14 January 2018

First Day of Preschool

I thought Josie looked like an angel wearing a blue bishop collared dress last Sunday. She is Mr Grump Fish when it comes to taking photos lately. Probably because I take away her treasured binky for the occasion. Maybe it is time to work on weaning her of the binky! Her hair is so fine, with a spot of curl on the ends. Most of the time she is quite the angel so the dress was, sigh....heavenly.

Evelyn had her first week of Preschool. She was over the top excited to start school. By 7:30 am she was dressed and ready to go. She had to wait clear until 11:45 before we headed to Sonoma Ranch. Over the weekend she packed and repacked her backpack of first day supplies. She was very interested in the items we bought to restock the treasure chest, a reward given at the end of the school week. A freak rainstorm uncovered her lost tooth's hiding spot, course she had to carry that around to church, school, the store, and to the dentist. She was pretty excited the tooth was no longer in her belly. Before preschool started she had a fun time dancing in the waiting area with Josie. She practiced saying her teacher's name as well: Mrs Melicard, aka Mrs Melichar. When I picked her up Mrs Melichar said she had an amazing first day, fit right in with the other kiddos. Evelyn's face held a different story, she had her close to crying face on with a side of angry eyebrows. Later she told me she was mad that all her treasures for the box disappeared during recess. Ha ha! I should've anticipated that. The next day her teacher showed her where all the cool items were stored and when Evelyn could choose something. Mystery solved. She enjoyed getting ready and attending the next three days just as much as the first. Seems she even made some friends already.

Phillip got to bring a show-and-tell item on Tuesday. His teacher said I could bring his hamster, Cagey Barry Allen Call, right after I dropped off Evelyn at noon. Josie marched right into his classroom shaking the poor hamster about in a small portable pod. Mrs Epstein was quite happy I did not have to bring in the entire cage (me too). Phillip got to show each student his pet and answer questions about what he eats, his cage, his personality, etc. Phillip at school was a totally different kid than Phillip at home! He was quite reticent, a trait I never see. Seems Josie provided just as much entertainment as the hamster did. After school and homework Everett managed to amused Evelyn for over an hour playing Exploding Kittens, Candyland, Sneaky Squirrel, and Headbands. The kids are starting to play board games now once homework is completed. I love it. 

Wednesday morning I cut some oranges to for school snacks and lunches. Around that time Josie woke up and was sitting at the table eating a sandwich. Amelia and Phillip popped a cut orange into their mouths and showed Josie. The look on that kid's face was pure revulsion and horror. She reared her head backwards and shouted, "Noooooooo!" We had quite the laugh over her reaction. Wednesday and Thursday mornings we spent at the dentist's office. Wednesday I took the older kids in for routine cleanings and x-rays. Everett earned a satisfactory dental bill of health. Amelia and Phillip not so much. Amelia had mild gingivitis on her lower front gums and two cavities, on baby tooth riddled with cavity and a small cavity in a molar. She was crying, mad crying when I told her she had to come back and get fillings for her teeth. Phillip had one tiny surface cavity on a molar. I felt embarrassed my kids do not enjoy dental hygiene as much as I do. Heck, I brush and floss my dang teeth 2-3 times per day. I require them to brush twice a day but they must not be doing what I command. I got the kids new spinbrushes to aid in our new quest for dental hygiene. The next day we were at the office again getting those pesky fillings taken care of. Took over 2 hours for both kids to get the work done. I had the dentist put resin caps on their molars as well. After experiencing their first real dental work the kids are especially motivated to really take care of their teeth. Sometimes a bit of discomfort is a good thing. Warms my heart to see the kids invested in brushing and flossing. I am sure grandpa Lane would be extra proud. He still asks me if I floss my teeth...yes! Sir! Spending nonthreatening time at the dentist was a good thing for Evelyn after her trauma. Amelia was quite affected by the laughing gas. She was giggling at the movie Moana with the silliest laugh. Phillip did not even need numbing stuff, so his went fast. Once again our expensive girl needs a trip back to the orthodontist, her second bicuspid is trying to come in between her front tooth and first bicuspid. Sounds expensive.

Phillip was the star of our Wednesday. He came home from school and whipped out his homework. He finished it without help in less than 10 minutes. He helped me with Evelyn and Josie, playing with them outside. At dinner he asked to clean off the table and set it for dinner?! My mommy heart was exploding with love right about then. That act of kindness and service made my week the best ever.

We continued the trend of the week, missing morning school, with a Dr visit for Phillip on Friday. He needed a medicine check up for his ADD. I had a really hard time answering Dr Auxier's questions since I don't see Phillip in action while the medication is still working. His teacher is super busy so I don't always hear back from her in a timely manner. We got report cards this week, so based on that empirical evidence his grades seem much improved. We decided to increase his dosage another ml and see how it helps. In two weeks I am supposed to decrease by half and see if his teacher notices a difference. Evelyn and Josie looked cute wearing Minnie Mouse dresses they got from Grandma Debbie for Christmas. Several folks commented on how cute the girls looked at Walmart. Josie would tell the person all about "Mimmie Mou."

All the kids wanted to help me practice my photography skills. I bought two photography classes from the ever amazing Meg Bitton, one Newborn course and a Simple Studio course. The Simple Studio course is all about using a one-strobe set up, which I use on a normal basis. I practiced on the kids some posing and using my light. Meg teaches to place your light 8-10 inches away from your subjects face. It was tricky since my light modifier is a parabolic umbrella, the umbrella center sticks out right into my photo when placed that close. Josie was a stinker. The rest of the kids seemed to enjoy helping me practice. I'm working on editing them using her method, which reduces the dreaded banding I always get when photographing on black.

Amelia earned straight A's again this semester. Her AR (academic reading) goal was a total of 101%! Phillip earned mostly 3's, a couple 2's in math, and an assortment of S's, P's and an E. Everett's report card actually looked almost the same as Phillip's. Seems like report cards for 3rd grade and under are extraneous. Just a bunch of letters and numbers. The kids wanted pizza for lunch as a reward. So we went to the mall for lunch. After we let the kids ride the escalators as a reward for their good grades! A mall cop busted us for recreational usage of the escalator. We were asked to leave them alone or leave. Sad! Our free fun was cut short. I am still laughing about the whole escalator fiasco. The mall must have a camera pointed right at that area to prevent unauthorized usage of the stairs.

I saw a sign my house needs, needs desperately! Don't mind the mess. My kids are making memories...of me yelling at them to clean up the mess. We resembled that quote during our Saturday morning clean up. Justin is having a good time finding a new car to replace old Betty Blue. With our house deal closed and done we have a bit of wiggle room for things like a car payment and cross our fingers, new carpet. Our current carpet is the worst ever for a family, white beige. My favorite part on the carpet is a finely defined hand print courtesy of Evelyn, right in the middle of the living room area. Cleaning it is like throwing paper on a fire, I gave up, knowing brown variegated carpet is in our near future. Justin was disgusted with one car dealership who tried to over charge him $2000 on supposed taxes and fees. The car was not worth that price tag.

Evelyn's new nickname for Justin is: My B.F.F Man (marshmallow head). She pronounces BFF so funny, like Bee-eh-eff.

11 January 2018

New Years

Happy New Years! Welcome 2018! I am relieved to start a new year, seems like last year was a bumpy ride. While the learning curve is steep so is the discomfort. We spent most of the day with Justin sleeping on the couch. The family cold/flu finally caught up with him. Jacob Goddard spent the afternoon with us while his family went on a technically difficult hike. He made everyone origami boats! The boys spent a chunk of time playing with their nerf guns. I crack up each time I pass a window and find Everett deep in imaginative play with a weapon, dart, stick, etc. At 3:30 pm we packed up the kids for some playtime at the park. I had an engagement session while Justin managed the kids, more like herded cats. Sister Ferolino referred the couple to me, her sister's daughter! Turns out her sister, Eve, moved from Louisana recently. After chatting a bit we discovered Eve was in the same ward as Ashley Jarreau's parents in Baton Rouge! Ashely's brother was good friends with Eve's sons. Small world. I had a great time taking John and Arianne's engagement photos. We started our New Year with a break for mom from cooking. Cafe Rio tasted ever so amazing, most anything I don't have to make tastes amazing.

Tuesday was the day to undress the Christmas decorations. Seems like our house was in quite a mess for the rest of the week. I ended up buying a tree bag for the newer tree for the kid's decorations. I found a $15 tree at Goodwill for the kid tree. By Thursday the decorations were stacked in their place in the garage. This time I packed the boxes expecting the boxes to suffer through 115-120 degree heat come summer. A couple decorations actually glued themselves together during our move down. Amelia was quite the helper taking down most of the kid tree decorations. Phillip and Everett had items to pack away. By the end of the day the decorations were boxed up but the regular decor was scattered here and there. The kids spent the afternoon running a stuffed animal salon. Their game looked much more amusing than cleaning up Christmas.

Wednesday we took a break from our house. Amelia is turning into a teenaged bear, her attitude leaves much to be desired most of the time at home. She was good until after earning and then enjoying a special day out. I took the kids to Urban Jungle, an indoor trampoline recreational place. The line was crazy long, waiting for the line to shorten was something close to agony. By the time our turn came to pay the kids had a really good strategy in place to enjoy their 90 minutes of play. I had to buy socks, socks! Special socks the company requires, in my opinion just another way to make money. The toddler area was pretty fun. The little girls were quite amused for over an hour. Josie loved the merry-go-round. Both girls monopolized a slide area for the rest of the time. I barely caught glimpses of Everett. He was by far the most elusive of the older kids. Amelia and Phillip came to check in several times. The littles finally had enough of the baby area so we checked out the rest of the areas until our playtime was over. I had to laugh watching the girls in the ball area, stuffing balls in tubes like their lives depended on it.  Amelia and Phillip helped Evelyn around the other areas. The level of body odor was evidence of the fun had by all! We had lunch at a nearby McDonald since it was almost 1 pm.

Thursday was by far the worst day of our vacation. The kids were all ornery, I was ornery, and the house a mess. I asked for help cleaning up the family room and got blank stares from the boys and attitude from Mia. With my short fuse the situation escalated quickly to me throwing out Phillip's favorite toys and yelling. I hid myself outside to take a break and recover shreds of sanity. Sister Godard noticed me chilling outside, she came over to chat. The kids discovered my hiding place. I don't understand why kids have such a hard time understanding that cleaning the house is NOT my JOB. It is the responsibility of the entire family. I have a hard time getting my actual job of raising kids, I'm sidetracked by constant messes and clutter. Drives me nuts. Phillip and I apologized to each other and I gave him his monkey Cager back, with more chores to do for whining and procrastinating. Everett turned into the super helper child, he cleaned up things that did not need cleaning in an effort to stay on my better side. Mia just stayed ornery. By the time Justin got home I was a mess. Went to bed almost in tears.

Friday was the end of our Sidney chapter. We FINALLY closed on our 1209 19th Ave home. The 5th of January, 2018 was a huge day for us. After all the delays we both held our breath until the deal was finally wrapped up and tied. I am hearing all kinds of rumors about the troubles in Sidney, was almost certain the entire house deal would fall through. Phew. It's done and sold. The kids cleaned up their rooms after all the drama on Thursday. They enjoyed a morning with friends over for a couple hours. Phillip invited his friend Jonathon over and Mia had Chloe to play with. Chloe's brother, Ronald, stayed to play as well. All the boys had an epic Nerf war out in the back. Ronald pestered me off and on for hours about getting our wifi password. He was unwilling to do chores for that privileged, ha ha. Chloe and Mia babysat Josie while I went food shopping with Evelyn. A mean driver yelled obscenities at me in the walmart parking for driving my van the way I should, he was trying to drive his huge house boat like he owned the lot. After he was done being rude Evelyn yelled, "Mr, you need a nap!" Take that you meany pants! The girls sent me several texts while I was gone so random and hilarious: "Mooooooom, we're so bored we could die. iPad malfunctions. Could we uuuuuse shaving cream? Do wwwwwweeee have borrrrrax?" And lots of emojis. The girls made slime and a mess to accompany their art project. I did not mind, at least they were creatively involved and cleaned up their mess. Justin and I went out to dinner and a movie for our anniversary celebration. Laura and Spenser watched the kids for us at our home. What a relief to have the night off. We dined at Rodozio Grill, gorging on meat and Keto friendly food. Justin was quite happy it was bacon celebration week! We got tickets to see Star Wars again at a different theater. The theater was not busy...the reason was it is overpriced and messy. It cost more for two drinks than for a theater ticket. Silly folks. We walked around for 30 minutes before our movie, enjoying some time to talk and walk down our dinner. The movie was even better a second time. Justin even fell asleep!

Saturday morning we went to a Primary breakfast so the kids could meet their new teachers this year. The breakfast was at an outdoor pavilion with a firepit area. All the boys soon had large pieces of wood covering the firepit area. Why are boys so drawn to mischief? Evelyn's soccer cleats (her favorite shoes) were covered in mud which she smeared all over her seat area in the van. I got fed up with the dark blinds in the dining room area. My idea was to either spray paint the blinds or pasted lace in the windows. I tried the pasted lace first. Yes, yes, I am my mother's and Grandmother's progeny. The lace panel ended up a bit to small even after careful measuring and cutting. The paste (cornstarch mixture) was spotty and looked a bit crazy. Now my plan is to use some static cling panels that filter light. Even with the blinds down the area looks larger.

Melia and Matt Kelly are visiting the Phoenix area for the next week or so. They came over for Sunday dinner. Michael and Aislinn seemed quite happy to play with our kids. The kids made a loud boisterous group! I hope the Kelly's enjoyed their time here as much as we did. We heard first hand about their experience and escape from Puerto Rico and the hurricane that destroyed the island. We are loving all the family and friends who come visit us.

My heart is sad and happy at the same time. President Monson passed away this week. We will miss his dedicated discipleship to the Lord. I can only imagine his joyous reunion with his wife and loved ones in heaven. Around the same time Grandma Baerwaldt was hospitalized with a nasty flu virus, it almost undid her. Coming that close to death gave her a new lease on life. Dying is what she wants but is also quite afraid of it.

My 2018 goals:
lose 10-15 more pounds (water intake, eating healthy, adding exercise)
solve my low-energy and tiredness mystery (finishing the medications from Dr Godard, searching more avenues if still tired)
take several photography courses (video) to keep my skills sharp
work on improving my attitude at home, to not react negatively when I feel so tired

01 January 2018

Ft Verde, Montezuma's Castle, and Montezuma's Well

Saturday we headed north to the Fort Verde area, south of Flagstaff. I was pretty excited to get out of our house for a day. The drive took about an hour and 45 minutes, not too far away! We stopped at the Fort first since it was closer to food for lunch. The docent at the fort passed out Jr Ranger papers for the kids to work on. This was our first attempt at the badges without the Lance cousins. Ft Verde was the base of operations for General Crook from 1870-1880, it stayed operational until 1891. The army's task was to place and keep Indians on the reservations. As the reservations were moved farther away the fort became obsolete. We toured the main museum first. The kids loved trying on period style costumes for fun. The fort was decorated up for Christmas so that was a fun plus. The other three remaining homes showed what family life was like for the general, what the bachelor quarters looked like, and the hospital area. We grabbed lunch then drove to see Montezuma's Castle.

The park containing the castle is well-paved and beautifully situated in a Riparian oasis. The coolest trees, Arizona Sycamore, has the most amazing skin of camouflaged bark. The trees were often used to support the cliff dwelling ceilings. The Sinagua Indians built and inhabited the castle nearly 600 years ago, using the dwellings for 400 years. I wondered how closely the cliff dwellings are to the Anasazi dwellings. I had to smile over Amelia and her tablet, taking dozens of photos searching for the perfect "sick" capture. Lots of peace signs were involved. Justin amused us all with his powerful binoculars. Phillip found a sycamore tree with a hollow depression, he immediately sat in it!

Josie fell asleep while we drove to the next spot, Montezuma's well, a few miles away from the castle. Justin stayed with her in the van while the rest of us explored the well. The well reminded me of the cenotes that dot Mexico. A constant current of fresh water leaks into the well and drains out of one side. Half of the well is covered with paths and vegetation folks can explore. Along the walls are burrowed Sinauga dwellings. Everyone had a great time running up and down the stairs. The boys had some game with exploding bombs going on. Once back on the well's rim we headed down the hill to climb more steps down to where the well emptied into Beaver creek. I bent over to check the water temp, my camera hood decided to also take a dip. Thankfully, the water current was not swift and the creek not to deep. I buried my arm to the shoulder to get the errant lens hood. Evelyn decided to rub dirt in her "hort" (aka wart on her hand) just so she could wash her hands in the water. The water felt lovely. Back at the van Josie woke up so Justin took the older 3 kids to explore the area. The girls and I stayed back, Evelyn's legs were not working by this point. The park was near to closing time we did not make it to Tuzigoot, an Indian pueblo not too far away.

What a fun day out hiking and getting to know our new area. I can check that destination off my bucket list now.

Sunday's music time was quite fun. The kids "popped" balloons with a Nerf gun to find songs they sung last year for their program. It was a fun review of the year's songs. New Years Eve was quite boring. We let the kids stay up until almost 10 pm playing games and watching a documentary on baby animals. New Years Day was just as boring. Justin was not feeling well so he parked himself on the couch for 6 hours napping and watching TV at intervals. I had an engagement photo session at Riparian Preserve. I convinced Justin and the kids to go hang out and play outside for a while. We had Jacob Godard with us as an extra diversion. During the session we figured out that Eve knew the parents of Sister Jarreau in Baton Rouge. They were in the same ward! Never imagined I'd meet friends of someone from Baton Rouge whose daughter I know from Sidney, NE...in Gilbert, AZ. Small world sometimes. We celebrated the New Year with dinner at Cafe Rio. Justin goes back to work tomorrow. He enjoyed quite a long vacation for only taking 4 work days off!

**a common annoyance we all share lately: Evelyn screaming and crying each time I park the van "Mom! Don't leave me! Don't leave me in the car!" You might think this is a common occurrence. It is not. I am unsure when and how she developed this fear. It grates on us all when she starts whining about being left in the van. Every. Single. Time.

Christmas 2017: The Year of the Hatchimals

Our Christmas Eve was low key but filled with tradition. The kids finished decorating sugar cookies before dinner. I opted for cheap store bought frosting this year since no one in my family really enjoys sugar cookies. Evelyn and Everett had the most fun decorating cookies. I managed the sprinkles this year, guess I'm slowly learning from my mishaps. Oh the clam chowder! It's the best soup of the entire year. This year's chowder was magnificent with fresh thyme, extra bacon, and extra clams. The loaf of Winco sourdough bread just topped off the perfection. Amelia did a sweet job decorating the table. She used our nicer dishes, real glasses, and name tags. We ate by candle light to top off the ambiance. I found a bottle of Tabasco sauce towards the end of the meal, a little kick makes the chowder extra delicious. Justin and I opted to enjoy the carbs in the potatoes, tasted like a slice of carb heaven. The kids played on Santa Tracker while the dishes and kitchen were cleaned up by the one-woman cleaning show. I think we need to have another kitchen clean up training session (Justin!). We used the Nativity costumes from the Primary since I still had the bucket from our ward party. The kids had a lovely time choosing characters and dressing up several times. Justin read the account in Luke one time then we sang the Nativity Song another time. Our Nelves came a bit late this year, but come they did. Wrapping paper went flying as the kids shredded open gifts to find new pajamas. The girls were so delighted the Nelves brought PJs for their dolls this year. We got a plate of cookies and mug of milk ready for Santa. Justin administered some melatonin to each kid before we trucked them up to bed.

I heard someone rustling about sometime that Christmas night. I heard balloons squeaking, wrapping paper crinkle, and whispers of excitement. I even heard Santa using our printer. The tree lights kept me out of deep sleep since I am now used to sleeping in the deep dark of our room's black out shades. Once again I am amazed that the kids slept in til past 6:30! They woke up at their customary time of 6:45! The kids opened up their stockings in our bedroom. Josie was oohing and awing over her new Shimmer toothbrush. Evelyn was by far the most excited about all her stocking treasures. The kids headed down the stairs in order with Josie at the front. Phillip, Everett, and Evelyn all screamed when they saw new bikes waiting for them. The level of sound was impressive, I think the air space literally popped. Justin got his own Nerf gun, it was a sale perk, buy two get one free! After trying out their new bikes the kids turned their focus to the Santa gifts! The kids each got the Hatchimal wished for when they visited Santa. Somehow by miracle each Hatchimal is a different color, how Santa arranged that I will never know. The kids worked on hatching their eggs before moving on to other gifts. The aftermath of all the gifts left a swath of paper, boxes, plastic ties, and instruction pamphlets. I almost lost Josie in the mess a couple times. Evelyn sat herself right in the center with her Barbie house and bath tub sets. She has not stopped playing with her toys in over a week. Amelia can be seen wearing her unicorn trucker's hat, I am pretty sure she sleeps in it. Justin took the kids outside to ride their bikes and make adjustments if needed. The boys had several Nerf gun wars throughout the day. Darts littered the street and sidewalks. Breakfast was a simple affair of scrambled eggs, sausage, and milk. Justin tested out the smoke detectors. They all work and are even networked. If one goes off the rest soon follow. He was roasting a Prime Rib for dinner at high heat. The alarms went off and on for quite some time. I found fans to keep the smoke away from the two main trouble maker detectors. Dinner was delicious! A special meal of meat, mashed potatoes, vegetable, and Martinellis. We walked off part of our meal with a forced march around the oval. We enjoyed the ability to try out new bikes and play outside in 70 degree weather this year.

Our normal schedule was off most of the week. We all lost track of the real day of the week! Our normal laundry day was moved from Monday morning to Wednesday. We spent a morning at the park trying out the new bikes. We did not go anywhere fancy just stayed home and played as a family. Tuesday afternoon we took the kids to Build a Bear because Evelyn wanted to spend her Christmas dollars there. All the kids ended up spending their money there as well. The store was crazy busy. The older kids all got Pokemon stuffies and Evelyn got a cute pink bear. They loved the whole process of filling the bears, putting a wish-filled heart into their stuffies, and giving the animals their first wash. Justin helped them complete birth certificates at the computer station. Josie wandered about for the entire time, she found a little couch just her size!

Seems Christmas colds were also gifted us at the same time. Our entire family came down with a hacking cough, stuffy noses, sore throats, one barfer (Amelia), and headaches. Instead of playing we just stayed home and got better. Thursday the kids put their clean clothes away in order to earn a theater trip to watch the new Star Wars movie. I hired a sitter for Evelyn and Josie. The movie was funny, with lots of good movie stuff. I sat next to Everett, he asked me questions every couple of minutes. Now I know how Justin feels when I pester him during a movie.

Friday morning our house was filled with lots of yelling and complaining. Can you guess why? Well, we tortured the kids into cleaning up the entire bottom floor at the same time. It was terribly unfair and cruel. Justin turned into an ogre. Amelia was so mad and upset because I made them work until 12:30 without lunch. Sister Morgan...now Stephanie West...came to visit us with her kids and husband. They are in Arizona to visit the older Wests who are serving a mission in Tuscon. We enjoyed the afternoon watching kids play and chatting. The boys had a good long nerf war. The little girls played dolls and barbie for most of the time. Thanks for the fun visit!