Tuesday, March 19, 2019

McKenzie's Birthday

Things are changing. For her birthday this year she didn't ask for crafts and kits and something to play with. She asked for cash and shoes and wireless ear buds and one (hail mary, long shot, might as well ask for it) iPhone.

This girl is a full blown teenager.

And not just any shoes, let's back up, but mustard yellow and white checkered Vans. Apparently that's the thing these days, she told me, and all the stores in town and online seemed to validate that by slapping their Out Of Stock signs every place the mustard yellow and white checkered Vans should have been. Fortunately however, the favored Vans aren't quite as favored in Park City at the moment (and also fortunately, Brian and I happened to be in Park City the week before McKenzie's birthday) so when we happened to drive by the Vans outlet store on our way home from dinner one night (by typing it into GoogleMaps and driving 40 minutes out of the way), we were able to pick up a pair.

I might have hugged the box when the store clerk brought them out.

But that was only because I knew it would be the highlight of her birthday. And it was. So even though I don't generally subscribe to brand names in general, it was fun to see her so excited about a pair of shoes.

We let her open them up early in the morning and they went immediately on her feet. And on her way out the door to Seminary I knew that the day was destined to be great because of all the happy energy that seemed to be originating right from those feet.

A few hours later, Eliza and I checked her out of school during her lunch period because somehow through the years, that has become tradition. We didn't have much time, unfortunately, because lunch periods are a joke these days, so she picked the Southwest Diner right here in town and we talked and laughed while she wolfed down her giant burrito.

Later that night I fried up some Fry Bread to make Navajo tacos for dinner per her request and it made me smile because Navajo tacos were my favorite food when I was about her age, too. In fact, I remember sitting down on the grass in the middle of Swiss Days one year as a teenager with a giant Navajo Taco in my lap (actually, they called it a Swiss Taco because, Swiss Days). I was feeling grumpy that I smelled like sauerkraut, and wishing that I could have been working in the Navajo Taco booth instead of the bratwurst and sauerkraut booth because then I could be smelling like a Navajo Taco instead.

Of course, through the years, my adult self has realized that smelling like a Navajo Taco isn't as fabulous as my teenager self once thought it would be.

But I do it anyway, on occasion. Especially for this girl.

This next picture sums up one of the greatest things about McKenzie. She is a protector. She loves her little brothers and, consciously or not, fills her role of being the big sister with passion.

After the above picture was taken, I realized that I wanted Eliza to be a part of it too, but since Eliza was all the way across the table buckled into her seat, I felt it would be easier to ask all four of the older kids to move their bodies rather than unbuckling Eliza and moving hers. (And so illustrates the thought that sometimes she is more of a handful than all four other children combined.)

I don't know if you can tell, but Eliza was not entirely happy to be involved in the picture. It's because Timothy was standing next to her, and she has a little bit of an issue with Timothy these days. You see, she has it in her head that she deserves 100% of my time and attention, and Timothy sometimes gets in the way of that plan. So whenever he gets close to her she reacts unkindly, which is so sad to see because Timothy genuinely has nothing but love and affection for her (which, to her credit, he shows rather boisterously at times), and her unkindness crumbles him. And so we see again the protector in McKenzie, Timothy has no idea about what's going on right next to him because of McKenzie's strong and loving arm placed purposefully around her little sister.

Then I wanted a picture of just McKenzie, but Miles had other ideas.

Neither of us noticed him there until after I'd taken the picture, and then when I pointed him out, we all laughed for much longer than you would have expected.

Eventually the night came to an end and we sent McKenzie to bed with lots of hugs and kisses and glad you were borns. And after she'd disappeared into her room for the night I realized that I hadn't gotten a single picture of her with the number 15 in it (and apparently I felt it was important to do so), so I ran upstairs and pulled her back out of her room to 'sit on the stairs by your 15 so I can get one more picture.' 

Brian didn't know I had this on my agenda, nor did he see me run up the stairs to get her, so when he turned around from doing the dishes in the kitchen at the base of the stairs and saw McKenzie like this, meditating, after we'd already sent her off to bed, he was obviously confused.

"Uh, Kenz?" He stared, "What the heck?"

We laughed for much longer than you would have expected.

Eventually she calmed down enough for us to get one 'normal' picture, and then was sent to bed for the final time that night.

A few days later, I packed her and a few of her friends into the car and headed off to an escape room where we all worked together to make our way out of a(n absolutely disgusting) jail cell. (It wasn't actually disgusting, but it was made to look so, complete with a nasty toilet (with dirty water at the bottom (that we had to DIG THROUGH! (and when I say 'we' I mean Jayce (he was our hero.))))

(Do you see the mustard yellow and white checkered Vans on two of the girls up there? I'm telling you, it's the thing.) (Do you also notice that there are boys in this picture? Teenage boys? Like, 'I want to invite teenage boys to my teenage birthday party' boys?! It's cool. Totally cool. I'm not making it a thing, you are.) And then we all went back to our house where a few more people came to celebrate McKenzie with a riveting tournament of Mario Kart.

Eliza was happy to watch everyone play and seemed to enjoy the energy in the house (which isn't always the case).

I watched these kids all night, and it's funny because sometimes I don't feel all that removed from being a teenager myself. And then in other ways it feels like another lifetime. Weird.

They played other games, wrestled (boys), talked, wrestled (boys), ran around, wrestled (boys), and finished the night off playing volleyball.

It was a fun night. And at the end of it McKenzie said, "you know, I used to think that Carson and Miles were so weird for wrestling around all the time, but now I realize that it's just boys!" Her eyes were rolling wide and Brian and I laughed right out loud while she continued, "Those boys were on the ground all night!"

And we laughed for much longer than you would have expected.

Happy Birthday, my love!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Disney - Day 3

I'd like to say Eliza will let anyone hold her. That she's gentle and kind and loving and happy to spread her love to all those wanting a piece of it. But she's a bit lot more cautious than that. She tends to feel rather unsafe in new situations or when new people are hovering around her. And she needs to be gently and frequently reassured that everything is okay. So I wasn't really sure how it was going to go, leaving her with my parents through the days while Brian and I scampered off to stand in lines.

But thankfully my parents are amazing and Eliza felt secure and loved in their arms.

Riley, on the other hand, was adorably unhappy whenever she was taken from her mother.

Look at that cute little face!

But, regardless of how the babies felt in the moment of separation, Mom and Dad were amazing at taking them anyway. And it was awesome to go on the bigger rides with my other kids.

You might notice Miles in the front of this log, and you might recognize that he is on his way up to the giant drop of Splash Mountain, and you might see that his eyes look bright and excited.

This is noteworthy, people.

Miles has not been particularly fond of roller coasters throughout his life (read: he has hated them with an intense passion like only Miles can), but that first day in Disney we pushed and pulled and pleaded with him to just try Space Mountain (because it was (a highly motivating) Star Wars themed), and eventually he consented, albeit rather begrudgingly.

This was great! I thought. But halfway through the ride I changed my thoughts to this was a terrible idea. The ride was much darker, much louder, and much faster than I had remembered it being and I was certain that by taking him on that ride, I had just solidified his determination to NEVER let roller coasters be a part of his life. Ever.

Another reason why this was a terrible idea occupied my thoughts was that I had sweet little 5-year-old Timothy by my side, currently experiencing his first roller coaster ride, and as the G's pushed me into my seat and whipped my body around I knew I must have been scarring not just one, but two of my children. Timothy had been excited and easy to convince to try it out - but since he had had no previous reference or conceptions about roller coasters, that wasn't particularly noteworthy.

I couldn't see either child, Miles was a few carts back with McKenzie and Timothy was covered in the blanket of darkness that validates the 'Space' in 'Space Mountain'. I couldn't hear either child either, the music of the ride was blaring in my ears loudly enough to drown out any other sounds. But I reached over and squeezed Timothy's knee to let him know that I was there, and I tried to whoop and holler over the music to let him hear that I was having a good time, thereby hopefully giving him permission to do the same.

And just then, when I was expecting to feel his hand death grip onto mine, I felt it bump right into my cheek instead and I realized, he's got his hands up in the air! I listened closer and could make out laughter coming from his seat - my heart and smile exploded!

As we pulled back into the loading/unloading zone I looked at his bright face and said, "Well?!?!"

He had no words but, as my brother who was sitting behind him said, "Those two little fists that shot up into the air" in response to the question told the whole story.

I whipped around to see if I could read Miles's thoughts and saw him climbing out of the car, eyes and body full of that unmistakable adrenaline and adventure high, and I knew that the future of being a human now looked much brighter for Miles.

They were both hooked, for good.

Eliza, on the other hand, was still a little unsure of anything that seemed to move without her anticipation of it. But the Winnie the Pooh ride happened to be right next to Splash Mountain, so while Nana and Poppy waited for us to come through Splash Mountain on that third day, they took Eliza into the magical world of Pooh and she fell in love with it. They went through it s.e.v.e.r.a.l times while they waited. And then she went on it s.e.v.e.r.a.l more times with me.

Enjoy your delightful Winnie the Pooh ride now, love. But get ready for the big roller coasters. You're the last one in the family to convert.

Family vacations are interesting now that we have teenagers and toddlers all in the same bunch. It's difficult to find something where everyone is happy. But Disney provides that magic. We let the big kids run off and enjoy the park by themselves for a few hours, and the three of them had a fabulous time. And while they were off on the big rides, we took the littles to Fantasy Land - which was where Eliza found all the dreamiest rides. She loved Dumbo, don't let her face fool you.

And she loved the carousel, too. That stone-faced love is real, I promise.

And she loved waiting in the lines, too. She's a happy child, really.

One of my favorite things, and I might have said this before, is watching other people watch Eliza. Whenever we're in a crowded space, I know I can look around and find at least one person watching her with a smile on their face. She's had hundreds and hundreds of admirers throughout her short little life and I can't count the number of times I've heard, "She is such a doll," followed up with "No, really, she actually looks like a baby doll." I love watching it brighten people's days just to look at her. I know that most of her magnetism is because of that beautiful little face, but looks aside, she is a beautiful person and she makes me want to be the kind of person who shares so much light that I brighten people's days like that.

Riley also seemed to enjoy waiting in all the lines. As long as her Mama was holding her.

If anyone else tried to hold her, her eyes would well up with the cutest little baby tears and tear drops as big as her eyeballs would start falling down her cheeks. This girl knows how to cry! Even when she was a newborn in the hospital, her tears were real, and if you've never seen a newborn cry a cry with tears, it's something to see! Most babies don't start producing tears until much, much later, but Riley is advanced that way.

So anyway, we did split up for a few hours on the last day, but mostly we were together.

And we like it that way.

On another note, Disney with teenagers is weird these days.

I'm so grumpy about the way phones are taking over our lives. I have lots of rules and even more guidelines about appropriate usage of phones, but it's a fight... always a fight. When I contrast the picture above with the picture below everything about the way phones pull us out of our lives crystallizes in my mind.

Solidarity, moms. Let's force our kids to talk with people.

And can I tell one more thing? My Carson... I don't have many pictures of that kid because he's always moving so dang fast, but I was so impressed with him throughout this vacation. He was always working to include all of his siblings, respectfully went along with whatever was happening, and never once complained - even when he was wet and freezing cold after Splash Mountain at sunset happened. That kid is so incredible.

It was a fun vacation, and one of the greatest lessons I learned through being with my family for several days is that heavenly Father knew what he was doing when he placed us in families. They give us a platform to love unconditionally, to work on differences, to support and to listen and to strengthen.

I love these people.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Disney - Day 2

Halfway through the first day of Disney I knew that things weren't going well inside this kid's little body. His energy was drained, his emotions were high, and his throat and head were, as he said, "not feeling very normal."

He sunk more and more throughout that first day and near the end he and I found ourselves sitting alone at a table, his fevered little head resting in my lap, and his sad moans giving voice to the way he felt. Brian and the other kids gathered our dinner while I ran my fingers through his hair and told him how brave and how strong he had been through the whole day even though especially since he wasn't feeling well.

That night when we got back to the house, he asked Brian and my dad to give him a blessing to help him feel better for the next day. In the blessing Brian said, "I urge you to remember to pray for your own health. Remember that Heavenly Father hears you," and after the blessing it was the one thing that Timothy carried away. Before we were even out of the room, he had turned over on his mattress, pulled his knees up underneath his body and had started praying that he would feel better.

The next morning he came bounding into our bedroom early, "Dad!" he said, "Dad! Your blessing worked!" He was feeling much better, he said, though my mama eyes could see the small fever still in his eyes. We cuddled him into bed with us and we talked about all the different ways Heavenly Father answers our prayers.

"Sometimes he answers our prayers just the way we want him to," we explained, "and other times he answers them in a different way. But either way, we can have faith and trust that he is answering them the very best way for us."

We talked about how important it is for our bodies to get sick sometimes. That being sick helps us get stronger. We talked about how to take care of our bodies when they're sick - and what Taking Care Of Our Bodies When They're Sick might look like through a day in Disneyland.

Full disclosure - Brian and I totally had an agenda with this conversation.

We didn't really want to carry him around the whole park as we had the day before, you see, but he is quite opposed to the idea of even touching a stroller these days (he feels it's offensive to his 5-year-old status, I think), and so we wanted him to come up with the idea himself that riding in the stroller during the day would be a very smart way to take care of his sick body. It totally worked.

At the end of the conversation I said, "You may still feel a little sick today, love. But with the blessing you received last night and the prayers you have said for your health, I know that Heavenly Father can still help you have fun today, even if you don't feel the greatest."

He gave hugs all around and jumped up, excited to go through the day with Heavenly Father's help.

And through a perfect mixture of extra treats, Ibuprofen, and divine endowments, this kid had an absolutely amazing day.

The rest of us had a great day, too. Disney in January is the best because the lines are so quick. We were disappointed, even, that we didn't get to play as many line games as we would have liked.

I'd never played Headbands charades style, and man was it was hilarious! I took a step back at one point just to watch, and had to laugh, over and over, at the sudden fits of movement our whole crowd would burst into. It was funny.

And while we were laughing and playing in line, the true stars of the Disney show stayed behind and played with the babies.

My mom and dad were completely amazing. Over and over and over they offered to take the babies and then watched us go off to enjoy the rides. If it got harder as the days turned into nights and the emotions of no naps took over the brains of the little ones, they never let us know. Instead, they seemed to enjoy the tantrums and felt grateful for the time they spent with those little ones. We are all so lucky to have them!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Disney - Day 1

Oh Disney...

What in the world would it be like to be able to dream without limitations? I'm not very good at it, you know. I'm a bit too practical and logical, so I like it when I can live vicariously through others who are good at it.

And when it comes to dreaming without limitations, there may not be anyone more excellent than Disney. Is anything impossible in that magical land?! I'm always so delighted at how they can take something completely made up and make it feel so real.

I've been to Disney several times with my kids, and a few times we've been accompanied by others... my parents, Brian's parents, my sister, etc, but this time we got to go with my whole family. Well, my whole family minus Amber who, unfortunately, couldn't get work off that week. My parents rented a great little home a couple miles away from the parks and we filled that thing with so much love. My family gets together a lot - whenever we travel up to Utah, my siblings make it a point to come to my parents house too, and when one person decides to come to my house for Thanksgiving, the rest of the family works to come too, so we often find ourselves all sleeping under the same roof. But this time it was different because it was the first extended family vacation we've had on that side of the family where no one was hosting... no one was in their own home. We were in someone else's home, and it created a fun dynamic.

When we got there, we were a little surprised that the home's website had used the term 'walking distance to Disney' because we found Disney to be a mile and a half away, which certainly could be walking distance, but it also could certainly not be walking distance for everyone. But it wasn't a problem we couldn't solve, and the men offered to drop us all off, and then park the cars while we window shopped in Downtown Disney and waited for them.

They were champions, those husbands. They did a lot of extra walking through the entire trip and we were grateful for them.

Something else we did a lot of was rider swapping. Babies aren't allowed on all of the rides (of course), nor would they want to be allowed on all of the rides (just ask this cute baby after the ferris wheel episode). Thankfully Riley and Eliza had a fantastic time and had no idea they were missing out and being left behind.

I love that cute little Riley face up there. But even more than that I love that beautiful Mama face on my sister, looking at her baby with stars in her eyes.

Speaking of stars in eyes, my brother and his new wife were pretty starry-eyed the whole trip, too.

They've been married for just over a year now and every time they look at each other their faces beam with a thousand little sparkles and they look ready to fly away like love birds. I loved that golden time when Brian and I were first married and all we had to care for was each other. But, those times have been gone for a while now, and it was funny to me to watch my siblings and their spouses having a delightful time together - riding rides together, holding hands through the park together, having conversations together - while Brian and I had an entirely different experience with our small fleet of children. Thankfully we've gotten really good at throwing I love you looks at each other from long distances, and at squeezing each others hands whenever there is a moment to stand next to each other.

Also thankfully, we got to ride all the rides next to our children. Which, in my opinion, is pretty unbeatable, and what Disney is all about for me.

This was Eliza's first ride and, as you can see, she wasn't too sure about how to feel when it started moving.

But she caught on quickly to the fun of it.

And by the end was squealing with delight.

We rode this Cars ride seeeeeveral times, and Eliza and Timothy were having such a great time that their laughter ended up convincing Miles to go ahead and give it a try. It's hard to be in that in-between phase when you feel a little too old, but not old enough... so I was delighted when he decided to jump right in and be just as excited as the other two. He even braved the ride all by himself when we couldn't all fit together.

Miles's sweet little heart was far more excited to watch Eliza ride than it was to ride on his own, and one of my favorite things was watching his eyes fixed on his little sister, and listening to his giggles of excitement every time we passed by each other. Some of the giggle was for himself, I'm sure, but much of it was excitement at her joy.

Taking pictures wasn't really on my radar while we were there. Honestly, it seems like that's the story of my life more often than it's not these days. My brain (and my hands) are always so full that the thought of taking a picture either never enters my mind, or when it does it feels much too hard to get it done. But when I saw these pieces of my heart all sitting there under this great windmill with the sun shining through it, I knew I wanted at least one picture.

Unfortunately, no one else cared about my one picture, and they were all grumpy about the request, but whateves. I'm happy with a grumpy picture, too.

It's much easier these days to take pictures of them when their backs are to me.

Let's move along to talk about swings. Swings are my favorite. I have always, always, always loved them. And to sit tandem with my favorite 5 year old made them even more wonderful.

He felt pretty brave.

After I snapped the selfie with Timothy, I wanted a picture with everyone else I loved around us... and as I snapped this picture, Timothy said on my right, "HEY! What about ME?!"

Which made us all laugh, so I tried to push my hands back farther to include him in the shot but just as I was about to take it, the swings raised just enough that everyone lost their footing and Jake slowly drifted from the frame. We laughed for a solid minute!

You probably had to be there. *shrug*

At the end of the first night we all crowded around a light and attempted a family selfie - with low expectations.

And didn't it turn out lovely?

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Scrambled Thoughts

1. Everyone should have a goal.

My goal, for example, is to get my home the way I want it over the next twelve months. Eliza's goal is to find joy in every step of the process.

Together I think we're going to make a great team.

Take pillow shopping, for example...

The truth is, had I gone pillow shopping by myself I would have found the pillows I wanted in no time at all.*

*Not true. I take forever to make any type of decision and deciding on pillows would have been no different with or without Eliza.

But since Eliza was with me, she made the experience a whole lot more delightful because of all the fun she had in selecting the pillows and snuggling all the pillows.

Eventually her good will ran out though, and she began screaming the word, "Wahhh-k!" over and over and over until I finally decided it would be best to let her get out of the cart and walk. Thankfully she's the best type of toddler to let walk around in a store because she's rather timid about jumping into anything unknown. Haven't ever seen something like a floor lamp before? Better not touch it. Those little glass balls on a shelf right next to your face? They look suspicious. On the contrary, things like chairs and pillows and glass figurines in the shape of kitties? Those are all toys and they all belong to her. So, her normal toddler shines through loud and clear there.

Anyway - taking Eliza around town this year finding home goods will be quite the experience for us both.

2 - Eliza is Eliza's favorite

It's easy to see why. She is adorable. But she knows it and wants nothing more than to see her adorable face when the camera comes out. I only get one shot of a cute, normal face because once she spots the phone she starts reaching for it.

And when I don't give it to her she starts screaming, "Zie-Zuh! Zie Zuh! Zie Zuh!" Which, being interpreted means, "Eliza! Eliza! Eliza! I want to see Eliza!"

And the moment which once was cute is cute no more.

3 - I started a new tradition.

It's called, take a picture of all five kids together every Sunday when they're all dressed up for church.
The five kids in question, however, believe this to be a terrible tradition and every one of them (except McKenzie - bless her sweet compliant heart) griped and complained at every step of the process. I find it funny that the only son who followed my instruction of 'just at least tuck your shirt in, was the son with the elastic waistband pants.

Thankfully, four of the five children are a little further in developing their 'smile even though you don't want to' skill.

Better luck next week, I guess.

4 - He never even saw me there.

Timothy has been writing stories non stop lately, and it takes all of his concentration. He'll sit there quietly breaking apart words and writing all the sounds he hears into sentences that are still a little hard to decipher.

5 - Give a girl a darling coat and a great hat and you'll never know she's still in her pajamas.

I often pull Eliza straight out of bed to take Timothy to school but, unlike me, she seems to love being pulled from her bed. The second she awakes, she bounces to her feet talking and chattering about tares (stairs), and bae-bee (baby), and her bee-kee (blanket), about the hot (her space heater), and the yight (light), and Cah-sn and Mi-juls and Kee-Kay and Kee-Kee (Carson, Miles, TK, and Kenzie). The girl doesn't stop talking from the moment she wakes up until the moment she falls back asleep.

But we're not here to talk about her chatter habits. We're here to talk about how dang coot she looks in her k-oh-t and hhatt (always said with a smile).