24 September 2018

A Smatter of Rain

Everett found himself a job for a couple days! He let Amelia share the responsibility of caring for Gambit, our neighbor's dog while they went on vacation. The kids enjoyed going over several times each day to play with, feed, water, and settle the dog down. In the end the kids each earned $15 for working several days. We also had a chance to swim in their pool on Wednesday, it was a scorcher!

We started out the week with doctor visits for Phillip and Evelyn's well-child check ups. Those two really grew the past year. Phillip was a huge helper with Gabi, he held her most of time! Josie made us all laugh, she climbed the little stairs up to the examining table, and started to sing, "Let it go! Don't Care!" Guess she felt like Elsa, Queen of the world, on those stairs. Evelyn hid under my chair until it was her turn to get examined. She was quite aware of the necessary kindergarten shots. Once the shots came she did beautifully! Did not complain about her arms hurting at all. Phillip got one flu shot and complained for 3 days about his painful arm. The appointment took much longer than it should have. The kids missed school lunch so we splurged with McD and the play place for lunch.

Pack meeting this month was quite memorable with Brother Payne teaching us about Police work. He showed the kids some of his gear, we got to chat with his radio dispatcher, and listen to some stories. After awards and donuts we had a moment to explore his police vehicle! The spinning lights actually made me nauseous, I was not expecting that at all. Next day Amelia had stake Activity Days. She got to make buttermilk pancakes and syrup as part of a two hour faux sleepover. Sounds like she had quite a fun time.

Wednesday was a blessedly cool and rainy day. We soaked up the rain for a few hours in the afternoon. Gabi loved the overcast and rain, slept like a champ for the first time in 7 days. I met the kids at the bus stop with my rainbow umbrella. We stomp in all the puddles on our way home. The kids immediately changed into rain clothes and unloaded bikes, scooters, and crutches (why?) to play outside in the rain. Mia and I left for piano so the boys and Evelyn decided to stay home. In the 40 minutes I was gone Phillip set up an elaborate picnic snack on the kitchen floor, hot chocolate included. He responsibly made sure reading time was completed before we returned home! Once I was back home the kids all raced outside to enjoy the rain. Rain is a holiday.

Josie noticed the new pumpkin displays are out. Each time we pass one she crones lovingly at the tiny baby pumpkins. I got her a cute baby pumpkin to take care of! She enjoyed painting her pumpkin with some kid paints. Her vocal description as she changed paint colors and described what she was doing had me giggling.  Evelyn came home and washed off all the paint, stinker! I cared more than Josie did. On Friday I took Josie to "Giggles" and indoor toddler play ground. Josie walked in and did not stop exploring for a good two hours. Her eyes were huge as she surveyed the place, deciding what to do first was a struggle. Her favorite activities were: riding the roller coaster Thomas Train, the wooden play structure, the play house, and the shopping carts. Two other gals from my ward were also there so we had a nice time to talk. I took some cute photos of Gabi, who just turned 2 months old and little Liberty again. Sister Payne found some of her mother's baby clothes, bonnets, shoes, jewelry, etc she wanted to put Liberty in. Totally up my alley! Gotta love that vintage vibe. Josie found a green stamper during the session. She marked up herself when I was not paying attention. Ha ha ha. We also watched Leo a couple times this week, along with Gabi we were loaded up full with little kiddos.

I spent 21 hours kid and family free at our yearly RS retreat in Strawberry, AZ. The Wolford's invited us all back again this year! Their cabin is quite lovely and cozy. Cari Sue drove her car with me, Corynn Payne, and Kathy Muro along for the ride. We stopped for dinner at Jimmy John's then hauled off for the high country. I managed to have the worst migraine this month right before the retreat started. By the time we arrived I was nauseous and seeing stars. Held myself together and still enjoyed the fun. Next morning I managed to sleep in a bit trying to kick my headache, it worked a bit lessening it's hold to a headache. After a delicious breakfast we gathered for a devotional. I was asked to give a 15 minute thought on "our hearts knit together" and how that relates to Ministering. While writing down my thoughts Wednesday and Thursday the words and references came quickly. The Lord had something to say, it was said! We stayed to help clean up and play in the game room until most other folks left. I loved the glimpse of fall crispness in the air. Coming home was pretty awesome too! The sweet hugs and greetings were most appreciated. Justin did a fine job, even managing to clean up the house a bit. He's trying to show me up! Just teasing.

Sunday was a shade of crazy at church. We are practicing for the Primary program this coming Sunday so combined Junior and Senior for two hours. I barely sat down for two seconds! I used a magical microwave and cookie ingredients to help the kids sing through all the songs multiple times. Thankfully the microwave did it's magic and delivered 6 dozen freshly baked cookies! I earned my Sunday nap. I got a cute new dress in the mail. Yay! I love the color, one of my best colors to wear. I feel frustrated most of the time because I am not losing anymore weight. I still feel exhausted and worn out. I ordered a year subscription to work out at home through Beachbody but have I done a single workout yet? Nope. Now with Gabi here in the mornings things are crazy again. Getting myself out of bed before 6:45 seems impossible. I wake up tired and go to be exhausted. My mom suggested I do a sleep study! Maybe I snore like a bear or have sleep apnea. I guess it's one more box I can check off. It's been 7 months since I started with Envoque seeking some answers. I am on like 10 supplements, naturethroid, methlycobalamine shots, and occasional vitamin drips. Nothing. Still feel like crap. So frustrating.

Amelia read My Side of the Mountain and Where the Red Fern Grows this past week. Makes my nerd heart so happy to see her reading those beloved classics. This week I read the boys the Boxcar Children before bed. We all had tears in our eyes towards the end of the book. Everett sure enjoyed the story and wants to read it again. I'm now reading the Five Little Peppers. Phillip loves the older English slang from a much earlier century.

17 September 2018

New Baby Friend

We are happy to welcome little Gabriella into our home for some hours each day! Amanda went back to work as a speech therapist last week. It was a tough week for little Gabi for several reasons, first time nursing from a bottle, first times away from mom and dad, had to get 4 mouth ties release so her poor little mouth was hurting. She is accustomed to napping in her mom's arms, not so much fun to hold her for hours while housework piled up. I got a rock and play that auto rocks in hopes it would help her sleep for longer. We've got some work to do with her napping and eating but it will get better. Looks like I will just watch her for a couple hours in morning each day. She is very cute with deep blue eyes. Phillip says her eyes remind him of the deep ocean! The kids get to hold her a bit before school on some mornings. Josie is quite unsure about having a baby to take up my time! She had a meltdown over Gabi's binky because she has a similar one. It's good for her to learn how to act around a littler person. The clutter was worse than usual since my extra time was spent snuggling a baby.

Amelia helped Everett whip up some fliers to pass out in our neighborhood. He wants to earn more money so his wallet will get full. They passed out 9 fliers one afternoon last week. He got a call to dog sit for our neighbor. He is so excited to earn $6 per day! Amelia is helping out so she will also earn $6 per day.

Evelyn decided Josie can play with her now. She lured Josie upstairs to play doctor with American Girl dolls and Doc McStuffins props. I snuck a couple peeks into the bedroom since it was so quiet, both girls were happily playing together! Makes my heart happy when those two give each other positive attention.

Saturday the kids got through all the chores before 11 am! Amelia said she got up determined not to whine about chores, she stuck to her challenge! Everett and Amelia had the side rocked area all weeded in record time. Phillip helped me clean up the patio. Amelia mowed the lawns with just a little help from Justin! Justin had more tedious work on the ever-leaking watering system, fix one leak and another shows up. We treated our hard work with a slurpee run to 7-11. Justin scored a radical straw hat, breezy and shady all at the same time. I had to laugh, looks pretty darn amazing on him. Amelia went to her cousin Anna's birthday party. I brought home Anson and Gary for the boys to play with. Amelia said Anna's friends are quite intimidating! We enjoyed having the boys. After a scrumptious meal of carne asada (gracias to Justin for marinating and grilling the meat), everyone except me enjoyed some pool time. I threw my lume cube (a waterproof photography light) into the pool for some light. The kids thought that was so cool! I made a large batch of caramel corn while the kids watched Paw Patrol. The party was over at 10 so it was quite a late night for the kiddos.

13 September 2018

Auxier Cabin, Justin Hates Fun

Labor Day was very low key. Amelia spent most of the day reading a book from the Septimus Heap series. We cleaned a bit, watched TV a bit, and got a bit bored. I wanted to hike around Tonto but that did not work out again. Drat! Amelia and I spent an hour making friendship bracelets. We went to the mall for our activity. The mall was super crowded with other folks enjoying a day off. The kids were delighted to eat cheap pizza at a buffet place. Josie surprised me with the amount of pizza she wolfed down. The kids enjoyed walking around the mall, checking out all the fun displays. They played in the play area for a while, Amelia and I went to Claire's just for kicks. The escalator was a huge highlight. Evelyn showed off her new earrings to the guy who pierced them a few days before. For FHE Justin built a fire in the pit so we could roast marshmallows for Smores. The temperature was hovering over 100, our mister took down the temps a few degrees and provided tempting water for the kids to get wet and style their hair (Phillip). Evelyn came out onto the patio with her shorts hiked up her bum, I thought she looked so cute and unassuming in that moment. We read a talk from the Ensign for our lesson. Those gooey Smores tasted just like a slice of heaven.

Josie and I spent a nice morning at the library playing Legos and reading books. She was happy to have my lap all to herself. We read 20-30 board books just because we had the time. Everett has a goal to lift weights for 30 minutes each day. His goal is get stronger than Phillip so he can beat him when they wrestle! I should probably give him some pointers but watching him struggle is hilarious.

Sometimes I am funny. Sometimes my jokes come back to haunt me. I am haunted this week. We were discussing where to eat some lunch. I suggested we go to Peter Pipers (pizza and arcade). Justin instantly tossed that idea out the window and suggest Pizza Pie Cafe. The kids were whining in the back: WHY??? I replied, "Well, Dad HATES fun!" We heard a resounding chorus: "Dad HATES fun?!" Yep! We went to the not-so-fun restaurant for lunch. Later in the week someone in the ward was giving out free Hale Theater tickets to see the Scarlet Pimpernel. I asked Amelia if she wanted to go with me since "Dad HATES fun." She really wanted to go, but Justin said she can go if he can't have fun. He ended up going to the show with me, I'm thinking he hated it. It was too fun. I really did enjoy the show. It was difficult not to sing along to all my favorite songs. Justin and Clarissa (a ward member) did not seem to mind or notice. The show was well-performed, I rather enjoyed the changes made to the script and music. The costumes were brilliant, for example, the wigs were made of folded/curled fabric! We owe a huge thank you to Sister Tanner for coming last moment to watch the kids on a school night.

I made tacos wearing a tiara. Evelyn got tired of wearing the tiara and needed a head to hold it until after her costume change. I felt rather regal making tacos with the sparkly accessory perched on my curls. Made my perfect eyebrows looks rather on point.

Corissa Smith, Laura Webster, and I...plus 3 kids...drove up to Payson for the day. Our objective was to scout out mini session locations for family photos. Our first stop proved to be lovely, perfect for what we had in mind. We tried to hike down a bumpy trail with a stroller, it was soon abandoned by the way side. The little ones carried down the trail until we changed our minds. Instead we drove along the trail and found several spots right off the road for easy access. Looks like there will be 4-5 families attending the Payson mini sessions. We had hamburgers for lunch before heading back home. I walked into the house 2 minutes before my first piano student arrived, close call! 

We are lucky to have Aunt Shirley Joyce nearby. The kids invited her to their school for Grandparent's Day on Friday morning. I left my phone at home but did not have time to fetch it so we prayed she would find us! We met up right at the crosswalk in front of the school! The kids were so excited to share doughnuts with Grandma Shirley. Earlier in the day Evelyn asked when Charlie was coming over. I did not understand her at all, she got angry when I told her Charlie was her baby cousin. Turns out she had trouble saying and remembering the name Shirley. Aunt Charlie got a kick out of her new name. The kids showed her around some of the halls. They lead us into the chaotic library for the book fair. Whoever arranged that is brilliant! Justin had the day off so he helped herd the kids along. Phillip earned a Student of the Month award for being eager to learn! He was so sad last year, took him until the end of the year before he earned an award. This year...he's the first to get one! Hooray for Phillip.

Spenser and Laura invited us to the Auxier cabin in Pinetop for the weekend. Justin and I joked that maybe we should just stay home because Justin HATES fun...and the cabin would be fun. I went to Walmart by myself for recipe ingredients, that is always a treat. This time I chose the lazy method for packing: the collapsible laundry baskets. Shoved in PJs, change of clothing, a blanket, stuffy, and pillow per kid. The idea was once back home the baskets would already have dirty clothes. I picked up the kids at 3 so we could make the 3.5 hour drive earlier than if the kids rode the bus home. The drive up to Pinetop was so gorgeous. The views! Oh the views! Lovely! Towards the summit my ears plugged up from elevation changes. The hairpin turns gave us all a bit of nausea, but the views! Made it worth the car sickness. We ate some dinner at a Mexican place rated with 4.5 stars, it was more like 2 stars. I knew the ratings were skewed because the Quikstop was rated 5 stars. As soon as we arrived the whooping and hollering started as the boys joyously explored the cabin inside and out. Evelyn and Josie loved the water bed, it was quite bouncy. Evelyn and Josie were starving, they asked for food every 5-10 minutes. I tell ya, dinner was not so great. "I still hungry, mom!" Our family was in charge of breakfast. I whipped up french toast with freshly made raspberry compote, bacon on the side. The boys were outside playing some game with weapons and strategy. Everett got quite upset because the boys would not listen to his strategy. He sulked off in search of Gary who was not keen on playing outside. The girls loved the hammock. The girls brought me fistfuls of wild flowers, I loved the ones with the roots attached. We all headed up to Mt Baldy for a short hike and picnic. Spenser showed us all the beaver dam. All the kids got their toes wet in freezing cold mountain water. Anna even caught a few leeches on her ankles while wading in the mud. The dogs were off exploring once off their leashes. Everything was brilliant green, seemed more like spring than fall. The place had a magical feel with the bright colors, blue sky, cotton clouds, and such. We stopped once again at a large boulder, the allure of climbing it was magnetic. Fun times! We passed a shocking field of yellow wild black-eyed Susan, or small sunflowers. Several families were out in the field taking photos so we joined in the fun. Up close the field also boasted periwinkle bachelor buttons and blue wild flowers. The scene felt like something out of the Wizard of Oz, except the flowers were yellow. We relaxed until dinner, then ate delicious pork chops and fresh off the tree apple sauce. All too soon we headed back to the hot desert.

Amelia sang with 4 other kids in Sacrament Meeting the next morning. Our Primary Presidency spoke as well. The kids sounded amazing. We all practiced enough the prior week. She was quite nervous until it was over. Phillip was asked to sing "I am a child of God" as a solo for the Primary Program. He is very excited, is learning to play the song on the piano as well.

**we heard this past week that Drew Haley was in a football accident. Basically his knee cap was ripped to the side, in the process a major vein was damaged but not discovered until after his leg was deprived of oxygen for over a day. His leg was removed from the knee down this week. I don't cry much. Goodness, I cried for Drew. He reminds me of my Phillip, is such a beacon of hope for me that Phillip can grow up to be like. We love the Haley family. You are in our prayers!

11 September 2018

Evelyn is 5

A year is a long time to wait, birthdays seem to drag along when you're 4 waiting to be 5. I'm happy to report, Evelyn finally turned 5. The kids all get one pinata from us, this was Evelyn's pinata year. She could not wait to choose a pinata and treats to fill it up with. She planned her guest list several months ago. Her cake was going to be another doll cake with pink dress frosting. Her newest guest was Isla, her new bestie. Isla's sister is Amelia's bestie so we plan group play dates as often as possible.

Portrait of Evelyn at 5: this girl is determined. She is strong willed, smart, stubborn, loud, crude, silly, sweet, angry, thoughtful, button-pusher, etc. We joke that she is full of piss and vinegar, the joke's on us. Her nicknames provide further insight: Ra's al Ghul (chief demon) from the Arrow series, Sweetie, Cuckoo Loca, Stinker, and Evie Poo Poo.

At school she is a model student, if anything on the reserved/shy side of things. At home Rage against the Machine. I'm glad she is well-behaved in public, that gives her major points. We love seeing her grow and develop. Evelyn loves to play Barbie, doctor, and dress ups. She is often seen walking around listening to music. Her playlist is pretty funny. She started putting her shoes on the right feet, but tricks me when putting them on by placing the wrong shoe sides together then crossing her feet when putting on her shoes. She totally gets jokes, of all my kids she has the best understanding of jokes. We love her lopsided grin, those missing teeth make her smile unique. She is little miss independent until she does not want to be, at which point she melts into a crying pile on the floor. I adore her random hugs and kisses. I adore reading her books and playing games. She is one heck of a kid.

**well-child update 17 Sept 2018: 40 lbs (51.4%); 40.5 inches (13.3%). Did not cry during her shots but she did hide under my chair until it was her turn to see Dr Auxier. Met all milestones!

10 September 2018

Evelyn's Birthday

Our week was incredibly exciting! We had several new and exciting events that elevated our week to a new level. Monday morning chaos was triple the chaos due to a certain little girl's 5th birthday! She was so excited to FINALLY have a birthday. She's happy to turn 5, but started to cry when she realized that next year she'll be 6, she's scared of 6! She got unlit candles in her cereal, because of course lit candles are also scary. As soon as the kids dashed off to the bus I got myself and Josie ready. I dropped her off at a cute preschool class for a couple hours, more about this below. Then dashed off to get 4 dozen donuts for Phillip and Evelyn's classes. Took me three trips to get all the donuts inside the school, plus another trip for another armful of stuff for Amelia's class. Mr McKenzie asked me to bring some of my items from Egypt and talk about my experience there. Mrs Soudani and class joined us for the hour we chatted. I loved showing off my neolithic collection collected from the sands of the Fayium. Amelia helped me make a slide show with some photos my dad took on our Nile cruise. The kids had quite a few questions and seemed to enjoy the items I brought. Each kid had a chance to come touch and view the items I brought it. Right after the presentation I rushed over to Evelyn's class for snack time and Happy Birthday donuts. She was so nervous it was darling. I rushed to pick up Josie then ran to Costco for Evelyn's birthday cake. We rushed back to school to grab Evelyn for a special lunch at her favorite McDonald's for a cheeseburger, fries, apples, orange soda, and ketchup, and a toy. The girls loved the time they had to play in the play structure. Both Josie and I took a nap that afternoon! The afternoon was also full with cleaning up from the weekend clutter. Evelyn had a play date party with several little friends from school and church that started right when she got home. We had Alta, Miranda, Caitlyn/Abby, Elise, Marianne, and Isla over to play. The kids went bonkers over the pinata. Everett was pestering me to help fill it and knock it's guts out. We got the pinata and the candy craze over early in the party. The pinata was so heavy only two kids had a chance to whack it! Amelia and Brooklyn helped out by playing games like red light-green light, red rover, and mother-may-I. Evelyn chose to have spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. Of course, the spaghetti had to be pink! Evelyn was quite generous with the gifts and let all her friends play with the new toys. I love all her crazy facial expressions, her smile is crooked due to all her missing teeth. Makes that kid quite endearing. We ended the party with cake and a song. She was scared of her birthday candles so big brother Everett blew them out for her. Evelyn then smashed her face into her frosting instead of eating her cake! Crazy kiddo. Soon all the kids were smashing their faces into their slices of cake. I got all the faces washed off before parents started to show up. After everyone left we let Evelyn open up her gifts from us and the grandparents. She was delighted with a Barbie shopping set and a Bride and Groom barbie set. I then dropped dead into a deep sleep on Josie's floor before she even fell asleep.

Kristin Russo is teaching monthly tot reading groups. Her first group started this week with "If You Give a Moose a Muffin." Her groups are small due to the focus age of 2-3 years old. Josie had a total blast each morning at the "Paw Patrol" house. Kristin has a paw patrol set that Josie adores each time she goes over. She loved getting dressed and driving over each morning last week. One day she picked out pretty green dangle earrings to wear for her "Moose Muffin" date. Once the earrings were in she clasped her hands and twisted back and forth in front of the mirror, "I so bootiful! I bootiful mom!" I think my heart swelled a couple times larger. At the Russo's Josie jumped out of the van and waved me a goodbye, marched right in, and never looked back! Bless her little heart. The last day she waltzed out of class with a grin, "Mom! Hands on my head! I so silly!" She had a headband with her hand prints to look like Moose antlers. She carries around these three Paw Patrol stuffies, two Skyes and one Rubble. I splurged big time and scored the other 4 characters plus a lunch bag to carry the crew around in. She totes her new pup pack around all the time now. We sure love her sweet smiles and innocent chatter.

Wednesday evening Justin, Amelia, Chloe, and I got to see Lindsey Stirling in concert! We met up with our Call cousins on the lawn of the Ak-Chin stadium for the event. We were a bit late but no worries since Evanescence was performing first. Before we left Amelia and Chloe dusted themselves with copious amounts of glitter and perfume. I was grumpy, mornings are killing me, the chaos is more than I can handle. Two ADD kids makes for interesting mornings full of yelling and crying. The Godard's helped watch our crew while we went to the concert. Evanescence gave a really good performance. The highlight was Lindsey! The girls were bored until it was time for their idol to perform. I confess that Lindsey's performance was more showy and glitzy than Evanescence. Her portion of the show was so amazing. She also chatted with the audience more than Amy did. Lindsey said some interesting things that made me think: 1. when she was depressed nothing would remove the darkness. Instead she started to fill herself with light and things that pushed out the darkness. Eventually, the darkness was gone, replaced with light. 2. to have the confidence to be you and let the world catch up 3. she is a huge Harry Potter fan, a gryffindor! The amount of smoke was overwhelming, vape smoke, cigarette smoke, and heck throw in some marijuana. I'm glad the girls were totally unaware. We got home around midnight, tired and thrilled. Amelia and Evelyn slept in a bit the next morning until 8:15, was able to get both kids to school before the bell at 8:40! I even got a nice nap while Josie was at story time.

Friday Josie and I headed up to Scottsdale for some shopping at Savers and lunch with Justin. I found a couple cute shirts for myself and Justin found some handsome one. Ha ha. Josie quite enjoyed pushing about a tiny cart she filled with toys, happy until we left the cart/toys in the store. Justin took us to Ramenhood for lunch. Pretty tasty ramen that tastes nothing like the packages of dry ramen. Yum. The soft-boiled egg was quite delicious. Evelyn's friend Caitlyn got her ears pierced earlier this week. I showed her the photos with no comment. A while later Evelyn approached me asking for her ears pierced just like her friend who is five now. Yes! Her little friend Isla came home with her on the bus to play. The girls played Barbies, American Girl dolls, and my favorite...hair salon. Evelyn now has a best friend. They play well together so that is a bonus. Isla's dad came to pick her up shortly after they arrived from the bus. We convinced him to leave Isla for another couple hours and go out to dinner with his girlfriend. Bonus for us! After dinner and after Isla left Evelyn and I drove to the mall to get her ears pierced. She was a bit nervous, showed her nervousness by endless chatter. I got her all signed up then left the store to peruse another store since a baby was getting her ears pierced next, we did not want Evelyn to see her cry. Evelyn was so, so brave. She sat on my lap during the piercing. She flinched and gasped a little but did not cry! She totally earned two lollipops! Her new earrings are just like her personality, rainbow flowers! Love that cute kid. Now a few days later she is talking all about her new earrings, she absolutely loves them. She cannot wait until Halloween to change her earrings just like Amelia and I.

Saturday morning Justin led a torture session cleaning the yards up a bit. Amelia and Phillip were complete pills, whining and moaning the entire time. Everett stepped right up and enjoyed his chores! He pulled weeds, dumped them, helped clean the yard, dumped the recycling, emptied the dishwasher, and cleaned up toys without us having to ask him! Amelia was so annoyed he was getting all the positive attention. I asked Phillip to clean out the playhouse so he grabbed the hose and filled it with water, the little girls were in heaven! The Justin-bear came out to roar and prod the kids until the yard and house were at an acceptable level of clean. I cleaned up the garage then helped out with the yard work. Everett earned a huge slurpee for his cheerful help, going the extra mile. I had an image stuck in my brain I just had to realize. Evelyn was game to be my model, let me fix her hair, dress her up, and minded the poses I asked of her. Our pool is totally out of balance, once the kids went back to school it got put on the back burner. We missed swimming the past few days because the chlorine was either too low or two high. Jacob came over for the afternoon while his parents went to the temple. I love that we can trade kids once in a while. All the kids spent a happy afternoon playing various games like Pokemon to "Save Princess Evelyn." The kids totally forgot all about their devices for most of the day.