Monday, August 17, 2015

Trek family reunion and other stuff

We had a fun Stake Youth Activity... a survivor themed Standard's Night on Saturday. I came up with the idea and the other members of the Stake Young Women's presidency just embraced it and brought lots of really fun ideas to the table. We had a lot of fun and I think the youth did too. At the end of the night we had planned to watch a slideshow of the pictures from TREK and having a mini reunion for all the families. This meant that Chris needed to be there too which meant, we were bringing our whole crew. Chris took car of them in a side classroom while I ran around like crazy during the activity then he came out for the Trek reunion part and we reunited with 4 of our 7 Trek kids. It was really fun to see them all together again and hang out and reminiscence and introduce them to their younger siblings. We missed Kobe, Brody, and Tyson!

One day we found out about this local (Sturgis) bikers rally that was coming through town 45 min after school. So we parked near the main highway and watched a movie while we waited. The bikers came through and it was fun to see them (even if it sort of made me dizzy!) Not sure we'll do it again next year, but it was fun to see once. 

Cute Frederick moment 'reading' on the beanbag. He cuddles up with a blanket and pillow and babbles out loud as he turns pages.

Grandma Dixie's birthday presents for Gwen came! So fun to see her in the ballet clothes. 

While my friend Christy was here she helped me get the built-ins above the washer and dryer primed and chalked and Charlie helped me paint it. It looks really nice! I'm so glad we did this.

All the kids love to play with Freddy when they get home from school and Freddy seems to be a more willing playmate, now that he has more alone time in the mornings. Him and Charlie kept these hooded sweatshirts on outside for a long time... in 100 degree heat! 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

First day of school

School starts early here in the South. We had dangerous heat indexes for the first couple of days. Supposed to feel like 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit! Know what that means? It means no recess. Poor kids. But still they are all so excited to go. Especially Gwen. She mentioned a few times that she was nervous but she never complained or cried or anything. She was all smiles from the minute she woke least I assume so since they all woke up and were dressed before Chris and I.  We were grateful to be given a bunch of extremely well kept handmedown school uniforms for Gwen from a friend who moved out of state. At first she complained that all the polo shirts and kahki and black shorts/pants were "boy clothes" and cried when she saw them. But after showing her there was also some skirts and trying to point out details like polkadot ribbon on the inside trim of the collars she stopped complaining. She even wanted to try them all on the day before school started. Haha... I don't know where she learned it but she would strut and pose a bit in each outfit. Gosh, she's growing up. 

Alec goes to 3rd grade, Charlie enters 1st grade and Gwendolyn starts Kindergarten! 

Freddy looks confused in all this pictures because we had to wake him up. Our morning routine is going pretty smoothly. Chris and I have an alarm that rings at 5:20. At 6:05 we get out of bed and one of us wakes up the kids while the other starts breakfast (we're trying to only have cold cereal 2 times a week) usually mush, oatmeal, eggs and toast, or apple toast, sometimes pancakes or German pancakes. Then at 6:30 we all sit down and eat breakfast together while Chris reads the scriptures out loud.  Sometimes I'll go around with a spray bottle and a brush and do the boys hair while they eat. Lunches, snacks and backpacks are all packed the night before. Then 6:55 potty time, teeth brushed (which actually rarely happens) and family prayers so that Chris and the kids can load into his little car and drive away at 7:00am. 

But the first couple of days, we all go in the van so I can walk any of the kids to their classrooms that want me to. Car pool drop off is CRAZY this first week and we wait for a while and barely get Alec to class ontime, but know that Charlie and Gwen will be late since they're at a different school. For Alec, its his first year at the 3-5th grade school: Henderson Ward Stewart. Drop off was so backed up that I had time to take a picture of Alec infront of his school, walk him to his class, take another picture and walk back out to the car before Chris is even close to leaving the parking lot! I hopped right in. On to Sudduth Elementary

At Sudduth they don't let parents get out of the car in the carpool drop off spot, so we planned to park and all go in, but parking and traffic is so backed up and the kids are already late so Chris dropped us off near the front office and waited in the car with Frederick.  I wondered if Gwen is going to go all shy and clingy and not want me to leave the classroom like she did last year at preschool so we walked Charlie to his classroom first. He was so excited to have his good friend Dash in his class again. He practically ignored me as soon as he walked in his room. He has Ms. Black (1st year teaching) and Ms. Brown as teachers.  Gwen has We walked alllll the way across the school to the Kindergarten hallways (theres over 1000 children at this school with only K-2 grades) Gwen really IS growing up! She did so great and walked right in (albeit at a turtles pace) and found her hook to hang up her backpack, let me take a picture with her teacher. Ms. Walls and then she just stood by the door and smiled for a while. I got a "I love you" out of her before leaving and I stayed just out of sight for a bit wanting to watch her longer. Good thing I still have Frederick waiting for me back in the car to fill my craving for chubby little arms wrapped around my neck. 

I blissfully imagined subdued mornings getting the house clean, while Frederick plays with toys, at least brainstorming dinners if not slightly prepping them, having a tidy little lunch with Freddy and often Chris, then quiet afternoons of preparing church lessons, sewing, organizing while Frederick sleeps. HA! Turns out Freddy isn't so self entertaining as I thought he was. He must really only love playing by himself when it means he's older siblings aren't trying to clobber him or make him do stuff. He must really really be used to chaos because he practically cries at my feet all day long, if I'm not holding him or playing with him. When I do sit down near him while he plays with cars, trying to sort mail or *tons* of school papers, he'll bring his car ramp so it's half on my legs and then position himself with his little bum up and neck turned looking back at me, trying to sit as close as possible to my face. If I'm laying down, his favorite place to sit is on my neck. If I get up to walk across the house to grab my shoes, or go to the bathroom, he'll start crying, run after me, grab some piece of my clothes or my finger if he's lucky and hold on with a vice grip... probably 'cuz he knows from experience I can quickly unlatch myself and try and reach or put away this or that.  And who was I kidding? A tidy little lunch?? Freddy is still the champion messy eater no matter what it is we're having for lunch. Although all my dreams are realized during nap time. With lunch at 11:30ish, and naps until we leave to pick up the kids at 2:15 its a calm, quiet house for at least 2 hours. Big slow breath in and out, now smile. 

At 2:15 I get Frederick up and load him and snacks and books in the car in an attempt to entertain him for the next hour and a half. We picked up Alec first the first little bit of school. I wait in his carpool pick up line from 2:30-3:10ish then once he's in the car, we head over to Sudduth and wait in their carpool line for 20 minutes and then get home around 3:45. WHEW. Now the battle for patience and cool calm parenting begins and goes strong until the last kid is tucked in around 8:00pm. But thats for another time. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Summer days

This is the first summer we haven't moved in 5 years. And 5 years ago, the summer Gwen was born, we moved twice! We had an entire month at home this summer without any major plans or trips. It has been SO NICE! I was actually quite nervous for it since the kids usually quarrel and fight so much when they're all at home together, and also because its so HOT and muggy outside I knew the house would just be a disaster every single day AND also because there's pretty much nothing to do inside, in town for kids for free (well thats not true, there is the library and we did go there at least once a week..) Anyway the point is, I wasn't sure how much I would like summer and turns out I like it just fine. I let the kids watch a movie every single day and after getting them to realize cleaning up a few things doesn't actually take that long we've managed to keep the house relatively tidy! As well, I've gotten better at ignoring messes. 

One Sunday afternoon the kids built this elaborate "house" with blankets and pillows and whatnot. Each of them had their own space and they moved the couches together in a great big bed for Chris and I. They really wanted to sleep there so we had a little family sleepover in the play room.  I only consented because I was fairly confident I could read the book we'd been reading together aloud (The Rithmatist), long enough for Gwen and Charlie to fall asleep. I was right. But I wasn't serious about Chris and I sleeping there with them. Except when Chris got in his pajamas and fell asleep at 9:00 on his side of the couch, I followed suit. I slept horribly and was so tired the next day. We realized later that both of us thought the other of us wanted to sleep there and was just going along with it for the other one. HA. Guess we need to work on communication. Always communication. :) 

Other current everyday moments:

Frederick playing peek-a-boo with the sheer curtains in my room. He can sit behind there and play for a bit, then climb out grab a new toy and re-situate himself back behind the curtain for a long time. 

Indoor picnic with a friend or two. This cutie pie is our neighbor girl. She's adorably, completely southern. And that is Alec trying to run away from the camera. He's fast, but not fast enough.

The dinner hour is always Freddy's crankiest times and I can get really frustrated standing at the stove or the sink with him standing at my feet, crying, trying to push me away from it. One day Chris was home early enough to take him. Instead of sitting down on the floor watching Freddy hand him this block or this car, I suggested he take Freddy out for a ride on the lawn mower....and mow the grass while he's out there! Two birds, one stone. It was great and with Frederick strapped safely to Chris' chest with a baby carrier, they were out there for a good 45 minutes. Awesome idea... one point for Mommy! Awesome, patient, willing Daddy...2 points for Chris!

On Amazon Prime Day, (which we thought was totally NOT up to the hype or worth the effort) we did buy one thing on sale - this fly bike for Frederick. He loves it and rode on it for about a week straight. He's even mastered enough to take it outside and cruises down our long driveway. He's such a brave boy with a high tolerance for pain. 

And he loves being independent. He walks over to the pantry, reached up high for the box of raisins, grabbed some plastic spoons and then quickly ran away to find a quiet spot to feast in peace.  I still found him. His level of cuteness is like a beacon of light. That and the fact that it was pretty quiet and he wasn't in sight. Usually that means one of two things. He's either eating something he shouldn't or playing in the toilet...sometimes both at the same time. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

My birthday surprise

Chris, bless his heart, (look, I'm turning Southern!) can't keep surprises from me very well.  He is so easy to read and I am too curious for it to work out. But between some lines here and there I gathered that there was going to be a big surprise for my birthday...something along the lines of a rare-in-a-life-time experience.  (Despite the fact that we had agreed not to spend any money on birthdays for each other this year so we could save all our money for our house..I had followed the rules and gave him a home made cross word puzzle for his birthday in May) Anyway, I can't help my mind from coming up with possible ideas, so  I sort of thought he had found a cool band coming to Memphis or something and bought tickets to see them...something local, rare and totally up Chris' alley. Then I accidentally saw a purchase in our accounts for something from United Airlines and asked Chris about it. He said, "what? oops you weren't supposed to see that." So then I got some crazy ideas floating around my head but none of them fit all the pieces. He told me to keep Thursday open, but that I could still plan normal life (babysitting other peoples kids, having some other friends over for dinner and a game night etc..) for the weekend. Then Thursday morning he helps me clean the house and gets everyone ready for a car trip. We get in the car and 40 minutes into the drive I finally find out that he's giving me a shopping day. He didn't want me to have to drive very far by myself so he and the kids were just going to chauffeur me around from store to store in Memphis. I knew this didn't have anything to do with the united airline flights because he hadn't packed any bags for us and I knew we would be home that evening, so I figured he would just tell me about that later.  I was a little confused why we had to go all the way to Memphis (3 hours away) for shopping instead of Tupelo or Tuscaloosa (1 - 1 1/2 hours away). But anyway I was just too happy that Chris was making such a big deal out of my birthday to really care... he had helped me clean the house, he had planned some sort of surprise for me, and he was taking me shopping... I wasn't going to complain about anything! 

Here's a picture of our picnic lunch on the way up to Memphis. We ended up eating them tail-gate style because egg-salad sandwiches were too messy to eat without supervision, it was too hot/sunny to eat NOT in the shade and we couldn't find a park on the map anywhere close to lunch time. 

So he drops me off at Target and says, "Have fun! Lets plan to meet up in an hour or so and see how you're doing." I wasn't sure what I was supposed to shop for since we were really didn't have much in the budget this month for clothes but I can easily convince myself there's enough room for a LITTLE something.  I wandered aimlessly around Target for a while until I found the exercise clothes. Then I got all serious and tried on a million things. Next thing I know I turn around and find myself staring into Christy Harker's eyes! My mind wasn't making sense of it. All I could think to do is stare then squeal and push Christy away. What??! The Harker's were coming to Mississippi and didn't tell us?? and I just randomly run into her at Target?? in Memphis??!?!  Then I see Alec and notice Chris taking a video of me on my phone and I realize. OH!! This is it! He flew Christy here for my birthday! Wow. He had totally got me. He had been so laid back and in no hurry all morning I had totally dismissed the possibility that we were needing to be anywhere at a certain time and so I totally thought this trip was literally just a shopping trip for me. I'm so embarrassed of how I acted in the video squealing 3 octaves higher than humanly possible and pushing my friend around. I just couldn't believe it. I hugged and hugged her and instantly got excited thinking about showing her around the South...totally different from her hometown in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. 

We mostly just hung out around home. Chris still had to work, I still had peoples' kids I was babysitting, and food to cook and the house to prepare for a game night, and Chris was going to be gone helping friends move Saturday morning etc. But we still found things to explore. We took a couple spare hours on Saturday to tour the Waverly Mansion in West Point, Mississippi. Its a very old, very haunted, very typical Antebellum home with a 200 + year old magnolia tree in its front yard. The house itself was a bit more dilapidated than I thought it would be, but still very cool to see. The spiral staircase was amazing and being there makes me SO grateful for air conditioning. 

Sunday, I had Stake obligations to teach the young women up in Russellville, Alabama (2.5 hours away) so Christy woke up early with me and kept me awake on the drive there and back. She got to see LOTS of typical Mississippi and Alabama countryside. By the time my meetings were done we got home around dinner time to find the kids and Chris had made a cute Cafe for dinner... complete with nice table decorations, a menu and delicious food: steak, potatoes, green beans, juice and chocolate cake!

Monday we walked around the nearby nature preserve, Noxubee. We walked down two of the boardwalks and visited the little museum there. We saw a big alligator swimming in the water. By the way it moved and trailed water, it definitely was NOT just a floating log...but it basically looked like one. 

I love to kiss these cute little boy cheeks on Freddy sooooooo much. 

We had some good BBQ, tried out the Biscuit Lady's famous scones (SO GOOD) and talked a lot. Christy is one of those rare friends that I feel I can be totally myself around - silly, spiritual, goofy, chatty, quiet, joking, rambling, tired, complain-y, whatever. We hardly keep in contact, but when we do get together its like we've never been apart. She was a wonderful birthday surprise! I know she had to go through a lot of hoops to make this trip out to visit me. She left 5 kids behind, a busy-working husband, and she's pregnant! She had to renew her passport last minute and find places for her kids to be etc..  I guess this was the first time she's had a trip away from her kids! I actually feel a little bad it was just to visit me in little ol' Starkville, MS. Chris is soooo sweet to care so much about making me happy. He knew I was missing having good friends, and family close by here and thought, 'well...its only a plane ticket!' He even wanted to make this a tradition a do it every a good friend, or sister or sister-in-law out for my birthday. :) What a cute guy. I'm not sure our bank account can handle that, but its so wonderful that he wants to do that for me.  I love him, I love my life, I love my friends, I love my family, I love my Father in Heaven and my Savior Jesus Christ and am so blessed to have lived another year on this beautiful planet. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Summer storms and biking on Tanglefoot

Maybe my favorite thing about Mississippi are the storms. I LOVE how dramatic they are. You can see them coming for a little bit. Maybe 10 minutes of super dark clouds on the horizon, then the wind picks up and blows things around in the air for 5-10 minutes and then the rain hits. And I mean HITS. It just pours out of the sky like a bucket of watery nails. Thunder and lightening every couple of minutes with some LOUD ones a couple of times for the whole storm. It lasts an hour or so. I wish I wasn't getting scared of lightening by all the crazy stories I've heard here so I could stand with my arms out in the middle of it all. But I try to be a good mom, for Chris, and tell my kids to stay under the porch at least while its lightening and thundering. 

 This particular day we had planned to ride bikes so instead we washed them. 

Did you notice that Gwen is still in her pajamas? Alec is too. That's one reason why I love summer days. Also, did you notice Frederick is wearing suspenders over his t shirt and sweatpants? The kids have made those their playthings this week - hooking up the two ends to two different kids on their hands and knees with the other kid holding the single end like reins. Giddyap! 

On Saturday we rode the Tangle foot trail with two friends, Shellie and Crystal. Chris was helping with a Elders Quorum service project in the morning... helping a nice older couple who live way out in the country cut back the trees and bushes from their path to their storm shelter. So it wasn't until 1:00 pm that we made it to the Algoma, MS (about an hour and 15 min away) to start riding. Shellie's bike thingy said it was 103 degrees Fahrenheit IN THE SHADE!! People looked at us like we were crazy but we did spot another biker or two on the trail so at least we weren't the only ones crazy.

I pulled the trailer with Gwen and Freddy on the way out, and Chris had it on the way back. Tanglefoot is an old train track paved over to create a bike trail... part of the Rails to Trails series. We had planned to just go to the next town about 6 and a half miles on the trail and then turn around. The boys did great and never complained. Charlie learned how to ride without his hands, and Gwen and Freddy were troopers in the back, but it was hot. 

At one point the bike thingy we were using to measure our distance only said we'd gone 3 miles but knowing we had to bike back as far as we biked out made us reconsider and Chris offered to turn around with the kids and let Shellie, Crystal and I go on to the end of our plan. Less than a mile after we left Chris and the kids we came to the next town! The bike thingy hadn't measured our distance correctly and the kids had actually gone over 5 miles out... so over 10 miles total. They're great. Big Thanks to Shellie for telling us about this trail and for getting us to actually get out and try it.