for us to watch them play together! Dallin and Landon were both voted first team for our conference and Dallin was also awarded defensive player of the year for the conference. Dallin placed second at state in wrestling last season and is hoping to win that elusive state champion title this season.

Landon worked really hard to recover from injuries and beat the odds to be able to play football for his senior year. He wasn’t able to play middle linebacker but did awesome on O-line and D-line and got through the entire season! Landon re-injured his left shoulder in wrestling last year and has been struggling with random shoulder dislocations.  Ouch.  He needs a bone graft to fix the shoulder socket and to reattach the bicep tendon--we will fit that surgery in just after Christmas.

Austin found his place on the football D-line alongside Landon and Dallin and loved playing with his brothers.  He is officially taller than Dallin and just about even with Landon. Austin turns 16 at the end of December and he already has a date all set (with his brothers)!
The three boys sing in Jive together and drive to and from school in their trusty old truck every day. They put in 12-13 hour days almost every day of the week and work hard to manage priorities.
We love watching them grow.

I have had multiple opportunities to use my nursing degree this year with our family.  In addition to the various injuries of the boys, at the beginning of November Rustin had emergency gall bladder surgery that resulted in some complications that earned him ten very sick days in the hospital. His work and church partners all stepped up and filled in for him for three+ weeks without question. Such a tender mercy! The experience left us profoundly grateful for our dear friends and family and for the
little things we forget to enjoy:
Chatting with the boys after late nights; Jackson sneaking in to snuggle in the morning; Jenna’s hilarious, ridiculous stories that make her brothers giggle for hours; running out of a giant sized can of hot chocolate every week--these are a few of the things we truly love!
This season we are grateful for the Savior and the gospel in our lives above all else. We think that celebrating the life of the Savior is the perfect way to end the year!
May you all have peace and joy going forward in 2016!

Rustin, Kim, Dallin (18) Landon (18) Austin (15 11/12) Jenna (12) Benson (11) Jackson (4)