Monday, June 25, 2007

Ward Camp Out

Here's a post that's been in the draft's file for too long. Life is just so busy right now!

Last weekend was the Ward Camp Out and did we have fun! My kids just love this type of thing. I think it's great for them to be able to run around with their little ward friends and go wild without being scolded to sit still and be reverent.

We had a nice dinner of hot dogs, cherries and roasted corn on the cob. "Corn with handles" is one of Teensy's favorite foods (second only to cookie dough) and she requested it. It turned out great and was fabulous campfire fare. The ward provided the makings of s'mores which were well enjoyed by all.

At this camping site there was a big recycled tire park. It is huge and very fun! All of the kids loved the zip-line. I was thrilled that Maia had the courage to try it and discovered that she enjoyed it. Mason and Marlee were maniacs on it, of course.

As for a good night's sleep...well, we were camping, so that was not to be had. In our short six hours in the tent at night we had one child vomit (just from coughing, no stomach bug, thank goodness!), another child pee all over herself, and another wake-up twice to go to the bathroom (thankfully, this was Buddy, who could just step outside the tent and potty in the woods). And I, myself, for reasons which are completely mysterious to me, had to get up three times to go to the bathroom, which was NOT right outside the tent, let me tell you!

A night of little sleep aside, we had a great time and look forward to next year's adventure!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Flashback Friday!

Flashback Friday is back, my friends. My dearest Michael and I bought a new computer and it took the computer genius in the family to get it to talk to an older scanner. Now that the poor man has shown me twice how to do it and sent me detailed instructions via email, I am back in the business of reminiscing on Fridays.

The above photo was taken at Christmastime on my mission (hence the tree and name tags, respectively). It's me and my great companion, Melodie (not that I called her that back then, of course). Melodie and I were only companions for one month, but it was a fabulous one. I had been really nervous about spending Christmas away from my family (we are big Christmas people) but it actually turned out to be quite special.

Melodie and I did our best to have a festive time of it while going about our usual work. We bought ourselves the biggest, best Christmas tree any of the missionaries had seen--and had it delivered. That, in and of itself, is a funny memory. We totally saw a man on a street car with an awesome tree (most looked like Charlie Brown's) and chased him down. He thought we wanted to know how much it cost. We didn't care about cost (we were "rich Americans" after all), we just wanted to know where he got it. We ended up arranging with him to meet on our street corner the next day at lunch time; he'd bring a tree and we'd bring the lei (Romanian currency). Our elders thought we were crazy...until they saw our awesome tree! We still wonder where that tree came from and are half convinced that the man stole it from some government property.

Melodie and I decided to host a "Sisters Christmas Party" one P-day for all the sisters in the mission. We had so much fun as we prepared for the party by baking sugar cookies to decorate and making paper ornaments for our stunning fir specimen. We kept laughing and telling each other (and the elders in our district) how we were going to be "the most popular sisters in the mission!" Our party was a great success and well attended by sisters from all over Bucharest--including our senior sister and the Mission President's wife. Anybody who was anybody was there...hee hee.

So, earlier this afternoon I had a little chat with my dear friend, Melodie. She is moving to Germany on Monday and I won't see her for another year or so. But let me tell you how I love that girl. Together we braved our first Christmas in a strange land, dated and got engaged to men we claimed we'd never marry, were roommates, planned said weddings (one day apart!) and navigated motherhood. OK, we're still doing that last one together...and my life is richer for it.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Longest Day of the Year

So, today was the longest day of the year. I'm not trying to be melodramatic; I'm stating a fact. I thought it some kind of cruel cosmic joke that the first day my kids would be out of school for summer vacation would also be the summer solstice, or longest day of the year. Happily, I report that although today might have had more daylight hours than any other day on the calendar, it actually flew by! If today was any indication, I'll blink and the next two months will be over.

This morning I decided we'd take a walk to the library. The brood was already signed up for the summer reading program and I thought we could check out some books. We were out the door by nine with everyone coiffed and ready (except me of course, who rarely takes time to coif unless it's Sunday or date night). The youngest three were only too excited to get on the children's computers and play games. Maia had her nose in various books the entire duration of our visit, of course. I got a book on tape for Maia and Mason to listen to during the little girls' naps (I figure I can "supervise" the listening from a semi-reclined position and comatose condition and still enjoy the peace of a quiet afternoon while getting brownie points for "reading" to my older children). I sure hope this works. It just might be one of my most brilliant plans of motherhood to date. Anyway, everyone got to choose a book ( I don't like to get too many--they are slippery creatures, library books, and tend to slither their way behind dressers and under beds, you know?) except Mackenna. I was getting her a book until I looked at her selection closely and realized that we already actually own the book she wanted. I promised to read it to her at home and after some initial crying, she took it quite well. Plus, we were on our way to the park and I was making all kinds of desperate pleas/promises of slides and swings if we could just check out and get out of the library.

My brilliant visiting teacher set up a little playgroup-at-the-playground thing. The weather today was just beautiful so it worked out wonderfully to let the munchkins run free and be their maniacal selves in an appropriate outdoor forum. Mason was having the time of his life with one of the little boys so we invited him over for the afternoon.

The kids (five of them now) and I walked home and I made lunch. I believe in being a short-order cook at lunch (not dinner) and made customized plates for each child. All of them enjoyed their meals. This does not happen often, despite my best efforts. It does my heart good to see them eat!!

While the little girls napped and Mason taught Micah the finer points of Banjo Tooie on Nintendo, Maia and I emptied, cleaned and refilled the kiddie pool for post-nap time use.

One of my old Laurels stopped by unannounced to visit me. I just cannot say enough how I love my Laurels. The girls I taught in my short time as Adviser really have a special place in my life. Anyway, we caught up and cleaned up. It was quite pleasant.

After nap I unleashed the masses into the pristine waters of the swimming pool. Boy, have I gotten my twenty bucks out of that piece of plastic! The kids just have a great time jumping and splashing and expelling all kinds of energy. I am getting a little spoiled by the kiddie pool, though. Usually, we join a regular pool where I have to be much more vigilant at watching my young in the water (meaning I am always in the water with them). But this kiddie pool business allows me to actually read a book while I am acting like Mother of the Year and making sure my children get plenty of exercise and outdoor time. It might be hard to join the big pool come August like we've been planning.

My dearest love, Michael, who only works 40 hours a week now (hip, hip hooray!), came home as I was putting our marinated pork chops on the grill. We had time to chat and sit and hold children before eating our dinner of said chops, corn, apples and yogurt. AGAIN, Mason and the little girls ate. I lost track of Marlee and Mackenna's helpings of meat. Be still my heart!

Tonight, I hosted my card club and had a lovely chat with some dear gals. I do so love all the girls in my club and only wish more had been able to come.

So, you see, the longest day of the year actually went by pretty quickly. And we only have two weeks until we go on our trip. This summer is just going to fly by--and then I'll have a second and a fourth grader. Crazy!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Brent's Birthday

Excuse me while I chronicle a bit of personal history for the benefit of my children.

Today is my brother Brent's birthday. He would be 27 today. In reality, in mortality, he never even turned six. Brent had a form of cancer known as ALL. His was the most curable kind of childhood leukemia, but no amount of medicine or treatment seemed to make that clear to his particular cells.

I was six when Brent was born. I do not remember it the way I remember Whitney's birth. After twenty-one years, I do not remember much about him and that embarrassing fact makes me more almost more sad than thinking about his passing. I'm not going to write about his death today. It's not his death day, it's his birthday, so I'll talk about what I do remember.

Brent was built like a football player, with broad shoulders and a husky build. Really, he was a good baseball player. With four boys and a big yard, our house hosted the neighborhood ball games. When it came time to pick teams, some newer boys who didn't know any better would snicker at the other team's choice of Brent as a teammate...until they saw him at bat. He was young, but mighty.

He loved riding his bike. He was sick a lot, but still managed to perfect riding a two-wheeler early on. He was the youngest son, so maybe he was just trying to keep up with the others. My parents have never gotten rid of that little bike Brent prized. Mason was riding it just last Saturday when we were at my parents' house. Even Mason is too big for it now, but I love to see him smiling as he rides down the driveway and around the cul-de-sac. I love to tell him it's his Uncle Brent's bike.

Brent had a kind of imperfect pronunciation that made him sound like he was from Boston (no offense to those from Boston).

Once, both of my parents needed to attend some functions for other kids in our family while Brent was in the hospital. They never let him stay there alone, so they had me take a turn one night. I remember feeling so grown up that I was "babysitting" Brent in the hospital. It was quite fun! We went to the playroom and did some coloring and crafts and played with some toys. He walked me around his other world of Hershey Medical Center and pointed out the fish tanks in the lobby where they nurses would let him "fish" with gummy worms tied to strings. He tried to sucker me into buying him a Cookie Monster doll from the hospital gift shop. It cost $4 and I didn't have that kind of money. I still feel a little bad about that.

Brent was always getting stuff. People would buy him Transformers (he was a child of the 80's after all), toys and stuffed animals all the time. It really was quite a lot for just one child and he knew that. He'd give us siblings a regular share in his bounty. He knew I liked monkeys so I got some of those.

He "Christmas shopped" for us siblings from the goody bins at the hospital. I still have my Montgomery Moose (from "The Getalong Gang") pencil sharpener he chose just for me.

He had a limitless supply of syringes and was ready to start a water fight (both in and out of the hospital) at a moment's notice. The huge syringes were, at once, amazingly cool and mysteriously terrifying--what was their real purpose?

He named tube coming out of his chest, "Ravage," from the Transformers. He really felt like it was his friend, saving him from endless pokes and pricks with needles.

He was wise beyond his years, as I'm sure is normal for a child who has to grow-up before his time. He was acutely aware of what was happening to him and said to my mother once, "Whitney is scared that I'll die, but she shouldn't be scared, should she, Mom?" It wasn't that he didn't know he was dying, he just knew that it wasn't as scary a thing as we mortals make it out to be.

Okay, I am crying enough now so I guess I'll close. I just want some of this down so my kids have a of bit information to tie to the little boy in photographs their mommy refers to as their "Uncle Brent."

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Right now my entire family room is buried under mountains of laundry. Behind the one couch there are multiple piles of neatly folded clean clothes, on the other couch there is a stack of To Be Pretreated stuff and on the floor is a plethora of sorted clothes awaiting their turns in the washer. Just so you know, I thought I was really doing well with my laundry. I was doing a batch or two every day or two. I really was, I swear! Yet somehow when I went through all the bedrooms last night I found a ton of dirty laundry. I just can't seem to stay on top of it in any consistent manner.

This is not how I was raised, let me tell you. My mother is a Laundry Queen. Every morning we, her eight children, could put our dirty undies and pj's in the hamper and by the time we were home from school we would find our freshly washed clothes neatly folded on the ends of our beds. Unfailingly. I seriously have to ask myself how is the world my mom pulled off this miracle daily. It's not like she neglected the house-cleaning, the meal preparation, the errand running, or her personal projects. I wish I knew her secret. Anyway, I'm sure she wouldn't have blogged when her family room was covered in laundry, so ...

Monday, June 11, 2007

A Week Gone By

How is it that an entire week has passed since I've last posted? There's no way to catch up, so I'll just mention a few of the highlights.

Last week, I got to go to the temple twice. Wednesday I went with some ladies from church and had a great time doing Initiatories. My feeling while at the temple on Wednesday night was one of "I can do this!" While in the temple, I remembered that as a daughter of God, I have been blessed with what I need to be a better person and better mother. I truly felt renewed. Friday night when Michael and I went to the temple there was a thunderstorm that caused a power-outage. This was amazing. Of course, the temple has emergency generators so even when it was dark, it was light! The temple is just a place of light and love. Cool, huh?

Today was Marlee's last day of ballet. This is like the fourth class she's taken through the county and she really does enjoy it. On the last day of each session, her instructor allows parents and visitors to come in for a little show. Today there was an unusual amount of grandparents and other visitors; they totally freaked Teensy out. She just stood in the line with the other dancers, and while they did all the steps, she turned to the side and sucked her thumb. She just doesn't like to perform for others unless she is in her own living room--or my mother's. Poor girl.

Maia also had a big day today. Her third grade class studied cultures of the world and they did a whole singing show today about them. It was really cute. Each classroom studied a different continent with teams of two students studying individual countries. Maia's class was assigned Asia and she and her classmate, Alfredo, made a Power Point presentation on Vietnam. (Hello, I don't know how to create a Power Point presentation, so I am completely impressed that my eight year-old does.) A HUGE "Thanks" to Felicity who came to my house and sat with my sleeping little girls so I could attend this nap-time activity.

While I was at the school watching Maia sing about the world, a Fairy Friend brought her a special treat. She got a letter, two beloved fairy books and beautiful silk fairy wings from a secret pal. She spent all of dinner trying to bounce ideas off us as to who this mysterious benefactor might be. She is just beside herself with curiosity; she keeps saying, "How can I say, 'Thank you,' if I don't know who it is!" I assured her that anyone who anonymously gives you something isn't looking for a thank you note. This little gift bag was just as much a gift to me as it was to Maia. Someone loves my daughter and wants to nourish her strengths just like I do. It did my heart good. Thank you, Secret Pal! Your thoughtfulness is inspiring.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

23 Months Going on 16

This is just the fastest place to preserve this little gem.

Because I had to take Maia to the doctor yesterday, my little girls went down late for their afternoon naps. Mackenna was still sleeping at 5:20 p.m. and I thought I should wake her so she would go to bed for me two hours later! Anyway, when I opened her bedroom door, I saw her huddled up against the side of the crib, sucking on her fingers and squeezing her eyes shut. "Kenna," I said in my mommy-sing-song voice. Instead of happily greeting me as the one who would release her from her crib-prison, this was her irritated reply, "I trying sleeping, Momma!" I just thought that was more a remark you might here from a teenager at 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning than from an almost-two-year-old. It cracked me up.

Monday, June 4, 2007

8 Random Things

I'll take Kellie's open invitation to tell 8 random facts about myself. Here goes nothing.

1. I grew up being a ridiculously picky eater; I wouldn't touch cheese, pasta, potatoes, or rice. Now I do eat cheese (I learned to love pizza on my mission), pasta (occasionally) and potatoes (in most forms). I still will not touch rice to save my life. I just cannot bend on this one. No way, no how.

2. I took gymnastics in the 3rd grade and was the best one in my class--once the teacher figured out I am a lefty when it comes to cartwheels, etc. I even had a solo move in the recital that no one else in the class could do!

3. I am still friends with girls who were in my classes in kindergarten and first grade. We like to get together with our husbands and children and laugh at our countless school day memories.

4. My favorite thing to do at 8:00 p.m. is to watch Designed to Sell on HGTV. This drives my dear Michael absolutely insane, but I cannot resist this show! Just look what they can do with $2000...and a professional team.

5. I have a rule that I can only read two books a month: one for my book club and one for myself. I am not successful at keeping this rule very often. I made this rule because I just get too into books and then ignore other important duties, like laundry.

6. I have taken classes in three of the six Romance languages: French, Romanian, and Spanish. Maybe someday I'll take classes on Italian, Portuguese, and Latin to finish the set.

7. I love being pregnant and giving birth. I wish I could do it a dozen times. I never get too hot or too miserable; I really don't. I could tell my birth stories a hundred times a day and never tire of doing it. It's a little obnoxious, I suspect.

8. I enjoy doing all kinds of crafts and have dabbled in sewing, counted cross-stitch, knitting, quilting, and stamping, to name a few. I look forward to having lots more craft time in later seasons of my life.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Field Day

Yesterday was the US Dept. of Agriculture Field Day (it's one day only every year--the first Saturday of June). This is a great family event that gets put on our family calendar as soon as we hang it up in January. The USDA parks several humongous tractors on its front lawn and allows everyone to climb up in them and play. My children love this!

They also organize tours through some of their acreage. The hayride tour takes you through some of their planted fields, while the tour buses show you around some of their dairy farms.

Then there are the huge tents set up on the lawn as well. Inside these tents are countless stations on various aspects of agriculture. One station might have a game about serving sizes or matching which seeds go with which vegetables. If you win a game, or even get one correct match, you get a prize. There are little prizes everywhere!

If a station doesn't have a game, it might have another activity like "testing" plants for diseases or looking through a powerful microscope to observe the organisms inside a cow's stomach. Lots of stations offer snacks of fresh fruits and veggies and candy.

Our family's favorite station every year is the one on the cocoa plant! My kids love walking through the rain forest (complete with chocolate mulch), looking through the thick leaves in search of birds, frogs, and lizards. Of course, after the rain forest comes the chocolate samples; this year the sampling was a taste test between American- and European-style chocolates. Ahh--so smooth and creamy!

Other favorite activities of the day included watching a bee colony and spotting the Queen, getting face painting, petting baby cows, piglets, and lambs, and watching chicks hatch before our very eyes.

The whole experience is just great for all ages. Michael and I enjoy it every bit as much as the kids. We all learn something new every year; it's quite educational. I feel really lucky that we live so close to many wonderful family events, including Field Day.

Quotation of the Month

There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one.

-Jill Churchill