Thursday, July 31, 2014

Change is in the Air

There was an awesome storm the other day.  We were out in it with our umbrellas - or not.  David and Eddie saw the colliding of the clouds first, and we were all watching the thunderheads crash into the existing air mass.  It was amazing to see the clouds swirl right over our heads, and then the storm started.  We were protected from the high winds on the back porch, but it was funny to see things whipping around and stuff go zipping down the street.  Look, another cardboard box is airborne!  And then the rain.  Wow.  The gutters were completely overwhelmed and water just pounded everywhere.  Love it.  We celebrate when there is water in the desert!

We've had some drama about my dad this past few weeks.  Two weeks ago, he spent 6 days at our house while my brother and his wife were on Trek.  At the end of it, we jokingly asked him if we were driving him crazy yet.  Good natured-ly, he responded that we weren't, but if he had to stay another week then it would be a different story.

And then, my brother went on vacation - two days after Opa went home from our house.  He asked us to take my dad again.  The problem was that my dad did not want to leave home.  It took me about 2 hours before he would come with me.  He was not happy with me for quite a while before he lightened up a bit.  So he did have to spend a good chunk of the next week with us, as well.  Fortunately, we all survived.  :-)

So herein lies the bigger challenge.  My brother and his wonderful little family have been living with my dad, caring for him and his Parkinson's for the past few years.  Now they are moving out.  So what do we do with my dad?  He simply cannot live alone at this point.  His condition has been deteriorating some over the past few months.  He's not eating well.  He's lost so much weight his pants fall down when he stands up (luckily for him and for all of us, he got a pair of suspenders!).  He's not very happy.  He hasn't been sleeping well.  I'd like for him to live with a family who will love him and include him in their everyday, but he does not want to leave his house.

What to do, what to do?  So glad I have four amazing brothers (and their equally amazing wives) to navigate through this together!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Sad Chicken Day

We had my dad this weekend while my brother and sister-in-law went on Trek, a recreation of the experience of pioneers coming across the plains in a handcart.  My sweet sister-in-law is quite pregnant, and my dad told her not to start anything... meaning having the baby, of course.  No one could believe that she would actually do Trek when she only has a few weeks left until baby day, but they were so excited to go.  Honestly, I would have gone, too.  It sounds like they had a great time and many memorable experiences. I'm jealous.

Our big news today is that the neighbor's dog got out and went on a rampage in our yard.  Feathers everywhere.  He killed Ebony and we can't find Amber.  It was pretty traumatic for the kids to come running down the hill and see that scary-looking dog with a limp chicken in its mouth.  Even Chris was mad about it, and held him in a corner with a big stick.  I'm not sure what to do about it now - the dog has the taste of blood, and I'm sure he'll be back any chance he gets.

Next up, loads of apricots to process.  The joys of summertime!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Taekwon Do

What a week!  We started off with Matthew and Timothy getting their gis (karate uniform thingie) for taekwondo.  They are so excited about having them!  Matthew has been excited about learning a martial art, but less than excited to have practice three times a week at 7 am.  To be honest, his mother is not fond of the early morning, either.  But something finally clicked for him, and he has been loving it. I'm even liking doing the forms (never thought I'd say I liked taekwondo), which are choregraphed turns, punches, and kicks.  Not fond of the sparring, though.  You know me.  Not a fighter.

Oh, and I gave haircuts yesterday.  Shaved the twins and lopped off Angel's hair.  It's very cute short.  She begged for a long time for a shorter hairstyle, but Ben begged equally hard to keep it long.  So as soon as he left, we pulled out the scissors.  It will grown back in the next two years, I'm sure.    She loves it short, and that's an understatement.  She especially loves that there aren't as many knots.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Backyard Fun

We have a few pyromaniacs in our house.  I haven't met many boys who aren't.  Well, and I like to burn things, too.  There is just something about fire that is awesome.  So we collect branches and old cabinets and twigs and old homework papers and just burn it all up occasionally.

S'mores are optional, but just barely.  Marshmallows are mandatory.  We are all stocked up, and keep a big cupboard full of them for the summer.  Yum!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

In the Backyard

I forgot to put this picture up a few weeks ago.  I found this interesting scene in my backyard just a few days before the boys went to scout camp.

Why?  Dunno.  Why do boys do funny things sometimes?  I really have no idea what the appeal is.  I shave my legs because I have to.  But to shave them just for fun?  I don't think it's fun, but what do I know?  I do know the technique, and I was asked to share the secrets of how to shave a knobby knee without nicks.  And advise about the liberal post-shaving application of lotion.  I was useful.

I guess there is a tradition for the boys to part with their leg hair on the last campout.  Fine.  Whatevah makes you happy!  All I know is that Trent shaved his legs in his younger days.  And Jay did his on mission - in a barber-shop pole stripe.  I guess it's fun when you don't have to?

I chuckled as they winced when rinsing with cold hose water.  I grin that they are such good sports to let me take this picture.  And now they are leaving - two to Madagascar and the other to Germany.

Good boys.  So glad we have such great neighbors and friends!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Bye, Ben

It's MTC day, the day when my second boy flies the coop and enters the MTC (Missionary Training Center) to learn how to be a missionary.  He'll be there for six weeks while he trains and learns to speak Malagasy.  I know I've been posting a lot about Ben, but we have two years to fill up of him!  Hope you don't mind a few more, as we wave goodbye.  See you in a couple of years.  Love you...

Alec and Ben - future missionaries and best buddies.  

Oh, ain't he cute?  I'll forever love this gentle grin.

Dressed as Aragorn the year we did Lord of the Rings for Halloween

Our recent trip to Goblin Valley.  I could not believe how fast he scrambled up the high rocks.  They were all a pack of mountain goats!

Our two missionaries, wrapped in their flags.  Alec in South Africa, Ben in Madagascar.  What a couple of studs.

May Heaven bless you and angels attend you for the next two years.  You'll have new experiences and learn to love the people you help.  You'll be awesome, I'm sure of it.

P.S.  You can keep up with his adventures on his blog, A Mission in Madagascar.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

We had a fun Independence Day last weekend.  Trent took the day off on Friday so we could do 4th of July stuff.  It's unusual that he isn't at work, so we enjoyed spending the day with him.  I think we overdid it a bit, but it was Ben's last Independence Day in the country, after all.  We had Eddie going for a while when we told him that other countries were also having the 4th of July.  He believed it for quite some time, while Ben and Chris were laughing their heads off.  When I finally told him that they had the *4th* of July, but not Independence Day, he did screw up his face, but took the joke better than I thought he would.  He's getting to be a better sport about things like that.

We got up way-too-early and went to the balloon launch.  We had a picnic breakfast with some cousins there on the field while the balloons played their hare and hound games and lance-the-balloon.  The kids loved it, of course.

I loved watching how David would just hoist Georgie up on his shoulders and help him see the sights.  The big kids are all so good with our little people.

Halfway through, they had to ground all the balloons so the life flight helicopter could take off from the hospital.  Everyone loved that one, too.  Well, almost everyone.  It still strikes a pang in my heart to see a medical helicopter take off in a hurry because I always remember when it was Jay in there, or Angel.  Not fun times.  Those memories fade, but will never go away completely.

After breakfast, we went to a patriotic festival that Trent's brother runs every year.  We were there too early, and their booths and their musical production were not running yet. In the back of the park, they set up a colonial village, and that was fun to see.  Since it was early, they were setting up and the kids got their full attention.

Eddie spent the whole time becoming an impromptu apprentice to the blacksmith.  He sure had a good time learning things from him and working the bellows.  Chris was remarkably good with the little ones and took Freddie around to all the booths.  He loved putting on armor and wielding the sword.  Trent was captivated by the bakers, and he got a starter of sour dough and signed us up for breadmaking classes.

We went home and took naps.  Except Angel, so she was grouchy for the rest of the day.  We had a picnic dinner at the temple field, and the older boys played soccer while the field was still uncrowded.  The fireworks were great, as always.  This year, they had some red ones that exploded into the 2-D outline of a heart.  Wonder how they did that!  And we even got home before midnight - barely.

At one point, Trent took Angel and the twins for a potty break to the porta-potties at the other end of the field.  The little ones were noticing other kids who had light sticks and glow necklaces, and commented that they wanted some, too.  Right away, a lady who was walking in front of Trent whipped around and gave each of the little ones a glow bracelet.  So nice of her!  They were so happy.  But when they got to the porta-potties, first thing that happened was that Angel dropped hers into the pot.  Gross!

So when someone tells you that seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is a good thing, it might not always be the case.  At least she made it easier for other people to see what they were doing in there.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Missionary Monday

I'm losing this boy this week.  Not happy about that.  I mean, I am, because I believe that he will be doing good things and helping people and it will help him grow as well.  But man, I'm gonna miss him.  I'll just concentrate on this grin for right now.

Love him!

Saturday, July 5, 2014


Just typing that word is fun!  It reminds me of a song I used to teach my elementary students called Humu Humu Nuku Nuku A Pua'a, which is NOT the same version as the High School Musical one.  Anyways... but Ho'oponopono is much more awesome.

Ho'oponopono is an traditional Hawaiian practice of healing relationships through love and forgiveness.  My very wise sister-in-law introduced this to us at our adult family reunion, and we were all intrigued.

There are four steps, and you do them all in one interaction.  You express:

I love you (should be a no-brainer, but in difficult relationships we sometimes forget to say this one.)
I'm sorry (for this specific harm I have caused)
Please forgive me (be sincere)
Thank you (for bringing this to my attention, for being a positive influence in my life, whatever...)

It seems like it would go a long way to help smooth over some of the rough spots we all go through and heal the damaged parts of our relationships.  I'm sure it's not a one-time magic pill, but I can only imagine that it would help if it was kept up.

Have to try it tonight...

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Family Reunion Food

We ate really well during the our adult reunion.  Maybe because we could eat big people food.  Maybe because we could just focus on cooking and not on "Mom!  I need.." and "Ew! Do I hafta eat that?" and seventeen other distractions during meal prep times.  Maybe it just tasted better because I got to eat with all these wonderful people (plus another great couple who arrived the second morning).

One of our highlights was gourmet s'mores.   We decided to dispense with the hassle of building a fire in the fire pit and just roasted our s'mores over the gas stove burners, trailer-park style.  But look what decadence we had in the chocolate department.  These were by far the tastiest s'mores (and least burnt) I have ever eaten!  Plus no smoky clothes. Bonus.  (Thanks a million!)

Or maybe the food tasted so much better because it was prepared with love.  Trite?  Maybe, but it was such fun to stand around the kitchen and visit and help each other prepare food.  Just the being together - that was the best part!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Adult Family Reunion

This year, I am in charge of the semi-annual family reunion for my side of the family. I worked and looked and researched, but I just wasn't having any luck in finding places to stay that were 1) fun, 2) not too far away, 3) in our price range, and especially 4) big enough for all of us. Our schedules were a challenge as well, trying to find a weekend when everyone was not already scheduled.

I finally gave up on the traditional reunion and we came up with a new plan. Every month we will have a reunion-day on a Saturday when we will go out and do something fun (what the kids want to do). Like a series of mini-reunions. In addition, we would have a three-night getaway for the adults, when we could stay in and just hang out (what the adults want to do). Tada! Everyone is happy.

We've never done an adult getaway before, and we all loved it more than we thought. I loved hanging out with these four sisters-in-love. We went for a walk in the middle of a dust devil. We painted our nails.

We played lots of games. More correctly, they played games and I watched. Playing games isn't my thing but it was all ok, and that was the point.  Without needing to tend to our children, we could do whatever it was we wanted to do!  Or nothing!  In fact, we purposely didn't plan a whole pile of activities. We could be spontaneous. It was wonderful!

We talked and talked until I was hoarse. I guess I don't talk enough at home. We hashed out difficult parenting issues and tricky personal issues. It was so great to feel their love and get their good ideas and drink in their wisdom. I need to record a neat technique I learned about how to deal with interpersonal conflicts. Stay tuned for that update.

We spent some quality face to face time together. Mostly.

The guys played a very long game of Lord of the Rings Risk. It went on and on and on. Finally, they threw up their arms and yelled "yes!" Hooray! They are done and we can do something else! Our excitement was cut short by the realization that the guys were done... setting up the game. THEN they started to play. Sigh. Maybe it would have ended sooner if my first brother had been there to win quickly and decisively and sneakily, because that's how it goes sometimes.

Oh, so fun.  I love these people!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Stink Bugs!

Jenny, avert your eyes. I don't want you to have bad dreams.

We rented a vacation house and went on an adults-only family reunion last weekend. It was wonderful and fun and recharging and frustrating and silly and not nearly long enough. I so love my four brothers and their lovely wives!

The adventures started out early, with the basement of the house filling up with ugly black stink bugs. The little beasties weren't too bad alone, but all of them together were pretty scary.

Fortunately, my awesome brothers did their manly duty and got rid of the bugs. With the manly vacuum cleaner. It was actually fun to hear their little bug bodies rattle through the vacuum tube as they got sucked up. Take that, bug invasion! There may have been some squealing, but I'll never tell.  The manly folks even emptied out the central vacuum canister from the garage so there would be no chance of a middle of the night attack back into the house through the whole-house vacuum ports. Whew.

They counted the bugs as they met your demise. Nearly a hundred. Glad they were gone, and glad I have such manly brothers. *fist bump times four*