Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Family Fun at Lake Tobias

Before school started, my little family had a field trip with some members of my larger family at Lake Tobias Wildlife Park. Somehow, we managed to miss making the trek to Lake Tobias last summer, which made our trip there this year even better!

It's always great fun to have a four-generation outing, I always say. Or I just said it this once, but it is so true. I love my grandma and I love watching her interact with my kids/nieces/nephews and enjoying their fun. Plus, the woman is a crack-up.

It was interesting to realize how my Maia has grown up and conquered some of her fears. She used to be terrified of many things, including most animals. A few years ago when we went to Lake Tobias, she wouldn't even enter the petting zoo. She stood outside the chain link fence with a pained expression on her face while she watched her siblings and cousins feed the goats. This year, she not only tolerated being in the petting zoo, but actively approached the animals and enjoying feeding, holding, and petting them!

Naturally, Mackenna is in her element in such a setting. This little one hasn't ever been able to get enough time with members of the animal kingdom.

Mason was quite enamored with the capybaras. There were a few adults and probably a dozen babies. It was quite a sight!

Teensy surprised me by going to pet the large python up by its head instead of further down its body (where her mother would feel more comfortable touching it).

My favorite part of Lake Tobias is the safari ride. The guide drives you up into a gated area (150 acres) where all manner of animals live. The driver stops the vehicle and you can hand feed all different species of deer, elk (my favorite--they are so sweet), cattle and buffalo. It's so cool.

While we were on the safari ride, my nephew, Luke the Duke dropped his sun hat off the cruiser when we were stopped and feeding the Asian water buffaloes. Our driver wouldn't get off the cruiser to get his hat because she said that these animals were known to be a little aggressive and had even chased another driver up over the hood of her bus. We tried use the food to bribe the buffaloes to move away from the hat, but they refused. One even became rather curious about the hat. Just when the driver announced that she was sorry but we were going to have to move on and leave the hat behind, my Kenna stood up and started marching down the aisle toward the door in an effort to disembark. She even sounded disgusted with the rest of us when she pronounced, "Gosh. I'll just get it." It was hilarious! I quickly lunged for her and explained that she wasn't allowed to get off to rescue Luke's hat from the enormous water buffaloes. That girl. What am I going to do with her?

Notice this creature's reluctance to move away from Luke's hat!

Monday, September 27, 2010

That's My Teense

She's a spit-fire of a girl, my Teensy. And now she's another year older and wiser. Which makes her seven years-old with a maturity level of twenty-seven-year-old. (Managing (read: reigning in) her premature maturity level is my main challenge in parenting her.)

She's a big first-grader now! She is so excited to impart with Mackenna all of her pearls of wisdom for navigating kindergarten. She loves it that Kenna has her beloved Ms. D as a teacher. I love it that Teensy has Maia's former first-grade teacher. She's another one of my favorites at the school. The nerd in Marlee is giddy to have more serious homework this year (but she still gives herself extra work to do).

This is Teensy with her beloved kindergarten teacher at her end-of-the-year show last year.

I finally caved and enrolled her in gymnastics. She has only gone a couple of times so far but it seems like the reality is meeting her expectations. I'm so happy for her!

If I were to sum up Teensy's style signature, it would be this: cheetah print. She loves to put outfits together and adores all animal print, but cheetah takes the cake. She's nutty for it.

Teensy is most like her daddy in the math department. It's not unusual for her to sit and the breakfast table with a blank sheet of paper and a marker, making and solving her own math problems. This is not my idea of a good time, but it is certainly something my Michael enjoys.

I do so love my Tiny and am so glad I am her mom!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Rosie Posie Piggy Tosie Button-Nosie

I know I just talked about my Kenna starting kindergarten, but I wanted to make another little snapshot of my baby right now.

Mackenna has jumped on The American Girl bandwagon with Marlee, but whereas Teensy changes her mind fortnightly as to which doll she wants, Mackenna is whole-heartedly devoted to Kit. "Because she looks just like me," she says.

My baby still sucks the middle and ring fingers of her left hand when she's tired. She has to have her Pillow Pet, Pandy to go to bed, and likes to snuggle her Beary Bear Alexa as well. She doesn't consider herself "too big" for Dora the Explorer and is perfectly content to be the spoiled baby of our family.

Mackenna still loves animals more than anyone I know. She has no natural fear of them, no matter how large or seemingly ferocious.

Kenna says the sweetest prayers you've never heard. I don't know if you believe in God, dear friend and devoted reader, but it is obvious that my Kenna does. She inserts phrases in her prayers like, "thank you for our dear Lord" and "thank you for our sweet Jesus." Now, that might be normal in some religions, but not in ours, so I know it isn't learned. It's what she really feels and that is what makes it so incredibly tender. It just melts my heart. Her faith in the Savior is amazing.

Oh, how I love this sweet girl. She's a complicated soul, but I am humbled and grateful to be her mother.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Boy--He Velly Tall Boy

It's time for a tribute to my handsome fellow, Mason. I missed his birthday earlier this year and I think he needs a little shout-out.

Recently, I had to take Buddy to the pediatrician for a mysterious rash that had migrated from his ear lobe to his upper and lower eye lids (poison ivy--mystery solved). As we were leaving the office, a nice Asian lady stopped me in my tracks to ask how old my handsome boy is. When I told her that he is ten, her eyes grew quite large and she responded, "He velly tall boy, velly tall."

Who can argue with that? It's true. But he's more than just a long frame.

He recently started his last year of elementary school. His big dream was to be a Kindergarten Helper and he wrote an essay to apply for that coveted position. He loves getting to walk Kenna and her friends out to their waiting parents at the end of each day. What a sweetie!

If he's not reading, he's sweating. My boy plays hard. I mean it. He's always up a tree, on a bike, scooter or skateboard or running to/from wherever he's going. He sleeps the longest of all my children at night and I know the explanation for that is simple: he plays the hardest.

If he's not sweating, he's reading. Mason blossomed later as a reader than his older sister, but man, has he hit his stride! This past summer he not only devoured the Percy Jackson series for the third time, but he also discovered the Fablehaven series and buried his nose in countless other books as well. It makes this English-nerd mother so proud!

One last note-worthy characteristic of my boy is his committment to save money. Seriously, his sisters can't understand how they get the same allowance and yet his wallet is fatter than all of theirs put together! (I'm still trying to get the girls to understand that it is because he doesn't spend it on lip gloss and nail polish every time we go to 5 Below.) Sure, he sees things he wants, but he chooses to save for big ticket items and I think it's commendable.

Here's a parting shot of my boy at the beginning of the end of his elementary career:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The One Who Launched My Career

Twelve years ago, my life changed forever when my most heart's most sacred and profound desire was realized: I became a mother.

I cannot forget how I felt when I held my baby Maia in the hospital, knowing that my dream was coming to fruition and that this tiny baby had made me a mother.

She's not so tiny now. She's 5'2", actually, and growing like a weed. She's not a baby or a little girl, but a young woman!

There are many things this proud mama loves about her girl, but I will share just a sampling today.

Maia is her own person. While she enjoys having friends and sharing their interests, she is perfectly content to fly solo. As a preteen! Where does she get this confidence?

She has her own sense of style and creates her own fashion looks. Sometimes I don't know how she comes up with some of her ideas!

She is very creative and artistic, a gifted writer and artist.

Maia is a champion of the underdog.

She is great with babies and little ones (I think because they like her laid-back nature). She recently started being a "mother's helper" weekly for our neighbor. It is so fun to see how the little one lights up when she sees Maia coming!

Maia loves music. If there's a nanosecond of silence in the car, she immediately asks for some music. She practices the piano beautifully and enjoyed going to guitar camp this summer.

Although my heart sometimes feels a pinch of pain when I look at how big she's gotten, I am really enjoying having a big helper around here. Maia loves to learn in the kitchen and never complains when I ask for for help with housework. What a kid!

Here's a shot of Maia on her first day of seventh grade:

(See what I mean with her look here? Who else would have thought to wear P.E. shorts under a denim skirt with a gauzy ballet skirt on top? She's got a style all her own.)

Friday, September 17, 2010

What Are You Going to Do All Day?

If I had a nickel for everyone who has asked me that question in the last couple of months, I think I could pay the bill for Michael's graduate school. Hand on heart.

At first, when the question was put to me, I tended to legitimately answer. It went something like this:Well, I plan on being in the school volunteering at least one day a week, and that doesn't include field trips. And I've still got a household to run. And I have a job to do at church that will require me to attend weekly meetings. And I've joined a new book club that meets during the day. And I have a substantial job with the PTA. And I have to take my kids to the doctor, still (two starting orthodontia).And I'm going to go to the temple more. And visit my grandma. And...

By this time I was stammering and the person who asked the question was looking at me like she didn't care that much.

Then, I moved on to my next phase: The Smart Alec Phase. It went something like this: Oh, you know, with all my kids in school, what else is there to do but eat bon-bons all day?

I'm not proud of that phase.

Next, I entered the defensive phase. Well, I still have six people's laundry to do. I still have six people's meals to plan, shop for and prepare. I still have the same number of toilets to scrub, sets of stairs to vacuum. And I thought, Why do I have to justify my time to you? Do I ask you for a daily itinerary of your tasks completed?

You get the idea. Thankfully, that phase didn't last long because I realized that people didn't know how very many times I had been asked that exact question. And that they ask it for different reasons.

I think that young mothers ask it because they want to hear that I get to go to the bathroom all by myself when the urge hits. I think they want to know that this day can and will happen for them. And to them I say, I have gone on long walks alone and come home to curl on the couch with a good book!

I think some people are curious because they cannot imagine how I can't be anything but bored in this, my new station in life. They simply do not know how much work it takes keep a household running and to be the kind of mother and person I want to be. I am glad that I have the time to do all the service, volunteering, and trips to doctors without it being a conflict with another career. My family is my primary occupation and that hasn't changed because my kids are all out of the house for 5 hours a day. Believe me, those are the fastest 5 hours of the day!

And when I have some extra down time for a little luxury like a lunch date with my Michael, all the better. I don't feel bad at all--I work pretty hard for a kept woman!

Kenna the Kindergarten Kid

Basically, my sister, Amber, doesn't know how I sleep at night because of the supposed guilt I should feel over not yet posting about my baby's first day of school.

Show's how much she knows...I've been sleeping like a log.

But seriously, my baby started full-day real school this year. Wa-hoo! I mean, isn't that wonderful?

Now, you must know that I love my baby as no one else on the earth can, but between you and me, dear friend and devoted reader, the child is a pill. She's bossy, moody, and opinionated. And she loves her mom, a characteristic she shows through her ultra-clingy-ness to me.

Once upon a time, I had another five-year-old who often acted like the kind of kid only a mother could love. Said child happily went to Day #1 of kindergarten but came home disgruntled with the fact that Mommy was not seen for such a length of time. Taking said child to the classroom in the morning on subsequent days of school was met with screams, cries,
tears (from both of us), tantrums, physical restraints by school counselors, aides and teachers (just the child this time) and the like.

It wasn't pretty.

Having lived through that, I decided to go about Mackenna's entrance into the public school system with a new approach, one of the hands-off variety. I realized that Marlee, a first grader, had to wait in the same line as the kindergarten kids and that she knew exactly where Kenna's class was, as is had been her classroom last year. You see where I'm going with this?

That's right: I pawned off a potentially unpleasant parenting task onto the shoulders of my six-year-old.

And you know what? It worked like a charm.

Mackenna didn't cry. I didn't cry. It was win/win! We've never had an ugly scene where it's taken 5 adults to hold onto my screaming child while I race, crying, from the building. Because I've never walked in there. She's never expected me to walk her in to her desk because I haven't ever done it.

Now, I know that this decision might make me seem heartless and indifferent, but I am pretty pleased with how it's all worked out.

And Mackenna is one of only two of my kids who hasn't cried for days the first week of school. And believe you me, that is a little miracle in an of itself!

Here's a shot of my new school girl at home before the trek to school:

And here are Kenna and her Teense as they walk:

See? Teensy had it all under control.

Quotation of the Month

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

-Jill Churchill