Saturday, December 29, 2012

Doggie Drama Postscript or Our Compromise

So in my last post I detailed the great lengths that Annie went to to try and get a dog for Christmas.  Eric and I held a pretty hard line with a "Beg all you want but the answer is still 'No'" position.  Until... I opened the letter Annie had written to Santa and shared it with Eric.  This is how it went:
Dear Santa,
    All I want for Christmas is one thing.  That thing is an adorable puppy.  If you could get me this I would be the happiest girl in the world.  All we have to do is convince my parents that I AM responsible enough to have one.  I definitely know I am and I hope you to do.  Please just make my parents not so strict.  I really know I am responsible enough and if you could make my parents feel that way I would be SO happy.  PLEASE I will do anything just let me get a puppy for Christmas!!!!!

What surprised me about this letter is that it is evident that Annie still has a strong belief in Santa.  She is 11 1/2 and I thought her faith might be wavering a bit, but this letter leads me to believe otherwise.  Although I did overhear her questioning Finn, "Tell me the truth- is there really a Santa?" recently so she must be catching one some.  But for Eric this letter did more than confirm Annie's staunch belief in Santa, it struck that "daddy's girl" chord pretty hard because soon after reading this letter he started talking about letting the kids have some sort of animal.  I know I have mentioned this before but I will say it again.  Eric puts up a hard exterior at times, but he is just really a big softie inside, especially when it comes to his kids and more especially his girls. 
At first he talked about having chickens so they could be useful.  But the kids weren't too over-excited about that idea.  Then he said something about rabbits and the kids seemed happy about that prospect.  Of course we still had to downplay the idea of really getting bunnies for Christmas because we wanted it to be a surprise.  But about 4 days before Christmas- which is when Eric usually starts his Christmas shopping- Eric called me and told me about some Lionhead bunnies he found for sale on KSL.  His exact words were, "Oh Kari they are the cutest little things."  My first thought was, "Wow!  That was one powerful letter! I've never heard Eric say 'cutest little things' like ever."
So Christmas morning and day my kids were busy with these:

Cloudy and Katie

Oreo and Annie
They really are cute little things and one of the best things about them is they have to stay outside. They can come in for a few minutes but they get uncomfortable above 45 degrees.  So for now we are keeping them in our shed.  Then come spring we can move them outisde in a hutch in the shade.  they will shed by then so they won't be so uncomfortable in the heat. 
As I have been watching my kids with "Oreo" and "Cloudy", I can see the significance of having a pet as a child.  They have been very cute with them and taking good care of them.  Although this is only the first week and the novelty may wear off soon.  But I overheard Katie tell Annie, "Now when I am in the school and they ask who has a pet, I can FINALLY raise my hand!"
Then on Christmas Day Suzie came inside after being in the shed looking at them and she exclaimed, "Well I made sure the bunnies were alive, that they got some exercise and that they were feed."  I replied, "That is kind of like what I do for you.  I  make sure you stay alive, exercise and eat."  She responds, "Well I never exercise and I didn't have lunch today."  Interpretation: Just in case you were thinking you were a good mother for letting us have a pet, you may want to think again!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

How the Public School System has served Annie a little too well.

It seems these days that many people complain or comment on the sad state of our public school system as a whole.  So I am writing this blog to show how well our local public school has served Annie in her quest to get what she wants. 
Over the years our kids have asked for a dog.  Neither Eric nor I are big dog lovers.  We personally would rather raise, clean up after, pay for, feed and care for children rather than dogs.  But every few years our kids start a "Can we please have a dog?" campaign.  We have historically been able to appease these requests by agreeing to a lower maintenance animal like a fish or hamster- which we have managed to kill all of.  For good evidence of this, read here.  Or by convincing our kids that the allowance, birthday and Christmas money they saved for over a year for a dog would be put to better use invested in an IPAD.  (True story- the last "Can we please have a dog?" campaign was about 2 years ago and Eric and I were able to talk Finn and Annie into using their money to buy their very own IPAD.  Much less poop to clean up after an IPAD.)
Well with the holiday season approaching, the latest "Can we please have a dog?" campaign is reaching a fevered pitch.  Last Wednesday Katie and Annie were doing something on the computer and every time Eric or I walked by they would get all nervous and cover up the computer screen while saying, "You can't see this."  When Eric got home from work on Thursday night it was revealed what the girls had been working on... A "Why We Should get a Dog" powerpoint.  After showing it to us, Annie asked, "Well what do you think?"  Eric answered, "Impressive presentation but the answer is still no."  And it really was impressive.  If I could figure out a way to display it on my blog I would. (Incidentally if anyone knows how to do that- please let me know!)  And  not only do I have no idea how to put a powerpoint on my blog, I also have no idea how to create a powerpoint at all.  My girls' knowledge of this skill can only be attributed to our awesome school computer-lab teacher, Mrs. Gritton.  In second grade Katie was making her own powerpoints!
Not to be deterred but Eric's no, Annie immediately excused herself from the room saying she needed to go write a letter.  The next morning I found an envelope addressed to "Mother and Father" on my nightstand containing the following letter: (Please note the letter was written in her best cursive)
"Dear Mother and Father,
My one and only desire for the holidays is a desirable little puppy.  I know you think it's ridiculous.  But if you actually take it seriously, it's actually a resonable plan.  I know you think he (meaning the dog) won't be happy but if we train him right he won't even have to stay in the laundry room (We had said the dog wouldn't be very happy with us because he would have to stay in the laundry room all day cause we wouldn't be home most of the day.  Two notes- In my and apparently Annie's mind all dogs are "he" and I know many working people have dogs that they leave all day but we are grasping at straws here as to why they can't have a dog.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.) Plus you could get us a dog over Christmas break so we would have time to train it.  You really should consider it and take it seriously.  I have worked really hard and I don't like it at all when you tease me about it.  All I ever hear is 'No we're not getting a dog!' It really makes me mad.  So I was just wondering if you would just actually think about it.  It would make me very happy ! (smiley face)
Annie (Smiley face, heart)"
Well the first thing I thought when I read this letter was "The public school's renewed emphasis on persuasive writing has really made a difference in Annie's writing."  At least in my kids' school district there has been a big push for writing, especially persuasive writing over the past few years.  I remember Finn getting so upset because he had to write a persuasive essay in P.E. and he couldn't for the life of him understand what in the world writing had to do with P.E.  But I think this letter demonstrates how well Annie has learned some persuasive writing techniques.  (For another example of Annie's former parent-guilt ridden literature please read here.  You will see how much she has progressed.)  But this writing includes some great parent-guilt inducing strategies.  She begins with the absolute of "my one and only..." to appeal to our emotional side. Then she moves into using "reason" to appeal to our intellectual side.  Then she plays the "I'm such a good kid" card (which she is by the way) to appeal to our responsible side.  Then she whams us with the teasing/"it makes me so mad" rationale to appeal to our parent guilt side.  Then she drives it home with the ubiquitous "It would make me very happy." to appeal to our "a dog is cheaper than therapy later on" side. 
All I can say is "Brava my little dog lobbyist, brava!"  Unfortunately the answer is still no.  And I think Annie sensed this because she is launching an all out media blitz.  Yesterday she performed her "All I Want for Christmas is a Puppy." piano piece written and composed by her and then today she handed me a sealed letter for Santa.  She must be appealing to a higher power!
So for anyone who might be worried that the public school system is failing their child, just say no to their "one and only desire" and see how many different ways they can come up with to convince you otherwise.
P.S.- If you happen to see Annie in the next little while, please don't say anything about this letter.  She thinks I am teasing her when I put things about her on my blog and though it may seem that way, I really am not.  I just think they are so cute I have to record them and I'm hoping she will be glad one day that I did.  Or else I will be paying for therapy or that "desirable little puppy"!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Summer of...

In an effort to recap the past three months, I'm recording some of the events that highlighted the summer of 2012.
*All-Star Softball- Annie made the all-star softball team and Eric coached her team.  They were in three tournaments and they got to be in the local parade.  They didn't win many games but it was a good experience for her and dad.  Although I'm not sure about my kids competing in competitive leagues.  It is really intense and we only had a month and a half of it.  I'm not saying kids shouldn't do it.  I just don't know if it is for our family.  It is a lot of time spent on one activity.  That being said, Annie enjoyed it.

*Parades- I mentioned that Annie was in the local parade but so was Finn.  He participated in a summer marching band where he got to carry a suzaphone in two local parades.  He's not so sure he wants to do this again, but if he does he is considering switching to a much lighter instrument like a flute!

*"Call Me Maybe" car dance- Yes, this does refer to the song by Carly Rae Jeppsen.  Eric showed my girls the Youtube video of the Harvard baseball team lip syncing and doing a car dance to this song and my girls loved it.  So whenever the song came on in the car, they would sing at the top of their lungs and try to recreate the dance.  There is even a rumor of Eric doing it as well with the girls one day on the way home from a softball game but he has yet to do it for me.  I guess he is shy!
*20 year reunions- Both Eric and I had our 20 year reunions this summer.  We both attended them- Eric's was here in town and mine was back in Georgia. It was so fun reconnecting with old friends.  We have both kept in contact with several friends over the years, but there were some we hadn't seen since high school.  I was especially sad when we left Georgia because there were some people that were a big part of my growing up that I will probably never see again- because I don't really plan on going back to anymore reunions.  But it was funny because when we were getting ready to go to Eric's reunion, which was after mine, Finn said, "Why do we have all these reunions? Don't we do this every year?"  Uh-no!  Pretty sure a 20 year high school reunion only happens once!  Here are some pictures from Eric's reunion. 


And here are some from my reunion.  And in case you are wondering, yes I did wait until after my 20 year reunion to chop all my hair off.  I am that vain!
This is my favorite one of my friend Lara and I dancing.  Eric did video me bustin' a move but until he learns how to upload video onto my blog, those will remain private.  I'm not embarrassed when I am out on the dance floor but after I watch the videos I realize I really should be!

Funny side story from our trip back to Atlanta.  On the way back to the airport we stopped at a gas station in downtown to fill our rental car up before we returned it.  It was a part of Atlanta that I would not want to be in at night but I felt okay because Eric was with me.  When Eric got out of the car to fill up the tank, this big, black, toothless man came up to him.  He was real friendly and chatty with Eric.  In the course of the conversation the man mentioned that he had size 15 feet.  This remark of course caused Eric to look down at his feet and when he did he saw one black toe sticking out of a worn out flap that should have been the top of a shoe.  When eric looked back up the man smiled sheepishly and said, "Yeah- I could use a new pair of shoes.  You think you could help me out with that?"  So Eric gave the tooth and nearly toe-less man a few bucks.  When he got back in the car I asked him why he gave him money- since he usually doesn't give money to people on the street.  He replied, "Are you kidding me?  That show was worth a couple of bucks!"
*After a year and a half of pretending like I was going to have to go back to work- I actually got a job.  At the end of the June I was offered a job teaching part-time kindergarten at a school about 10 minutes away. When the principal called she asked, "So would you be interested in this position?"  I'm pretty sure I answered, "Yes?" because I was secretly hoping I couldn't find a job and then I could say,"Well I tried but the field is just too saturated so I guess I will just be a stay-at-home mom for another year."  Or something like that.  But the universe had other plans for me because I'm pretty sure this is what I am suppose to be doing and where I am suppose to be- much to my chagrin!  So I spent the summer trying to prepare and buying things I thought I would need for kindergarten and came to find out that about 75% of what I had bought was already stocked in my classroom.  Some of it I can take back and some I can't because I bought it from a lady who was quitting teaching kindergarten to stay home.  So my new mantra isn't "Be Prepared" like the Boy Scouts, but rather "Being prepared is for suckers.  Live in the moment!"  Although I say that a little tongue in cheek because I think kindergarteners would eat me alive if I wasn't somewhat prepared!
*Making money!  Both Finn and Annie started some summer time money making ventures.  Finn and a neighbor kid mowed a few neighbor's lawns and Annie and some friends started a weekly babysitting club for kids under 8.  Both were fairly successful although Finn isn't quite sure if he wants to mow lawns next year because spending 2-3 hours a week mowing lawns seriously cut into his watching every episode of "Survivor man" and "Myth Busters" time.  But I'm hoping the lure of the almighty dollar might persuade him again next year.  He was able to buy some golf clubs with his hard-earned cash.

And Annie learned some great lessons about babysitting and I think she definitely wants to babysit again next summer because she already understands the lure of money.  That girl loves to buy things!  She has had to start over saving for contacts many times because she keeps finding things she just can't live without.
*Pass of all Passes- Yes we were like many thousands of other people and bought the Pass of all Passes.  I thought it would be a nightmare trying to use it and that we would be at the same places everyone else in the Salt Lake Valley were.  But it was surprisingly not too bad and we were definitely able to make them worth my parents' money- cause they were actually the ones who bought them for us.  We went to the Tracy Aviary once and to Seven Peaks about 7 times.  Of course we had grand plans to use them at least once a week but 8 times isn't too bad.  And I feel bad because I only took pictures at the Aviary.  I forgot to do it everytime we went to Seven Peaks.  Oh well- "Live in the Moment"- right?!?

*Olympics- Not only did we love watching the Olympics on TV this summer but the kids participated in their own Olympics up in Park City with cousins where they won medals for things like treading water in a hot tub, synchronized diving and hiking with a good attitude.  These Olympics weren't sponsored by McDonalds but rather by Grandpa and Grandma.
The medal stand with three proud recipients
All the participants!
Here is Annie, Katie and our cousin Jacob showing how they medaled in the pencil dive!
Well those are some highlights from our Summer of 2012.  It was a great summer and we are sad to see it end.  Here's to a new school year and new adventures for us all!

Warmth- Suzie style

The other night Suzie was laying in bed with me and said, "Mom, laying in bed next to you makes me warm."  I thought she meant that she was literally hot so I pulled the comforter off her and asked,"Is that better?"  She said, "No, what I mean is when I lay next to you I feel warm inside." Can you see why she pretty much gets whatever she wants?  Who can resist comments like that?!?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Accomplishing Goals and All the Wrinkled Ladies

About 3 years ago I created a 100 item bucket list and put it on my blog.  I have accomplished a few over the years but this month I can check two off the list,
#67- Break 100 in bowling.  I accomplished this one today!  I took my kids bowling this afternoon and I started off with my usually pathetic bowling skills.  I truly am an awful bowler.  I think I over analyze it and try really hard to keep my wrist straight and follow through but I end up always to one side or the other and quite often in the gutter.  For the first six frames I had a total score of 31-really!  Here is how my mind worked during those first frames.
First attempt thoughts-"I will just bowl whatever way cause I am with my kids at a nearly empty bowling alley." So then I would generally get about 6 pins down.
Second attempt thoughts- "That was pretty good.  I bet if I kept my wrist straight and aim for the few remaining ones I could get a spare."  So then I would get a gutter ball because I was so focused on doing well.  So for the first six frames my score went like this:
No joke.  So after the 6th frame I decided to just have fun with it and told my kids we should all do a granny bowl for the next frame and see who gets the highest score.  My kids loved it and I actually scored during both attempts.  So from then on out we came up with new ways to bowl and names to call the moves.  So a strike and a few spares later my score was 106!  Now I know this probably doesn't count as an official breaking 100 in bowling, but I'll take it because I don't think realistically that I will EVER get 100 in a serious game of bowling.  But in case your bowling skills resemble mine- here are a few of the moves we used and the names we created for them:
Granny shot- spreading your legs and swinging the ball between them and letting it go as your arms come forward
Granny with cataracts shots- Same as above but with your eyes closed
Drunk granny shot- Turned around backward, legs spread, bent over and rolling the ball between your legs
Drunk granny with cataracts shot- Same as above but with your eyes closed
My personal favorite and most successful shot was the drunk granny.
You're welcome for the pre-Pioneer Day gift!

The other bucket list item I accomplished this month was #21- Donate my hair to "Locks of Love."  I was planning on taking a picture of my hair and my hairdresser cutting it off but then I forgot.  So here are some recent pictures of me at our ward girls camp performing "All the Wrinkled Ladies" with the other YW leaders.

Note my bishop in his own tutu and purple hair.  He was a good sport.  Although he did get out of actually dancing cause here he is creating a strobe effect with two flashlights.

I love this one cause of the face of the leader behind me.

I love this one because I had told the leaders just to follow my lead during part of the song.  Here I was trying to "drop it drop it drop it low", thinking they wouldn't really be following me to the floor and low and behold they actually were.
So you are welcome for your second pre-Pioneer Day gift!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Nostalgic Katie

I must be in a reminiscing place because my last post was about stories of Annie when she was little and then this week I found a list of "Katie Sayings" that I think were things Katie said when she was about 3 or 4 years old.  I'm sure I wrote them down at one time with the intention of blogging about them, then they got lost in all my "piles."  I am constantly setting the goal of reducing the "piles" of stuff I have and maybe I am making a little bit of progress on that front because I found this list and I plan to throw away this piece of paper after I blog about the cute things Katie said 3 years ago!
So here they are:
"Turn on the cold heat." 
This is what Katie would say when she wanted you to turn on the air conditioning.
"I need some lily pads." 
Lily pads=knee pads in Katie language
"Can you come tell on them?" 
This is what Katie would say when she was actually telling on someone else.  I think it meant more of a "Can you come tell them to stop?" but somehow the whole tattling concept was a bit mixed up in her mind!
"Ice is good for you.  It makes your heart come true." 
I don't know if the passage of time has dimmed the meaning of this for me or if I never really knew what she meant when she said it originally, but at the time I guess I thought it was cute enough to write down.
And now to keep from finding another piece of paper in four years with random stories written on it, here are some cute things my other kids have said recently.
Suzie has this pair of high heeled shoes that a cute neighbor girl gave her a few months ago.  They have blue liquid that looks like water in the heel along with a few plastic fish.  So obviously any 5 year old girl would be drawn to them.  The problem is, like any high-heeled shoe, they are extremely uncomfortable.  But Suzie is learning early the decision that most women have to eventually face- Do I look cute with my fish high heel shoes and be in pain while I look so cute? or Do I let vanity go down the drain in exchange for comfort?  Well Suzie constantly tries to choose the former but after a few minutes of wearing her fish shoes, I trip over the remnants of the latter decision.  But recently she chose to wear her fish shoes again and as she was putting them on she said to me, "Mom I am wearing my fishie shoes because they don't complicate me anymore."  Not really sure what she meant by "complicate me"  I asked, "What do you mean?"  She said, "They don't complicate me anymore.  You know, when I put them on I don't want to take them off right away anymore."  I can see how if when you put your shoes on and then you immediately want to take them off it would definitely complicate your life!
Finn has a queen size bed.  It use to be Eric and I's bed until we got a new one when we remodeled our house.  But now Finn thoroughly enjoys his spacious sleeping quarters.  And unfortunately for him, sometimes his sisters like to share those spacious sleeping quarters too.  He is constantly kicking them out of his bed.  The other morning I went to wake him up and the lure of the bed called to me so I decided to crawl into bed next to him and tried to snuggle with him- I realize this is any 13 year old boy's nightmare- having his mother try to snuggle with him- but Finn is pretty tolerant of me.  But after a minute or two I smelled something stinky.  I asked him if he farted and he replied, "Yes, it is my defense mechanism whenever someone tries to get in my bed with me."  I guess all those hours of watching Discovery channel have taught him something!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Retro Annie

Last week was Annie's 11th birthday.  I alternate between friend parties and a family activity every other year.  This year was a family activity year and what that was originally suppose to mean is that we do something as a family for the birthday.  But what it has morphed into is each kid doing something with their same-aged cousins and somehow they talk me into inviting an extra friend or two.  This year Annie wanted to go to City Creek and walk around and have lunch at Blue Lemon downtown.  She invited her cousins- Tailyn and Grace, but Grace was out of town so she invited an extra friend.  So Annie, Tailyn, Maci and Hannah went downtown last Friday for a girls' afternoon of shopping and lunch. 

It really was fun and probably the most I have enjoyed myself at any of my kids' birthday events.  Which got me thinking about how Annie is growing up and becoming quite the young lady.  For anyone who knew Annie as a toddler and little girl, you know she was a hand full!  She was constantly going and I have many funny stories about her earlier antics.  For example once during sacrament meeting she chucked her shoes at a man's head.  Luckily he was watching her and was able to dodge the flying Mary Janes coming at his head. I even had someone ask me when she was little if she had ADHD!   But it is fun as a mother to watch her grow up and see how she channels all that frenetic energy into good, productive things like piano, school, softball or her newly emerging "Sweet as Cherry Pie" babysitting service.  Yet in all this reminiscing I decided I needed to get some of those early"Annie stories" recorded.  So for your reading pleasure, here are 3 authentic "Annie stories"!

One, Two, Twenty
When Annie was about 4 years old we were at a family reunion.  They had this huge balloon launcher that the kids loved.  There was a bucket of water balloons for the kids to grab from but the lady in charge told the kids they could only take one at a time.  Annie was so excited by the balloon launcher and could barely contain herself as she was reaching to get a water balloon. I kept telling her she could only get one as she kept trying to stuff her arms full.  She also kept trying to bargain with me to get more.  She would say, "I want one."  Then it would be, "I want two."  Then she finally yelled out her unbridled 4 year old request while shaking her hands in the air, "I WANT TWENTY!"  She just couldn't contain herself any longer.  So now when my family is trying to show some restraint -like around a yummy dessert- but we just can't do it anymore we yell out, "I want one, I want two, I WANT TWENTY!"

Lick It
Again when Annie was about 4, she was playing outside with her at the time BFF- Lauren.  They were playing in the dirt making mud.  She came in all muddy and after I cleaned her up, I told her "No more playing the mud." because I didn't want to clean her up again.  She went out to play with Lauren again and when I went out to check on her she was again covered in mud up to her elbows.  I went up to her and asked her what was on her hands.  She looked down at them innocently and said, "chocolate" without missing a beat.  I said, "Really- that's chocolate?"  And she just nodded confidently.  So I said, "If that's chocolate on your hands, lick your fingers."  She hesitated for a moment then gingerly brought her finger up to her mouth and licked the tiniest bit of mud off her fingertip.  I said, "Is it good?"  She again nodded her head, but not so confidently.  I proceeded to take her inside and tell her that I knew it was mud and that she should never lie to her mother because I will always know when she's lying!

Shaky Inside
When Annie was 7 I was making French Dip sandwiches that called for beer.  Since we don't drink alcohol, I was a little nervous using this ingredient.  So I researched it on the internet and found out that when you cook something with alcohol for over 2 hours then all the alcohol cooks out and you are just left with the taste.  Well the facts that the meat cooks in the beer for over 3 hours and everything on the internet you read is true assured me that we would be just fine, so I went ahead and bought the beer.  I put it in my downstairs fridge so I didn't have to answer a lot of questions from enquiring minds.  But then I forgot this and sent Finn downstairs to get a gallon of milk from the same fridge I had put the beer.  Finn came upstairs with the milk and a worried look on his face. "How come we had beer in our fridge?"  Eric quickly and jokingly replied. "Because Mom drinks beer now."  I immediately interjected, "No, I don't!" and proceeded to tell them about how all the alcohol cooks out after 2 hours and you are just left with the taste- as if they understood and couldn't totally see through all my justification!  Eric could apparently see right through me because when I was done with my little explanation he said, "And mom likes the taste of beer."  At this point Annie pipes in with a "And I do too!"  Taken aback I asked, "Annie!  Have you tried beer?"  Annie said, "No, but I want to."  Then she says aside to Finn, "It makes you all shaky inside!"  Needless to say I haven't cooked with beer since!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Hell's Backbone

So I am dusting the cobwebs off my blogging keyboard and trying to get back to posting!  It has been so long since I posted that there is a new blogger format for posting that I haven't even used!  But now that I am done with school, I MAY have some more time to blog.  There has been plenty that has happened and I'm not even going to attempt to play catch up but I did want to record one defining moment our family had recently that I don't want my kids or myself to forget the details of.  For spring break this year our family went camping in Escalante, Utah.  What's in Escalante?- you may ask.  But I have to say that some of the amazing scenery we saw down there rivals any National Park we have been too- including Yellowstone and Grand Canyon.  I would recommend that area to anyone who wants to feel like they are in a different world. 

Although I would not recommend taking the drive we took on Hell's Backbone in late March when there is still snow in the mountains.
So we began our Spring Break adventure on a rainy Monday.  There are plenty of hikes to take in and around Escalante but we decided to save those for a less muddy, wet, cold day and thought we would go on a nice pleasant drive through the mountains on a road appropriately named "Hell's Backbone" by our pioneer forefathers.  All the brochures recommended this drive and even though most of the tourism for this area is in the summer, we thought we would be fine in spring in our 4 wheel drive suburban.  We packed snacks, lunch and water and headed out of town up into the mountains.  Our girls were a little bit worried we were going on a road named "Hell's Backbone" (They insisted we call it "Heck's Backbone.") But we assured them that this road was only dangerous to the pioneers who traveled via handcarts and covered wagons.  Surely our modern day vehicle could scale this mountain and any of its imposing dangers with ease. (Are you catching all the overly confident sarcastic foreshadowing?!?) 

The official road started about 10 miles out of town and on our way there we didn't see one other car.  That should have been our first clue.  But we started along the road enjoying the mountain scenery.  We were going up in altitude but for the first little while it was no problem.  We went through a few snowdrifts but had no problem going through them because they were going downhill.  After about an hour we hit our first nasty snow patch.  It was going uphill and we got stuck pretty good.  Finn and my nephew, Michael, got out of the car and pushed it to help get us unstuck.  But the only way we could make it through was for Eric to roll back down the hill and then try to pick up speed back up the hill, following his same tracks and push new tracks in the snow just a little bit further.  We did this over and over on one bad stretch of snow- like probably 20 times before we broke through.  Then another time we were going around a hairpin turn that was full of snow and on one side there was a drop-off.  As we went around the turn I could feel the back tires loosing their grip and swerving closer to the edge.  I turned around to see how close our tracks were to the edge and it was not comforting.  But we finally reached the summit of the mountain and stopped to have lunch, thinking the worst was behind us.  Little did I know that Eric was thinking, "I sure hope I can make it through this road because there is no way our car will make it back through some of those snowdrifts."  He, of course, kept this thought to himself and only displayed his characteristic positive- "Aren't we having such a great adventure?" attitude.  (We tend to get into a lot of "adventures" on our vacations.)  We even took some pictures of the great fun we were having in the snow that would be our ultimate nemesis.

We were about 3/4 of the way through "Hell's Backbone" when we reached a snowdrift that was about 200 yards long and reached to the top of our car's bumper. Plus there were no tracks in the snow-showing that it hadn't been plowed in awhile.  We went about 10 yards into it when Eric finally conceded that there was no way we were going to make it through that snowdrift and we would have to turn around.  So with my 13 year old telling Eric how close he was to the edge, me pushing the car out of the snow and Eric steering the car, we finally were able to get the car turned around.  By this time it was about 3:30 and we still haven't seen many signs of civilization- including people or a bathroom.  Let's just say that my girls got very good at "coping a squat" although they called it "pop a squat." 

But we were on our way home and even though there might be a few trouble spots, we thought we would be home for dinner- or at least I thought that.  Eric didn't tell me until later that he knew we were in trouble when we had to turn around.  Apparently Eric thinks I panic easily and doesn't always share his internal dialogue with me to prevent such panic attacks.  I would beg to differ with him, but then the number of times I had to "cop a squat" because my body was in fight or flight mode, really proves his case.
So we head back the way we came.  We make it through the ones we got stuck in before quite easily because now we have gravity on our side.  But the reverse is true for the ones we sailed through before.  At about 4pm we hit the hair-pin turn where our wheels got dangerously close to the edge.  And to add insult to injury the patch of snow on that turn has been sitting in the sun all day so it is real mushy and soft.  Every time Eric tries to create a track he can follow the wheels just slide and spin.  A few times Michael and I have to push the suburban out of the garbage snow.  Finally Eric says, "Get in the car." and with renewed resolve says, "There is a patch of dirt and rocks, that if I can get to, will catch the wheels and we'll be able to make this turn.  I just have to commit to it."  The reason he has to "commit" to it is because it is right on the edge of the road where the mountain drops off.  I point this out to him and he says, "Well it is our only chance of getting out of this."  He is starting to not sugar-coat things with me.  So he backs up to get a running start, so to speak, and he tries to get the car to that patch.  But we just spin and our back wheels get pulled to the edge.  Eric puts on the brakes and turns to me and says, "We're screwed."  Ah- now he's real.
So Eric decides he will just have to start walking until he can find help because I don't think I mentioned that neither of us have had cell phone service since we left town.  The idea of Eric walking to find help is not comforting at all because we haven't seen another car all day and the nearest town is about 15 miles away- not too bad when you are in a car, but overwhelming to someone who is starting walking at 4:30pm.  I knew Eric would do all in his power to make sure we got help, but I did not like the idea of having to spend the night in my car in the mountains with my kids.  We had plenty of water, food and blankets, as well as a tank 1/2 full of gas so we could keep warm.  But when Eric's instructions to me are to "absolutely not leave the car because it is our shelter" things suddenly switch from a fun, family adventure to a survival, "this is serious" situation.  Plus I had no idea if Eric would be ok. Who knows what could be in those mountains. This might seem a bit of an over-reaction but Eric later told me he saw bear scat on his hike out.
So the kids and I settle into our temporary shelter on the edge of the mountain.  Luckily the car wasn't "right" on the edge and it was stuck in the snow so Eric assured me it wasn't going anywhere. We of course immediately said a prayer that Eric would be okay and find help and that we would be safe waiting for him.  In retrospect it is interesting to see how the kids handled the anxiety of the situation.  Suzie was oblivious and just carried on like normal.  Katie got upset and started crying.  Annie went back and forth between trying to stay calm and strong and getting nervous and asking a lot of questions.  Finn of course thought we were all over-reacting and kept saying, "We're going to be fine." with exasperation.  My nephew, Michael, provided the comic relief by saying things like, "the newspaper headline will read, 'Hottest 12 year old found dead in car at bottom of mountain ravine'"  Or singing, "I'm on the edge of glory" by Lady Gaga.  I think a lot of their reactions are related to their age, but also their personalities.  We tried to stay busy by reading some books that were in the car or play some of the car games that were also in the car.  But all I could think about was the poor family that got lost on an abandoned logging mountain pass a few years ago in the winter up in Oregon and the father left to get help and died from exposure.  I know those circumstances were very different from ours, but it still was all I could think about.(And I wonder why Eric sometimes filters his true fears about the situations we are in!:)  To help pass the time I did get out and take a few pictures of the stuck car.  I don't think they truly depict how close to the edge we were but I still wanted to document it.  Eric didn't really appreciate me doing this but I think he will eventually!

After about an hour and a half, Eric came walking back around the bend up the road.  I had never been so happy to see him!  That meant he was safe and I wouldn't be stuck up in the mountains foraging for berries and searching out water sources for days.  He said that he had walked for about 4 miles and saw another suburban coming up the road.  They stopped for him and informed him of their similarly naive decision to take an afternoon drive on Hell's Backbone.  Eric said, "I wouldn't do that.  My family is stuck up the road in the snow in our Suburban and we need help."  He then asked if they would drive back to town and call a tow truck.  They turned around and Eric walked back to us.  After about another hour and a half a tow truck came around the bend- the second most beautiful sight I had seen that day!  He parked up the road a ways and when I got out of my car I said, "Oh- thank you for coming to rescue us!"  He was an older gentleman who kindly replied, "Well, its my job."  Which I translated as "This isn't a community service I perform.  You will be paying me."  But at that point I didn't care much it would cost and it did cost and it wasn't cheap.  It took quite a few hours for them to get the car unstuck from its position and up the road to where Eric and the kind man from Red Rock Towing and Rescue could put chains on our suburban so it could make it the rest of the way out of the mountains.  And there is NO way we have made it out without those chains.  As we were driving out of the mountains, I was in the truck with our hero from Red Rock and he said, "Make sure your husband buys some chains." I sheepishly replied that we did have chains, but they were back in our garage at home where they were doing us no good.  So after about 3 hours with the towing truck we arrived back at our campsite at about 11 o'clock at night hungry, tired and quite a bit lighter in the wallet.  But the bacon pasta we made that night in our trailer never tasted so good and after the adrenaline wore off I had time to really think about the whole experience.  And I was really amazed by all the "coincidences" that made the difference between this experience being a truly horrible one as opposed to an albeit nail-biting but really just a big inconvenient one.  It was a testimony to me that our Heavenly Father really is in the details of our lives.  Little things like Eric happening to see the one person we saw all day long on his hike out of the canyon or the fact that the towing guy thought at the last minute to throw in a set a of chains right before he left to come get us- like he mentioned.  I firmly believe these were not "coincidences" but rather very specific evidences that even when our decisions aren't perfect, little deciding to go on Hell's Backbone in early spring without chains, the Lord will still help us when we ask.  Which is why I made this post so long and detailed because I want my kids to know that since they were a part of this experience and one day they will probably read this and even though they were there, they may not remember how we were greatly blessed that muddy, cool spring break day.
P.S.- On a funny note, a few days later we were doing more hiking on another remote road where we parked our car then went to climb a rock called "Dance Hall Rock" named again by our pioneer forefathers.  Suzie was asleep when we pulled up to the rock so I stayed in the car while Eric took the other kids out to play.  After a little while Suzie woke up and we decided to join everyone else.  I thought I would play a little trick on Eric.  I took the car keys and locked the car but then I hid them in one of my cargo pockets on my pants.  After we finished playing on the rock we were walking back to the car and Eric asked for the keys cause the kids were complaining that the car was locked.  I said, "Oh I thought you took them."  He looked at me with a mixture of horror and exasperation. "What?!? I don't have them.  Why did you lock the car out here in the middle of nowhere?"  I replied, "Well you never know what sort of bandits could be lurking in the sagebrush?" (We were seriously miles from any sort of convenience.) Michael even unknowingly played along claiming he could see the car keys sitting on the drivers seat.  I let every stew and start to get mad at me before I pulled the keys out of my pocket.  Eric took the keys and gave me the "Too soon." look.  I don't know if I have mentioned this before but Eric communicates about 95% of the time through looks.  It has taken me our nearly 15 years of marriage to decipher them but I am pretty good at it now!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Its all about the youngest- oh and the oldest!

I know my posts have been a bit "Suzie-heavy" lately but I just can't help it cause she is just too funny these days. But if you stick with me I will reward you with a Finn story too- cause i know that is just the kind of reward you want!
I have posted before about the weird snacks my children tend to snack on because I don't keep a whole lot of snack food in my house. This is an example. Well yesterday I opened up the trash can and found this:
I bought a 12 oz. container of raspberries at Costco on Friday. I didn't buy them for any particular reason- just to have on hand. So I was surprised to find the completely empty container in the trash the next day when I had never even opened it yet. I pulled it out and asked Eric who ate all the raspberries- assuming it was him because only he would have a big enough appetite to eat 12 oz. of raspberries in one sitting. So imagine my shock when he said, "Suzie." I said, "Well she probably ate some but this was a brand new container so who ate the rest?" He replied, "No really Suzie ate the whole thing. She brought down the empty container and she said just couldn't help herself because she just likes raspberries so much." Well I guess so!
Pre-raspberry binging Suzie had been sipping from one of these little espresso cups that my kids love to drink hot chocolate from.
As she was drinking she casually remarks, "You know what grieves me?" I should have replied- "No, do tell milady what does grieve you?" But instead I just stared at her dumbfounded for using the word "grieve." She answered her own question by saying "My daughter. She died." Then she proceeded to take a sip of her hot chocolate. I then asked her, "Suzie, where did you get that from? Did you hear it on a TV show?" She gave me a sideways glance as she lifted her cup back up to her mouth and said, "A lady never talks while drinking." Well that seals the deal- Suzie really did live another life in England. (See previous post.) Or maybe we watch too many British comedies on PBS.
Anyone who has been around Suzie for the past four years knows she has a beloved blanket that she carries around with her. She actually has had about 4 of them but she has loved them into oblivion. When she turned 5 back in January Eric told her she had to throw away her current blanket obsession because "5 year olds don't carry around blankets." I wanted to take a kinder, gentler approach to weaning Suzie off her blanket cause sometimes Eric's mouth writes checks his butt can't cash when it comes to parental decisions.-meaning it is sounds all fine and good to have Suzie throw away her blanket but then he isn't having to deal with a whiny Suzie all day who isn't getting her blankie fix. So this was our compromise.
My mom took Suzie's blanket and made it into a teddy bear for Suzie to have. Then it she took a part of the blanket and made it into a small hankie/blankie for the bear. Suzie carries this hankie around like her old blankie. It is her nicotine patch, so to speak. Well a few of the seams had come undone on the bear. I noticed this and was planning on fixing them, but hadn't gotten around to it. One day I found that they had been hastily and haphazardly fixed with some non-matching red thread. This really puzzled me because I had no idea who would go to the trouble to patch the seams. As I was studying it, Finn-who has been taking sewing in his CTE class at junior high- walked in the room, saw me looking at the seam and said,"Oh yea- i saw that the bear needed to be fixed so I got out a needle and thread and fixed it. Pretty good, huh!?!" And even though his stitches wouldn't have lasted for more than a couple days of Suzie-loving, it was pretty good for him to take the initiative to fix it. I've heard it said that the definition of an adult is someone who walks into a room and can see and do what needs to be done. I would say Finn is well on his way to becoming an adult!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Reincarnation might not be all that far-fetched!

If I didn't have a firm belief about where we came from and where we are going, I might be persuaded to believe in reincarnation. The reason why is because sometimes my kids do and say things that I have no idea where they got them from. For example when Katie was just a baby and still nursing, she would wake up from her naps and say "nay, nay". I thought this was just the cute, endearing babble of a baby. But then I was telling this story to my friend Julie- who at the time had just come back from living in Taiwan for three years- and she told me "nay, nay" was chinese for boob! So maybe Katie had lived in China during another lifetime and was asking for a feeding in her native tongue!
Then tonight we were sitting down for dinner. We were sitting at our kitchen table, which we haven't sat down at in awhile- we usually just sit at the counter. As we were all gathering at the table, Suzie remarks, "Well we haven't had a proper sit in a long time."
Proper sit?- Really, who says that? Especially a 5 year old! I asked Suzie where she got that from and she said, "From my head!" So maybe Suzie's previous life was across the pond!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Being taken out of context

Since the campaign season is upon us and being taken out of context seems to be the presidential thing to do- you know how Mitt Romney likes firing people and hates the poor- I thought I would share the latest comment in our house that makes no sense taken out of context. Often I hear myself and others in my house make comments that I think if someone heard them without being in the situation they would wonder what the heck does that mean. One such time was when Eric was loading the girls in the car to go to dance and I overheard him say, "Get in the car and no you don't need a tennis racket." One might think, "Wait, what? I thought they were going to dance, why did he say anything about a tennis racket?" But I, living with those girls, knew exactly what he was talking about. As you walk out of our house into our garage you go down three steps. To the right of those steps is a filing cabinet and in between those steps and that filing cabinet there is a small space where we keep a couple tennis rackets. So I can guarantee as the girls were going down the stairs they picked up those tennis rackets and tried to take them with them for no apparent reason. Hence the need for a "No tennis rackets" rule when going to dance.
Well last night I overheard this comment coming from my bathroom.
"Oh no, my toenails are too long. I can't bite them anymore."
Yea- that wasn't a typo- I said toenail, not fingernail. I don't think I have mentioned this before but Suzie likes to trim her toenails a la her teeth. I have even caught this with my camera once so you can have a visual!
I have no idea where she learned this technique but I also have no idea where she learned to tell me, "No can do, sis" when I ask her to get ready for church. Sometimes its just better not to know.
Anyway- I suppose that last night she went to go do the deed and found that her toenails would require more that just her pearly whites to trim them down. She would need something with a bit more "bite" like fingernail clippers!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Good Deeds Chain

About a month ago I had had it with all the whining and tattling. Not a uncommon sentiment for a mother of 4 youngish children. So for a FHE we talked about recognizing the good in each other rather than focusing on the bad. To practice this behavior I had cut up some green and red strips of paper and told the kids they were suppose to write on the papers either something good they saw another family member doing or an act of service they would perform for another family member. Then we would staple them in a circle and make a paper chain to decorate a smaller Christmas tree we had downstairs. Well I recently took down the tree and those paper chains. Instead of throwing them away I pulled it apart and read them. I thought that after the first week the kids didn't really do it so I was surprised by the number of things the kids wrote. I'm still going to throw the chain away but I wanted to record the "good deeds" we saw/did during the month of December:
Annie shared her soda cans.
Today my dad helped me eat my dinner.
Dad shared his chocolates.
Tomorrow I am going to read Suzie a bedtime story.
Dad drove Annie home from dance.
Katie waited for Annie to do crossing duty.
Mom shared her perfume.
I'm going to rake leaves.
Finn did the dishes.
Tomorrow I will make my bed when I get up.
Katie shared her gum.
I will help Katie clean her room.
Suzie helped Hannah clean up the pillows.
Dad set up the Wii.
Mom helped me with homework.
Annie shraed her drink.
Katie shared her headband.
Suzie LICKED the blueberries and said she was sorry.- think maybe that one started out as a tattle but then the author remembered the point of the activity!
Mom read to Suzie.
Dad will take the girls to school.
Finn let me use the IPAD.
Suzie helped clean up at pre-school.
Tomorrow I will let Suzie play with me and my friend.
Annie wiped off the counters when she was asked.
Suzie organized my shoes.
Annie and Suzie set the table.
Dad emptied the dishwasher.
Finn farted and said he was sorry! :)
Tomorrow I will not cry or whine when I'm getting ready for school. (All the ones that begin "Tomorrow" were written by a certain 7 year old red-head!)
Suzie took my dishes upstairs.
Katie shared her headband.
Finn picked up Katie.
Suzie helped Hannah clean up diapers.
Finn set up lights in our room.
Annie will help pass out papers in her class.
Annie didn't get mad when Katie made her late for school.
Finn walked Suzie and Hannah home from preschool.
Dad picked up Annie from Sister Brantly's house.
Annie got her coat for Katie.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Merry Christmas, Ugly New Traditions and Happy New Year

Every year since Eric and I got married we have taken a picture in front of a Christmas tree on Christmas day. Usually it is in front of my mom's Christmas tree but every once in awhile I take it in front of my own. With Christmas being on a Sunday this year I decided since we all had our Christmas Sunday clothes on I would take it at our house after church before everyone changed back into their pjs for the day. I have a self-timer on my camera but it doesn't make a noise so you don't know when the picture is taken. This picture is about our 6th attempt at a picture because some one would look away or start walking away cause they thought the picture had been taken. It still isn't even that great of a picture- Suzie is looking down, Finn is done with all the pictures and Eric is in the middle of saying "cheese." But when Eric inspected this photo he said, "Good enough" and went to go get Christmas morning brunch started. We had 9 am church on Christmas morning and even though we got all our presents opened in time to make it to church we didn't get breakfast eaten and delaying Christmas breakfast to a 37 year old man is just about as painful as delaying opening presents is to his 4 children 12 and under. But choices had to be made and breakfast got postponed therefore our Christmas picture did not turn out as well as I might have liked. But it does tell a story- which I always like!
A new Christmas tradition got started in Eric's family. Our brother in-law, Curtis, suggested we have an ugly sweater contest on Christmas Eve with each person participating putting $5 into a pot for the winner. With a $70 prize on the line the competition was stiff!

Gary, Eric's brother is the usual winner of any contest we have that involves creativity. He and his wife Camille made these sweaters for their whole family. Not seen is a stocking attached to their backs that made a handy spot for my brother-in-law, Scott and I to dispose of our shrimp tails throughout the evening. Sadly they did not win. I'm not sure if the shrimp tails had anything to do with this or not!
Cami, Scott and Tailyn made this a family affair with Cami sporting a poinsetta as big as her head and Scott sporting a lady's sweater with the tag still attached. Pretty sure that made a return trip to Wal-Mart after the holidays!
As much as Jessica deserves to win cause she is wearing moose overalls- the big prize went to her husband Jeff. I personally voted for him. And it wasn't the $4 DI tag still attached to his too short pants that did it for me. It was the Christmas dickey semi-hidden by the Christmas sweater tied in a prep school knot. So regal yet so ugly.
Eric and I donning our own Christmas apparel- matching, handmade Christmas nativity vests. These were lovingly made by my mom and aunt- not just for this occasion but for any chilly Christmas evening really!
Here is Curtis, the creator of all this mayhem as Eddie from Christmas Vacation with Becca as Eddie's wife. Curtis doesn't usually have man-boobs- it is just the pucker in the middle of the sweater that gives that allusion! Don't know if this was intentional or not!
This is Eric's cousin- Mindy with her husband- Matt. If you look closely at her sweater you can tell that it is an actual reenactment of the cat being fried scene in the Christmas Vacation movie. Very clever!
Here we all are in all our glory. You can see how it was a hard decision to decide who won! But again the Christmas dickey over the snowman turtleneck with the white socks and short blue dress pants was just too much for me! Way to go Jeff!
Now onto New Year's Eve. New Year's Eve has always been a hard holiday for me since we've had kids. You can't leave your kids with a babysitter cause all the babysitters have plans and you don't want your little kids staying up past midnight. Eric and I both have no desire whatsoever to go to those downtown parties the city puts on yet I want to do something fun and different for the holiday. Eric came up with this idea two years ago and I think it will be our new New Year's Eve tradition for the time being. We have a Wii tournament that all the family can participate in. We create a bracket system and choose different Wii games from boxing to Just Dance. The games are written on a piece of paper and put into a bowl. Then when two people face off in each bracket they first have to choose a game from the bowl. They play the event 3 times and the winner of 2 out of 3 times moves onto the next round. The loser gets put into the Losers Bracket. So we have the winner of the Winner's bracket and the Winner of the Loser's Bracket. Everyone gets to play about 3 times. It turns out to be a really fun night that everyone enjoys. Here is this year's playoff standings:
We were at the cabin for the holiday and brought our nephew, Michael along with us. Also Steve, Eric's brother and his girlfriend- Chelsea were there too. Steve was the overall winner and Finn was the lower bracket winner.Eric playing golf.
Annie and Suzie dancing it up!
Suzie boxing.
Finn and Katie playing tennis.
Michael and Finn getting jiggy wit' it!
There were even cool prizes like star wars fans/candy dispensers. (This picture may or may not have been a self-photo!:)
HAPPY 2012!