05 December 2016

It's Beginning to Look Like Christmas

All week I worked on getting Christmas stuff out and the living room decorated. Drives me nuts because it took me so long to do a day's work. The top 1/3 of our tree lights quit working. We wanted to decorate the tree for FHE but instead looked at our defunct tree. I got a strand of lights to wrap around the top section. The new strand has a section that keeps blinking off. I am not replacing it since the kids decorated the tree before I could replace it again. Evelyn insisted on wearing Josie's snowsuit (naked underneath) while I worked on the living room. She loved how silky the inside felt on her skin.

Josie started pointing with her index finger. It is adorable. She started it on Thanksgiving day when she pointed at Seth that morning and stared. Hilarious. She is working on cutting bottom teeth this week. Her runny nose turned into croup, she sounds terrible. Josie is also accepting her fate to enjoy tummy time. She can move in a circle, push backwards, and planks! Go baby go!

Our Nelves visited on Tuesday, dropping off cold cotton candy. The kids discovered some Shopkins in the tree on Thursday. We hear bell jingles quite often to remind the kids the nelves are listening. The kids are doing very well helping with after dinner clean-up. They also cleaned up their rooms and the basement in order to visit Santa at Cabela's. By Friday our house looked pretty amazing considering the chaos that happens within.

Phillip brought home 5 pages of homework on Monday. He was sick Tuesday, came home with 6 pages on Wednesday. We achieved full-atomic meltdown over homework. I totally lost my patience after 4 hours of coaxing and helping. I finally wrote on his blank pages, "please give MOM a zero grade!" Torture. Homework is so unnecessary for kids under age 14. I would spend more time reading with him if we were not fighting over homework. Drives me crazy.

I was ready for a mental break come Thursday. Amelia was tired so had a melt down over a stupid, poorly written math problem. I tried to help her understand the world would not end if she just skipped it. Phillip was in a foul mood. Everett had his angry fists ready to compete with his angry eyebrows. It was a day of foul darkness in our house. I made a quick dinner for the boys, the Elders and Evelyn. Amelia, Josie, and I went to the RS Christmas party. You are probably questioning my reason for taking Amelia. She needed some mommy time, I needed some girl time. It was a very uplifting dinner. We shared stories about acts of service either given or rendered. Somehow I ended up sharing the feelings I struggled with since January. I rarely cry, I mean rarely. The last time I cried this year was before Amelia had surgery. I cried, got all choked up. Felt much better afterward! Guess my emotions needed an extra vent after a stressful week. I love the church's service for 25 days this Christmas season. We are following the days and trying our best to serve.

On my drive home I got the prompting to call Bishop about the Betony family. I've visit taught them for 6 years now. I am the only contact they have with the church. Quite a few people ask me how they are and depend on me to relate their goings on. Most of the time my inner voice says, "Well...why don't you call them and ask?" The days of service seemed like a great reason to open our arms as a ward and let the Betony family know we love them. They are inactive because they slipped through the cracks. I really believe if we show them a full measure of love and acceptance that they will come back. Their belief in God is strong. Their sorrow great. Guess I was a little hard on Bishop. Justin showed me an email the next day Bishop sent out rallying the troops in behalf of the Betony family. I had to chuckle. Sometimes I amuse myself.

We went up to Cabela's for our yearly visit with Santa. He was taking a milk and cookie break when we arrived. The kids spread out waiting for him to reappear. Everett spotted him coming up the stairs. His face light up. He ran up to Santa and threw him the biggest hug. I am grateful Santa knelt down and returned the love. It was quite the special moment. Evelyn was quite afraid of the jolly old soul. The boys sat on his lap first. Everett asked Santa for a Power Ranger Zord. Phillip asked for an Ice Dino...and two watches (Star Wars and TMNT). Threw me for a loop! Amelia took herself and Josie to visit with Santa. She asked for a Magic Sketch LCD writing tablet. Evelyn finally got close enough to touch Santa when Amelia was standing next to her. She showed Santa her pretty shoes, earned that candy cane! On our way home we stopped at Hickory Square to check out the Union Pacific mini train. The kids hopped on for a really fast, fun ride. The train driver was having the time of his life going in circles and making figure 8's. Everett snuck an extra 3rd ride when we were not paying attention. He had his arms spread out enjoying his little self. Mia's friend Katelyn came home with us for a playdate. Her mom was manning the hot chocolate table for the afternoon. We returned to Hickory Square at 5:30 to watch the parade of lights. Santa arrived on a firetruck. He light up the town Christmas tree. We warmed our chilly hands with hot chili, hot chocolate, and cinnamon rolls. Phillip ate two full bowls of chili! Jen watched Josie while the rest of us went to watch Moana. Evelyn was not terribly interested. She did not want to stay with Jen or watch the movie. The kids were pretty scared by the lava lady. Even Amelia was freaked out. Still the boys were impressed with Maui. Amelia loved the music. Jen left to visit some friend with Josie while we were gone. She was upset over my lack of diaper bags. I just don't need one. I hate toting bags about. She found a half empty backpack. Jen filled it with 6 diapers, wipes, formula, bottle, apple sauce, baby food, an outfit, and baby powder. She was gone 30-45 minutes. I am still laughing!

Evelyn traded her mayonnaise, cheese, and turkey sandwiches for ham and mustard sandwiches this week. I love her quirky personality.

Thanksgiving in Utah

Our time in Utah went by way too fast. I miss it more and more each time we go back. Lia, Jacob, and Amelia made a nest out of blankets to sleep in while we were there. I am not sure they got much sleep! We visited Courtenay and John across the yard a few times, cousins streamed in and out back and forth between the houses. We went to lunch at Del Taco, a family favorite, for lunch. James, Miekka, and I worked on Thanksgiving dinner preparations like rolls, sweet potatoes, and brining meat. I got to walk through Walmart mostly alone and do a bit of shopping. Miekka was there looking for Seth pants. Around 3:30 we rushed out of the door to take family photos for the Lances. A storm was coming, we barely beat it. During the photo session I witnessed "the raptor" a new signature move the boys pulled out. They had me laughing! Sweet Lia changed into her baptism dress for some photos in that. Not 20 minutes after the session ended we heard hail, sleet, and wind rush down the mountains. Jana was also at the house with Hannah to play for the afternoon. Hannah is such a sweetheart. We tried to go out on a girl's date with Jana, Hannah, Miekka, Courtenay, Josie, and I. We headed North on Redwood when Miekka's windshield wipers quit working. That was a bit harrowing to drive in rain/sleet with no wipers. We had Jana go home while we went back to the Lances and traded vehicles. Everyone was hangry, I had a migraine, so we settled for something good but fast, a burger place in American Fork. Afterward we browsed Target for Stocking Stuffers. Jojo was not so happy with the car ride or the length of time we spent in Target. Once home we made pies for dessert: apple and pumpkin and a crustless pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving day was quite beautiful, cold and clear. Most of the day we lazed about doing something here and another thing there. James taught the kids some yoyo skills. My boys were totally hooked! They call James the yoyo ninja master. James smoked a brisket and a turkey for dinner. While naps were going on Evelyn and I vacuumed out the disgusting van. Argh, it was like a garbage can on wheels. I felt much better about traveling after cleaning it out some. My brothers and sister started trickling on over around 3:30 or 4. It was so nice to visit with them all. Also in attendance was Grandma Baerwaldt and Uncle Scott. John and Court were holding their own dinner across the way, we saw them a bit after their family left. Lots of fun chatter and smiles went around. Dinner was of course marvelous. Kat made her famous mashed potatoes, proven to make one gain 3 pounds per serving. Jana made the most delicious apple cheesecake bars. We talked with Dad over in Saudi for a bit on Facetime. My kids were not happy about me taking a kid photo. I think it turned out hilariously near the truth. Grandma Baerwaldt asked us to start a new tradition of making ornament boxes for each child, when they leave home the child can take their box of ornaments! She started us each out with a handmade ornament. After everyone was gone, dinner mostly cleaned up, and the kids in bed the older folks watched the new Star Trek movie. The girls applied gel nail polish, talked, annoyed the boys, and shopped for Black Friday deals that actually started on Thursday. I swear it gets worse every year. Still, the deals were hard to beat.

We drove up to Charity's for the day on Friday, with a short stop to the distribution center so I could get a temple tent dress. I ordered one with a back zipper that was quite hard to close myself, returned that one and got the tent. Function over beauty! Evelyn was quite tired by this point. We moved some toys into Charity's bedroom so she could play and the adults could visit. Raquel and Scot came down for a visit as well. I love how the cousins just disappear together! The girls worked on art for an art show. The boys played nerf guns and with the preschool toys. Josie showed off her cute smiles and duck laughs for everyone. We stayed the night at Grandma Debbie's in Taylorsville. She fed us spaghetti for dinner. As soon as we arrived the kids headed to the fat jiggler machine. Uncle Scott was unsure where the strange racket came from! After the kids were asleep I toured the new home my parents and Scott purchased. It is HUGE! Should be a good investment for everyone involved. Course, I adored the alone time chatting with my mom. We bonded over our hatred for our phones. I hate being tethered to one more thing. I am tethered to 6 wriggling, thrashing leashes right now. Adding the phone responsibility just puts it over the top for me. I miss the old days when folks only had house phones and getting in touch was not such a demand for immediate responses. Folks, I am over my head busy with raising just the humans in my care.

The weather forecast worsened over night, by Saturday morning it looked terrible. We decided to leave immediately for home, not wanting to get stuck in WY for days with I-80 closures. Jana came over to give us hugs and let us squeeze Hannah. I was totally bummed since we had a shopping trip planned together and then an evening at Temple Square with the kids. Instead we crammed our stuff into the van and headed home with the wind at our back. Gratefully, the trip home was quick and uneventful. Evelyn was so cute each time she noticed Christmas lights, oohing and aahing. We pulled into our driveway around 9 pm.

Sunday I stayed home with the kids because Josie and Evelyn were pouring snot and I still had a nasty headache. The kids and I organized a Primary lesson with songs and stories from the friend. We really enjoyed doing that. Justin helped get the Christmas stuff out of the attic. That is rather tricky now since the pull down stairs are broken. I took photos off the wall and made stacks of decorations to put away for Christmas. I am thinking after Christmas I might paint the living room! Fresh walls will give the room a much needed face lift.

Dinosaur National Monument

I had a run an errand Sunday evening, discovered that the van battery was dead, like gone. I am glad the bad battery was discovered the night before we left instead of when we needed to leave. Justin hooked up a battery conditioner and it charged all night. In the morning the car barely started, but it did. Sunday evening and Monday morning was a chaotic flurry of packing, unpacking, repacking, and kids trying to cope with excitement. We left around 9:30 am to head down to Denver for Mia's doctor appointment. The kids were so loud and obnoxious, Justin and I about turned back for home. As we headed south Justin noted a strong pull to the right, due to alignment or tire issues. It was so bad we stopped in Sterling at a tire store. The guys popped us ahead of the line and addressed our van issues. We headed out with tires rotated back the way they were a week ago, a strange wear pattern on the front tires caused the pulling. They installed a fresh new battery since they had them and the van needed it. Soon after we got back on the road Phillip had to pee. He used the pee bottle. Everett had to pee next, he was not adroit with the bottle, so peed on his shirt, spilled the bottle of pee on the van carpet, and stepped in the mess. We were notified of the damage when Phillip yelled: "Everett! Don't step in the pee puddle!!!" Words you never want to hear on a car trip. It smelled like a sewer in the back. We stopped for lunch at Chic-fil-a then jammed down to Children's Hospital. Mia and I got there with a bit of time to spare, thanks to Justin's forethought and planning. She enjoyed playing around in the recording studio, she got to play a Lindsey Stirling song on the radio. Dr G was quite impressed with Amelia's progress. The x-ray showed the ball of her femur is more rounded, still flatter than normal, but in much better shape then expected. The cut site is fully remodeled and healing well. Dr G gave Amelia the green light for full physical activity with obvious limitations. Any pain and she is to stop that activity. The next surgery will be in May. Amelia's range of motion is exceptional for a Perthes kid. Yay! Prayer works.

Justin picked us up and we headed towards Utah on I-70. Our afternoon and evening drive was ever so long. I hate getting a start on road trips so late in the afternoon. This was Josie's first real road trip as a baby, the trip at 3 months did not count since she was in the sleepy newborn stage. Gah! She was a pill, hated being in her carseat after the sun went down. Poor kid cried most of the way to Vail, CO. I nursed her several times which put a temporary halt on the crying. We had dinner at a pizza joint in Vail. I've always wanted to visit Vail, so that was quite fun. We enjoyed the Christmas lights most of the large hotels had on already. Gratefully, Josie fell asleep for a couple hours around 8:30 pm. Justin left I-70 at the small towns of Rifle, Antlers, and Silt. Part of Road 64 turned into a dirt road right around 9:45 pm. We both looked at each other with a bit of apprehension in our eyes as we read: Road ends here. Still, Google Maps directed us correctly and we made it to Vernal by 10:30. Justin was adamant, wanting everyone to know we were NOT lost, just concerned over the dirt road and falling snow/rain. I saw a glimpse of the Tree of Life way out there in the boondocks. Someone had dressed up a weeping willow with about a million white lights. It was quite breathtaking. Josie remained asleep in her carseat by some miracle through the transfer from the van to our room and the kids settling in. She slept until 2 am. I was quite concerned because she had never slept like that before. I had to check on her several time to ensure she was warm and breathing. She popped awake for 2 hours, from 2 until 4 am. She and I spent a lovely time in the lobby exploring pen cups, decorative centerpieces, the pool, the exercise center, and snacking on free apples. Evelyn was quite the beast to get back to sleep after the room transfer. She only wanted to sleep in a bed with both Justin and I. Then she wanted to sleep on the floor. She stole my pillow and gave me the upholstery one instead. Gah, I am reminded once again how much I despise sleeping with kids in strange situations. Terrible, terrible night of sleep. Course they were all awake by 7 am, maybe even 7:30.

We ate breakfast and changed out of our rumpled traveling clothes into fresh outfits. Next time (if that EVER happens) I want to take the southern route during the day. We missed all the beauty because it was dark outside. The girls got to bathe in the tiny hotel kitchenette sink. It was so small! As we traveled back to Dinosaur National Monument we got to see some of what we missed the night before. We stopped at the main visitor center to pay the fees and get maps. The kids were quite grumpy and loud. Several other visitors stared grumpily at us while Evelyn threw a loud tantrum.  We drove out to the Dinosaur Quarry Exhibition Hall to see the Carnegie Quarry. The preserved wall contains the remnants of over 1,500 fossils. The area was an ancient river bed, a sort of traffic jam of bones that were washed down river and deposited in one place. Entire skeletons, roughly still in proper form were discovered there in 1909. Scientists finally had a reference point to assemble other dinosaur bones into full skeletons. I think about 14 species were discovered at the quarry including: allosaurus, apotosaurus, barosaurus, stegosaurus and diplodocus. Viewing the wall was quite awe inspiring! The kids touched real ancient fossils still imbeded in the wall. Phillip is our dinosaur enthusiast, he was in heaven! Everett and Amelia loved the digitized fossil program that identified the fossils peeking out of the wall. Evelyn was not so happy, she tried to take a cat nap in a ray of sunshine on the floor. She actually hissed at me when I tried to move her out of the way. Next we drove on the Tour of the Tilted Rocks auto tour. Justin stopped several times at points of interest with ancient petroglyphs. The kids played a game of caveman, which fit right into everyone's current mood. They made me laugh with their ape-like behavior. We stopped at Josie Basset Morris' homestead. Gracious, that place was magical. We stepped from desert to wooded mountain in a matter of a mile. The kids raced around exploring her cabin. Evelyn would not leave the cabin, she was quite intent on playing house inside. The smell there was absolutely divine, a woodsy smell that made us all happy. I was quite impressed with the National Park.

We dined at Cafe Rio much to Amelia's dismay. She grumbled the entire time about her delicious meal. The rest of us enjoyed our delicious meals. We tried to ensure every other meal Amelia ate during the trip made her upset. Stinker. We drove another 5 hours to James and Miekka's home in Eagle Mountain. The kids were out of the van before it properly stopped and parked. I am not sure all the kids were together again at the same time for the next 2 days.