10 February 2020

Finding a House, Josie Turns Four

Another two weeks went by, last week was exhausting for me so didn't write down our happenings. It's hard being a single parent! Props to all you single mothers, who even work on top of all the other things at home. Wednesday our neighbor Olivia arranged for a pizza dinner for us. Unbeknownst to her my dinner calendar had pizza already for that particular day! Those small miracles make life sweet. Josie and Evelyn dumped out their under-the-bed boxes to make kitty beds. It was a pretty cute arrangement. Josie even took a couple naps snuggled inside her kitty box. Amelia got a squishmellow octopus, named Octavius. This particular octopus is the object of many silly preteen antics and jokes. The other day Amelia and Chloe dressed up Octavius as a VSCOpus with scrunchies on each tentacle. Those two girls are hilarious.

I was able to get a fun tutoring session with Sarah Burton. She is a "Light and Airy" photographer, much different than my contrasting, colorful style. Coordinating our schedules was quite the feat. Josie was our main model in her Elsa dress she got for her birthday. Evelyn came along for the ride. It was rather cool that day, a nippy 50 degrees for this area. I sure learned a lot from Sarah. I had no idea the look is achieved using a wide open aperture (f1.8) and super fast shutter speed. We had a lovely time practicing the best places to put a subject and how to get the look just right in camera. Josie was so patient using her best smiles and listening. 

Justin arranged for me to fly up to Boise for the weekend of January 31st-Feb 2 to look at available homes in the area. The most stressful part for me was finding childcare for the kids. By Wednesday evening I finally had all the bases covered, the boys would stay with Jo Ferolino (she has a playstation and chess board) and the girls would stay the night with Amanda. Mia and Chloe watched all the kids from after school until picked up (boys at 5 and girls until 7:30). The boys had a good time learning chess from Sister Ferolino, Grandma Debbie has a set for us waiting in Utah! Evelyn spent the day with her friend Taylor on Saturday, she enjoyed a fun day as their family was celebrating birthdays. I hear she got to eat out and play at Main Event, an arcade center. Mia and Josie spent Saturday at home alone. Josie slept terribly, even waking up at 2 am with her toes in Mia's nostrils and singing Elsa songs. She refused a nap but 5 minutes later was asleep on the couch. The girls slept at Amanda's the second night as well. Evelyn was extra tired so kept picking fights with Josie. Amelia got a taste of being a mom, on-call for 24/7. She earned the money I paid her for going the extra mile. Debbie picked up my girls for church, even helped them finish getting dressed and hair fixed. I flew back in early Sunday morning, was able to meet my kids at church to take them home.

Amelia and I came down with a very nasty head cold on Thursday. Mia stayed home from school on Thursday and Friday she felt so awful. By Thursday night I was feeling like death warmed over as well. She and I took copious amounts of zinc, vitamin C, and Elderberry juice to shorten the colds. I think Mia quite enjoyed a quiet day at home with Josie on Saturday to recuperate. There is nothing worse than traveling with a head cold. My ears still hurt from the pressure changes. Friday morning Josie went to play with friends until school was over to give Mia a chance to rest. I left around 10 to make it to the airport in time. I was stuck in between two rather portly gentlemen, being rather portly myself our particular row was rather squished. I annoyed both guys with my crocheting hands! Evelyn is happy I finally finished making her a hat. Jon Stoich met me at the airport around 3 pm. He is our realtor, randomly chosen from zillow, randomly picked the best guy for us! We spent the afternoon viewing homes that Justin already toured. I took notes of each home to remind myself of what I liked and disliked. Reading over the notes later that evening rather made me laugh. The second home we saw was the one we offered on in the end.  One house had access to a decorative shelf over the kitchen, the shelf was accessible from the stairs, can you just imagine the kids climbing up onto the shelf? I nick-named that home the kid-shelf home. Another home had appealing windows accessible to the roof, nixed that home right off. We only saw 8 homes in total that were available in our budget and size. Jon and I saw 5 of the 8 homes on Friday. He dropped me off at the Air BNB since Justin was still working. I was feeling quite terrible so took more sudafed, zinc, elderberry, water, Tylenol, etc and took a nap. Justin was all shades of excited! I was just a zombie. Stink. We made the best of my poor condition. I was hungry so we ate at a fancy seafood restaurant. I couldn't taste much but it seemed pretty delicious. The kids were excited to video chat with Justin AND I at the same time. Josie thought that was quite hilarious. I was struck with the dreary weather in Idaho. The winter sun down here is ever so nice keeping depression at bay. I loved all the barns, open fields, farms, etc at every turn. I can't wait to see Boise in spring colors.

Saturday we arranged to meet up with Jon after 1 pm. I took 3-4 doses of Nyquil throughout the night and morning to force some sleep on myself. I hate that sleeping is so elusive when one feels so crappy. We had two favorites one move-in ready but more expensive and another less expensive but needing more work. Neither of our choices were in the better school districts, instead located in the worst one. That was a huge factor for me. We talked about all the pros and cons over lunch at Costa Vida. We saw two new homes on Saturday and one flipped home, it was extra large with 6 bedrooms but with a tiny kitchen visible from the front door. I was quite adamant that the kitchen is not visible from the front door, my cleaning skills are greatly challenged lately. I was feeling better than Friday so that was a blessing. After viewing the houses we went to Walmart and checked out the area. My cousin Esther lives a mere 5 minutes away from our top choice home. We got the inspection report for our Gilbert home on Friday, mostly just piddly stuff except for one item. The Broughton's tree is pushing over a section of our back wall. That could be a costly fix but one dependent on the neighbors. Of course the inspector noticed the attic air conditioner drain is not up to code. I arranged for Andrew to write a report stating why the system is set up the way it is. I did get the toilets fixed since the one in our master runs constantly to my annoyance. Over dinner we decided to offer on the Rock Springs home for $320, $10k under the price. The offer went live before 7 pm! Yes! I did not sleep well that night, I didn't want to take Nyquil and not wake up. I can count on my hand the number of night spent staring at the ceiling, make that night the 5th. It was a long, boring night. I felt sad leaving Justin to his Air BNB situation, living out of suitcases and the back of his Hamster Wagon. He's worked extra late since moving there, I'm glad he is asserting himself into his new job. I'm sure the Air BNB is boring and lonely on the weekends.

The flight back was much better, easy getting through security, half empty flight, easy getting back to my van. The kids were quite excited to find me at church! I went home and took a long nap. Josie really wanted to go swimming. She asks once or twice each week to go swim. I finally told her, sure! She donned her suit and dipped in a toe, shivers! Too cold. Josie stood on the ladder for 30 minutes throwing things in for me to get with the skimmer net. Instead she enjoyed a warm dip in the bathtub. Silly goose.

Monday we were all back to the routine of school and play. I am relieved the weekend went without major mishaps. Monday for FHE we had a lesson on Joseph Smith, coordinated with 2 Nephi 3. For our activity we did stick pulling! The boys are hooked! My favorite part of the photos is the one with Evelyn tackling Josie, an ever present occurrence. Josie may turn out to be a first-rate wrestler after dealing with her overbearing sister. We played so hard the stick we used broke in two! Josie turned her clothes basket into a kitty crate while I folded the laundry. I had a dr appointment until 4:30 on Tuesday. I came home and asked where Josie was at, the boys told me she was at her boy's home playing. Mia said she was in her room. I solved the mystery when I saw two feet sticking out of her pink laundry basket! She is starting to drop her afternoon naps now, I am half-glad (maybe she will actually sleep earlier) and half-sad because that little cat nap I get myself is golden.

The boys helped me strip the fruit off the lemon tree. Brigdon told me in no uncertain terms that our lime tree is a lemon tree. The fruit is too large and yellow to be limes! We've all had this opinion for the duration of our time here, but Justin insisted it is a lime tree. Maybe we had a limon tree! Ha ha. We filled an entire wading pool with lemons! Phillip earned more money off his garage door mishap. Took all of us to drag the pool to the curb. The kids sat outside selling the lemons for free! Ha ha ha. I went outside a while later to find the kids abusing the fruit in a multitude of ways: running over it with bikes, playing baseball, skewering the fruit with arrows, stomping, etc. They were upset I made them clean up all the lemon innards decorating the driveway and street. By the end of the week only 30 lemons were left in the pool. These got thrown away after sitting so long in the sun. I left a couple on the tree to last me through the move. There is nothing like a freshly picked lemon.

Sonoma Ranch had a fundraiser at Fat Cats Wednesday evening. I was not planning on the event but the boys and Ronald came home overly excited to go play. The boys had their first activity boys meeting, they seemed to have quite a good time. We went to Fat Cats right after the activity. Amelia and Chloe caught a ride to Youth Activities so stayed home. Each kid got $15 to play arcade games, a free game of golf (thanks to POGO Pass), and some pizza. Josie and I spent a good 45 minutes playing golf. Josie was quite content to bat the ball about in her own order and tune. The other kids played one game then left to play games. My skill level is now ultimate cool, I won Josie a super-sized unicorn from a claw machine game! Only cost me most of her arcade game balance! Evelyn and Phillip spent most of their money trying to get an animal, they ended up with less than 30 tickets. I combined the little kids tickets so they each could get something they wanted. Everett won over 2,600 tickets by winning two jackpots! He splurged all his tickets on candy, magic cubes, and stuff. Evelyn now wants to go back so I can win her the same unicorn, that could be quite impossible, I'm cool but not that cool.

Thursday, February 6th, Josie woke up as the newest 4 year old in our acquaintance! She was quite spoiled for the day! She took her giant unicorn out for breakfast doughnuts, fed her the sprinkles. She got two balloons to drag about, one crown and one butterfly. After school she opened one gift of a tiara, shoes, and a wand! Evelyn got a similar set as a reward for behaving over the weekend I was gone. She and Evelyn got dressed up for the rest of the day. I quite enjoyed the clomping noise the shoes made. It reminded me of the year Evelyn spent wearing princess shoes instead of real shoes. We had dinner at McDonalds, Josie and I had Jimmy John's instead of McD's. Josie's boys came over for cake and presents around 7. Josie helped decorate her PAW Patrol cake. Good thing I made the cake, it was used to blow out candles. Josie licked the frosting. Tears! The rest of the cake ended up in the garbage. Josie was pleased to get Elsa shoes, Frozen baby dolls, a necklace set, and a fishing game. Justin joined the chaos via video chat. All day Josie was so happy to tell everyone she is four. I love watching her figure out how many fingers to display. She was able to also talk with the Calls and Grandma Debbie.

I taught the Art in Action lesson for Phillip's class this year. We studied Salvador Dali's Swans Reflecting Elephants. Dali believed that his famous mustaches received inspiration from aliens in outer space. I thought it would be funny to wear a silly mustache, so I walked in wearing a pipe cleaner mustache! The kids loved hearing about some of Dali's crazy antics. The art project was to make a reflection of their name and decorate it with dream-like objects. Josie sat with Phillip quiet as a mouse, content to play with his erasers and his desk-mate, Spencer.

Evelyn whines for play dates all the time. She had a bad experience with Isla last time she came over, so now refuses to play with her. I arranged for Isla to come over and play regardless of Evelyn's feelings. We had a great time! We went to the Dollar Store for cheap activities like color books, temporary tattoos, bubbles, and ring pops. All the girls applied some garish lipstick Evelyn stored in the van. Oooo lala, the littles looked so amazing with pink spotted teeth and wobbly lip stick lines. I wanted to take the little girls to the IDEA museum but it closes early on Saturday. Instead we went to the park. Josie was so excited the carnival was open, I had enough change to buy one ride for each girl. They rode the carousel, Josie was happy until she realized she could not ride the boats as well. Phew, tantrum central. I carried her off kicking and screaming to play at the park. Ryan came over to play with Phillip in the afternoon. Everett played with Owen but left early because "he had a feeling he needed to be home!" Mostly, I think he realized he was missing out on some screen time with Ryan.

Sunday we had Call family dinner at our home. I made Koshari for dinner, an Egyptian street food most folks love. It is made of rice, pasta, lentils, chick peas, a tangy tomato sauce, fried onions, and a cumin-vinegar sauce. Most of the grains are spiced with the onion oil, it is a heavenly comfort dish. Most of the kids were picky and only ate the pasta or rice. We had a riveting talk about teens and dating! The twins and Madi are dating age! So it begins. Lots of good advice was thrown out over the table.

How are we surviving? Most mornings I take a nap, exercise is the furthest thing from my mind. I am depending on lunchables (gross) for Evelyn's lunches because she does not fight me over a delicious lunchable. The boys are eating school lunch more often than not. Most morning I am late getting Evelyn out the door. We try to study the Book of Mormon, it seems most of the time our devotionals are chaotic cry fests, done way too late in the evening. Bedtime is after 9 pm, late for the little girls. Dinners are made last moment without much preparation, the menu is out the window until we get settled again. Half the time I feel like a frazzled mess, the other half of the time I look like a frazzled mess. I hate myself for breaking my Diet Coke ban, it's full on survival again. I should be packing but that seems like a bad idea until we have a month before moving.

With all this on my plate our buyers are dragging out the process. We had lots of going back and forth this week over inspections, appraisals, and settling issues. The appraisal came in at $350k, $2 less than the purchase price. We refused to fix the electrical issues (like the poorly marked breaker box) and the back wall. The buyers came back asking for more money and our washer and dryer. Personally, I say let them have it! The set is 10 years old and provided years of hard work for 7 people...and I hate my front-loader. Let them have it, I'll get something new! Ha. I need dates to schedule the moving company, hope we have those dates this week! On the Idaho front we are under contract for $322,500! That house inspection came back with piddly items as well, so relieved. As stated above, we just need to nail down closing dates now. All of us have contingencies which makes finding solid dates quite the challenge. Still, I think things are moving smoothly and will resolve as time moves forward.

26 January 2020

Beaten but NOT Defeated

We went through the ringer the past two weeks. I expected the kids to be extra emotional and stuff to unravel a bit the first few days after Justin left. As you read in my last post, Saturday was extra special. We made it through. Saturday night Josie erupted with a nasty stomach virus. Done, check. That crisis was dealt with. We all stayed home from church on Sunday. Monday was just fine, everyone happy and "healthy." Actually, Everett stayed home from school that day, he slept until after 11 am with a headache. By the afternoon he was acting totally normal. Sometimes he just needs a sleep in and a mental health day. Josie was also healed up after her tummy flu.

Josie can get a bee in her bonnet, her newest bee buzzed about for quite some time. She was quite insistent I go to Santa Target (aka Bass Pro where she met Santa) and buy her a My Little Pony fishing pole. She wanted to "catch a fish from the water, with fins on top and on the side. The fish that eat bread, and NOT people. People don't eat fish. They swim away to my pole so I can catch it with my net and put it in the bucket!" She carried around Phillip's broken pole and a pail for two days. That kid persistently asked me a good 100 times to go fishing. So we went fishing. I found an Elsa pole, got a simple bait kit, and a net to catch the fish. After school Monday found us all at the lake trying our hand at fishing. We used store bought bait that smelled like ripe shrimp, cheese, bread, and hot dogs. Not one fish nibbled at our offerings. The boys are quite good at casting the line. We enjoyed the outside time quite a bit. Tree leaves are finally falling from the trees, the little girls had a good time making leaf piles to play in. Josie scattered leaves in the lake to scoop up with her net.

Monday night I had the worst experience with stomach flu since my bout with Salmonella in 2000. It was a hard choice between decorating the bathroom floor or the toilet. The bout was so sudden I had zero time to grab a trash can to alleviate the hard choice. Took me an hour to scrub the bathroom clean afterward. I'm pleased to report those dusty baseboards and door crannies are now free of dust. There is always a bright side. I napped hard after getting the kids to school in the morning. Once I finally woke up feeling half human Josie insisted on another fishing expedition. We did not have any luck fishing in the shady parts of the lake either, hot dogs or not. Josie lost interest in the sport of fishing, moved on to something else for the time being.

Wednesday Evelyn woke up with a high fever of 104.8, she went to sleep with a slight fever of 99. Took her to the clinic for an Influenza B swab, came back positive. Poor kid spent the day convalescing on the couch with movies and beverages. She is still not at 100% 11 days after she started to feel unwell. The medication tastes terrible, we wrestled twice a day over her medication. Just taking medication was an emotional and physical battle, wore me out. Evelyn returned to school on the 21st, missed 4 school days.

Brother Jackson came over Thursday night to help me move stuff around in the garage and clean out the main space. I had a newborn session Saturday afternoon to prep for and several showings and Open Houses to work around. All through the sicknesses we had house showings scheduled. That was quite the hardship, lugging crying kids out to the van while strangers looked at our home. Keeping the house clean and show ready was another beast, slayed it though!

The weekend. Oh man, not one member of the family was feeling well. We had two Open Houses on Saturday and another on Sunday. Friday evening we dropped the price of our home to $349k so those looking with a $350k or less budget would see our home. I overslept on Saturday so had to rush about yelling at kids to light the fire of speed under their bums. The agent showed up in the middle of my mopping job. Folks started showing up 10 minutes later. I drove Amelia out to help Chloe for the day at the nail salon Amanda owns. I had no idea what to do for the next 4 hours. The kids were already hungry so we stopped at McD for lunch. First off Phillip was distracted by the computer games, instead of just eating his food he kept attending to the game screen behind him. I asked him to turn around and eat then go play. He whipped out his arm and caught his full drink cup. I must say it was a slow motion moment as the cup exploded orange soda mid-air painting me with sticky soda. A nice employee mopped up the mess. Done. As I was packing up to go, Evelyn told me her tummy was feeling sick. Moments later she barfed right on the same spot Phillip decorated with his soda. I called back the employee for another clean up on aisle crazy. I scooped up the mess with wads of paper towels, that is a mom job, then mopped up the mess as the employee looked green about the gills. See I would make a wonderful nurse or plumber, bodily functions don't gross me out. We slunk out of the restaurant having achieved our goal of spreading this nasty virus. We still had two hours to kill, went to the park where kids could barf out in nature. I had a newborn session, had to do it since we already rescheduled 5 times. I sported a medical mask and used lots of hand sanitizer. Kept the diseased victims in the house plugged into to electronic devices. Sweet and very feisty Adira made me sweat and earn every penny. She was nearly a month old so moving out of the newborn stage. Took about 3 hours before she finally fell into a deep sleep. My favorite captures of the session were taken with her mother's sari and wedding jewelry.

Sunday we had another Open House from 10-2 pm. We spent sacrament meeting camping out in the lobby to minimize contact with others. The sick one and I waited the van while Mia, Phillip, Everett, and Josie went to second hour. We enjoyed a picnic at the park and played at Mansel park for a couple hours. The remaining time we watched a movie in the van until we could return home. Just 20 minutes after the Open House our agent was texting showing requests. I told him no more for the day, my kids needed to just be home for the rest of the day. We moved the appointments to the next day.

We had a low key Martin Luther King holiday. Several folks saw our house between 11am-1 pm. I tell you all this eating out is killing me! If we eat at home then the kitchen is a disaster with dishes, counter clutter, floor crumbs, etc. I made the kids eat at Cafe Rio for lunch during the showings. Lots of complaining until the food was ready, they remembered how delicious the food is. Evelyn insisted on wearing a sparkly crown and spin dress for the occasion. Everett showed signs of Influenza B, fever, headache, body aches, and runny nose. Thankfully, the nurse let me just pick up more tamiflu without him going to the clinic. Poor guy was miserable with the 104 fever, he stayed home from school the rest of the week except for a couple of hours on Friday. Everett was extremely bored after two days. I was ready to send him to school on Thursday but of course he came down with the tummy flu just like Evelyn did two days after starting the medication. I'm quite done with the barf and diarrhea, the only sunny side are the fresh sheets and bedding on everyone's beds.

We played a minute to win it game for FHE that the kids loved. Everyone was had a paper plate on their head, we drew something (heart, snowman, our names, etc) without looking at the paper plate. Josie and Evelyn got bored quickly, Josie creatively made herself some wings with her paper plates, glue, and copy paper. She flitted about the house tweeting here and there. At one point she messed in her undies, I tasked her to get clean undies. She came back giggling with her undies on her head like Spider Man. Her "boys" across the street are quite into super characters, she told me she was undie spider Man like Abeer. 

My boys resurrected "fat man" from my childhood. You probably had a similar game, stuffing pillows and such into your PJs then ramming into your siblings to see who bounce farthest? Phillip called his "new game" chungus. He played a song with the words chungus, the kids bounced off each other with great gusto. I think most are now feeling better, Everett bowed out and Evelyn did not last very long.

Evelyn's school hosted a skating night at Skateland on Thursday. Usually our skating excursions are fun. This time Amelia stayed home to work on Science Fair and Latin, I lost my wing woman. Everett was the only kid who skated more than twice around the rink. Josie cried when her arcade tokens ran out, threw a tantrum because she couldn't afford a plastic trumpet at the prize counter. Evelyn was crying at the same time because she didn't know what to get. Which stupid plastic toy do I waste tickets on? Phillip and Ronald were fine, just not interested in skating. They found a poop squishy toy to entertain themselves. All Josie wanted to do was skate but needed help, Evelyn cried because she didn't want to be alone.

We finally started to get some offers trickling in! Our first offer was terrible, just not feeling the right vibes with that buyer at all. Offered 10k less and wanted, wanted, wanted this and that...picky too. Next day we had two more offers come in. Edgar was quite impressed with the buyers and agent for offer #2, they had a conventional loan instead of the strict FHA loans the other two offers had. There is a contingency for them to sell their home, 45 days instead of 30. I was hoping for less time but in hindsight we need a bit more time to find a home in Boise, the extra two weeks will ensure we can find something. So happy to report we are under contract with the 2nd offer, at full price as of Thursday evening. Looks like the wife works for a real estate company so knows her stuff.

I was informed Friday night that the house inspection would take place Saturday morning at 8 am. We all needed a sleep-in, yet again foiled. The inspector showed up 20 minutes early! Yikes. I shoved half-dressed and mostly asleep kids into the van at 7:45. Pulled out of the driveway...the garage door broke again. I look up to see it slanting down and jamming halfway closed. The inspector is watching this development with a squint in his eye. Gracious. Called my now trusty Rottman Garage Door guy, he came out in less than 15 minutes and had the door working at least before the new potential owners showed up. We had to be away from our house until 11 am, I packed a parts of a picnic lunch and stuff to enjoy Coons Bluff with friends. Course, right as I'm ready to leave the repair guy for my iPhone calls after missing the last two appointments. He's ready to fix my phone screen. I meet him outside our house hoping the inspector does not notice. Talk about stress. Amelia stayed with Chloe at her home, Chloe was not feeling well, needed a friend to keep her company. Coons Bluff was so much fun. The drive out was a mini-roller coaster. Phillip let us know whenever he felt the willies from the dips in the road. We found a large crowd of people protesting the new iron fencing along the river. The protest was over the wild horses and how the fencing will impede the horses movements and the fencing marr the natural beauty. Not sure why the fencing was necessary in the first place. I about swooned once we found the last parking slot available. A really cool weed (resembled geranium leaves) grew in great abundance all over the camp grounds! Josie was terrified to walk through the weeds. Brother Jackson had all the children captivated with his stone hurling skills, he made some stellar water art with the stones and river water. Evelyn took an acrobatic fall down a dirt incline, she somehow flipped and landed with her head down in a space, shoulders holding her head from the ground by the bank of the crevice, her legs in the air. She was not pleased about her miraculous fall, I thought it was quite cool she missed cracking her head by mere centimeters. Josie collected shells on the river banks. The boys soon created an obstacle course climbing up the dirt banks, each area more challenging (and taller) than the other. I enjoyed hearing them shout, "Ev! This is a level 4 climb! No look at this level 6!" Lots of dirt and fun. We fed the Sister Missionaries on Friday night. Our favorite Bulgogi was an instant favorite. The sisters showed us a video about two brothers scaling a cliff with no climbing equipment and the potential disaster the brothers avoided. I heard Everett mutter to Phillip, "there is no way I'm climbing that cliff without rappelling gear, those two boys were stupid." Phillip looked away, I wonder if he contemplated scaling the cliff. Phillip wanted to follow the Iron Rod back to our picnic area. He sang "The Iron Rod" several times while we literally held to the Iron Rod. It was a lovely learning moment. I was so charmed by the weeds that I drove the kids back home then returned with Josie and cute clothes. She and I took a few photos for her upcoming birthday. Magical.

My studio was quite busy this week! I had 5 studio sessions this week! Pretty darn good. Word is going around the India Indian community about my photography. I have another 4 babies lined up with sessions. The Indian parents are so different from American parents, relaxed and no real schedules involved. Saturday I had a 6 mth old girl scheduled for 6-7 pm, she was happy as a lark. Most American babies are in bed by 7 pm! Makes me smile.

Today was much more relaxed with no showings or open houses. We had Stake Conference. President Tinker requested all youth 11+ read and study the Plan of Salvation pamphlets and share what is learned with family and friends. We need a pamphlet! Ryan spent the day with us. Phillip will miss him terribly. I am going to Boise this coming weekend, got a ticket today. Finding child care arrangements was so stressful, not sure I really want to go. What with sick kids, a toddler who poops her pants, Evelyn who is scared to die (only right before she falls asleep), Everett's cough, and local family out of town...stressful. Just making a really quick trip, leaving Friday afternoon and coming back Sunday morning. Now we're praying to find a home! Join us if you dare. Results to be continued.

PS: Josie used a pink highlighter and pink nail polish to decorate the white parts of my cute coffee table. She was hiding inside the coffee table, told me it was not paper and she was in trouble, but it was sooooooo pink!

25 January 2020

Master of Mayhem

I had a busy week! I was out an about every morning last week. We dropped the price on our home to $359,900 on Monday. That brought 6 house showings between Tuesday at noon and Friday at 6:30 pm. Not too shabby. Saturday was another open house, 15 people toured our home with another 2 showings after the open house. Still no offers, that is a bit discouraging. Our agent says that folks are buying convenience homes left and right. Since our home needs an updated kitchen buyers are opting for smaller homes with more updates. Patience is hard to come by especially now that Justin is in Idaho. I am grateful for the increased foot traffic to see inside.

Tuesday morning was my first outing, had to be at Phillip's school by 7:30 with the younger 4 kids dressed, fed, lunches made, etc. I was a sweaty mess straggling into the school at 7:28 am...early I might point out. I met with the Principal and Ms Nguyen to develop a 504 plan for Phillip. He is phasing out of his IEP for speech. A 504 plan is developed for children with disabilities (like ADD) to allow certain accommodations needed for the child to thrive in a learning situation. Phillip can get extra time and help for his school work, an aide to monitor him during testing if needed, allowances for homework, able to give verbal vs written answers, etc. A 504 means he no longer needs to leave the classroom for special education classes (like speech). Ms Nguyen said several times how bright and kind Phillip is as a student. He just struggles to pay attention. I rushed home to finish straightening the house for a noon showing. Rushed out the door for an dental cleaning. Josie was quite happy to play with Ezra Smith for the morning. The dental assistant who cleaned my teeth was very thorough, my gums were all shades of sore the rest of the day.

Wednesday I had another chiropractic adjustment with Dr Godard. My lower back/right hip is bothering me something terrible lately. Probably all the weight I've gained is wreaking havoc. I turned 40 and the gift I got was a 25 lb weight gain. Yay for 40, not. Josie and I waited an entire hour playing with the lobby toys, he was backed up that badly at 9 am? Goodness. Once again we rushed home so I could rush about and clear the clutter for a noon house showing. Had another showing at 3:15 pm. The kids just ran around the block for fun until the clients left. I found Ronald and Phillip beating up my poor spineless cactus with a thick dowel. I just don't get why? Why take a stick and beat a plant up? What is the purpose? I suppose such questions get me nowhere, but still....why?

Josie got to play with the Payne family Thursday morning. I had a long doctor appointment up in Scottsdale near Justin's work. I wanted a second opinion on Dr Godard's allergy smell test before I went and changed my life. That appointment was long a boring. Instead of a full food allergy panel I had them test for only tree nuts and wheat, given the scratch tests were $6 per scratch a full panel is 76+ scratches. The limited test was expensive enough! I am not allergic to tree nuts or wheat, a did have a slightly mild reaction to black walnuts but not enough to even sting or itch. I treated myself to a bowl of Ramen at Ramenhood for lunch. Justin was crazy busy finishing last minute things on his last day of work at UTI. He did not arrive home until after 6 pm. He did not even have much time to pack and get his car loaded up with a full week of work on his plate. The kids spent every moment they could helping Justin sort through his closet and find stuff to schlep up to Idaho in the Hamster Wagon. Phillip and Everett were thrilled Justin finally found the set of magnetic balls to play with.

Phillip was flipping through Amelia's Latin textbook. I saw his eyes go wide and then he snapped the book shut. He flopped about for a moment then came and told me: "Mom...Amelia's book has pornography in it...I saw a man's penis!" First, I had to hold in my natural reaction to laugh. We had a short chat about why that photo was in a Latin textbook. I thanked him for coming right to me for guidance. Good boy! Took me a couple days to think about the topic of porn vs art, got some good insight from Amy Beckner (Miekka's sister) that jolted my memory back to all those art classes I took in college. We had a dinner conversation about the differences between art nudity and porn, basically boils down to the intent to illicit sexual feelings and distort the naked body or to replicate the naked body in admiration of it's perfection. It was a good, short conversation. I remember my Uncle Fred used to showcase a work of art each week, then discuss the artwork and the artist around the dinner table. I think doing something like that is a good idea!

We said our goodbyes to Justin Friday morning. He took Mia to school, got back in time to give the boys hugs and kisses. Packed up his car and left shortly before I needed to run the carpool to MEC. The little girls were so distraught. Josie was quite caught up in tears and crying, wanting every last hug she could soak in. Evelyn was excited and sad all at the same time. She can't wait to move up to Idaho, the entire concept seems very cool to her. Justin was crying because the girls were crying. I may have wiped away a tear or two as well, can't prove it but it may have happened. The rest of our day seemed anticlimactic and empty. Josie and I spent the morning playing at Giggles with my friend Sarah and her little boy Payson. Josie was quite content to hog the horse and carriage toy, she even coaxed a couple little friends to pull her around like a Queen, she insisted her minions take her to the castle! We played there for a good 3 hours.

Once the older kids got home we rushed about to get ready for two more house showings. The times were not conducive to cook and prepare dinner so off to Sonic (gross) we went for dinner. We stayed until the showings were over. Ronald and Phillip are often at odds lately. Ronald and Everett exclude Phillip more often than not when they play games. Phillip is so careful to include everyone. He is just so spastic and gross (with his bodily functions and fart noises) playing with him can be a chore. The boys quarrel then make up, quarrel then make up, over and over every day. I think Ronald is regretting becoming an honorary "Call boy." Chloe and Mia are so weird together. Everything is uber hilarious and silly! Makes me laugh just watching what those two sillies come up with. They treat Everett's training soccer ball (it's attached to a bungee cord) as a dog on a leash, guiding the ball here and there kicking the heck out of it.

Saturday morning all Hell broke loose. Our emotions were high after Justin leaving for Idaho. We had to leave our house from 10 am until 4 pm. I overslept so in my rush to get everything ready for the Open house was bossing kids here and there. Amelia was annoyed at Everett about something so she shoved him hard enough to push him to the floor. To Everett's credit he pulled a fast fake fall like the soccer players. He was not hurt but played up the offense, rightly so I must say. Amelia lost her phone privileges. She tripped over a toy in garage while holding my phone. My phone crashed into the rocks smashing the screen protector and the screen into a lovely spiderweb pattern. I ignored that issue while I mopped the floors just as the real estate agent arrived.  We sat in the Verizon parking lot for a good 45 minutes while I figured out how to get my screen replaced through insurance. At first the phone repair place wanted to replace my entire phone for $200+, took me 30 minutes on the phone to convince them just a screen replacement was necessary. I decided to take the kids either to the children's museum or the science museum. We chose the science museum since it appealed to a wider age range. Everett got the yummiest meat quesadilla from a taco joint while the rest of us ate sandwiches at Jimmy Johns. The Science Museum was pretty awesome. Just inside the lobby was a gigantic snow globe filled with air! I heard many Frozen songs coming from inside the globe as my kids played. The energy was almost frenetic as all the kids wanted to head off in 5 separate directions. I lost Everett first, then Josie, then Evelyn, then Everett again, then Josie. I had a massive headache just keeping up with those two. All this past week Everett dealt with mild diarrhea, he had to take a shower everyday this week and change his clothes due to the issue. Well, he had a moderate shard in his pants exactly at the wrong moment. Thank goodness for Amelia, she kept tabs on Josie. Evelyn was too scared to wander off on her own. Everett tried his best to rectify his issue, I instructed him to remove shoes and socks, then his pants, then his undies and throw them in the trash. Wash his bum with wet TP or paper towels. He came out with a huge poop streak on the outside of his pants. I sent him back in with instructions to wear his pants inside out since the inside was cleaner than the outside, and to clean his bum again. Amelia texts me (she could use her phone only to contact me while at the museum) saying that Josie pooped her pants. Indeed. Second pair of undies went into the trash. We survived. By then it was almost 2 pm, Josie was showing signs of breaking down. We pushed forward to inspect the last two floors before heading home. I told the kids we could get rock candy from the gift shop before leaving. I warned them that was all I would purchase. Josie ignored that memo. She found a lovely 4 inch high gummy lollipop, got a mighty case of the galloping gimmies. We ripped her out of the gift shop and museum screaming bloody murder over her favorite lollipop. Of course, I was wild in my mind, left my phone at the register. I left Josie screaming that rock candy was disgusting in Amelia's care so I could retrieve my phone. We left...it was fantastic. Josie ate her rock candy...it was delicious after all that drama. We all just collapsed at home, glad to have all that jazz over for a little while.

Of course I was running low on all the necessaries, skipped my weekly grocery shop due to all my morning escapades this week. I dropped off the kids, went to Walmart all by my lonesome, good gracious I needed some time alone to decompress. Josie snuck into bed with me at 1 am. She was wiggling all over the bed, kept complaining she needed a drink of water. I finally got up for the water, she barfed right into the cup of water. Poor kid unloaded right on my bed, unloaded again on the carpet as I rushed her to the toilet. Then she barfed so forcefully in the bathroom I found splatter near the ceiling the next day. We went downstairs until her tummy calmed down, over two hours later. She was retching every 10-15 minutes for a couple hours. We both collapsed into bed for a couple hours of sleep. Amelia woke me up concerned that we would not make it to church on time. I was not about to bring Josie, I was exposed to the mess so was not going to take myself. Amelia did not want to take responsibility for the boys and Evelyn at church. We stayed home, hunkered down for the day. I cancelled any showings for the day. Josie got up chipper as a lark, ate breakfast with no side effects at all. That was the most vicious, short-acting tummy flu I've seen in ages. Here's to praying no one else gets it.

Justin got to spend Saturday with Charity and Melissa before driving up to Boise. Melissa is living with Charity until Jonathon gets his new assignment with the Army after Basic Training and such. We enjoyed seeing everyone during our video chats with Justin.

09 January 2020

New Years 2020

Post-Christmas week was sorta, mostly, kinda boring. We did not have much on our radar to amuse us other than keeping our house ready for house buyers. Thankfully, we had a lull until Thursday so I had plenty of time to repack Christmas decor and get that out of the way. I donated both of my Christmas trees since the lights on my NEW tree stopped working. I changed all the fuses, checked the bulbs disconnected the tree sections, tried everything but nothing worked. The kids tree sheds pine leaves worse than a real pine tree past it's prime. Evelyn was quite worried Santa would forget about us if we did not have a tree! I needed to have a part of my living room cleared out as well to set up my newborn studio for the newest Russo baby.

Monday was our 15th wedding anniversary! Since we celebrated a few days beforehand we did not do anything else except chat about the meaningful memories with the kids.

Josie insisted I take her to the ducky-go-back-and-forth park all weekend. I was so confused, had no idea what she was talking about, maybe feeding the ducks. We got into the van and she directed me to the right park! "Mom...turn dis way, turn the Ban that way...you see the ducky now?" So cute! She was delighted to play on the duckie for quite some time. Justin had work Monday and Tuesday at UTI so he was not around much on New Years Eve. I found a Groupon for Uptown Jungle, the kid's favorite activity indoor park. We played there for two hours on Tuesday then got McDonald's for lunch at the request of 4 out of 5 kids. Our New Year's is quite boring, we go to bed at 10 and do a simple countdown is all. The Broughton's set off a few fireworks, my kids went to watch. They were kind enough to let the kids do sparklers. Josie came inside crying huge alligator tears. She came inside to get her new baby kitty, went back out to show Sister Broughton but they already left for their nightly walk. Josie was adamant someone admire her cute baby kitty, so we walked around the block until we came upon some folks chatting in their driveway. Josie went right up and showed off her toy then skipped home happy as a clam! Outside fireworks blasted until well-past midnight. It's hard to believe another decade has passed. Ten years ago we were just starting our crazy family with a two year old Amelia, a 4 mth old Phillip, a new house in Sidney, and lots of fun in the future for us.

While I was busy cleaning the kitchen after dinner Josie managed a spot of mischief. Most of the kids were in the living room playing. Everett was in the family room reading. Josie grabbed one of those thick (the ones that are about 1/2 inch thick) permanent markers for poster board and drew huge circles on 7 areas (kitchen pony wall, closet, bookcase, three walls, bathroom door, and the stair well). Her art work was not small! She went all the way with her expression. I tried magic erasers (2 large boxes), goo gone, windex, hair spray, toothpaste, and lemongrass oil. The kids helped scrub away New Years Eve. The best we achieved was about 2-3 shades lighter. I resigned myself to painting those areas, hoping against all hope to match the 3 different paint colors. Next day Wendy Call-Kechley contacted me saying she had a miracle product that would remove the marker. I was quite dubious knowing we'd done our best. She came over with a product called Mel-a-luca an oil-based natural cleaner. She patiently worked out the stains with a rag and toothbrush, not to mention half a bottle of the product. Heaven above...she did it. The paint was rubbed down to the primer in most spots but the glaring black marks are gone. I thank her and her sore arm muscles for working a miracle. I worked on cleaning up my mess from the newborn session and dismantling the rest of Christmas. Amelia was a good helper scrubbing walls with Wendy! Evelyn and I take the blame for the marker situation. Evelyn wanted the marker for an art project, she used it but did not put away as instructed. I ignored the marker for a day also not putting it away. Josie was also to blame knowing that art work goes on paper and not walls. Josie did her time scrubbing walls, enough for a 3 year old to handle.

I decided our digital grand piano was too rickety for us to move to Idaho. Last time I listed something it went ignored for months. I listed the piano hoping to sell it before we moved. I was surprised and a bit disheartened it sold in just a couple hours. It feels strange to not have a piano in our house! The family who purchased it lives up in Payson. They dumped a pile of snow from the back of their truck to fit the piano in! I ran inside to tell the kids we had snow in Gilbert. They ignored me! Evelyn was curious so followed me out to find said pile of snow! She got the rest of the kids to come out and enjoy the few moments we had to play with snow in the valley! First time in 20 years...he he he.

Justin flew to Boise, ID on New Years day for a retreat with his new company. His new boss wanted Justin in attendance to help make team goals and be part of planning the next few months. They went snowmobiling as a fun activity on Friday. He said it was much more difficult than anticipated. Before his flight back home on Saturday he toured 4 houses we had tagged as potential homes. Justin was quite impressed with a house in Middleton, ID.

Phillip experienced the first bow and arrow wound! His friend Ryan was over playing. Phillip neglected to teach him the rules about holding fire while someone is down range. He shot an arrow hitting Phillip on the lower part of his heel. The arrow glanced off and tore a good sized hole in his heel. He sported quite the bandage for a couple days and limped about when he remembered his heel hurt. Later I found the boys shooting limes off the tree as target practice! Just a week after Christmas and all the arrows are either lost or damaged! Guess who gets to buy more arrows?! Not me that's for sure.

We met up with some families from our ward and our Call cousins at a new park in Gilbert for a couple hours of fresh air. Everett had an espionage mission going to to spy on the older kids without anyone noticing. The boys went back with Aunt Laura to play more with Anson and Gary. The main reason is the boys wanted pizza for lunch and the girls wanted Jimmy Johns. We had more folks looking at our house while we were gone.

Everett accidentally kicked Evelyn in her teeth a few days before causing her wiggly lower tooth to loosen even more. She was beside herself with worry about the tooth coming out. She was worried it would come out in her sleep and choke on it. Not worried enough to let me help her. It took me two days to cajole her mouth open! That tooth came out without any pain or issues. A light pluck with a tissue before she even noticed. She was so happy to stuff the tooth into her tooth fairy pillow! In between her room and the bathroom she lost her newly plucked tooth. She cried and cried frantically searching for her tooth. The tooth fairy left her a dollar and a tiny note in spite of the misplaced incisor. One bright side of Arizona winters are the gorgeous roses! It's the perfect weather for my five rose bushes to put on their show. Flowers bloom year round here, makes my heart so bright and happy.

Josie started Primary on Sunday! She is finally old enough to graduate. She had almost an extra year in nursery with her early February birthday. Switching from Nursery (puzzles, toys, and snacks) to Sunbeams could be quite the challenge for her. She cried all through singing time. Phillip sat beside her as a comfort. Such a good big brother. The younger kids met their new Primary teachers at a Primary breakfast on Saturday. The kids got to eat donuts, drink juice, and play fun board games with their new teachers. Everett and Phillip's favorite game was playing with a set of tiny magnetic balls. I told them Dad had a set, they freaked out wondering why he never played with the magnets. Once at home we could not find the magnet set, looked in all the places with no luck. Justin had no idea where it went either.

05 January 2020

Christmas 2019

I like Christmas on Wednesdays! The kids had a couple days off of school before Christmas to enjoy more Christmas fun. We had Chloe and Ronald over on Monday for the day. I did a bit of grocery shopping and picked up another gingerbread house for Chloe and Ronald. The kids quite enjoyed decorating, frosting, and of course eating candy. Amelia helped Josie assemble a Paw Patrol house. The other three kids had 2 mini house each to decorate. The hardest part was waiting for me to assemble the house with the ONE tube of frosting we had. The kids later had Jacob over for a good chunk of time and played outside for a glorious amount of time. I worked on more wrapping when I could grab a chance.

Christmas Eve we started the day as lazy bums. Our crazy Nelves got Disney+ for the kids, hmmmm, how did that happen? Thus I lost my family for a week until they finished watching the Mandalorian series. Baby Yoda is the cutest ever. Amanda treated our family for lunch at a Vietnamese Pho restaurant. Amelia was not feeling well at all, poor kid did not eat anything. We gave Chloe and Ronald their Christmas gifts: a matching "Chloe" (aka a hoodie) with Amelia and a Beyblade set. It was a rainy day and quite dreary outside. Perfect day for a nap. Apparently, Justin and Evelyn sneaked out to Walmart to update my stocking with kafume and white chocolate. Amelia helped me wrap some last minute items. I whipped up my favorite Santa cookies: white chocolate cherry shortbread and soft gingerbread cookies. The favorite part of the day finally came, the time to make clam chowder. As a family we look forward to magical clam chowder all year. It tastes completely different on Christmas Eve! Justin helped fry bacon, Amelia set the table, and I made the soup. The other kids worked on finding costumes for our Nativity play. We ate our delectable meal by intimate candlelight. Martinelli's paired well with our meal, ha ha. Evelyn decided that clam chowder is much better without the clams. Josie ate her customary two sniffs and wandered away. I had to laugh when I saw what the kids had gathered for props and costumes. The sheep this year was a herd of unicorns. Josie was an angel and a unicorn shepherd. Phillip gagged because of the satin ribbon tied around his neck. He opened the front door to get some fresh air, I locked it so he would not open it. Stinker discovered a little Nelf surprise but he did not say anything just quickly slammed the door with wide eyes. Josie was crying because she wanted to play. The kids wandered away after our nativity to check on Santa's progress on NORAD's Santa Tracker. Phillip was the first to the door once the Nelves announced Santa was coming. He was relieved the bag of surprises was still on the front porch. Soon wrapping paper was flying and kids shouting with glee over their new awesome PJs this year. Santa sent animal onesies instead of Christmas themed ones. Phillip was a dinosaur, Everett a "derpy" shark, Evelyn a unicorn, and Josie was a cheetah. Amelia got a cute comfy set that will fit her for 20 more years. We did discover a large gaping hole in a side seam so had to whip out my sewing machine to fix the hole. Josie was so cute acting like a cheetah, growling with her claws out. The kids were still wired at 9 pm so the Nelves had to ring bells saying it was time to get in bed. Phillip got a dose of Benedryl, he was up every hour last year. Mom and Dad got their stuff set up then went to bed ready for that Christmas magic.

Santa CAME! He came! The kids sprung awake at 7 am, thank you Christmas spirits, and invaded our room to open stockings. Evelyn was tickled pink that Santa put her favorite pickles in the toe of her stocking. Josie's eyes were wide open and soaking in all the chaos. Justin got beef and cheese in his stocking...a reference to the movie Elf, he sits on a throne of lies. Ha hahahahahaha, Santa has a sense of humor. I headed downstairs to get a couple things ready before the crew headed down the stairs. Josie was first, Mia last down the stairs. Josie was delighted that Santa brought her an Elsa treasure chest AND a baby pony. Evelyn got a pink scooter from Santa. Mia got a furry reading pillow. Phillip and Everett got real bows and a set of arrows. All the kids got a box of Einstein bagels! Mia found a letter from Santa next to the cookie plate. She read it while the kids enjoyed their Santa gifts. The next 30 minutes was a perfect storm of paper, boxes, tags, balloons, and toys. The kids loved their new rice hot packs, loved the fabrics I chose for them. The boys immediately engaged Justin to help them with the Bows and Arrows. Phillip was hitting bulls eyes after a few tries. Everett was aiming with his eye closest to the bow closed, after some practice he got the correct eye open and aiming down as well. We only lost a couple arrows that day. Amelia was invited to go with Chole and Ronald to Prescott for the day, she declined wanting to spend the day with us. By 8;30 am she was soooooo bored, regretted her decision to stay home. Justin bought movie tickets for himself and the boys to watch the newest Star Wars movie, Mia stayed home. She bugged me until I finally helped her with a project sewing up scrunchies. We had tamales, beans, and rice for dinner. I made a new sauce this year of a spicy homemade cheese sauce, it was divine over the tamales. Josie and Evelyn were so cute playing with their new toys all day. I found Josie inside her treasure box more than once with her toys stuffed inside as well. Evelyn and I played Barbie cake shop.

Thursday Justin and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary a few days early. I hired the Boyd's to stay with our kids overnight. Justin and I left at 3:30 for Tempe Marketplace Mall. We walked around for an hour or so, tried on Jeans at the Buckle. We enjoyed a lovely dinner at Gen Korean BBQ. Each table has an inlaid grill, the server brings out whatever meats you order, you grill them at your table. We also got a large platter of condiments and rice to deck out our meat. The Bulgogi was out of this world, the shrimp was meh, and the steaks quite delicious. We watched Star Wars (again for Justin). Ate really expensive, mediocre ice cream at Cold Stone. We drove in a half circle to stay in a hotel just 4 miles from home! That made me laugh. Our bed this time was not as comfy as the resort, we were up before 9 am. For breakfast we tried the Henhouse, a local favorite. That was a phenomenal breakfast! The Boyd's got off easy, we were back home by 11 am instead of 1 pm. I'm happy we got a night away, wishing it were exotic like a Caribbean cruise, but you get what you get!

Friday we cleaned up our Christmas mess in preparation for an Open House Saturday afternoon. Ronald and Chloe came over to enjoy our boredom. The kids watched way too much TV this break because we could not do much as Justin and I needed to work on house projects. I needed the mess to stay minimal. The kids were anxious to spend their Christmas money from Grandparents, we made several trips to Target and Walmart so the kids could decide. Everett was the only kid to save his money for a rainy day. Josie and Evelyn each got two new toys. Amelia got an instax camera and film. Phillip got a new Lego set. I had a sunset photo session with the Godard family. It was overcast and cruddy weather outside, cold and windy.

I had an early morning photo session with the Price family out at the Superstitions Saturday morning. It was cold and foggy. I was so worried when Bishop Price told me he wanted the mountains to look red, there was no amount of editing that will turn blue foggy mountains read. He about drove me nuts with the amount of family poses trying to get the perfect mountain shot. I ended up with 200+ photos of just the family. Came home to find the house cluttered and everyone watching TV. We had a come to Jesus moment, got our house in shape before the Open House. While our house was off-limits Amelia convinced us to try ice skating. I hurt my lower back so there was no way I was going to get on the ice. Phillip and Everett did pretty good for first timers. Everett hugged the wall until his feet went numb. Evelyn skated back and forth in front of a huddle box as I held her hand and walked her back and forth. Justin and Josie joined us after 40 minutes, Josie refused to take a short nap. Those two went to Walmart for water and a snack. I had another large family session at the Riparian. Justin and the kids drove to the library and sat in the parking lot?! At least go inside and enjoy the books for a while.

Sunday Justin was released at Ward Clerk during church. A new Music Chairman and music director were also called, but I was not yet released.