Jan 31, 2013

Ability Awareness

I'm pretty sure I told you that the kids are off track. That means I have five little ones home plus the two grandkids. I let them play and trash the house most of last week since it was my birthday week, but things are different now. This morning I made them clean their rooms (they hate that part of being off-track!)

We've also been working on some scout stuff. Sport and Taco are both Cub Scouts and our scout council has a bunch of random patches they can earn at any age, so I picked one. It's called "Ability Awareness." Now a lot of these requirements could be easily done by just having the kids work with the Dog Walker, but I like to have them stretch a little and do some of the harder ones.

Yesterday they read about wheelchairs and they learned to write in Braille. Today I called them to my bedroom for something else. I had rounded up all the Ace bandages I could find and I bound each boy's right hand and arm to their sides so they couldn't use them. Then I sent them on their merry way for the rest of the morning with a promise to remove them after lunch (kicking myself about now for not taking any pics!).

The idea was that they needed to learn in a small way how it felt to be without a limb. Taco cheated a bit. He used his hand even though his arm was still pinned to his side. Sport (being a little older) tried a bit harder. He found it difficult to put together his Lego pieces he was working with, but the most difficult thing was eating lunch.

I asked Crafty to make some Ramen soup, but while she was downstairs getting supplies, she had a better idea. She came back with spaghetti and canned sauce. I was still cleaning my bedroom, so I let her cook. Half an hour later we were all seated around the table. The boys were surprisingly good at scooping the food with the over-sized utensils, but handling a fork left-handed was more difficult.

Sport eventually gave up and just started using his fingers...until he got caught and then he sighed and hefted the fork again. They were so excited to finally be unwrapped! Both boys headed immediately to the bathroom to wash off the extra spaghetti sauce that had somehow gotten all over their cheeks and chins.

And tomorrow we learn a little sign language...

Jan 30, 2013

The Drawing

Did I tell you my kids are off-track? They went off last week and with all the craziness around here we haven't had much time to do anything fun. Then we got a text from Chick Fil A about their off-track breakfast party. Now you know I love free food and a chance to win prizes just makes it that much better!

So I dragged all the kids out of bed around 8:15 so we could be there right at 9:00. It was cold and snowing outside and we slid a couple of times leaving the neighborhood, but we were headed for a party so there were no complaints.

We were the first ones there and they were very excited to see us. I think they were worried that the weather would keep everyone away. We started with a free paperback book for each kid and some fun coloring pages. After they were all settled at the coloring table, I ordered food. Each of the five kids I had with me (from Crafty and down) got a free three-piece Chickn Mini.With a few more coupons, I managed to feed all six of us full meals including orange juice for $8.29.

The kids were very excited about the promised drawings coming up! They had DVDs and nice hard-cover books for the lucky winners. Right before they drew their first names, Bossy showed up with Taco and Burrito and wouldn't you know it, the first name pulled out of the can was Burrito. The manager presented him with a nice book and then asked for another volunteer to draw the next name.

After about 3 winners were chosen, Crafty was asked to pull the next name. The manager held the bucket high over her head and Crafty stood on her tip-toes to reach a slip of paper. Imagine her surprise when she pulled out her very own name!

Her cheeks flamed red as the manager handed her one of the 25th Anniversary Thomas books. If I hadn't known better, I might have thought they slipped spicy chicken in her sandwiches...

Jan 29, 2013

Kiylee's Christmas - Chapter 3

It's Monday night and you know what that means...time to put up the next chapter in my book! I sincerely appreciate all the great comments. Please, keep them coming. I'm not planning to make any changes until you read all of it since the story was actually completed about 10 years ago. But then I will plan a major rewrite, in between blog posts, of course. If you need a refresher, her are the links to Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.

Prima Donna and Crafty, 2005

Chapter Three - Mom’s Knee     
    I never did make a basket during that season, but boy, did I practice!  Our team was undefeated and we also won the county-wide tournament.  It was great to be part of a winning team.  Things were going better at home too.  In January, Dad decided to start his own consulting business.  He bought a new computer with a credit card, applied for a business name, and started advertising.  Soon, he had enough work from several companies to keep him busy for a while.  Mom didn’t look nearly as stressed now that she had more than just Dad’s unemployment check to help her pay the bills. 
    After basketball ended, I was anxious to try another sport and Mom suggested softball.  I was assigned to an Oquirrh team and I played in the outfield.  I had been on a County Rec baseball team before, but this was different.  It was very competitive and my coach didn’t seem interested in teaching me to compete with those girls who’d played since they were two.  I swear, one girl played like she’d been born with the mitt on her hand!  It was fun, but I didn’t get to play very much.
    I think Mom knew I was upset about not getting to play.  Worse than that, I just didn’t seem to be making any friends on my team.  The girls in my neighborhood weren’t that friendly either.  School was OK, but I still didn’t have even one close friend.  Sometimes the girls at school even said mean things about me when they didn’t think I could hear them.  Then they would laugh like they just told the funniest joke in the world. 
I didn’t tell anyone about those girls, and it was pretty easy to hurry straight to the third grade hall so that I could walk home with Neal after school.  I guess Mom finally figured it out, because one morning during breakfast she asked me right out, “Kira, how’s the friend thing?  You haven’t had anyone over since your birthday party.” 
    I stared at my bowl of corn flakes.  I really didn’t want to tell her the truth, but I figured she would get it out of me sooner or later, so I took a deep breath, “Not so good, actually.”
   Mom stopped spooning Cheerios into Nathan’s mouth.  “What do you mean?” she asked.  “You had all those girls at your party.” 
   I swallowed hard, “I know, Mom. But they don’t seem to like me anymore,” I said in a small voice. 
   “Did you have a fight?” 
   My eyes filled with tears that I carefully wiped on my sleeve before I looked up at Mom.  “No.  I think they were just nice to me because they wanted to come to my party,” I answered.  Mom didn’t seem surprised.  She started feeding Nathan again. 
    “I’ve got an idea,” she finally said.  “Why don’t we look for a Girl Scout troop for you?”  She smiled.  “I’m sure they have troops in this area.” 
   Now that was a good idea!  I had been in Brownie Scouts in our old neighborhood.  It was fun, but then Mom got pregnant with Nathan and we had to quit.  Mom was one of our leaders, but then she got sick and had to stay in bed for a while, so after cookie sales, we just kind of stopped having meetings.  “Would you be the leader?” I asked Mom. 
   She thought for a moment, “You know that I would like to be the leader, but how about if we wait until next year to start our own troop?  For now, why don’t we just see if we can find a troop for the rest of the year?”  She smiled. 
   “OK,” I said.  “Call today, so I can start right away.” 
   “You know,” Mom said.  “I think Kinsey is old enough for a Daisy troop.  Do you think she’d like scouts too?”  Kinsey always had to do everything I did, but I guess I wouldn’t mind so much.  We wouldn’t be in the same troop.  We probably wouldn’t even meet on the same day. 
    Boy, was I wrong!  Our troops did meet on the same day and in the same place.  We met at a Methodist church in West Jordan.  It was a little strange at first.  I’d never been in a Methodist church before, but we got used to it after a while.  It was much smaller than our church and all of the scout meetings were held on Monday nights.  They had troops for all of the levels in the same place, but the Juniors were in a different room from the Daisy girls.  My leader was kind of weird.  She didn’t really want to work on patches or anything.  She just seemed to like to spend time with the girls.  I was kind of glad when we only met with that troop for about two months.
    As it turned out, Mom didn’t sign up to be my scout leader for the next year because she was playing volleyball at our church when she hurt her knee bad enough that she had to have surgery.  She went to the hospital while we were at school.  Dad went with her and Grandma came to stay with Nathan and Kiyna.  Mom’s surgery was over by the time we got home, but she was way too sick to see us.  Even when she came home the next day, she just kept throwing up. 
   Mom was very cranky.  I was glad to leave the house every day to go to school.  When I came home, she would be lying on the couch in the same place.  She had a leg brace that ran from the top of her thigh to her ankle.  She couldn’t even go to the bathroom without help.  She had crutches, but she couldn’t use them very well.  She had stitches down the front of her leg and I had to rub her knee around the stitches to keep her skin from scarring.  And she always needed something; a drink of water, her scissors, a book, some crackers.  The list went on and on.

   I tried to hide in my room when I got home from school so that she would ask someone else to help her, but she always wanted me to come anyway.  Dad said that it was because I was the oldest and Mom knew I was responsible.  I ended up baby-sitting Nathan and Kiyna because Dad had some big thing going on at work.  For a few days our neighbors brought us meals, but after that, I even had to cook supper for all the kids.
   After a week or so, Mom started going to physical therapy, but she couldn’t drive herself, so Dad or Grandma had to take her there.  Dad had gotten a new job in October, so he couldn’t get off all that much, and Grandma only stayed for a couple of weeks.  The worst part about Mom not being able to drive was that we couldn’t get where we needed to go either.  I had piano lessons and early morning band.  We couldn’t go to the grocery store or WalMart.  I hated being stuck at home.  There were times when I just had to get out of the house.  It was November, but it was still pretty warm, so sometimes, I’d climb out the window in Mom and Dad’s room and just sit on the roof.  I even took a book out there a couple of times, just to get away from everything.
   Christmas came again.  We couldn’t do much because Mom was still using the crutches.  The doctor told her that she was going to be fine, but I thought he was crazy.  It looked to me like she would probably limp forever.
   By March, I’d had enough.  I was tired of being Mom’s slave and tired of baby-sitting and tired of school and jobs and homework.  Mom got pregnant after her surgery.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want another brother or sister.  It was just that Mom usually got cranky when she was pregnant and with the knee, things just went from bad to worse. 

Jan 28, 2013

Guest Blogger - The Quest for Reverence by Sweetie

So we have 11:00 church now.  My wife loves it but I prefer the early schedule. Church is a three-hour block, and the first hour and ten minutes are the most sacred meeting when reverence is expected. With little ones it can be a challenge.    
Years ago when Bossy, Gym Rat, and Drama Queen were little we actually did a fairly good job at teaching them proper behavior.  And then it all fell apart. You see, undiagnosed or not, a three-year-old Autistic boy is NOT going to sit quietly on a bench! Our expectation levels had to change. The problem is that once they changed, the example was broken.  
We do all the things you're not supposed to do...small toys, mostly Hot Wheels, crayons...  We used to do  Cheerios but gave up on that because the big kids just eat them. For a long time it wasn’t that big of a deal because there were lots of young families in the ward, but now most of the ward is past the young kids stage and it's actually really quiet. Except in the back corner where Curly is making loud truck sounds lying on the floor kicking at his brother and pushing the large folding curtain so it hits unsuspecting ward members 35 feet away in the back of the head!
Back to why I hate 11:00 church. Well the last few months have been pretty good.  Baby Doll is big enough that Sandy can’t just head to the nursing room with her when things start getting ugly... and it really hasn’t been that bad...the kids are mostly quiet. (Sleeping kids tend to be quiet.) So when we switched to 11:00 and they were wide awake it was like a slap of reality. I hadn’t really made any progress. 
A few weeks ago Drama Queen had quieted Baby Doll down with an Ipad coloring app. So today I was prepared. It’s not as big, but my Kindle Fire could do the same thing. When Curly started acting up I coaxed  him over. He reluctantly came expecting to be cussed good. Instead I told him he could color as long as he sat on my lap and was quiet. He didn't know I had a new app on the Kindle and was quickly engrossed. It worked like a charm until the others saw what was going on and all wanted a turn. 
It wasn't long before attempts were made to tip him off my lap. They were moving all over the place. Finally I had had enough of anyone walking around and I made the area completely off limits. And that solved the problem until they decided they could walk behind the chairs.  All they had to do was push really hard on that curtain so they had enough room.. and if they moved it fast, cool waves shot down the way. Poor unsuspecting souls on the others side of the church! By the time the meeting was over, I was exhausted.
My dad wasn’t a church-goer and he would say, "no rest for the wicked." If we stayed home from church we worked the whole time, often weeding. Man, weeding in the hot sun sure sounds restful compared to this parent stuff.  

Jan 27, 2013

A Grown Up Date

Tonight my sweetie took me out to dinner. The Gym Rat gave us a gift card to Applebees for Christmas so we decided to use it. It was busy when we got there, but by the time our food showed up it had slowed down and we had a nice leisurely meal.

But we are grown ups, so we had a grown up date. Instead of holding hands and looking lovingly into each others' eyes, we used the silverware wrapper to write down all the pack meeting plans for the year. (We have some amazing ideas for the coming months!) When we finally finished, we left the restaurant and drove over to Smith's Marketplace.

Yeah, we are really romantic when it comes to dates. Strangely, we ran into a couple from our street who were spending their date night the same way we were...grocery shopping. I guess that's what you do for dates when you are a grownup.

But I want you to know I'm going to try harder when it comes to dating. The Drama Queen sent me this cute new blog and don't tell my sweetie, but I think this 43 kisses date sounds like a lot of fun! Valentine's Day is coming up...

Jan 26, 2013

My Awesome Birthday

I had the most awesome birthday today. We spent the morning at the Jordan River Temple with Teach. It was her first time going to the temple and it was so amazing!

Then my sweetie took the three of us to lunch at Johnny Carino's. I love their bread. Then we hurried back home so that I could finish the prep for my girl scout meeting. Yes, I purposely scheduled a meeting on my birthday. I had planned to finish up the cookie badge, but we did it all at our last meeting so suddenly I had a hole in my calendar.

A couple of days ago, I was blinded by an idea that kind of blossomed and bloomed as we went along. I threw myself a birthday party for my scouts. We made Mormon Miracle Pageant brownies and I gave them little gift bags. I just told them about myself and my life. I pulled out scrapbooks and yearbooks and baby books. I don't think they really knew much about me, not even my own daughters. It was pretty low-key and nice to not be rushing through to complete another badge.

 Then Teach and I went to Curves while my sweetie made dinner. It was delicious! Prime Rib with homemade rolls and all the fixings. They even set the table with the china we usually only pull out for Thanksgiving. The best part was the fact that all my kids were here to celebrate with us. We took some pictures for you. My favorite carrot cake and some Bananagrams rounded out the party. Thank you for all of your kind birthday wishes. It's been a terrific year and I have made so many new blog friends. I can hardly wait to see what 2013 will bring.

Jan 25, 2013

It's Your Birthday!! - Guest Blogger: Teach

Happy birthday, Mom!!

We are so grateful to have you in our lives and you are the best mom ever. You are an excellent mufti-tasker, problem solver, advocate with school counselors, and taxi driver. You keep us warm (sometimes VERY warm!) fed, and very stylishly clothed. Your hard work to make our home run smoothly does not go unnoticed. We love you and hope you celebrate the best birthday you've had all year! :) Thanks for being there when we need you and being the greatest thing since sliced bread. Or donuts.:)

Love you, MOM!


Jan 24, 2013

Unburying a Little

My life is a shambles. OK, I'm being a little dramatic, but my to-do list is three feet long and my desk is piled nearly three feet high. Don't believe me? Here is a picture.

Whenever my kids don't know where to put something, it goes on my desk. I generally plan one morning a week to sift through to the bottom and collect all the unpaid bills, overdue homework assignments, and library books. This is the second week in a row that I just haven't had time to do that.

And it definitely shows! Not only that, it just stresses me out, worrying about what might be lurking that I forgot about, a birthday invitation or a bill to pay. Or maybe a cookie form that I forgot to order the cookies from... now that would be a disaster!

OK, I'm being dramatic again. But it is difficult to focus on writing a post when I can hardly see the screen for the library books Princess asked me to return and the Tupperware catalogs scattered about. So tomorrow I think I'd better dedicate a little time to making the pile a bit smaller, before my screen is covered completely.

Hey! I wonder if there is any chocolate under here somewhere...?

Jan 23, 2013

Playing the Piano

I'm pretty sure I've told you before that I'm afraid to play the piano in front of people. There are several reasons for this and most of them are dumb. I won't share all of them because I think I might have already told you part of this story. (Since I couldn't take pictures of myself playing the piano, I put in these of Baby Doll.)

When I was getting ready to graduate from Jr. High, they decided to let the two students with the highest grade point averages share a talent at the graduation ceremony. For some reason I always have the distinction of being number 2. I had been playing the piano for 5 or 6 years then and I thought I was getting pretty good. So I chose my hardest recital piece, The Music Box Dancer, and began preparing for the big day.

The day finally arrived and all of our parents and friends congregated in our church to celebrate. (That would never happen now, but in small-town Utah, our churches were the biggest venues available.) When it was my time to play, I walked to the piano I had played on a hundred times, sat down, ignored the huge crowd and played my piece by memory.

It was the only time I ever performed that piece without a single mistake! When I was finished, I stood up from the piano and made my way back to the choir seats. By the time I got there, I was shaking so badly I thought I was going to pass out. That happens to me every time I play in front of people. (Except for the perfect part, that was different...usually I mess up!)

So one of my New Year's Resolutions that I didn't write down because I'm avoiding lists this year, is to relearn to play the piano. Since I quit taking lessons at age 16, I have not practiced regularly. That was over 30 years ago. As you can imagine, my fingers are extremely rusty! Just these past couple of weeks I have noticed that the songs are coming more easily and the mistakes less frequently.

Not that I really plan to play in front of anyone but the kids. It had just gotten so bad that I think some of them might not have even realized that I know how to play. Now I'm pretty sure they just want me to stop!

Jan 21, 2013

Kiylee's Christmas - Chapter 2

Hey, guess what?! It's Monday night and time to put up another chapter of my book. If you missed chapter 1, you might want to start here.

Again, please help me out with honest and open criticism. I got some great comments last week and I'm looking forward to hearing other ways I can improve.

Chapter 2 - Making Friends

    The party was only hours away and I was stressed!  I had talked to everybody at school and even though they all said they were coming, I was still worried that no one would show up.  After all, I really didn’t have any good friends yet.  I’d only lived here for a few months.  What if no one showed up?  What would I do?  How could I go back to school on Monday?  I shouldn’t have worried so much.
    The party started at 6:00.  By 5:55, my friends were already showing up.  By 6:30, 13 of the 15 girls I invited were running around my house.  I would never have admitted it then, but I barely knew some of these girls.  Some of them were from the popular crowd and I really wanted to fit it.  To tell the truth, I was kind of surprised that they showed up, but I was glad they did.
    We had great fun at the party.  We started with pizza and videos.  We played some games and opened presents.  I got some cool stuff, like makeup, jewelry, and books.  Presents are always nice, even if they aren’t the reason for the party.  After that, we had cake and ice cream.  Then we spread out our sleeping bags for a late movie.  It was after midnight when Mom and Dad went to bed and the real party began.  We ran around the house, got into makeup, got out Mom’s curling irons, and just made a mess in general.  Mom said that we could make popcorn and it got thrown everywhere.  It seemed that my new friends were out of control and I couldn’t do anything to stop them. 
    About 4:00 a.m., some of the girls, including me, started to get tired and we finally fell asleep.  I heard later that two girls stayed up all night.  I don’t know if they did or if they just said that so we would all think they were cool.
    Mom woke us all up about 9:30 for breakfast.  Dad made French toast and orange juice.  Most of the girls didn’t even want to get up, but they finally did.  At least Mom and Dad were nice enough to throw their fit after all the girls left.  They said that I could never have another sleep over, that I was irresponsible, you know, all that grown up talk.  I told them it wasn’t me, but it didn’t seem to matter.  I was the one who was going to be punished because they were my friends.
    It didn’t take long before half those girls at school were mad at me for some reason anyway.  I guess they weren’t really interested in being friends, they just wanted to come to the party.  Since Mom and Dad were still kind of mad, I didn’t care that much.
    It was the holidays and we always spend that time together as a family anyway.  Nathan had his first birthday right after mine; then it was time for Thanksgiving.  Mom and Dad had planned a huge Thanksgiving feast at our new house.  Some of our relatives had not been to see us yet, so Mom and Dad had a gathering of about 50 people planned from both sides of the family.  I thought they were crazy!  I know our house is pretty big, but where were they going to put all those people? 
     But Dad had it all figured out.  He rigged up a table in the dining room out of two huge pieces of plywood.  All the grownups except Mom and Grandma sat in there.  They got the best food, but we had plenty for us.  Because Dad was still unemployed, he started cooking the feast on Tuesday.  That gave him plenty of time to get everything finished.  Mom is not the cook at our house.  Dad and I can cook much better than Mom.  It works out, because Mom is always in charge of cleanup. 
    Thanksgiving was great.  I got to play with my cousins and eat until I nearly threw up.  My cousin, Todd, is about my age.  He told me that he was going to play basketball in a league right after Christmas.  I had never played basketball before, but it sounded fun.  After everyone was gone and we were cleaning up, I asked Mom if Neal and I could join this league.  They called it Jr. Jazz.  Of course, we knew that money would be a problem, but Mom promised to call and find out all the details.
    By Monday, Neal and I were both signed up to play Jr. Jazz.  I was really excited.  I had never played any basketball before, not even at school.  Other than practices and games with my team, it didn’t look like I’d be playing much anywhere else either.  We didn’t have a basketball hoop and neither did most of the neighbors.  Neal had a friend with one down the street, so it wasn’t such a big deal for him.  I didn’t have anybody.  Some of the kids played at recess, but it was mostly the boys and they didn’t think that girls were good enough to play with them.  Boy, were they wrong!  My Jr. Jazz team was awesome!  I don’t know how I landed on the best team in the league.  Most of these girls had been playing together since 2nd grade and they were good!  I started to worry that they wouldn’t like me because I couldn’t even make a basket.  Mom was sympathetic, but she made it clear that while Dad was not working, we couldn’t afford a basketball standard and I’d just have to practice at school.  I was starting to get used to disappointment.  I pinned my hopes on Santa Claus until Mom announced a homemade Christmas.  Not that I minded making gifts for my brothers and sisters; I liked crafts and sewing and painting and stuff.  I was just hoping for a gift that was clearly not possible.

    My basketball team played three games before Christmas.  I didn’t play much, but it sure was fun to win.  We had two girls who were almost six feet tall.  None of the other teams in the league had anyone over 5’6”.  I was not quite five feet tall and even though I practiced dribbling nearly every day, I still couldn’t handle the ball very well under pressure.  Our league was split into two brackets and our team was placed in the winners’ bracket.  They didn’t call us winners and the other teams losers, but we all knew what was what.
    We didn’t have a game the week before Christmas or for two weeks after.  My coach wanted to practice though, so twice a week, we met and ran through plays, even three days before Christmas.  After that final practice, the coach pulled me aside and said, “Kira, you really need to work on your shooting at least an hour a day.” 
    I didn’t know what to say.  “I don’t have a hoop,” I mumbled. 
   He looked concerned.  “We’ll call after Christmas and maybe you can come over and practice with Ashley,” he said.  “But if you ever want to be any good, you’ve got to learn to shoot under pressure.” 
   “See you,” I mumbled to Ashley and I ran across the parking lot to our van. 
   Dad was waiting for me.  “How was practice?” he asked cheerfully. 
   “OK,” I said.  I must not have sounded convincing because Dad looked at me with that ‘concerned parent look.’
   “What happened?” he asked. 
   “I don’t know,” I answered.  “Otto just thinks I should practice more, but without a hoop, it’s really hard, Dad.” I caught my breath and wiped the sweat from my forehead and chin onto my shirt. 
   I looked back at Dad and I could see the sadness in his eyes.  “I’m sorry, Honey,” he said.  “Being out of work isn’t fun for any of us.  I thought sure I’d have a job by now.”  He cleared his throat.  “Maybe Santa will come through,” he managed. 
   I shook my head, “Yeah, right.”  Dad looked at me.  “Don’t look at me like that, Dad.  You know lots of kids at school don’t believe in Santa anymore.” 
   “I guess they don’t believe in miracles either?” Dad asked.  He was getting testy and I really didn’t want to argue with him. 
   “I don’t know, Dad,” I answered.  “They don’t talk much about that kind of stuff.”  I turned my face to the window and rested my forehead against the cool glass.  Powdery flakes were floating gently to the ground as we turned into our subdivision. 
   “I guess we might have a white Christmas after all,” Dad offered. 
   “I hope so,” I said, glad of a safe topic.  Dad was so cranky these days; it was hard to have a conversation with him. 
   “Mom’s got a lot of work to do tonight, so I want you to quickly finish your jobs and get to bed early,” Dad said. 
   “What are my jobs?” I asked. 
   “Family room, batch of laundry,” he stated firmly, expecting an argument.  I groaned, but very softly.  I always got the hardest jobs.  Mom said it was because I was the oldest and I got the most privileges.  I’m not sure any of that makes up for the extra work.  “Honey?” Dad interrupted my thoughts. 
   “I do believe in miracles and in Santa Claus.”  I looked quickly to see if he were teasing me, but his face looked very serious and very sad at the same time.  I squeezed his hand.
   “Thanks for the ride, Dad,” and I climbed out of the car.  “I’ll do my jobs fast.  What’s for supper?”  I promised myself then and there to have a talk with the other kids about Christmas.  We didn’t really need anything but Dad to get a new job anyway.  I opened the front door and forced a big smile as I headed upstairs to get my laundry. 
    I did have that talk with my siblings and we all agreed.  Kinsey and Kiyna needed a little prodding, but they were OK after I told them how sad Daddy was.  They gave him as many hugs as they could over the next few days and on Christmas Eve, we went to bed with low expectations but happy hearts.  Dad didn’t act nearly as depressed and Mom sang Christmas Carols long after our lights were out.  Grandma and Grandpa Ockey were staying with us.  They had never spent Christmas with us before, and it was exciting to share that special time with them.  Uncle Randy was in Alaska, so only Aunt Deb and Aunt Amy came with Grandma and Grandpa.  Mom had lots of siblings, but only two of her sisters were married.  She also had two older brothers, but they lived halfway around the world and they didn’t come home much.
    Christmas morning dawned bright and early.  I stayed in my bed for a few moments, just listening to the silence and watching the Christmas lights twinkling in the hall.  I could tell that everyone was still sleeping.  I peeked out the window and smiled at the freshly falling snow.  “Good,” I thought to myself.  “Maybe Grandma and Grandpa will get snowed in and have to spend an extra couple of days with us.” 
I threw back the covers and made my way cautiously to the door.  Neal’s room was next to mine, so I woke him first.  “Neal!” I whispered loudly.  “Wake up, it’s Christmas!” 
   His eyes popped open and he grinned up at me.  “Did you wake the girls?” he asked excitedly. 
   “No,” I whispered, “you can do it.” 
   He threw back his quilt.  “I’ll wake the girls and we’ll let Kiyna wake Mom and Dad.”  He swung his legs to the edge of the bed.  “What time is it?” he whispered. 
   “Nearly six,” I answered.  “Let’s go wake the girls.”  Kinsey and Kiyna were harder to wake than Neal, but we finally convinced them it was really Christmas and they needed to see what Santa brought for them.  Nathan was sleeping with Mom and Dad, so we sent Kiyna in to wake them up.  After all, who could get mad at a cute little three-year-old with long blonde hair and big blue eyes on Christmas morning?
    Mom and Dad moaned and groaned, but they finally pulled themselves out of bed.  After waking Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt Deb and Aunt Amy, we headed for the family room.  I tried to calm the little kids by telling them that Santa was extra busy and he probably didn’t have time to leave us as many toys this year, but I didn’t need to bother.  The family room was covered with wrapped packages and one really huge one by the back door had my name on it!  I tried to contain my excitement as the girls discovered dollhouses and Neal opened a guitar.  I finally got my turn, and as I ripped down the paper, I saw a picture of a basketball hoop and I shouted, “Thank you, Santa Claus!”  The basketball standard was obviously unassembled, but it was there and I began believing in miracles when I turned and saw the huge grin on Dad’s face.
   “Let’s put it together, should we?” 
Mom looked up from the dollhouse and smiled.  “You’d better stay in the garage,” she cautioned, “I think we’re in for a blizzard.”

A Major Award

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I won a major blog prize? It has been so fun to see the packages come in the mail! I got a beautiful black infinity scarf first, then came a fuzzy blue scarf and the cool tote bag. The MOM in Two Weeks software became available for me online and I took a bit to play around with that. Then I got a big box in the mail that read, "Live Plants! Open Immediately!"

It was a kit to build a terrarium from the Slice of Life. The kids were so excited! I stopped by Hobby Lobby on Saturday and bought a glass container and today after church, my sweetie helped the kids to build it. They had so much fun putting in the dirt and rocks and plants and moss. I'll just leave you to see it all in pictures. Thanks for the amazing prizes!

Jan 20, 2013

Another Dance, Another Answer

There's another dance coming up at the high school. Princess is really loving this dating game and this one is a girls' choice. So last Sunday she issued an invitation to one of the boys in our neighborhood. But you know how these games are played...she couldn't just pick up the phone and call him.

Instead we got a bag of uncooked popcorn kernels and wrote her name on a tiny slip of paper. Then we forced the paper through a tiny hole in the bag and wrote a cute saying on the outside. After we made the delivery (doorbell-ditched it), we slowly drove back past his house to make sure the package had been received.

We've waited all week for an answer and tonight it finally came! It was a cute little saying delivered with a box of Hot Tamales. The problem was that the box had been opened and a Ziploc bag full of candies was inside. They all looked red, but the saying led us to believe that some were hot and some were not and if there were more hot ones than not, the answer was "yes."

This was a true dilemma for Princess. She does not like hot cinnamon candies! So being the awesome mom that I am, I volunteered to taste each and every one for her. After the first few, my tongue was on fire. These were the "fired up" Tamales and they were smoking!

I have to confess that the entire process was pretty disgusting. I couldn't have possibly eaten all of the candy, so I put them in my mouth, determined the flavor and then spit them into a bowl, blue for cool and pink for hot. I know, it was pretty wasteful, but it was a big bag!

After a while Princess tentatively joined me but she was much quicker to spit than me. About halfway through the box I noticed that the coating on the sweet ones was a little thinner than the coating on the hot ones. That made things much easier. I even managed to preserve a few so my sweetie could eat them. (Not the hot ones, he feels about them the same way Princess does).

When we were finally finished sorting, the hot bowl appeared to be about twice as full as the other one, so I guess the answer is "YES!" Princess heaved a sigh of relief. Now the fun begins...

Jan 19, 2013

Guest Blogger - Don't Mess with Texas by Teach

This is NOT how I will look in Texas
Oh, hey guys! Just so you know, I've been called to Texas. Fort Worth, Texas. I'm leaving in 61 days. It's insane!!!

I had a huge party when I opened my call and a lot of my wonderful friends came. I slit open the envelope and pulled out the single sheet of paper with words that changed my life.
I read the words Sister "Teach..." It was such a wonderful experience and I sobbed and sobbed.

I'm so excited to go to Texas. I never would've thought Texas. I've never wanted to go to Texas, but I know that it is the right place for me to be.

I'm terrified. I'm scared to go to a new state, leave my family, and be gone for 18 months. I know that I'll be able to do it, but I've had some pretty hard moments. Yesterday I curled up in my bed and cried. But here's the thing. I know that it is the best thing that could happen to me at  this time. I also know that I will be blessed for my service.

I'm excited. I'm scared. I'm happy. Overall, I'm going to have a very busy 61 days! I will miss you all while I'm gone, but I'm sure Mom will give you so many updates while I am in TEXAS!!!!

Jan 18, 2013

Some Things are Never Forgotten

I have a story for you. I was 6 years old when my little sister, Deb, was born. I was just about the same age that Scout is now. I thought I was pretty smart and I knew all about babies. There was no logic to that assumption because before my parents decided to have Deb, there were only five of us and I was second to youngest with my little sister being about 18 months younger than me. Obviously I never cared for her when she was little, but I thought I knew everything.

Deb was born in October, 1971. I immediately adopted her as my own. I lugged her around and shook a rattle for her. I even changed her diapers with a little help from Mom. She was cute and growing so fast! I kept telling her what a big girl she was...

That's Scout in the pink pants...same age as me when this happened.
Remember when I told you about the table my parents had while growing up? It was a massive thing with chairs that were attached and swung free without legs. We played ping-pong on it as kids when we weren't using it to eat dinner. (It's still at Dad's house and this is a picture from our visit last spring.)

So one day when Deb was three or four months old, I was playing "mommy" and I hauled her into the kitchen. The phone rang. It happened to sit on a little phone stand just east of the table in the corner. No one else was within earshot, so I sat Deb down on one of the chairs and reached for the phone.

I know what you are thinking...how many four-month-olds can sit up by themselves?

And you are right. No sooner had a turned away to reach the phone than she toppled right off the chair and onto the hard linoleum. Why was it that Mom couldn't hear the ringing phone but as soon as the baby started screaming she was right there?

I received one of the worst tongue-lashings of my life and it was repeated many times even up until several years before my mom passed away. I don't think she ever quite fully forgave me for letting Deb fall on her head even though I wrote her this really nice thank-you note.

And it didn't stop there! Even six months ago at a family get-together my little sis reminded me that I had let her fall on the floor. Never mind that I was under the age of accountability then. Let me just tell you, some things are never forgotten.

Jan 16, 2013

Drum Roll, Please...

So the mail finally arrived around 1:00. Teach ran to the mailbox in her stockinged feet and returned with a big smile on her face and a large white envelope. Yep, her call was here! Was she going to open it?


She pretty much drove me nuts all day long. Her best friend didn't get off work until 9:00 tonight so the opening time was set for 9:30. After looking at that envelope staring at me from the knic-knac shelf all day, I finally left the house. The tension was unbearable.

We sold a few cookies, I went to Curves, and then I attended Standards night with the girls. We got home around 8:30, just in time to grab dinner and clean up before Teach's friends came over.

At 9:35, in front of about 30 people, she finally ripped open the envelope.

Her assignment is the Texas Fort Worth Mission and she will be leaving us for 18 months on March 20.

Marci, you must have done some pretty good praying...

A Little Terrified

Is it OK to admit that I'm a little terrified?

Teach's Mission Call is really supposed to come in the mail tomorrow and I have been a total basket-case all week. Oh, don't get me wrong, I am very excited for her and thrilled to finally know the answer, but I am also worried and helpless and a little lost. I don't know what to do with myself.

I totally yelled at the Gym Rat this week... more than once. This morning I was at the dance studio and I actually came a little unglued over a little girl carrying a cookie order form. I just feel like I'm living on the edge.

Last night the Dog Walker was taking Crafty to the dance studio when he had a tire go flat on Redwood Road, a rather busy main thoroughfare here in Utah. I had to zip over there and rescue him and then try to decide what to do about the car. My sweetie was still at work, but my awesome SIL came quickly to the rescue. I'm not sure what I would have done without him! My brain is just not working properly.

Then when I brought home my six gallons of milk and one of them started leaking all over the fridge, that was the last straw. I know we aren't supposed to cry over spilled milk, but...

So I for one will be happy when we finally have the details of the mission, where she is going, when she is leaving, what she needs to take with her, etc. At least then I won't feel this lost and helpless feeling.

I'll post the location as soon as we know... I sure hope it's tomorrow since she spent the evening making cookies. If not I might just eat the entire tray myself!

Jan 14, 2013

Getting Published

Did I ever tell you I wrote a children's novel?

It was probably a dozen or so years ago, and it took me over a year to complete it. I always thought I would write novels that everyone would want to read and publishers would be drooling to get their hands on my latest draft.

I found a silly pic I haven't shared before.
Did you laugh? You should. Getting a novel published is hard! I spent several years marketing it myself with little success and then I turned it over to an agent. She took my money and sent me a letter once a month for a year, but she didn't have any success either.

So I put it on a shelf and assumed nobody would ever read it but me and my sweetie and an occasional child here or there. But this morning when I was in the shower, I had an epiphany. I could share my book with all of you!

I never expected to make any significant money from writing anyway, but all writers want to be read and I would really appreciate it if you would spend a few minutes once a week and read the latest installment. It's only 14 chapters, so it won't take you very long, and maybe if you have any suggestions on revisions you can share them with me so I can make it better.

I was going to wait until tomorrow, but what the heck, here's Chapter One of Kiylee's Christmas.

Chapter One - Moving In

    I was only nine when we moved from the house on Creekwood Drive.  I left my friends, my school, my teacher, even my dogs, but it was worth it.  We were all tired of tiny rooms and bunk beds.  I even had to share a room with my 7-year-old brother.  What a pain! 
    We started building our new house one week after my birthday in 1993.  My baby brother, Nathan, was only four days old when they dug the hole for our basement.  The house was huge, with four bathrooms and four bedrooms.  Mom would get an office and a craft room and Dad would get a three-car garage.  The kids would have a toyroom in the basement and a place to do our own laundry.  Like we really wanted the laundry room!  Mom said that it was both or neither, so I guess we’ll have a nice place to play.  We only have one washer and dryer anyway, so I don’t know what good it does to tell us that we have to wash our own clothes.
    Mom and Dad got a huge bedroom with a big green tub.  They said it was big enough for all of us to take a swim, but I don’t really think so.  Nathan is sleeping in their room, so, for now, Neal has a room of his own.  I don’t know why a 7-year-old needs a room of his own, especially one bigger than mine, but Mom and Dad never ask me what I think.  My little sisters get to share a room.  Kinsey is four and Kiyna is three.  They like to play together, so they don’t really care.  I get the last room.  It’s the smallest, but Mom says that I will never have to share with anyone so I shouldn’t complain.  They let me decorate it any way I wanted so I chose black and white flowered wallpaper and red chair rail.  It looks really cool.  Most people hate it, but I don’t care.  They don’t have to live there.
    We spent a lot of time in our new neighborhood even before we officially moved in because we had to move out of our old house on June first.  Mom and Dad were able to find us a squishy little apartment for those two months, but it was dangerous there and we had to stay inside most of the time.  The apartments were arranged in circles and there was a playground in the middle of each circle.  When we first moved in, we thought that we would be able to spend some time on the swings and slide.  But the first day we were out there, we found bullet casings under the slide and a boy chased us with a baseball bat.  After that, Mom made us stay inside.
    It was hard to stay in the apartment because we didn’t unpack anything.  Even though we put some stuff in storage, it was way crowded with boxes and furniture.  Mom and Dad felt bad that our house was running behind schedule, so as soon as Dad got home from work, we would all climb in the van and drive to our new neighborhood.  We walked around and got to know some of the neighbors.  We even put up our wallpaper and stuff in our rooms before the house was finished.
    Sometimes we would leave the neighborhood and go on a license plate hunt.  It was one of our favorite games.  Dad would drive the van around the hotels that were close by and we would look at all of the license plates.  Our apartment complex had plates from all over the country, so it was a good place to check.  One day we had nearly all of the states, so we begged Dad to keep driving.  We went clear in to Murray and Midvale, just looking for license plates.  We never did find Hawaii or Rhode Island.  Oh well, 48 wasn’t too bad for one day.

    Finally, our house was done.  We started at our new school on Tuesday and we moved into our house on the next Saturday.  It was all so exciting!  We’d been living in that awful little apartment for so long, our new bedrooms seemed huge. 
    Since school had already started, I was plenty busy just trying to fit in, make friends, and do my homework.  Mom and Dad promised me that on the first birthday I had in the new house, I could have a huge sleepover with all of my new friends.  Since my birthday was in November, that gave me a few months to figure out who I really wanted to invite.  Mom limited it to 15 girls, but I wasn’t sure I could even come up with that many friends in just a couple of months.  I started making my lists and dreaming about the party.
    August and September slipped by and the weather started to turn colder.  We’d been able to wear shorts to school until it got too cold.  We usually didn’t even do most of our school shopping until traditional schools started because Mom said that the sales are always better in September. 
    I remember the school shopping trip very well, because Mom and Dad took us all to WalMart and we actually did all the shopping at once.  We’d never done that before.  Mom usually took us to two or three stores and we got a couple of things in each store.  Dad usually bought our school supplies and he just brought them home.  Well, not this time. 
    Neal, Kinsey, and I all got new shoes, socks, underwear, pants, shirts, and jackets.  Then Mom and Dad let us choose backpacks, notebooks, crayons, pencils, rulers, and all that school stuff.  We got to do that because Mom and Dad decided that we wanted to play a game to help us keep our new house clean.  They made each one of us a bingo board with jobs and when we got our first Bingo, we got a pair of socks or a new shirt.  With two bingos, we could get a backpack, and if we finished our entire board with a blackout, we got a new jacket.  Of course, we all worked really hard with prizes like that.  Everybody earned a blackout, so Mom and Dad took us all shopping at once.  I didn’t usually think much about money.   Mom and Dad pretty much bought us everything we needed, but I was surprised when I heard Mom tell Dad that our new stuff cost nearly $800.00.  That’s a lot of money!  But things were about to change drastically at our house.  Two weeks later, my dad got laid off from his job. 
    Dad is an electronics design engineer and he had worked for the same company since I was four years old.  We didn’t have a clue that his job was shaky, or we probably would never have built our new house.  Mom said that it tripled the amount of money we had to pay each month just to have a place to live.  As I said, I never worried much about money before, but after the layoff, it seemed to be a constant worry.  We couldn’t go to the store and just buy whatever groceries we wanted.  We had to be careful.  Mom started cooking more with the stuff we already had in the kitchen, like chili beans.  I like chili, but my brother and sisters don’t.  Neal only liked cold cereal and noodles, so he had a bad time.  I think there were lots of days that all he ate was what he had for school lunch and some bread and butter.
    We really thought that Dad would get a new job right away.  He did get some money from his company to help him find a new job.  It sounded like a lot to me until Mom explained that it would only make two house payments.  I started to wonder about my birthday party.  Mom and Dad aren’t always great about keeping promises like that, and if they had a good excuse, well, maybe my sleepover would be history.  I stopped telling my new friends about it and just kept my mouth shut.  
    About the 20th of October, Mom brought up the subject.  She asked me if I had my list ready for the party.  I was so surprised.  “I thought the party was canceled,” I said. 
“Why?” asked Mom. 
“Well, because we don’t have any money and Dad doesn’t have a job,” I replied.
 “Look, Honey,” Mom said.  “We still have to live, even if we don’t have much money right now.  The party won’t cost that much if we’re careful.”  I must have looked worried, because Mom quickly said; “We can make our own pizzas instead of ordering out.  And Dad can make your cake rather than buy it at the store.  The party will still be great.  Don’t worry so much.”  I gave Mom a big hug and then ran to my backpack to uncover my hidden list of friends.  I think Mom was a little surprised that I already had 15 friends listed, but we made invitations and I passed them out at school the next morning.
    Most of the girls were in my class, but a few from our neighborhood were on different tracks, so I had to find them at lunch or recess.  By the end of the day, my party was the hottest thing going on, except for Halloween, of course. 

OK, honest opinions, please. I can take it, I promise. I've already had at least a dozen publishers turn it down...

Jan 13, 2013

Sunday Night Blues

Do you ever get the Sunday night blues? You know, the "I'm just not ready to go back to real-life" blues? I'm feeling them big-time today!

It's not just a regular Sunday for me. Tomorrow is the start of the spring Semester at the community college and that means the Dog Walker will be back in class. I really am very happy for him. He is an amazing student and he works so hard! Did I tell you he got an A in every class last semester? And some of those classes were really hard for him. He had Psychology, Sociology, Intro to Music, Communications, and Lifetime Fitness.

This semester we decided to help him choose an easier schedule but one that would still fill requirements toward a degree. He has International Literature and Culture, Humanities, Meteorology, Marriage and Family Relations, Scuba II, and Social Dance I. OK, the last two are fluff, but I want him to have some fun in school too.

Anyway, back to my dilemma...

Even though he does really well in school, it is still tons of work for me. He needs help staying organized and on-task, and since Teach will be busy getting ready to go on her mission, she won't be nearly as much help with that as she was last semester.

I've been busy and productive this last week or so, but honestly, I've enjoyed the downtime too. So now it's time to suck it up and quit complaining. We are so grateful that he has the opportunity to go to school in the first place. His scholarship has made it manageable financially and the fact that the Gym Rat gave him his old car to drive and that he actually can get himself to school and back is a huge blessing.

There's nothing like counting my blessings to help me put it all back into perspective.

Now if I could just kick these Sunday night blues...

Jan 12, 2013

Selling Cookies

I've had the kids out selling cookies pretty much all day today except for the couple of hours we took off for basketball games. When I was climbing into bed last night I commented to my sweetie how much I was dreading this day and I knew the kids were too.

So why do we do it?

Why do we spend all that time and energy forcing the kids to walk the neighborhood in six inches of snow when it's cold and wet outside?

I'll tell you why. Selling Girl Scout cookies has taught them so many life lessons that would have been difficult for them to learn in other ways.

1. It's taught them to approach people when they are timid and afraid (and I do mean terrified! Princess cries every year when I try to get her to sell cookies.)

2. It's taught them to be friendly and outgoing.

3. It's taught them to answer questions and that required them to do their research and prepare BEFORE they hit the streets.

4. It's taught them responsibility.

5. It's taught them that they must keep trying even when they are cold and tired and hungry.

6. It's taught them to use the bathroom before they leave the house (ok, some of them have learned that lesson...)

7. It's taught them to handle money and do math in their heads.

Sorry for the bad cell pics. But check out Princess's badges!
8. It's taught them that when you want something, you have to work for it.

9. It's taught them to work together and take care of the little ones (we pair up in groups of two or three and each group always has a small child).

10. It's taught them to set goals and achieve them.

They have probably learned a hundred other lessons as well. And these lessons are not just for the girls. Every one of my kids has helped sell and deliver cookies, because when we choose to do something as a family, we all participate.

And now I'm going to crawl back into my nice comfy bed... and see if I can warm my feet (and I didn't even walk that much!).

Where Did the Time Go?

This morning my sweetie said, "You mean we won't always be changing diapers and taking care of babies?" I gave him a sad little smile and shook my head.

Earlier this week I was moving the crib to a new spot and thinking it was probably time to put Baby Doll into a toddler bed. But I'm still dragging my feet. It's hard to believe that time has come. We bought that crib when Drama Queen was a baby, over 23 years ago. Can it really finally be time to see it retire?

Teach pulled in these extremely cute pictures of Curly and Baby Doll. Look at my darling little curly-haired three-year-old. And this picture of Baby Doll when she was still a baby... just a year ago.


Look at her now, just one year later. So grown up and such a big girl (a bit spoiled, I might add).

And here is my big boy turning 4.

Where did the time go?