17 November 2019

Justin's Birthday version 44

Justin had to work on Veteran's Day this year. He said most other folks at his office were gone so he was able to bust through lots of work he needed to catch up on. The rest of us enjoyed a quiet morning. We went to Uptown Jungle for a couple hours to play using our Pogo Passes. This time we went to the Chandler location instead of the Mesa one. It was a little bit smaller but still quite engaging. Josie was terrified of the upper "hamster" runs most kids seem to enjoy. Instead I followed her around the ball pit and the toddlers area. We made a special visit to McDonald's for lunch after our play session. We've nearly cut out all fast food visits, down to 1-2 eat outs per month (excluding trips). I had another desert photo session out past Lost Dutchman. It's funny the tiny parking lot is empty at 3:30, come 3:45 it's like a migration of photographers and families swarm the area. I photographed a family we knew in Sidney, NE! They have three gorgeous daughters, two stunning redheaded girls! Swoon! Amelia is raking in the babysitting money while I am gone working! She loves the extra bit of money, I love saving money by hiring her. Evelyn got to play with Taylor for the afternoon. We had salad for dinner. Josie has pretty much removed herself from dinner and is content waiting for hours until bedtime treats or such. She hates all fruits and vegetables, seriously, has not eaten any fresh produce for over a year. She did slurp down baked potato soup but dug in her heels when I asked her to take a bite of lettuce. I told her no more food until she eats one little bite. Well, she is as stubborn as they come. Little twerp did not eat a morsel of food until after noon the next day. I took her plate of lettuce hoping the toy aisle or a treat would be an incentive. She refused, decided toys were dumb and treats were for tomorrow. She finally nibbled a centimeter scrap of lettuce wrapped up in a large piece of deli turkey. I was oddly proud of her strong will to stick to her guns and frustrated about her disgust of foods. After her nap she proudly told the kids she ate her "leluce." I think we both lost the battle of the lettuce. Again on Saturday she went without food after dinner because she would not even lick/taste her lasagna. In desperation I even washed off the sauce so it was just a plain noodle, NOPE! She would not be persuaded. Went to bed hungry again! I decided it was not worth the fight to continue into the next day, she happily ate a large bowl of oatmeal (with chicken sugar).

Tuesday after school I photographed Amanda, Chloe, and Ronald. Amelia stayed home with work on Science Fair with Zoey. Phillip watched the younger girls at the Riparian play area while I took photos. Phillip accidentally bonked Josie's head while giving her a Piggy-back ride, other than that little incident the kids had a great time running about. Phillip is really such a sweet, loving big brother. He tries so hard to be kind and attentive, his wildness often overwhelms his sisters, I wish the girls could see past that and admire his big heart. Josie lately has taken an affinity to Everett, she calls him the best brother. Everett dotes on her in return. Those two have an ongoing kitty (Josie) and master (Everett) game going on.

Mornings this week were quite difficult for Evelyn. She woke up Monday-Wednesday bawling for Daddy; complete water-works even all the way to school. Justin took her on a special gas station trip on Tuesday. Wednesday he took a moment to draw her a picture, just like all the pictures she draws him! She proudly put her prize up on the fridge! She was delighted! Thursday and Friday mornings went just fine. She loves her Daddy!

Everett is participating in a running club during lunch recess. He reported to me that he is in his best shape ever! Well then! Keep up the good job. The boys loved scouts this week. Everett went on a hike around the Riparian with his troop. Phillip had a treasure hunt in the church, they had to use a compass to find their clues. Ronald seemed to quite enjoy himself, all the boys had flushed cheeks and ran over 2 miles in and around the church building. Thursday the boys opened the bike garage door when a loud snap shattered three of the window panes. Somehow the garage door support ripped off and buckled the top of the door. After a couple of opinions looks like we need to replace that door, it cannot be fixed. Took a bit of time to sweep and vacuum up the glass, makes me nervous with so many bare feet running about. The girls expressed a desire for sidewalk chalk. We ran to the Dollar Store for chalk! Soon the driveway was covered with rainbows and Josie's line drawings.

Justin celebrated his 44th birthday this year! Hooray! We were totally lame and did not do much this year. It seemed excessive to celebrate by spending money when we're trying to eliminate some credit card debt. Josie and I drove up to have lunch with Justin at Jimmy John's. Josie devoured her entire plain sandwich. Josie got to spend a bit of time in Daddy's office without the bustle of her older siblings, she loved the attention. We (blush) went out again for dinner at Moreno's for his birthday dinner. We both adore their shrimp cocktail and shrimp ceviche tostada. The kids were over the moon to eat out at a restaurant again. I think the kids ate several plates full of cucumbers and avocado salsa. I made Diana's marshmallow brownies from scratch for his special treat. I hope Justin felt the love from all of us that day! He turned the ever so lofty 44 years of age.

Saturday was a busy, busy day. Amelia was up past 10:30 working on homework since she missed school on Wednesday and Thursday with a sore throat and cough. She worked consistently for 6 hours to catch up. Poor Zoey left our house in frustrated tears and tantrums because the printer would not coordinate with her laptop and print out their Science Fair forms. Pretty tense moments. Amelia earned her downtime for sure on Saturday. I had an early morning session with Sarah Burton's family. I was the button pusher and attention grabber for a very energetic extended family photo session. She is paying me in cookies! Best money ever. Amelia had her much anticipated piano recital at 11 am. We dropped off Phillip and Everett to the Chandler Call's home for Anson's birthday party. The boys got to have an epic 3 hour long Nerf gun war. The rest of us listened to an amazing piano recital. Amelia performed her pieces so well. I got chills as the last note hung in the air from O Come Emmanuel. Mrs Nurenberg recently upped the cost of piano lessons and is only taking serious students now. We could tell a definite difference between the April and November recitals. These kids performed beautifully. I had a few moments of "what kind of piano teacher am I?" I am the kind with no formal training but who can teach out of a book sort of teacher, the kind best for Primer-level 2. I am ok with that! I had another two photo sessions starting at 2:30 with an Indian couple expecting their first baby. Goodness sakes, that mother to be was absolutely stunning! Second family made me a bit nervous, 4 boys under the age of 5 would make most photographers a bit nervous. I take my cap off for those two amazing parents. Their boys were complete angels. Finished their session in less than 30 minutes, even got home before it was dark.

Today was our last Personal Finance meeting, 12 weeks of growing with a group of people we came to dearly love and appreciate. If you have the chance to take this class, DO IT! You learn so much more than personal finances, you learn how to be Spiritually and Temporally Self-Reliant. We zipped through the last chapter quickly in order to watch the Face-to-face with Elder Gong. Busy Day! Church, choir, class, broadcast, then dinner with our group. I had a roast cooking for dinner in the crock pot and made cookie dough the night before. I called these cookies Harry Potter cookies because my kids would not eat oatmeal-butterscotch cookies. The broadcast was quite amazing. It was interactive with technology, scripted, interspersed with video, music, and word. Our kids were completely bored, almost lost them to boredom several times. I was quite inspired with the new program. The church is continuing the effort to start the gospel with the individual as the focus and the church as support. Love it! The YM even have a theme to memorize and recite now. A program for kids, run and directed by kids is novel and exciting. I can't wait to start! Dinner was quite fun. We really lucked out with our group, the Browns hosted the dinner. We sure love the Lamberts and Cheryl (facilitator) and Shannan.

**in my next career I might become a plumber. Justin thinks my business should be called "Say no to Crack." Make a group of woman plumbers! I *might* just make that happen. I deal with enough poop to be quite immune to most gross smells and situations.

16 November 2019

Compassion Experience

Well, I am most certainly in the midst of busy season. Gracious, I can't seem to get a good night's sleep per all the extra work I've got for Fall Family Photos. The day starts at 6:15 and ends after midnight for me lately. Thank goodness for extra work though, it means Christmas money! I can do this.  Josie was bored one morning so we went to the Riparian and played on the large cement snake there. Tuesday night I prayed to be of service to someone and got a text at 6 am asking for emergency childcare! That was cool, I prayed someone called! That's the way to be of service. Monday I went on a long bike ride for 10 miles, not too far but far enough for me. Josie seemed to enjoy her time in the bike carriage, she had lots of snacks and books to keep her occupied. My bum was not so certain of the ride next day, it was a little sore. Phillip did pass his nasty cough on to a couple other family members. I caught his bug and lost my voice for a good 6 days, had a nasty cough, and many nights with doses of Nyquil. Felt like a rough week for me!

Funny story about Everett. He gets up most mornings with some new ache or pain. Thursday he woke up complaining that his finger, thumb, and arm were all really sore. As he said this he started snapping his fingers. Turns out he wanted to learn how to snap so was practicing his new skills for hours on end. He can now manage a soft snap...and earned those sore muscles! Took him 5 days to get a decent snap! 

The boys are loving their last few weeks of cubscouts. Everett is so gung-ho about most things. He completely enjoys the challenges of scouting. He got to "swim against the current" for his most recent belt loop activity. Phillip finally convinced Ronald to try out scouts with him, Ronald is now totally sold. He gets to see all his school friends and have really fun time. The boys played "sockey" in the gym for a really fun activity. I was also at the church that same evening teaching the Activity Day Girls some watercoloring skills. Earlier that day I purchased a bottle of Frisket Mask Liquid, it's like a liquid glue mask you can paint on plain paper then watercolor over, remove the mask after the colors dry a bit, leaving nice white spaces. The girls painted their names with the Frisket then water colored the paper with a gradient of colors. Turned out really fun and super cool. I ditched the menu that night for an easy meal of cereal! We did not get home until after 6:30, just in time to take Mia back for YW Activity.

Thursday a crew of guys came and removed all the furniture from the boys bedroom in preparation for new carpet. Since the room was empty I took advantage of the space to paint their room. Went to Home Depot at 6:30 pm for paint and supplies. I got the walls where their bed goes cut in and painted. I finished the rest of the room after the new carpet and pad went in. I color matched a swatch of Everett's minion pillow case, so their room color is "Minion Blue!" Phillip requested that I paint a mural of fluffy clouds, blackbirds flying, and a clothesline with Minion clothes flapping in the breeze. I'll get right on that! Their room is FINALLY done, 4 months after the air conditioner fiasco. We are so pleased with the carpet match, the new carpet is a slight shade lighter but you can barely tell especially at night. All those paint fumes gave me a couple nasty headaches. The kids tried to help my paint, that was interesting. They all got one chance with the paint roller, thankfully Justin chased them downstairs to let me work quickly in peace. 

The Frozen car broke. The left wheel motor somehow came detached, to reattach it would require some specialized tools or a lot of time. The kids love that car so much! It really gets a lot of use, hummm, do I get another one or take back the garage space?

Saturday morning I willingly went to a lady who stabbed my eyebrows back into place. My last session of eyebrow shading and microblading did not last more than 3 months. I guess all that sweating when the air conditioner broke destroyed my eyebrows. Because I was sick and having my womanly time the numbing agent did not work. Did you know your eyebrows are quite sensitive? Gracious. The lady gave me some stress balls to squeeze while I struggled to lie still. Honey! I am paying you to stab my face. Here's to hoping these brows stay a bit longer. I might be back to drawing in my eyebrows for the rest of my life. I cannot wait for resurrected eyebrows. Ha ha ha ha.

I signed the family up for the Compassion Experience. It's a child development organization that tackles childhood poverty. A few years ago the foundation came out with these semi trucks converted into several rooms that you can tour and learn about two children's stories with poverty, Yannely and Sameson. We were all equipped with headphones and an iPod. We toured 4 rooms telling different parts of Sameson's story. The kids were all impressed he started working at age 3 herding cows. We got to experience part of his Aunt's house, the school, a kitchen, and lastly his woodworking shop. The kids all donated a dollar from their allowances at the end of the tour, if they felt like this was a good way to donate. We listened to Sameson's story in his own words narrated as we went from room to room. Seemed like a good way to introduce the kids to other living conditions even for a few moments. 

09 November 2019


We laid waste to 6 large pumpkins! Went to Walmart for pumpkins at 5:30 and two hours later we had a pile of pumpkin guts and scraps flying all over the kitchen table. The kids had a blast designing their creations and doing their best to cut out their designs. Mia and Chloe carved BFF pumpkins, Phillip had his usual special creation with farts and stuff, Ronald mostly got frustrated, I helped Evelyn carve a sleeping unicorn face, and Josie wanted a silly face pumpkin. Oh yes, Josie was laughing her head off when she chose her pumpkin. She found a pumpkin with a butt on one side, I tried to steer her to another pumpkin but that misshapen gourd caught her fancy. I caught her singing a bum-bum song to her pumpkin. Justin arrived home in time to assist a couple kids on the carving portion. Two days later the pumpkins were oozing and growing mold. Traditions are tradition!

Tuesday early, early morning Phillip came down with croup. He and I were going between freezer air and hot water in the sink to clear out his airways. That took an hour of hot/cold treatment, breathing treatment, and breathe oils. He slept until well after 10 am that morning, even slept through the garage door opening and closing multiple times. Little person spewed his germs everywhere, wiping his boogers, spraying cough germs all over the place, he was not selective at all. He lost the towel I gave him to cough into about 10 times. It's no wonder the rest of us caught his nasty cough.

Phillip's grade performed a Spooky selection of songs for Halloween. The kids all dressed up in  Halloween costumes. Mrs Munley had the kids do a little play acting this time, the kids were all part of a ghost-busting squad trying to catch the Purple People Eater! Josie and Everett wanted to dress up as well just for the fun of it, Josie went as Elsa! Phillip got to be the telephone operator at one point in the concert! He quite enjoyed the action. Seemed like all the kids either had a speaking or solo singing part.

Thursday was of course a busy, busy day. I was on double duty carpooling that entire week, most of the time only morning or afternoon. Amelia got her costume on for school, she could wear it if she paid $2 or donated canned food. The boys wore their costumes for Sonoma Ranch's costume parade. Josie and I rushed between dropping off kids and trying to make the parade. We got there with just a couple minutes to spare. Josie loved watching all the kids parade by wearing costumes. Our favorite costume was a girl wearing a horse contraption, looked like she was actually a full-sized horse. Josie especially enjoyed the Princess costumes and the T-Rex blowup ones. I had to run a couple errands afterwards. Phoenix had a cold spell the high for Thursday was only 70 something, I had to run out and get long-sleeved shirts for the girls. After looking at Target I headed home, on the drive home I realized my phone was missing. Instead of grabbing both my phone and wallet, I only got my wallet. I ran back to Target but could not find my phone. I filed a report at Target and left Justin's phone number. Back at home I logged into "find my iPhone" saw my phone traveling towards the inner parts of Mesa stopping here and there, mostly Mexican marts and medical offices. I went back to Target after Josie went down for her nap. A very helpful security guard tracked down the individual who picked up my phone and logged the information. The lady who took it (out of kindness) eventually called Justin's number. I was able to text her and coordinate a time to pick up the phone. At 4 pm I headed back to Target to wait for the lady who never showed up. That was a stressful hour of waiting, knowing the kids were anxious to go party and eat dinner. Justin finally texted her in Spanish and was able to coordinate times and places. He met up with her back at the same Target on his way home from work. I picked up $.50 corndogs for a quick dinner at Sonic. The kids had done their best with costumes. Amelia put on makeup for the girls! I took a couple photos then we were off to the block party. I was asked to do face painting at one booth. I was so stressed out and without my phone to help me paint designs that we ended up putting that table away. Amelia looked so awesome in her costume! She really thought out each part of her costume and either made it or enlisted my help. At one point I noticed Everett watching the movie with a pile of candy by him. I asked where his bucket was, he answered, "I lost my bucket and candy so I played that game over there to get some candy in case I never find my bucket!" What?! What kid loses a bucket of candy? I snooped around the street and finally found his bucket under a table where a matching game was played. Justin came halfway through the party with my phone in hand. Phew, that was a huge fiasco just because of my inattentiveness. Ronald wandered away from the party with a bunch of school friends his age to trick or treat around the other streets. His parents and I were quite frantic looking around for him. Brother Payne (a police officer) finally found him two streets away calmly gathering candy. Drama! We walked around our neighborhood to finish out the night. Only a few houses actually had porch lights on. Our group was the first to trick or treat our street at 8:30 pm. Most houses gave each kid handfuls of candy just to get rid of their stashes. The kids were thrilled! At home the great candy trading and sorting game ensued. The dislike pile had Snickers and Heath bars, I acquired all the Baby Ruth bars and a couple Almond Joy. The kids enjoyed their candy for a day or two then forgot about their bags.

Woke up Friday with a bunch of grouchy kids! The teachers had quite a handful of hyper and grouches for that school day.

Saturday I had a couple photo sessions. My first appointment was a set of 1 year old twins. Phew, we adults were all sweating as we attempted to get the littles to cooperate. Took some elbow grease but we got some really cute shots. I was glad these sessions were close by at the Riparian. I got a couple fragmented texts from Justin and Mia about dinner prep...after 6 pm. I came home to the oven on, some cucumbers chopped up, and frozen gyro meat. At one point Amelia texted me, "Ugh! Men!" after Justin couldn't find the meat in the freezer. I died! Laughter for days. We did not starve but did eat a lovely late dinner after 7 pm.

Sunday we had our monthly Call dinner. I had to prep big time before church this time, cheesy potatoes and a baked chicken. During our class I quietly asked Justin to text Mia to ask if she'd flipped the chicken. Well, she texted back that flipping the chicken was way too hard for her. We were all laughing, since my comments were clearly not quiet enough. She did her best! Flipping those chickens is not easy. Dinner was delicious. Laura made Cold Stone style ice cream using the kid's Halloween candy. Yum. The boys were so funny to observe, they have the best time together.

02 November 2019

Pumpkin Patch and Color Fun Run

We enjoyed a special, short visit from Grandpa and Grandma Lance! They got up super early on Monday to make the 12 hour drive here. They arrived shortly after the kids got home from school, it was a whirlwind of joy and excitement. We showed them our afternoon routine with play, homework, piano, and dinner. For FHE we continued our lesson on the Apostasy. Next day Dad had all the kids exercising with him on the floor. Everett was especially keen on trying out all the exercises. Dad's duffel bag of tricks was especially exciting, one green handball was quickly lost. I found it an hour after they left! I had planned a trip to the Pumpkin Patch but our timeline for Tuesday did not work out in our favor. After dinner we headed to the park for an hour. Evelyn finally had the courage to ride down the steep hill on her balance bike...multiple times. The air was about 10 degrees cooler at the lowest point of the hill/ditch area...felt wonderful. Dad played ball with the kids for a while. Amelia and Chloe made the boys cry playing Monkey in the Middle, unfair advantage in height and skill. Mom and I played with the girls up in the park area. We topped off with some ice creams after the fastest baths the kids have ever taken. Mom and Dad were off early the next morning around 5 am. The kids were quite upset they left so quickly, on the other hand we are so please they made the sacrifice to come visit us. My dad is off to the Middle East soon for a new job lasting a few years. They drove straight through to Gilroy to visit my Dad's parents for a couple days. I quite enjoyed taking my dad to the gym with me and of course all the good talks with them both.

Wednesday was an early release day so we went to the pumpkin patch right after everyone was home from school. We went back to Vertuccio Farms for their fall festivities. We brought along Chloe, Ronald, and Jacob for a rather large group of 8 kids. Amelia, Chloe, and Jacob mostly played on the trampolines. Amelia said they adopted a cute little girl that loved unicorns as much as Mia. Everett and Ronald teamed up, they were everywhere! I saw snatches of them here and there, out of all the kids Everett and Ronald did the most exploring. Phillip and the little girls stayed with me most of the time. Josie loved the floating duckie game, that is always her favorite! It was torture removing her from the premises after 30 minutes. Then she fixated on the golf game. Phillip and Evelyn had a great time moving around the mini golf obstacles. We went on to the cow carts then the hamster rolls, and the zip line. Phillip melted my heart as he accompanied Josie each time and helped her up on the seat. Towards dusk we all met up for a turn around the corn maze! The little girls were a bit freaked out as the maze got darker. I quite enjoyed all the little smiles and time to enjoy Arizona fall weather.

Evelyn's school had a Halloween Mercado at school. All month the kids worked to earn fake dollars they could spend at the Mercado. I hear it was lots of fun! Evelyn came home with treats and a large bubble wand. She was allowed to wear her costume for the day as well. The Sister missionaries came over for dinner. Our ward has two new sisters that are quite energetic and fun. We enjoyed their visit along with taco salad and lesson.

Friday Justin flew to Idaho for some business. Josie and I went to Sonoma Ranch to cheer on Phillip and Everett as they ran laps for a school fundraiser! Both boys ran 14 laps! Towards the end of each lap the kids were squirted with different colors of liquid chalk (or something). It was fun to watch as each grade invented new ways to get colorized, Everett's grade walked a slowly as possible and jumped in the air, Phillip's grade did spins down the way! Josie was quite annoyed with the waiting around. She finally got to play with her friend Addison at the play structures. I came home to an oven dripping with pizza dough. I put in to raise, the dough was extra busy and efficient. We celebrated at home with homemade pizza and watching the new Aladdin movie. The kids were quite freaked out when an anonymous neighbor dropped off a creepy doll. I was gone to Safeway for a moment when the incident happened. Amelia and Phillip quickly passed the doll to another neighbor with shaking hands. Made me laugh.

I had a fun desert photo session Saturday evening with a young family of 3 kids. Ah, the memories of three kids and the young year chaos. I think we are finally growing as a family out of the young years. It is bitter sweet for sure. Josie is starting to put her poops in the potty, not consistent yet but getting better. That seems like the final hurdle for her to achieve the Big Girl prize. Friday Isla's mom, Vanessa gave her a cute little bike and a helmet. Josie immediately rode around the block several times. After baths we decorated Halloween cookies Sister LaBarr brought over. Phillip was in a mood, he decorated his cookie with a blanket over his head. Justin got home well after the kids were in bed.

Sunday we had a cool ward potluck after church. The theme was soup, salads, bread, and desserts. I made a squash soup with several delicious squashes my mom brought from her garden, I added an apple, sweet potato, and onion. Oh my gracious, it was delicious. The kids played in the gym while I attended our finance class. Justin and Josie fell asleep in the couch right before the potluck so they did not come to either function. In between church and the potluck I made two batches of cookie dough, peanut butter and chocolate chip. Right after class I baked up the cookies, just in time for the Sanders family to come enjoy a treat with us. They moved in earlier this year and seem to need friends in the ward. We swapped several stories and lots of laughs.