Wednesday, June 26, 2013

in the canyon

 We live tantalizingly close to the canyon.  
We can be out of our door and in the mountains in three minutes. Seriously.  

Some friends from our neighborhood thought we ought to take advantage of this, and they have arranged several Monday night Family Night dinners in the canyon.

We round up a few of our friends, everyone brings their own picnic dinner, and we roast s'mores, of course.

Our favorite s'mores (so far!) are made with peanut butter cups, or salted caramel or raspberry-filled ghirardelli chocolate squares, by the way.

Here's what my children pint-sized dirt-magnets think of this activity:

 Would you believe it if I told you that this was seriously the best picture we managed to get?
Well maybe we got one with Nicholas holding still a little better,
but I kinda like this picture best.  
 If I ever make an "ugly pictures" family photo album like this one, we might use this photo as the title page.
Or this one:
Classic trying-to-smile-with-a-mouth-full-of-chocolate.

After only being up there for an hour or two, we pack up the picnic stuff, douse the fire, and load our dirt-coated, smoke-smelling kiddos back into the car and bring them straight home and plop them in the bathtub.

I can tell that camping this year (end of July) is going to be fun and very, very dirty.

We bought a year pass to get into the canyon, and you'd better believe we are going to try our hardest to be up there as often as possible.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

our summer

Summertime is why I love living in Utah.  (Oh and Autumn too but I'll tell you all about that in a few months.)

Utah summer is glorious. The weather, sitting in the shade on soft grass, windows open, flowers on the porches and gardens, splash parks and swimming, creamies, hot afternoons and cool nights, canyons and camping and lakes and picnics and barbecues and backyard dinners and festivals and I could go on and on.

Today we rediscovered a park near our house--with a shallow stream! and bridges! and sticks! and leaves as big as your head! and puppies! and a giant sandbox (volleyball pit)!
We could have stayed there forever if we had food.
We'll be back, 
next time with a picnic lunch.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

the wedding

 When Kent's brother got married two weekends ago, Kent and all of his family were able to be inside the Temple all together.  It was a very special, very sacred thing.  

We are grateful to know that when a worthy couple is married by the Priesthood authority inside the Temple, their marriage and their family will last forever--eternally--far beyond "till death do we part."  We know that life isn't over when we leave this mortal existence-and if we keep our covenants and follow God's commandments, we will be with our spouse and our children forever and ever.  Temple marriage is a very sacred event for us, and we work very hard to be worthy of it and its blessings.

I would have been in there too, but my kids don't do well with being watched by people they don't know, and the ratio of littles to babysitters was already pretty high--so me and the kids and the cousins spent some time in the visitor's center and walking around the beautiful temple grounds.

We have got to work on this girl's "cheese" face.  

(Thanks again, Shannon, for the picture!)

These stairs entertained Ellie for a good portion of the picture taking.   

And I realized I didn't get a good picture of the bride and groom!  
Here's Kent's mom's post about the wedding.
The whole day was beautiful and very very nice.

My kids weren't as impressed by the reception as the rest of us, however, and we wandered the church building until we found, you guessed it,

We would have loved to stay for the entire reception to see all the fun, but our kids were d.o.n.e. and we just couldn't last.  It was great to be there, though-we're so very happy for Mason and Jessica!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

father's day 2013-their daddy

My yearly interview with Nicholas. 
(Hopefully by next year Ellie will be able to join in too.  Right now all of her answers would be "yeah.")

Nicholas: I have something very important to say.  TISSUES!  

Me: What's Daddy's favorite color?
Nicholas: Daddy's favorite color is orange because he's a boy.

What's Daddy's favorite food?
Uh, chicken.  He likes to eat carrots, and guacamole and chips.

What does Daddy always say?
Happy Birthday to you!

What do you like to do with Daddy?
To get on his tummy!

What makes daddy laugh?
Nothing makes him laugh. 
Only two things-me sitting on his tummy, and me sitting on a birthday cake.

What does Daddy do at work?
Get in the shower.

How old is Daddy?  
I don't want to guess.

How does Daddy drive?
Vroom vroom vroom! (Making crazy steering motions with his hands.) And then he turns that way.

What is Daddy good at?
Eating at the table.

What does Daddy love?
He loves me.

Why do you love Daddy?
Because he is my favorite Dad.   Oooh actually I only like you, Mommy, because you don't tickle me or eat me like Daddy.

What is one special thing you and Daddy do together?
Um, Daddy likes eating me.  (Then he demonstrates eating my side.)

Happy Father's Day, Kent-you are exactly the kind of daddy I always wanted for my children.  You are thoughtful, diligent, fun, and you take care of us all and I love you for it.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

this girl

My dear little Ellie-girl,

You are nineteen months old.   
You run.   Full tilt, arms behind you (it makes you go faster, I'm sure). Sometimes you say "whoosh!" as you run.

You dash to the front room, play a few notes on the piano, then come running back over to the kitchen, shout proudly and ask us "more?" because of course you want to be certain that we want more of that fantastic music.

If there's nothing else to talk about, you always go back to saying something about a puppy.  You'll sit next to us in silence, look over with your big round eyes, and say "woof woof!" and we have to respond "oh, a puppy?" then you sigh happily, "yeah."

Your answer to any and every question is always "yeah."  Daddy likes to make it a game, and he'll ask you ridiculous things like, "Are you a ninja?"  "Yeah."  "Did you climb on the roof?" "Yeah."

You are fascinated with babies and grandpas, and you are constantly pointing out anyone who even remotely resembles a grandpa.  At the store--"Papa!" in the parking lot--"papa!"  The men on the stand at Church--"Papa!"  
And it's safe to say that your Grandpa and your Papa Dan are your two very favorite people.

And of course, when you point out a potential grandfather, we have to respond, affirm that what you say is correct.  "Oh yes, he probably is a grandpa." 
We always have to respond.   Today we were reading and you saw a cat on the page "Neow! Neow!"   I tried turning the page without acknowledging the cat, just to see what you would do.   As I continued to read the book, you continued to "Neow!" louder and louder and louder until finally you smushed your chubby face right up against mine and "NEOW!"
"Yes, Ellie, there was a cat on that page."

When you hear a noise that surprises you, you'll sit straight up and put your sweet little hands on your cheeks, open your mouth and eyes wide and gasp.  I adore this.
I also adore your "sad voice."  When you have an owie, remember that you once had an owie, or see someone sad in real life or in a book, you get the most darling little whine in your voice and say, "Oh, Mama. Owie. Ooohhh."  and gosh do I love it.  In fact, I've been guilty more than once of reminding you about the time you scraped your knee, just because I want to hear you say "Oh, Mama. Owie." again.

You love to get up on things.  You want to be on the counter when I cook. You want to be sitting in my bathroom sink when I get ready.  You want to be up up up.  And when I do pick you up, you always remember to thank me.  "Tah too."

In fact, you are very good at saying thank you, for everything.  When Nicholas takes a toy from you and exchanges it for, say, a straw or a piece of paper, you look at him with this great big smile "Tah too!" Someday you're going to figure out that you are getting the bum end of the deal, and that day is not going to be pretty. But until then, you are just happy to get anything and everything your big brother gives you.

You learned the word "stop" a few weeks ago, but it's never just "stop." It's always "TOP!" and the two of you are very upset by each other's yelling, so we'll often have moments (usually in the car) where you're both yelling at each other.  Nicholas "Stop it Ewie!" and you "TOP! TOP!"simply because you both want the other child to stop yelling.  It's hilarious and maddening.

You are getting to be more and more picky as you get older, but you are still miles ahead of your brother when it comes to the variety and healthiness of what you eat.  Cheese is your very favorite right now (that's my girl), but you also do well with berries and fruit 
and most vegetables.  
And I can get you to eat pretty much everything if I give it to you on a toothpick.

You don't like to have dirty hands.  If you spill anything, even the tiniest drop of milk, you exclaim, "oh no!" in your 'sad voice' and then scramble to find a towel you can use to wipe it up with. And you come to me if your fingers get dirt or grass on them, just holding them out ready for me to wipe them off for you.

When we pray, you fold your arms and watch the rest of us very closely.  If anyone even cracks open an eye you point a chubby finger at them and "Sssssssss!" shush them until they close their eyes again.

You love to go outside. Once your shoes are on and you are ready, we'd better be opening that door right that very minute or you throw an Ellie-fit.  Stomp your feet, screech, and eventually plop down on the floor in a heap of disappointment.
If you are only mildy disappointed about something we tell you that you cannot do, you pout.  And gosh it's the cutest little pout I've ever seen.  Head down, bottom lip slightly out, and shoulders drooped.

Photo by Shannon

You love books, marshmallows, chocolate chips, bubbles (even bubbles from the dishwater or the pot boiling on the stove), puppies, climbing stairs or ledges, birds, smelling any and every flower we might happen to pass (your "word" for flower is a deep inhale through the nose--if you see a flower you'll point to it and "SNIFF!" and I have to reply, "oh yes, Ellie, do you see the flower?" "Yeah.")  You also love going places, being outside, and stomping on bugs (while you declare, "step!" as you squish them.) And sleeping. You love to go to bed, and frequently you tell me "naa" when you want to take a nap.  

Yes, I realize how amazing this is and how lucky I am to have a baby who actually asks to go to bed. You are a wonder, Ellie.

You do not love going to nursery class at Church, meeting new people (you cling to Mama like a monkey whenever anyone unfamiliar is around), other children, or waiting in lines.  All of these things make you very nervous.  You were kind of an emotional wreck at the airports last weekend--so many new people and lines to wait in.  

We're also going through a rough phase with you--maybe it's teething?  The past couple of weeks you are a yeller.  You shout about everything-with your fists in the air and your face turning red and your tongue out you scream and holler and then cry and pout.  I think you're realizing that you have things to say but no words to say them, and man is that frustrating.  

Lately you've been waking up sometime around 5 or 6 am every morning. You're still tired, but you lay in your crib and yell "Mom! Mama! MAH-ma!" until I come in.  You want a little back rub, blankets readjusted, and sometimes a quick snuggle in the armchair, and then you're ready to lay back down and go back to sleep for a couple more hours.  Now that it's been a few weeks of this, I have to admit I kind of like our morning cuddles in the early light.

You've started spontaneously giving us hugs. We call them "Minnie Mouse" hugs because you give this determinedly girly sigh as you hug us.  And just recently you've added in a spontaneous and voluntary "love you!" with your little squeezes.  I love to feel your little arms wrap around me from behind and your sweet little "love you!"

Ellie my girl, you are sweet and determined and silly and affectionate and a complete mama's girl and I can't imagine our world without you.
Love and squeezes,

Friday, June 14, 2013

a quiet moment

With Ellie's recent obsession with yelling, we haven't had many quiet moments around here lately.

The other day, Ellie came around the corner into the kitchen where I was, 
saw me there, 
put her fists in the air and screamed until her face was red,
then dropped her arms, drooped her shoulders, stuck out her bottom lip,
and walked away.

So yeah, that's about how things have been going around here.
I feel bad for the poor girl, she's obviously very frustrated, but there's not much more I can do to help her until she figures it out and gets through this phase.

I read this fantastic blog post about the power of the words "You can" when directing a child, so I practice it with Ellie.
"You can use a soft voice to tell Mommy what you need."
"You can come over here to talk to me."
"You can say 'help' when you need something."
and so on.  
I can't tell if it is helping Ellie yet, but it sure does help me remember how to react to her meltdowns.

Thankfully, I had a lot of practice with Nicholas's angry phase and after a lot of work on my part, I'm actually incredibly proud of my ability to stay calm, keep my own voice quiet, and not let the children's emotional turmoil affect my own emotions.  I'm not completely immune to the occasional "mommy tantrum" but I'm far better than I was two years ago.

But that doesn't mean I don't long for some peace and quiet every minute of every day.

So when the children were quiet for a solid ten minutes the other day, I pulled out my camera to document it.

Ellie and I were at the sink,

and Nicholas was playing with his marble game in the living room.

When he plays marbles (or almost anything), the marbles "talk" to each other--he's always got some pretend storyline going on, and I love to watch it.

Even just looking at these pictures reminds me of how nice those ten minutes were.  Ahhh, peace.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

the day before the wedding

The first reason we went to California last week was for the wedding.  Kent's brother, Mason and Jessica were married.  We got there a day early and were able to spend time with cousins and Kent's family, we went to the family luncheon, and we did Mason's bachelor party.

We all stayed in the same hotel for the night, and the kids had a blast playing together for several hours that morning in the beautiful gardens.  
 These boys were so very sweet with Ellie-they were gentle and eager to help her-just darling.
(Thanks Shannon for almost all of these pictures!)
 The kids literally spent two hours with this little koi pond.  And they were sad to leave it when we finally pried them away. We were all trying to figure out how to get one of those at our houses too.  

I love that my kids were able to spend some short-but-quality time with their cousins.  It was great to see them all playing so well together.
 For Mason's bachelor party, we went to a medieval dinner and show.  

Have I mentioned that my children are scared of anything loud, dark, or with strangers in costumes?   
Kent and I were certain the two of us would spend the entire time in the halls with our kids.  

This is Nicholas before we even entered the building.  This awesome performer was leaning in to make sure Nicholas was going to be okay.  "It's not too loud, young sir-you'll be all right!"  

As the performers came out, Ellie was up by the door-just walking around exploring.  They all filed out and lined up with her smack in the middle of them. I was expecting her to cry but she just looked around with wide eyes and walked back over to us.  

Later, though, she dropped her princess wand and the same performer/announcer from above reached down to pick it up for her and she really did burst into tears.

 When the show started and the room went dark, Ellie started to cry and I thought,
"Oh boy, here we go..." 
but then this gorgeous white horse came running out.  
Ellie stood up in my lap with her hands on her cheeks, eyes and mouth wide open, gasped, and then pointed and said "HORSE!"  (Which from her sounds like tongue clicking--she refers to most animals by the sound they make instead of their name.)
And she was perfectly happy the entire rest of the show.
In fact, she actually fell asleep during the crazy jousting part at the end.

 That's my Nicholas in the middle-hands over his ears for the entire dinner and show.  But he loved it. Horses, knights, swordfighting!
And now he asks me about sixty times a day if we can pretend to sword fight.

After we got back to the hotel and put the kids to bed the adults all gathered in Mom and Dad's room for a gift-giving, advice-sharing, very sweet family meeting.  

I am so so glad we were there.  We missed the last wedding (Nicholas was born just two days after Denver and Bree were married), and we were very grateful we got to come for this one.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

that's called "walking on water!"

After Mason's (Kent's brother) wedding, we stayed in LA for a few more days to have a little beach vacation.
I think this was our very first just-our-family vacation.  
We've gone lots of places with other people; our kids have traveled back and forth from state to state many times over, but this was the first time we went somewhere,
just us, just for fun.

It was

Traveling with kids is no easy thing.  Ellie is a walking, shrieking mess-waiting-to-happen with a sparkling little smile.  Nicholas was mostly delightful with a few epic tantrums sprinkled here and there.  ("WHY ARE THEY PUTTING A STICKER ON MY SUITCASE???")

We did it, though.  
Eating out, ordering in, sleeping in big fluffy hotel beds, walking hand in hand on sidewalks and making sure not to step on the cracks--or else we'd fall through, of course, collecting flowers and sticks and leaves, swimming in pools, watching movies in bed, diaper changes in the car, eating ice cream in bed at night while the kids slept.
On Monday we went back to the beach in the afternoon; this time the sun was out and it was beautiful.
 Ellie spent almost the entire two hours we were at the beach just climbing in and out of this hole.
Stairs, steps, tree roots, ledges, rocks, and holes were her favorite part of the trip.  She could go up and down and up and down and up and down for as long as we let her.

 Kent and the trusty smartphone-that little thing found addresses, restaurants, phone numbers, and I think in this photo Kent is even researching the time of high tide.
What did parents do on vacations before smartphones and gps?

And yes, my husband wears jeans and work shoes at the beach.  Halfway through the afternoon he realized he wished he'd worn his swimsuit, but I'm sure that next time we go to a beach, he'll be in jeans and shoes again.  It's just the "Kent" thing to do.  
 Our little man was a real trooper.  He was happy, cooperative, and excited almost the entire trip.  (As long as we didn't forget to feed him...)

Some memorable one-liners: 
 "Is this car stinky too?"  (getting the rental car-Ellie puking in our van has scarred him--and the rest of us--for life.)
"That's called 'walking on water!'"   (we saw some people riding jet skis in the ocean)
"Look at her, my baby sister. Her face is just so cute!"
 And indeed she is.
This vacation was anything but relaxing for me as a mom.  We've been home for one day, though, and already I'm realizing how very fun it was.  We were all together, just the four of us, exploring and playing and learning and gosh was it glorious.  

Sunday, June 9, 2013

the good news game, and oreos

We're at the beach.  We came for Kent's brother's wedding, and we're staying a few days longer to have a mini family beach vacation.
Getting here was an adventure; our travels with children are vastly different than our travels last month sans-kids.

But instead of talking about how hard it was, I'm going to play the "good news game."  I made this game up on Friday morning as we sat in the airport.

The good news is that the stomach flu Ellie and I caught only lasted about seven hours.  
The good news is that Nicholas managed to survive driving in the very stinky van (from Ellie's throwing up) without throwing up himself.  Our return to the van once we're back will be a greater challenge, however, since it has been baking in the hot summer sun in the parking lot all week...
The good news is they did eventually let us get on the plane even though we forgot to bring proof that Ellie is still under 2.
The good news is that we made it onto the plane just two minutes before they closed the doors.
The good news is that I managed to breathe deeply and take slow sips of cold water and did not throw up on the plane.  Hey, the great news is that none of us threw up on the plane.
The good news is that the flight from Salt Lake to LA is only 1 hour and 45 minutes long, and our kids were excellent.
The good news is that we have enough fruit snacks and DVD's to keep Ellie almost happy as we navigate this crazy traffic.
The good news is that Ellie has slept fine these two nights even though she got over the stomach bug and then caught croup.
Oh, and the good news is that now I know that if Ellie says "diaper" while she's in the bathtub, it means I should get her out of the tub immediately and maybe try having her sit on the potty for a few minutes before I place her back in the water.  The good news is that I just happened to buy a package of clorox wipes at the grocery store last night.

The good news is we're here as a family, we have a beach, and we have Oreos.

Give this girl and Oreo and she shouts it:  "OREOOO!"  
Then she pulls it apart, scrapes off the frosting with her fingernails and licks it all up, along with a healthy dose of sand.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

brother and sister

Having someone always there to see if he can make your wild hair stick straight up?
Priceless, my friends, priceless.