15 October 2019

Fall Break-Sedona Style

Six glorious days of no school! What better way to spend the Arizona fall than a school break? We got to explore Sedona, check out a new park, enjoy the zoo, and spend downtime with friends. Mia especially needed a mental break, she rested that huge noggin of hers and is ready for more now.

There is a new large park in South Gilbert we went to check out along with half of the other kids and mothers on vacation. It is a huge park with several areas for different ages of kids including an awesome splash pad. The weather was quite splendid, bordering on hot but cool enough to enjoy the park. The kids were off playing the moment the van doors opened. I actually had to drop them off and troll for a parking spot because every spot was taken, out of all 3 lots. Mia took charge of the little girls and helped them until I got a spot and joined the party. Evelyn showed off her monkey climbing skills, she is quite talented! After we got a bit sweaty the cold water cooled us off in seconds, the water was actually cold. Phillip, Everett, and Josie all got thoroughly wet, Josie reminds me of a little bird in the water ruffling feathers for a bit before flitting to the next spot. Evelyn does not like to get cold so she dipped her toes in a bit but mostly stayed out of the water. We lasted a couple of hours with lots of water and several snack breaks. During naptime I took the van to the tire shop hoping they would fix a slow leak in the rear passenger tire. The front tires are in need of replacement already. Seems like those tires don't last very long with all the driving we muster in. The 30 minute wait time turned into 2 hours. I walked over to Goodwill hoping to find some cheap shorts or swimwear the kids could ruin at Slide Rock. Check! I packed overnight bags for all the kids except Amelia and myself of course. The kids slept in their tent forts Saturday and Sunday nights. I dismantled the blanket forts on Monday. The kids were fighting over who was in charge of the tents. That was the last straw for this grumpy mom. Everett, Phillip, and Evelyn were overly distraught when I took down the fort. Lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth.  

We left early-ish in the next morning for our fun little surprise. Phillip guessed our destination the night before so the kids had a few hours to get all excited. Sedona is only 2h45m away from Gilbert, so not close but not far away either. Our first destination was Slide Rock. I googled all I could to gather information about the lay of the land, not much was available. We got a nice parking spot and first enjoyed a picnic lunch. Everett was determined to find the most difficult hike around, he grabbed his sandwich and hike straight up the mountain until his little heart felt it was difficult. The boys soon had an enviable pile of sticks and stones gathered up. We changed into our swim gear and water shoes for the fun part. I borrowed a fancy collapsible wagon from a family in our ward to tote our water stuff and chairs. Amelia took charge of the cooler and I had the wagon. We both stared in dismay at the collection of ragged stairs and rocky terrain DOWN to the actual Slide Rock. Phillip and I managed the wagon with teamwork, Amelia somehow wrestled the cooler down the rocks. Next time I'm only bringing what we need in backpacks! Finally the way smoothed out a bit, Everett chose a sheltered area to store our cooler and the wagon. Oh my gracious, that mountain water was freezing cold, I'm guessing the temperature was hovering near 45-50 degrees. The little girls just got their feet wet before calling it quits. The rest of us braved the cold to slide down the rock. It's an 80 foot natural slide made of sandstone, a very slippery algae makes the slide extra slick. Even with my Keen shoes on I was slipping and sliding about. I went down the slide twice, got my hips stuck the second time for a couple seconds. After the main slides the water depth is over 14 feet deep in a 4 foot wide crevice. Some brave souls were jumping off the rocks into the creviced area. Amelia went down a few times. The last time she went down she banged up her head and knee, went into a sort of shock from the water and bumps. She came to me crying and shivering. A bit of food and sugar helped perk her back up. She thought she had a close encounter with her life, poor kid. Phillip got stuck in the same part I did, a very narrow 2 foot gap after a steep slide, he made it out unscathed. Everett was the most silly. He was not convinced that getting wet and cold was worth the experience down the slide. He finally braved up after several minutes of coaxing to just slide down the shallow parts. His expressions will live with me forever! He went down several more times because he loved it so much. Out of the 4 who went down the slide, Amelia went down the most times. We took our freezing selves back to out wagon and plopped down in the hot sun to warm up. The boys soon discovered large rocks and water make huge splashes! Evelyn and Josie amused themselves with buckets, shovels, and watering cans. The river smooths out and is quite nice for wading after the slide potion of the park. Amelia felt much better after changing and taking a break, she needed lots of hugs. The boys took their chairs across the stream to a sunnier area, they looked quite comfy over on the other side. We stayed until 4:30ish, stayed until the sun set in the ravine. A very nice Indian young man grabbed the cooled and hauled it up the rocks and stairs for Amelia! She was much relieved, that boy deserves a hearty "Thank You". Phillip, Mia, and I managed the wagon back up quicker with the extra help. I tortured my kids into a photo session to end our day at Slide Rock. I made them get all dressed up and spiffy for the occasion. May as well take charge of the chance to have the red rocks of Sedona as our Christmas Cards this year. All went well until Josie took a tumble in a goathead patch, her socks and shoes were covered with stickers. Phillip patiently helped her pick out the stickers and remove her shoes while I finished up photos with Evelyn and Amelia. I needed another dip in the creek afterwards. We found our hotel 40 minutes down the way, mostly because the roads are winding and steep. We got changed and settled into our room before the sun completely set. Across the road was a decent looking Pizza and Pasta restaurant, we walked to dinner carefully crossing a busy road. A guy behind us told me what a brave woman I was for having so many children in a restaurant alone.  I wanted to impertinently reply, "well, why don't you cover our meal if you feel so sorry for us?" We managed the meal without a scene thank you very much! Everett was covered with pizza cheese before he even finished his first slice. I thought the meal was quite delicious. We walked back then decided it would be awesome to go stargazing, so we piled back into the van and headed away from the small city lights. Amelia and I got some awesome views of the Milky Way. She used this fun star app on my phone to find stars and planets. I used up two camera batteries taking photos of the stars. Phillip joined us for a few moments, long enough to find Polaris and the Big Dipper. We were back in the hotel room and asleep before 9 pm. Not quite true, I kept jolting awake each time Josie moved, afraid she was going to roll off onto Phillip's head. Phillip and Evelyn slept on the floor on our comfy sleeping pads. 

Phillip woke us all up at 6:30 am making shooting sounds, pew-pew-pew, for some odd reason only known to him. We decided to hike Bell Rock before check out at 11 am. Amelia talked to the attendant overseeing breakfast for his opinions about the best hike for a family with small kids. I sure appreciated her efforts, he also recommended Bell Rock. Josie and Evelyn were on the grumpy side that particular morning. We managed to drag the wagon up to the trail head where another set of stairs blocked the way. Phillip and I managed to get up the stairs where the trail leveled off. I sent the older kids to explore the trail for wagon accessibility. That was a negative. Everett was still anxious to find a difficult hike, the trail leading up to the base of Bell Rock fit his agenda. The older kids set off to climb as high as the trail allowed safely! Phillip left his sneakers at home so made the hike in flip flops! We caught several glimpses of the kids as they made their way up to the top. Amelia took my phone to document their part of the hike. The little girls and I enjoyed jumping on rocks, making rock towers, discovering a rainbow impression, and crystals embedded in the sandstone! The views surrounding us blew my mind. We barely made it back to the hotel in time to check out. The hotel manager said we could swim even though we technically checked out. The kids swam in the freezing water, a balmy 80 compared to the creek water. We lunched on leftover pizza, calzones, and pasta. Josie declared she was tired and wanted her carseat, so she climbed in and promptly fell asleep. I did not realize she was unbuckled until her nap ended, that was a bad mom moment. Evelyn and Amelia were lollygagging in the pool enclosure. Evelyn yelling at me that the gate was stuck. Turns out the gate really was stuck could not get it open from the inside or outside. The manager came to help us out, she was dismayed that the lock was completely stuck even with her master key. We finally got the girls out with ladders and a measure of bravery. Scored two free nights in the same hotel next time we visit for our troubles!!!!! Yee Haw! We toured Sedona vehicle style while Josie napped. I noticed a beautiful art themed shopping center, Tlaquepaque, the previous day. Oh my gracious, so gorgeous. It was a little slice of Portugal right there in Sedona with Ivy-covered buildings, lush flowers, fountains, tiny churches, and a lovely ambiance. We headed back home around 4 pm taking our time along the way. We arrived home shortly after Justin got home from work. 

We took the rest of our vacation easy. Took me a while to catch up on laundry and housework. Everett is obsessed with soccer, He asks me to play 4-6 times each day. I try to get dinner on the stove and play while the meal is cooking. We played lots of soccer this break. A few weeks ago I took down the baby swing and hung a proper swing. The kids are loving the new swing. Josie will go outside alone just to swing on her belly. Yes! Everett opened a chip and soda store under the front table in the hall. Friday afternoon the older kids wanted to swim in our neighbor's pool. The littles and I went on a bike ride to the park just for a change of scenery. Evelyn's friend Alta was also at the park so that was a fun bonus. It is so nice to be outside again. 

Amelia caught a tummy bug Friday night. She stayed in bed until after 10:30 Saturday morning. The rest of us went to the Phoenix Zoo with Justin. Josie was delighted to match her favorite Zebra animal and Evelyn matched her favorite animal the Giraffe. We started this zoo trip going to opposite direction we usually start. We got to see a lot of animals for the first time, we're usually so tuckered out we only see half of the Zoo. Josie loved the flamingos. She hated the goats; the goats were too stinky, pee-yeou. The boys were all over the place! I wish some of their energy went to their parents. You know when it's time to go...when the whining exceeds the fun. We picked up slurpees on the way home to revive our flagging energy. Yum. 

I was asked to teach RS this week on Elder Villar's talk, Exercising Our Spiritual Muscles. It's amazing what you learn when you listened and actually study the conference talks. I listened to that talk about 20 times over the past week. Amazing. Everett had a goal to not watch TV Sunday morning. So he busied himself making a cardboard suit of armor, the Armor of God. After a good 40 minutes he came to me frustrated by his efforts. His original shield was about 5 inches, the helmet 7 inches. I helped him measure, plan, and create some armor that was more life-sized. He was delighted with his creation. Towards the end of the RS lesson I had Everett come in so we could talk about the Armor of God and how it protects those spiritual muscles we work so hard to develop. We had Call family dinner at the Chandler Calls. Spenser and Laura made Ramen, I brought toppings and Wendy a dessert. The boys had a full scale war going on outside! We sure love our cousins. 

07 October 2019

General Conference

The feeling of urgency to do the work of the Lord is ramping up faster and faster as the days go by. Last Sunday we attended a special broadcast that presented the new child and youth program starting in January 2020. Thursday the newsroom announced that women can witness for baptisms and other priesthood ordinances! Come Follow Me is now aligned for the youth in their church meetings. Young Men presidencies were dissolved, giving the Bishop more direct stewardship over the priesthood. A ward youth council will replace BYC. The word mutual was retired in favor of youth activities. The YW have a new theme, the three classes and names were retired, classes will be organized by need and circumstance, and class presidencies are still vital and will be continued. In addition to the temples announced between April and Oct conferences the prophet announced 8 more temples! The total number of temples in Utah will be 23! The temple interview questions were adjusted, mostly verbiage changes. At the end of conference President Nelson announced that General Conference in April will be unlike any we've ever experienced. April 2020 will be a bicentennial celebration of the vision of Joseph Smith. President Nelson promised: "Select your own questions. Design your own plan. Immerse yourself in the glorious light of the Restoration. As you do, general conference next April will not only be memorable, it will be unforgettable." One General Authority said something along the lines of the time will rush faster onward and we need to get our homes in order for that time. Elder Oaks gave a landmark talk on LGBTQ, laying down it firmly that we are to love all people, yet follow the commandments God has given us. Here is the new theme:

I am a beloved daughter of Heavenly Parents, with a divine nature and eternal destiny.
As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I strive to become like Him. I seek and act upon personal revelation and minister to others in His holy name.
I will stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things and in all places.
As I strive to qualify for exaltation, I cherish the gift of repentance and seek to improve each day. With faith, I will strengthen my home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, and receive the ordinances and blessings of the holy temple.

This week our Personal Finance class focused on making daily goals (it's hard when you don't make daily goals). On Sunday the children and youth made several goals as part of the new program, written in cute little folios provided at the church. For FHE on Monday we had a lesson on goal making. I used to make goals often and fulfill them. Seems like in the past chaotic years, I forgot myself and the power of goal making. Yes, I still made the yearly goals and mental goals, but it seemed impossible to reach those goals. Writing simple daily goals again was a powerful reminder that I can get things done in spite of fatigue and terrible headaches. Everett was so cute this week. Tuesday morning he had an entire list of goals to reach before 7:30 am. He reported to me when each goal was reached! Everett loves goals and initiatives. The kids did well in their Primary Program. Ezra Smith had the congregation laughing each song, he was certainly exuberant in his yelling, errr, singing. This year the kids got to write their own parts. Here are the kid's speaking parts:

Phillip: In my family we turn our kitchen table into a "temple table," where we learn spiritual things about the gospel. Sometimes we fight and yell, other times we feel the spirit. My favorite part of Come Follow Me are the activities that help me learn about Christ. Once my mom gave me a piggy back ride to teach us about the Grace of God. My favorite parable is when Jesus casts out the devils into the pigs, the pigs fall into the sea. 

Everett: My Grandma died around the time our family studied about the death and crucifixion of Jesus. I was glad to learn I can see my Grandma again because Jesus overcame death. I know Jesus is my Savior. My heart was touched when we watched a video showing Jesus visiting the Spirit World. I can imagine my Grandma there free of her aches and pains. 

Evelyn: I'll have faith like brother Joseph and the strength of the pioneers. I'll be brave as a stripling warrior and like Nephi preserve. I will spread God's love to all I know and serve. I will plead with my father on my knees, I will be what I believe! 

Wednesday evening Amelia and Chloe had their choir performance. Wednesday was crazy driving kids home from school, boys to and from scouts at different times, taking the girls early to the auditorium, dinner, then going back to the auditorium. I had quite the challenge hemming the girl's dresses, Chloe's had to be hemmed up 23 inches without any excess fabric cut off, it was quite the wavy hem. We happened to sit next to Mr Gibson's mother for the duration of the performance. Everett casually chatted to her until the concert started. Later Mrs Gibson whipped out paper, stickers, books, and such to keep the kids amused and quiet! That right there is a prepared Grandma! All the choir groups sounded amazing, the younger boys were at the bottom of the scale, but still impressive. I loved the Belle Chanteuses rendition of the Mermaid's Lament in 3-part harmony. Chloe's mom, Amanda asked if we wanted to go to McDonald's to celebrate. She treated us all to 3 large family meals. I was a little embarrassed my kids all ate a second full dinner at 9 pm, maybe they are really hobbits. Josie topped off the late night with a poopicent, she can't hold it in when playing in enclosed areas.

Mia had an all day choir event on Thursday, she was thrilled to wear leggings and her choir shirt. When I picked up Josie from the kid's area at the gym she had quite the story to tell: "Mom! I a King! My boy was a prince in the castle. Me: who was the Queen? Josie: Silence...oh Me! I the King and Queen!" She has quite the "joie de vivre" for someone her age. She loves to play board games with me, read books (her favorite this week is Monkey Drumming on Drums), and swinging for hours outside on the back porch. She spent a good hour outside Thursday morning playing with a shovel, pail, and little dump truck. I am still finding piles of rocks around the house. She sang Justin a very cute song with her own words and melody. Amelia played a cute game of hide-n-seek with Josie at the park. Those two totally egged each other on, Amelia completely oblivious to Josie's hiding spots.

Evelyn is progressing with reading skills lately. She can spell about 25 words on her own and read about 100 different words. She can read most of Go, Dog Go! on her own now. Her class earned a PJ day on Friday. They got to watch Journey to the Center of the Earth as part of their reward for emptying the bean jar and to finish the Earth unit. Evelyn pretended to be the core of the Earth at Freestone park, in a sphere play attraction. Soon we could hear sounds of the floor is lava being played. Evelyn might be a make-up artist in the making. She always has her stuff out, pink plastered on her face, and garish nails. She is used to removing her makeup before we leave the house (when I remember to remind her). She had pedicure stuff out this week, convinced Josie she needed pretty nails.

Ronald is coming over every day now like Chloe. I finally asked Amanda if she could just cancel the Boys and Girls club spot and just pay me, at least we could get some snack money to refill our coffers. Those kids eat a hefty amount of snacks and Ramen. We have an average of 7-10 kids in our house every day. The clutter by 8 pm is atrocious. We/I clean just to have the same stuff out by 4 pm the next day. Sister Johnson (RS President) came over this week. She said her biggest regret was spending too much time enforcing and cleaning her house when her kids were at home. Well, I don't have that problem. My house is not dirty, just kid cluttered, filled with shouts of joy one moment, whining the next, then crying, back to happy. I feel like we have two foster kids now! Chloe and Ronald are here from 3-8 most nights.

Friday at noon the kids started Fall break! Yipee! We have 6 days off of school plus two weekends! Doughnuts sounded like a perfect treat to kick off fall break. Justin and I made an escape for a date night on Friday. We drove out to Tempe for BonChon Korean chicken wings. You know it's authentic when most of the patrons are Korean. I adore chicken wings, always on the search for the Holy Grail of wings. I think we finally found the real deal. Holy heck! So divine, crunchy, spicy, juicy, and nothing but the chicken, completely unadulterated with dipping sauces. Justin went to a couple craft store with me to find embroidery kits for the kids to work on during conference. Found a few kits moments before JoAnn's closed, on clearance too.

Things usually work out differently in my mind than in reality. I imagined the kids quietly working on their embroidery while enjoying conference. Instead, chaos...each kid needing help to thread needles, separate threads, learn the stitches, and wait turns. I missed most of the Saturday Morning session. By the second session, the kids were consumed with their projects and quite enjoyed the challenge. All three older kids finished their projects by Sunday afternoon! Amelia and Evelyn made a blanket fort during the second Saturday session. The boys needed one as well, so I helped them make an awesome fort. The kids slept in their forts Saturday and Sunday! I made modifications to the girls tent that made it better than the boy's, that caused some murmuring. Everett created a mail system so they could pass notes without invading the other gender's tent. Signs floated about saying, "No, Girls Allowed; No Boys Allowed; Taking Private Time, Go Away; etc." My favorite were the tickets, the boys will allow the girls 4 minutes in their tent per week, the girls allow the boys 5 minutes per day. Little lopsided. Amelia made peanut butter cookies between sessions. She let Evelyn and Josie help shape and press the dough. Evelyn enjoyed a fun spa night with Miranda and Hayden. The girls missed her birthday party due to tummy flu, they hosted this fun night just for Evelyn. Looks like she had a really fun night. Amelia and I enjoyed Women's Conference, so many amazing talks. Amelia drew up a couple tacos just to tell me for the upteenth time that day she was craving Del Taco. We went after conference, guess who else was there? Justin, the boys and Josie! They were on their way out as we pulled up, we all went back in for some more playing. We all went to get ice cream at Handel's for another special treat. Yum.

06 October 2019

Evelyn's Pink Dress

The weather cooled down enough to finally put on this gorgeous dress I got for Evelyn's birthday. She helped me choose the dress! Evelyn is such a funny girl to photograph. She loves to pose and has some fun ideas. Every other frame is filled with silly faces and crossed eyes! She even rolled her eyes at me a few times. That was special. I just adore Evelyn's lopsided smile. Such a beauty, sassy and beautiful.