15 May 2018

Dive Lessons and Mother's Day

Amelia woke up last Sunday with a sore throat. Based on her grumpy demeanor, I'd say she was not feeling well. She stayed home part of the day Tuesday to rest and recuperate. We visited the DR to see if she had strep, both the rapid and extended tests came back negative. She seems to be developing our family trait for seasonal allergies. Welcome to Zyrtec! She wanted to be at school by 2:30 for the school talent show try outs. Amelia, Abby, and Chloe are singing along to a Lindsey Sterling song.

I scored some darling outfits for Josie from a lady off Facebook Market. When I got to her house it was huge, palatial, spotless, with 3 maids deep cleaning every inch. This lady had spotless clothes, perfect hair, and so on. Sometimes it is hard not to compare myself, feeling like a total frump with a gross van, rumpled hair, and dirty kneed toddlers. I don't know this lady's story, but my own seems to be riddled with messes and trench warfare. It is what it is! I'd love the clean, spacious, light colored house with maids. To assuage my envious heart I took Josie and took darling photos of her wearing her pig dress and a couple other cute outfits. My house might be dirty, but I can take clean photos. Ha ha. I took the girls while the older kids were at diving lessons. The temperatures hovered near 103, sizzling hot. Nichols park was consumed with mosquitoes that dined on our delicious blood. I am still scratching some of the bites earned during that photo session.

The kids graduated from beginning diving, back into beginning diving. The instructor advised all 3 kids take the course again to gain and perfect the skills for diving. That scary back dive is a doozy. We all went in for their last lesson. Josie was flirting with the pool's edge making us all nervous. I finally got her to stay on the grassy area. Her concession was to climb on the kick board cart nearly upending it like 20 times. She kept flashing me the most mischievous grin ever, knowing she was acting like a stinker. She agreed to sit down on our towel because of the wax ear plugs. She soon had wax balls shoved in her ears, plus a large hank of hair. I only saw one belly flop from Everett. Good job kids!

Evelyn's preschool had a visit from Build-a-Bear at school! A couple employees from the store arrived to help the kids stuff their animals and give them wish hearts. Evelyn came home with a bunny named Carrot and a cardboard house beautifully decorated. She is excited for the last week of school and all it's super fun activities.

The kids really had a great time showering their teachers with gifts for Teacher Appreciation week. Monday all the kids gave their teachers flowers from our rose bushes or carnations we had in our house. Tuesday the kids wrote sweet thank you letters. Wednesday was a fun school supply day. Phillip had a long list of supplies his teacher needed, including white paper to doodle on. He was so sweet as he made me a list of items Mrs Epstein needed. All the kids have really wonderful teachers so giving them some gifts felt like a great act of service. Phillip was recognized on Friday as a student who showed the most respect out of all the 2nd grade! He was thrilled to finally earn an award! His class is also doing a pioneer themed school adventure for the next 2 weeks. He wore the same outfit all week, plans to wear the same outfit next week too. A blue button down shirt, with jeans that are rolled up and have a ripped knee, and tall socks with shoes. I tried to convince him that the other church shirts would work as well, nope! That was the outfit. By Thursday he was quite smelly, he said washing the clothes was not part of the experience. I suggest spraying his clothes with Febreeze...he agreed that freshening up his clothes (while wear them) was just fine. Reminds me of the time I Febreezed Justin's bum after a particularly gross toot.

Our weekend was quite boring. We tortured the kids with cleaning up the backyard. The space was riddled with boxes and trash from the pool installation plus all the kid clutter that is normally there. I even vacuumed the patio to remove all the sand from the stones. Justin mowed the lawns and trimmed bushes. I dropped off my 24-105 mm zoom lens at Tempe camera for repair. The drivetrain motor (works the auto-focus function) was damaged a year ago when a helpful child dropped the lens for me. I was busy changing lenses and it was in reach for a enough minutes to get harmed. Those minutes cost $450 to repair the damage. I need the lens for a wedding I am photographing on the 18th. I treated myself to a visit to Goodwill afterward. Scored some clothes, books, roller skates for Evelyn, and roller blades for Everett!

Sweet Amelia got up at 6 am to prepare a Mother's Day surprise. She created a treasure hunt for me! I was hung over tired after Josie had a rough night so was not with it until 7:45 am. She and the boys hung 5 clues around the house and hid them under inconspicuous blankets. The hunt ended at the dinner table laden with Mother's day surprises! Mia had two cards and matching bracelets, my favorite from her was the saying, "You're the reason I'm alive...literally!" Ha ha ha. Phillip gave me a cute planted flower and card saying Te Amo. Everett made the cutest purse filled with 1st grade spelling and sentences. Evelyn made a fun card with painted hands and feet in school. She also cut out a heart all by herself. Justin dished up green scrambled eggs the kids ordered for me...'cause, you know, green is my favorite color! What a perfect start to Mother's Day. The primary kids performed "Mother, Do You Love Me?" The kids sang verses one and two and the chorus. The women sang back verses three and four with all singing the final chorus. The women did not sing as well as the kiddos! So proud of how quickly they learned the song. Justin grilled up steaks on the coal side of our grill. Yum! I asked Sister Amanda Kim to take a couple photos of me before she moves for an updated business headshot. She obligingly took photos of the kids and I as well. Yay! We went on a nice, hot walk after dinner. Evelyn wore her new roller skates...yeah, that lasted about 2 minutes. She looked like a character from the band Kiss, with her awesome makeup skills.

07 May 2018

Phoenix Zoo, Skateland, Pudding Fight, New Pool


The teacher's strike was a good chance for us to try out summer vacation. It was a wake up call for me that summer is coming and I need a game plan or else all the kids will do is play on devices. Brrrrrring! Wake up! Ok, I'm getting my game face ready. Summer will be here in 13 school days. Monday we stayed home so I could work most of the day on the senior session for Savannah. As I worked I watched some more Meg Bitton editing videos. I am switching from using actions to really hand-working all my images. It makes the process more interesting and involved. I monitored the draining pool all day, moving the hose so one particular are would not flood. The kids were soooooo bored after lunch I let them swim in the remaining water (which was still above knee height). The water was just under Evelyn's chin! Those kids had the best time playing shark and minnow. Most of the day we relaxed, worked on laundry, cleaned a bit, and participated in ballet/diving lessons. Our FHE lesson focused on water safety. Amelia wrote down all our POOL RULES as acting secretary.

The forecast predicted temperatures in the low 70's for Tuesday. I was sure we missed our chance to visit the zoo until after Thanksgiving. We used our POGO passes for the first time to tour the zoo. The Chandler Calls met up with us at the Bobcat enclosure. While we were at the vulture enclosure the keepers threw out two dead rabbits for the birds to feast on. The kids were morbidly fascinated, Josie started crying about the poor bunnies! When the birds started to wing fight over the remains Josie was so startled her eyes got huge and she yelled, "STOP IT!" then cried again. Amelia was quite excited the wolves and Cheetah's were visible this time. Laura is totally brilliant, to keep the younger kids engaged and moving she held quarter challenges every so often. Each kid had a chance to earn at least one quarter doing things like spotting certain animals, hopping, freezing still, etc. Genius. Phillip and Anson were joined at the hip having such a splendid time. Those two boys are peas in a pod. Evelyn's favorite part was finding a Bustard bird, she laughed that the bird had the same name as the bustard she uses on her mayonnaise and turkey sandwiches. We ate a picnic lunch near a bird lagoon and lake. The kids cooled off in a really cute splash pad area afterward. Josie is so silly when she gets near a splash pad, she totally digs the spraying water. Josie was quite upset a bird stole her chocolate sandwich from her lap! We did not last too much longer after lunch. Laura showed us a treehouse play area we enjoyed for the last moments of our visit. Anna and Amelia were so funny to watch, wanting to be kids but trying to be grown up at the same time. Josie had to blow poo out of her diaper as well. Thank goodness for towels and her swimsuit to change into. I am still so happy we could go and spend time there on a gorgeous day. Each day we got an email from the district suspending school for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Wednesday I was so tired there was no way we were going to play outside of our home. Come afternoon the kids started fighting and getting restless. I whipped up 8 boxes of pudding so the kids could have a food fight outside. Everett helped me spread out a plastic tarp to minimize the damage. The chocolate pudding looked disgusting. Soon the kids were covered with pudding and throwing it at each other. Amelia drew pictures on Phillip's back. Josie thought the activity was not a good idea, getting smeared with cold pudding was not her thing. Amelia, Phillip, and Evelyn had the most fun. I really enjoyed spraying off the kids with the hose! Yeah! Amelia started crying before we got to diving lessons. She finally told me the last time she got a really bad water burn and scared from learning to dive backwards. I can totally relate to feeling scared about entering the water in a back dive. I walked her in and she agreed to try front dives until her confidence was boosted again. Later that night Everett walked up to me complaining of a belly ache. He lifted up his shirt to show me a bright red belly earned from not one, two, or even three belly flops but FOUR!

The kids finished their morning chores quick as a flash Thursday morning. We headed out for a morning of fun at Skateland. Amelia and Phillip brought their roller blades to use. Even Josie got a pair of adjustable skates to try out. She did pretty good on the carpet. I rented two "skate mates" for Everett and Evelyn. The mates seemed to hinder the kids more than help them learn. Next time I will not rent any. I've not skated in many, many years so it was quite nostalgic to get on the rink floor. There's nothing quite like the stale breeze kicked up from skating fast trying to avoid collisions. Amelia and Phillip loved the entire experience. We even earned some tickets from the arcade to buy cheap toys and treats. Amelia looked so cute in her unicorn helmet as she zoomed around and around. All the kids thought the dark out and black light time was pretty cool. Phillip commented that he got distracted because of the flashing lights, it was hard for him to skate. Justin stocked up on 2x6 lengths of wood to prop up the pool under the areas that needed it.

The kids went back to school on Friday. Maybe you can imagine what our home looked like, maybe not. The clean/friend matrix reveals the status of our house: only the best of friends could come over because it was a right awful mess. Just a few hours alone sorted out the biggest messes. Felt good to get things dusted and the kitchen set to rights.  After work Justin finished leveling off the pool and he started to fill it again. Yay! Josie donned a pair of pink goggles that made her eyes look so funny. She made pig noises and told us she was a special pig, goggles. Justin started watching the most horrid cartoon series from the 80s, it seriously makes me want to gag. Now he probably watches it just to annoy me. The animation is so glitchy and bare, the screen plays are even worse, sort of like the Power Ranger show from when it first started and Pokemon. Just terrible. Phillip was delighted Friday was "MAY the 4th be with you!" He insisted on watching an episode of Star Wars. Amelia painted light sabers on the older kid's cheeks and a rainbow for Josie. Phillip watched the movie wearing a Darth Vader shirt and a helmet.

Saturday dawned hot, the three cool days we enjoyed evaporated quickly. Justin installed the pool filter and had it going before 10:30. He added some chlorine and the pool chlorine floater. Just had to wait for the pool to filter through a cycle before we could try it out. Amelia painted BYU themed art on the kid's cheeks with our face painting set. She is getting really good! Josie smeared her rainbow several times, until I drew a heart on her forehead...which she immediately smeared. We headed to Mesa for BYUfest Arizona. It was scheduled for the worst time of day, at o'hot hundred. We got to meet the head BYU football coach, throw some footballs at targets, run through a football obstacle course, and wait in lines. We barely made it halfway around the park before giving up. The lure of splashing water was too great, the cool water felt amazing! Josie ripped off her shirt and tried to take the rest off but finally gave up when I repeatedly pulled her diaper and shorts back up. Her blue heart face paint smeared making her look like a happy Celtic baby dancing in the water. We went to a nearby authentic Mexican restaurant for lunch, gotta celebrate Cinco de Mayo properly! Best Mexican food I've had in a long while! Justin tried the Sonoran hotdog, a nod to a spicy topped hot dog. Yum. The boys cleaned off their entire plates of enchiladas, beans, and rice. Josie used all my rice, half went on the floor, half in her belly, and half on the table. We headed to Home Depot with all the kids. One guy casually stated, "You've got your hands full." Nah, just wait until we get to 10 kids then our hands will be full. Snarky! After dinner we christened the new pool. Justin had all the kids jumping and hooting to his demands. Justin insisted on being the first in the pool. He made a huge back splash that spilled onto the sidewalk outside the fence! Phillip's face was priceless. Even more priceless were the expressions on Josie's face when I popped into the water. Pure terror and fear graced that child's face. She started shaking uncontrollably soon after, from cold or fright or both. Amelia later saw the photos and almost wet her pants from laughing...me too! Mia squeezed into her mermaid tail ensemble for the first time. She used the monofin last year but not the mermaid skin since her scar was newly opened from surgery. We played until well-past nightfall.

Amelia wore her rainbow beanie boo slippers to church on accident. She did not notice the faux pas until we exited the van. She was soooooooo embarrassed. That girl slunk into church trying to make her maxi dress cover her slippers. After the sacrament we hurried home for her to change. The Chandler Calls came over for dinner to celebrate Amelia, Everett, and Gary's birthdays! We ate tacos, fresh pico de gallo, guacamole, and a bit of shrimp. Yum. Laura made delicious cheesecake bites for the birthday kids. We neglected to clean up the clutter before they arrived. Yikes, looked like normal everyday mess. Guess our secret is out, we are sort of cluttered. Time for me to sort through stuff and make a Goodwill donation.

Evelyn stuck her 28th sticker onto her "Sleep in your own bed" chart Monday morning. It was a day for celebration. She waited all weekend to finish her chart and earn the Barbie makeup set she chose. Every now and again I'll find her parked in front of the mirror making her face look "spooky" as she calls it! The amount of pink and purple on her eyes and cheeks is a touch spooky. She is continuing the trend and doing well sleeping in her bed and staying there until Amelia wakes up.

04 May 2018

11 Years Old, Maybe Even Wiser

Sunday night the older kids were pretending to hold job interviews. Mia was using an old keyboard then interviewing the boys and Evelyn. Oh my heavens! The entire scenario was hilarious. The looks Phillip dropped during his interview were priceless. The kids finally revealed their rock candy we started the week before. Some of the candies were huge! We loved trying all the different flavors and colors.

Mia, Phillip, and Everett started diving lessons on Monday the 23rd of March. Josie was quite intent on ripping off her clothes and jumping right into the water. It was very intense keeping her corralled to the grass. Since the first lesson I have not been back to the pool area again, just dropped the kids off at the gate. The number of belly flops I saw that first lesson would impress most folks. Phillip's first step, step, step, jump, hop ended up with him chickening off. He jumped off the board sideways and landed on the concrete. I thought the teenager teaching was going to pass out! No more jumping back to the concrete from the board! The next lesson I sent the kids in with ear plugs since they all retained water in their ears. I got to take newborn photos of my third cousin's new baby, Kallie. I set up in my garage where it was nice and warm. We ended up taking the baby outside to a gorgeous Palo Verde tree across the street. The ground was covered with a blanket of the wonderful yellow flowers. The photos were completely magical!

Everett suffers from mysterious ailments all the time. His symptoms normally present around the time we are going to clean up, eat dinner, or start scripture reading. Last night he approached me complaining his belly ached. When he pulled up his shirt he revealed a very red stomach. The diagnosis? Too many belly flops. He scratched one of his toes over the weekend, nearly crippled the poor dude. It is hard to determine what really hurts and should be treated as serious. A couple weeks ago he stepped on a glass shard and cut the bottom of his foot. After just a visual inspection, while he was thrashing around on the floor, I noticed the shard was probably still in his foot. Imagine a strong, wirey, 6 year old thrashing about crying like I was about to amputate his foot. He did not even notice when I extracted the glass and finished. His antics continued for minutes afterwards. The same behavior exhibits when we trim his toe nails. Frustratingly hilarious.

Tuesday the girls and I spent the morning chasing down coffee shops and stores that carried French Macarons. At one store we found pistachio macarons AND the cutest unicorn cake pops ever. We picked up more flavors at a fine food grocery store. I want to go back to the Fine Foods store, it carried so many interesting ingredients! Amelia was keen on trying the french delicacy for her birthday. Mia met a new piano teacher after school. It was so, so hot outside in the van while we waited for her lesson. The boys were at cub scouts for a Nerf gun war. Temperatures were hovering near 100 that week.

The birthday girl woke up Wednesday an 11 year old. We are so proud she made it to her ripe old age! Wednesday was a really, really busy day. Mia dined on macarons for breakfast. She declared the treat amazingly delicious. Evelyn was so excited to hand over the unicorn pop, we made her close her eyes while getting it out. We sent her off to school with a loud rendition of Happy Birthday. I was able to teach two Art Masterpiece classes that day. The program is run and taught by parent volunteers. Josie spent a few hours with AJ Packard, her nursery leader while I was at school. Evelyn came with me since she had preschool for half the time. She was quite excited to pack a lunch and eat it at school. I taught Phillip's class first about Faith Ringgold and her "Quilting Bee." We learned about Faith, the kids loved that even though she was told her art was terrible while in college she continued and became quite famous. The kids created their own stories on paper then used fabric glued around the edges to reflect Faith's art style. I had to laugh that Phillip's story depicted our Nebraska house in a tornado storm. Evelyn mostly whined every few moments wanting to go to see Mrs Melichar. Mia and I left school right after Phillip's class and had a hurried lunch at McDonalds. Fancy, I know...but close. I taught Mia's class about MC Escher's piece Convex and Concave. Mostly we discussed his life, the process of lithographing, and his use of tessellations. The student's project was to create their own tessellation with a 2x2 card and repeat the pattern on paper. I was very surprised at how difficult this task was for the students. Only 3 students were able to follow directions and complete the exercise. Both classes were very well behaved and seemed to enjoy the change of pace! Amelia passed out ice cream treats to share with her class once our time was up. Evelyn found a balloon at Safeway we bought for Amelia to have in school. I took the girls home early after a fun visit to the book fair. Phillip took his wallet to school the day before and spent all his saved money on two books, a toy pointer, a toy calculator, and other strange items. Let me tell you, holding back my temper was a real test of patience. It IS his money, but seriously? He dropped $50 without permission. I dropped another wad of cash on new books for summer. After school Chloe came over for her piano lesson a day early. Amelia was glad to have her over. After piano we had diving lessons. Josie and I roasted in the van during the 30 minute lesson. We met Justin at Jimmy John's for birthday dinner. Mia ended her special day opening most of her gifts saving two for her "party."

All the public schools closed in Arizona from Thursday April 26- Thursday May 3 while the teachers walked out. The teachers are demonstrating to gain more educational money in the budget. From what I hear Gov Ducey signed the bill that originally started the strike, not changing a thing. It is sad to think that the students and teachers message was not heard by this money sucking governor. I think his governal race this November might just come to an end. His true colors shone through. Still, our schools and teachers will remain underpaid and undercut. I really feel sorry for all the parents and kids who were scrabbling last moment to find arrangements while parents were obligated to work. The kids enjoyed 7 unexpected days off, a pre-summer vacation! We had some fun times to mitigate the boredom.

Friday Chloe came over at 8 am, her parents were off to work all day and she wanted to attend Mia's late-night party. The girls planned and organized the entire party! I had very little to do with the party except making a cake and dinner. We did head to Dollar Tree for some favor gifts right before the party. Abby was able to come last moment, she was excited to surprise Amelia! At 5:30 cousin Anna and friends Abby, Chloe, and Averie started the party. We had rainbow spaghetti with sauce for dinner. The girls then skated around the front yard area for a bit blasting dance music. Evelyn and Josie were thrilled with all the excitement. They took a break inside to paint rocks with nail polish. The glow sticks, balls, and accessories came out next. The girls roped Phillip and Everett into a roaming game of hide and seek. That stopped when Phillip came nose to bumper with our neighbors car in the middle of the oval street. He was not watching and darted in front of the truck. That kid is lucky to be alive. He came in white as a sheet, refusing to talk about it. Everett spilled the beans once the game officially ended. The girls ate jello cake with fresh strawberry whipped cream. I snuck a slice of cake, sigh...it was delicious. Mia opened up the few gifts before Anna and Abby left. The girls watched Ladyug on Netflix until Averie and Chloe left. Pretty fun party if you ask me! Easy and fun.

Saturday Justin and I continued to prep the pool area and start setting it up. The pool looked level once we finished setting up sometime after dark. We moved lots of sand and rock again since the pool was 4 feet longer than the area we prepped before the purchase. I totally earned all my blisters. As the pool started to fill up the north side sunk down about 4-5 inches and even more on the north-west corner. The sides also bowed in so much it looked like the corner piece was about to come out of the sleeve. We stopped filling the pool once it was about 3/4 full. Took 4 days to drain the water via siphon. A neighbor came by to tell us how to set up the pool and use 2x6's to prop up the frame as it fills to keep it level. The instructions did not say anything about that! We had all the Hornbarger kids over from 10-4 pm while Ian and Evelyn went to the funeral home to prepare Brother Hornbarger's body, he passed away early Saturday morning. We were so glad to help! The boys and Mia were at a birthday party until 11. Hopefully, playing with friends helped distract the kids a bit. Kaylee and Phillip were joined at the hip, maybe we should arrange their marriage. Make love easy! Amelia, Julie, and Tess had the best time, there is something special about bonding with friends from a past chapter of our life. I had a senior photo session with Sister Taylor's daughter, Savannah. We headed to Nichol's park. It was so very crowded with prom goers taking photos before the dance, two cake smashes, and three family sessions. The park is not that large so space was quite limited. Most of the water had dried up except for a bit around the edges, Savannah was more than happy to walk out in the muddy water! She is a gorgeous girl! We all went to bed super, duper tired.