Sunday, November 12, 2023

A Week of Thoughts

1. A Budding Composer Unafraid to Explore Her Fears

"I made this song up," Eliza said to me as she sat at the piano.

"Really? Play it for me!" I replied

"Well, there's words to it," she said.

"Oh! Sing it for me!"

"It's called," she began and looked me dead in the eyes, "I Don't Know What to Do if a Monster Comes and Chews Me Up."

"Oh!" I said, unable to hide my surprise. Or stifle my laughter. " ... Okay, then. Let's hear it!"

She then played her melody and sang the lyrics (which were, unsurprisingly, I don't know what to do if a monster comes and chews me up).

I mean, if we're being honest, I wouldn't know what to do either. 

2. People like to hike

I mean, I know not everyone likes to hike, but for some reason I had convinced myself that no one around here likes to hike. So I wallowed for a bit in my loneliness and decided to just start going by myself. And wouldn't you know, the moment I started talking about hiking, four out of four ladies asked if they could come along. Stay tuned. We may start a weekly hiking club.

3. Even Leaders Need Haircuts

Poor thing can't even open her eyes all the way because her bangs get in them. But that doesn't prevent her from being the cutest Mustang Leader ever. Her teacher says she always pays attention and is ready to answer questions. It's true. 

4. Sometimes a Picture can Stop Your Breath

It was about the leaning. The arms. The smiles. The heads tilting towards each other. I had scrolled through 20 pictures of this exact same pose on the CCM's Facebook page, scanning the faces of missionaries in districts I didn't know, searching for the one I did. Picture after picture of beaming faces, but this one stopped my breath. Not just because Kenzie is here, but because this picture tells a story of friendship and bonding in a way the other photos didn't. The other photos were beautiful, and the kids looked happy and ready for their next adventure, but they weren't enveloping each other in the same way these kids are.

She's told me in a thousand words how wonderful her time in the CCM has been - how much she loves her companion and her district and her teachers and the language - but none of them spoke as loudly as this photo. It is a treasure to me.

And now she's said goodbye to all of this, taken off her training wheels, and is somewhere in the heart of Chile fully engaged in the work she was sent to do. I get to talk to her tomorrow (I think) and I can. not. wait. 

5. They Complain a Loud Complaint When I Ask Them to Dress *A Tiny Bit Nicer*, But When Their Coach Asks, They Comply. How Rude.

And also, how wonderful that they have coaches in their lives encouraging them to stretch themselves in more ways than one. Their tennis coach, Coach Huxford, is a force of nature and loves these boys with a passion. We love her, too. So grateful to have these boys honored for their hard work this season around a whole bunch of pizza boxes and soda.

6. She Really is a Studious One. But Her Attention Span Could Use Some Work

Eliza loves to do her homework. And she does it in two minute spurts. She likes to doodle in the corners and color in all the boxes and grab a few snacks and tell me stories along the way. It's quite adorable unless we're trying to get through it a little quicker. Which we always seem to be. I'm brainstorming ways to help keep her a little more focused.

Reinforcements seem to work well.

Timothy mourns the day when his homework looked like Eliza's. He said he'd give just about anything to have math like that again. I didn't tell him he'd feel the same way in five years about the math he's doing now. Growth is painful that way.

4. Who Says Mountain Biking Trails Can't Be Hiking Trails, Too?

Like, actually. I really want to know. Do people say that? Because I've exhausted the hiking trails around here, and we have a whole bunch of cool mountain biking trails. 

As we turned this corner, Eliza stopped in her tracks and said, "Oh wow. Just look at those mountains." She loves the colors.

Mountain biking trails are actually super fun to walk on because they're interesting. They swerve and incline, and if you run it feels a little like you're on a roller coaster. So we did that. With our hands up in the air like you do.

It's a new favorite. And we practiced jumping off the trail for mountain bikers about 17 times and only ever saw one... so I think we're good.

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Pumpkins, and Unicorns

1) They just kept winning throughout the season! Until it ended in heartbreak.

The championship match was fraught with steep competition and a bit of drama (often, those two go hand in hand, I'd imagine). Carson and Chandler played their hearts out on their own courts and did their best to help their team inch closer to holding that state championship trophy.

We cheered them on alllllllllllll day long.

But it wasn't to be.

Their team needed ten points to win. Carson and Chandler won two (out of three), the other two doubles teams collected a total of four, and the singles were shut out completely. 

And with a final score of 6, they were awarded the 2nd place trophy.

They all looked rather miserable, if you ask me. Hanging heads, slumped shoulders, downturned lips and eyes... 

Looking in from the outside no one would have known that they just took SECOND in STATE!!! I was thrilled for them. But I guess it's hard to be happy with even the moon when you were shooting for the stars.

After the team competition, Chandler and Carson competed for the individual title. At first, they were ecstatic to have simply qualified for state, and I don't think either of them were expecting to go far. But when they lost in their first match on a tie-break after fighting for two and a half solid hours, it was heartbreaking for both of them. It honestly could have gone the other way for them. They knew it, and it made the loss so much harder.

I, however, have never seen them play so fiercely before, and I was so proud of them both. They kept their heads in the game the whole time and never gave up their ground. It was inspiring to watch, and their kind, hard-working characters put them as champions in my book.

2) A Concert that should have been named: An Inspirational Product of Passion

Our friends, the Howards, offered us two extra tickets to go to the Ed Sheeran concert with them. And, let me tell you, we got some specialllllllllllll treatment. Jason was a mastermind behind the building of this Allegiant Stadium, so he gets VIP tickets to almost any event they host. I can't believe we didn't get a picture with them!

We dined on elegant appetizers of steak and pastries, shrimp cocktail, duck something-or-other, macaroni and cheese (the chef would probably die if he knew I was calling it 'macaroni and cheese' because it was so delicate and fancy and delicious - but I have no language for elegant foods), and then moved to our main course of I-don't-even-know-what because I was so full from all of the amazing appetizers I couldn't even try any of it. 

I wasn't too full for an entire piece of delicious red velvet cake the size of my head though. And Brian had no problem polishing off several boxes of buttery popcorn. Everything was included - and our eyes bulged at it all. They even had boxes of sour patch kids and m&m's sitting around so you could fill your purses and munch all night long. 

Brian and I had a great and serious conversation about the high risk of diabetes over our endless soft drinks and decided to reign in our sugar intake after the night was over.

All of that to say, we went to the Ed Sheeran concert.

It might have been one of my favorite things of the year so far. Ed Sheeran lives for his music. "If I'm not on stage, I'm in my music studio writing songs, and if I'm not in my studio, I'm sleeping." His passion for his music was contagious and watching him up on that stage was something akin to magic. Three quarters of his performance was spent with him entirely solo - no band, no backup - just a keyboard, a guitar, and a few well-placed audio loopers that were all linked together. 

That man created his music right in front of our eyes, layer by layer, and it was stunning. And true or not, he sure looked like he'd rather be nowhere else. Certainly a night to remember.

3) Other Creators:

Creators of Jack-o-lanterns. And, wouldn't you know, I didn't even get one picture of the final products. Sometimes balancing the needs of all the people in the house is a bit of a circus act - and I was grateful for Brian who stepped in to be the fun dad for the carvers while I had other things to attend to.

He blared spooky music and de-gutted all of those pumpkins with a smile.

4) Rock, Paper, Scissors and a Princess Riding a Unicorn

Timothy wanted something creative this year, and he found it in combining rock, paper, and scissors. The costume didn't turn out as obvious as he wanted it to, and I saw him eyeing a giant inflatable chicken that I'm sure will be a contender for next year, but he pulled off his idea well. 

Eliza was a princess riding a unicorn.

Originally, she was simply a girl riding a unicorn, but it turns out that riding unicorns gets rather tiring, so on Halloween day she didn't really want to ride it into the school.

I suggested that maybe she be a princess riding a unicorn so that she could be in a princess costume, and then offered to bring her unicorn to the class party later that day. 

The idea was a hit.

So we dug through our costumes and found a princess dress (that was literally 4 sizes too big for her), then dug through my sewing supplies to find juuuuuuuuuust enough safety pins, and pinned her into it for the day.

Her favorite part? The lipstick.

"Mom? Princesses need to carry their lipstick around with them and be able to put it on without their moms."

Good point.

So we put the lipstick into her backpack and she reapplied liberally throughout the day. This was clear when I got to her school several hours later for the party. It was quickly covered up with purple frosting from the cupcakes, however.

I got no pictures of Halloween night. Not one. I was too busy making a quadruple batch of white chili, two gallons of hot chocolate (one cocoa and one peppermint white), tidying the house just enough to receive the onslaught of people, setting out dishes and mugs, handing out candy to the 400+ kids who came to the door, and chatting with anyone who came to sit on my porch with me.

I didn't even get to eat the chili or drink the hot cocoa until 9pm when everything settled back down. Halloween is intensely fun around here in this neighborhood. People were in and out of the house all night long, and the porch was so crowded with trick-or-treaters from 5:30 until 8:30 (plus the stragglers for 30 minutes on either side of that window) that I'm pretty sure someone could have walked right past me with our big screen TV and I wouldn't have even noticed.

Halloween weekend always leaves me feeling blessed to live here.