Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Charlie, Charles, Chuck, Chuckles

My boy has a lot of nicknames. I am not sure why. Probably because he is most affable, kind and just fun.

He doesn't take himself super seriously, which means that not a lot ruffles his feathers. 

I was always told, "Wait until they're teenagers." Well, I waited and so far it has been wonderful.

So yes, Charlie is a teenager now. 13. Cute, fun, loud, likes his friends, like girls, A LOT, likes food, A LOT, and loves his family, A LOT. 

Over Spring break we went to Utah and his birthday happened to fall during that week. So my picture taking skills with my phone leave a lot to be desired, and in fact, left a lot out. But never you mind. He knows he is loved, and just because there are no pictures of him blowing out a homemade cake with over the top decorations does not mean it was a parent fail. So there. 

Not long before our trip, he participated in his school's spelling bee. He took second among the 7th graders at school and then went to the final. There, he took 3rd out of the 7th graders from 12 schools. Not too shabby and just proof that all of that reading he loves to do, occasionally to the exclusion of all else, is actually good for his brain:)

While in Utah we visited the BYU Bean Museum and the BYU Museum of Art. Both were amazing.

We also went bowling because Charlie wanted to for his birthday. Um, that was an epic disaster. So no offense to bowling and bowlers every where, but snooze. It probably didn't help that we only got one lane so that it took the 8 of us exactly A MILLION YEARS to finish a set. Yeah, we all agreed, we are done trying to force bowling on our family. 

We also went to Brick Oven Pizza for Charlie's birthday dinner(they have pretty much the BEST homemade root beer on the planet. No, the place you know is not as good, sorry/not sorry.)

And then we had cupcakes from the Sweet Tooth Fairy. It is a super, duper good thing I don't live there. I am not sure I would even mind if I weighed a thousand pounds if it was because of those cupcakes. 

And for his present? Cold, hard cash. And I am pretty sure that he will ask for that for the rest of his life. Which is fine. Takes a bit of the fun out of it, but also any stress.

Charlie is awesome. Seriously. There are not many boys his age that are as laid back, easy going, and just fun to be around. Don't get me wrong, he is COMPLETELY normal. He has 4 sisters so he has learned the art of pestering. But he will defend anyone of them and he loves them all and Henry fiercely. 

And he is giant. 

Happy Birthday Charlie. I am so proud of the person you are. You are amazing and good and kind and you know who you are. Thank you for setting a good example of doing what's right and staying strong even when others around you are not. You make us laugh all the time and you give the best hugs. Your random opera voice and joke telling make my day and I am so proud and happy to call you my son. Dad and I love you and love watching you grow and become more amazing every day. Love you Chuckles:)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Kate is herself and no one else and will not be put upon a shelf

Oh, the longing for years passed. The great wish I have to remember in detail the way my older kids' voices use to sound. The snuggly way they felt when I hugged them, the way they said Mommy. 

But alas, it is not to be.
 Instead, though, I have been immensely blessed to watch them grow, to change, to become who they are. And I wouldn't trade that just to go back. Because it has and continues to be a privilege. 

And now Kate is 17. And the years have flown, and her beauty and grace have grown.
Kate is 17. 
It brings tears to my eyes when I think about it. Right now, Kate and Julia are both gone on a Chamber Choir tour. I looked at Jeff last night, as we sat watching Sudio C with the 4 younger kids, and I said to him, "Do you realize that in 3 years, this is how it will be? Kate and Julia will both be on their own." 

It was a crazy realization, because 3 years is not that long. 

But I digress into my own self pity at the cold hard fact that children do grow up. And they leave. And that is the way it is supposed to be. 


So Kate had a birthday. And suddenly, she is a grown up in so many ways. But despite her maturity and good decision making abilities, she still gets very excited about gifts. And I hope she always will:)

I really shouldn't take pictures from this angle. When I do, it gives you a full view into my messy kitchen. And whatever shall I do if you realize I am not perfect? ;)

Kate wanted lemon bars for her birthday. I thinks it's been 6 years since she asked for cake on her birthday. Its one of the unique things I love about her. 

I love shopping for my kids birthdays. And when they ask for record players, and Beatles stuff and soft comfy blankets, whats not to love? 

Do you realize that she has one more birthday at home? Suck pot. Poop smith. Dag nab it. (those are my swear words)

I can't even type the words without crying. It such a beautiful, wonderful, no fair gift, to have children. Because they leave. I think I mentioned that. 

When she was a baby, I couldn't wait til she walked and talked and was potty trained. Somewhat because I am an impatient person, but also because I wanted to know her better. And now I know her so well, and it is too much to think about her outgrowing us. Even though I know its important and necessary and blah blah blah. 

 But I am so proud of her. I can't even express it adequately. Being a parent is such a joy, such a blessing. Thank you Heavenly Father for trusting me with your precious spirits. 

Ok, enough of my sap, and crying. There is a bit of blubbering too. 

On to the list!

Things we love about Kate.

1. Kate has never struggled with who she is. I think I have mentioned this before. It doesn't mean every situation or decision becomes instantly easy, but it means she is solid though those things. She has questions, she has doubts. But she knows she is a child of God, she is aware of her unique gifts and blessings. And she does not change just because the world does, or her friends do. Its remarkable. 
2. She has this gift of being kind even when she is saying something you may not want to hear. It doesn't happen a lot, but there is a quiet strength to this girl that people should never underestimate. She does not like conflict, but if something is important, she will steel herself up and do or say what needs to be done or said. I'm a wuss. So I admire this immensely.
3. She loves her dad and me. She likes to be with us, talk to us, laugh with us. I kept waiting for her to outgrow it but she hasn't. I imagine a boyfriend might throw a loop into this, but even friends and outside activities never trump her family. 
4. She has a beautiful singing voice that she tends to hide. She loves to sing and she loves being part of a bigger group like choir, but if you can get her to sing by herself, its so lovely. 
5. She also plays the piano. She has accompanied Julia twice now and she is so gracious as people come up and complement Julia. So here is a little etiquette for y'all. People who sing in public have obvious talent. They have had to fine tune it and overcome fear of singing in public. But most of us are born being able to sing. No one is born being able to play the piano. Kate has practiced every week for 6 years to be able to play the way she does. So when you compliment a vocal soloist, please remember to compliment the accompanist as well. Thank you.
6.She wants to serve a mission for our church. She wants to earn her own money, and sacrifice 18 months of her life to serve the Lord. That is a gem of a girl. I can't imagine who we will think is good enough for her. 
7. She works hard in school, has a job, church responsibilities and family responsibilities and she (almost) never shirks them. She is a great kid all around. Not perfect, because no one is, so don't worry that we hold her to being perfect. She holds herself to a high enough standard that most of the time we just let her do her thing. 
8. I have watched her grow through adversity. Moving when you are almost 16 is a very difficult thing to do. I never experienced moving as a kid first hand, but I have watched her struggle. And through it all she has come to know herself better and to trust her own spiritual promptings and answers to prayer. That is no easy task for any of us. And just like most trials, we certainly don't like them while we are going through them. But when we can look back and see the personal growth we have experienced, it is hard to wish them away. So I would not wish this away for any of my kids. There is much to be learned and gained during trials, as long as we don't give up. And she never has. 

So there you go. She is pretty amazing in every way. We all adore her. She has a calming influence in this house. She can be reserved around "outsiders" but once you get to know her, you learn that she is one of the wittiest, most clever, kind and fun people to be around. 

We love you Kate. Happy birthday!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Growing up and finding out that 8 is great

We have this little man in our house. He is pretty much the twin of his father. It's pretty hilarious, actually, how similar they are. 

It's hard for either of them to be serious, especially when you want them to be. 

And especially when you take Henry's picture, he either is totally goofy, or he won't smile at all. There is no in between.

So when you have just turned 8, and the cameras are all on you, then bring out the cheese!

Henry was really into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a few months ago(when his birthday was, Not as much now. Yes Mom, I know how long it's been since I posted! :)

And rather than try and match icing colors to that of a turtle shell, I decided to just buy a mask that he could wear and play with later and make that the cake topper.

I thought it was genius. UNTIL Henry saw it and then incessantly asked to be able to wear the mask for the next hour until he blew out his candles. 

Lesson learned:If the cake topper is something especially awesome, hide the cake until its time to eat it!

Finally! He can become one with the Turtles. And a little frosting on it is just a bonus. 

If you don't know by now, we are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Mormons. So when our children are 8, they have the choice to be baptized. Most kids choose to be baptized and Henry was very excited for this special day.

It is always an emotional time for me. I love my children, and more than anything else I desire for their spiritual welfare and their salvation. So watching them enter the waters of baptism makes this mama exceptionally happy.

Henry asked me to talk about the Holy Ghost, and he asked his grandpa Granger to talk about baptism. It was a great day and most of our family came and celebrated this beautiful day with us, which meant a lot to Henry.

All 3 of Jeff's sisters were there, and my brother and sister and their families were there, but sadly we had the thought to take pictures after they had all gone on ahead to grab food for the luncheon afterwards.

But it meant a lot to us and to Henry that they were there for his special day.

Henry is a squishy, squashy little love. And we are so thankful for him.

Some great things to know about Henry:

1. The kid can dance! I am signing him up for hip hop classes. Seriously. He has moves.
2. I honestly don't think he knows how to say anything mean. He is kind to everyone, and even if you are mean to him, instead of lashing out, he will just walk away from you and those big eyes of his will well up and he will NOT understand how someone could be unkind.
3. He is a super picky eater! I list this because, while it can be frustrating, I know that it will be a fond memory about him. He is the Mikey of our house. (If you know who that is, then you are as old as me;). We introduced some new yummy and healthy berry syrup and he actually liked it. The fact that Henry would eat it got the other kids to try it because they KNOW he hardly eats anything.
4. He LOVES, LOVES, LOVEs playing with his sisters. Anne Marie and Nora are his best friends and he will gladly play with stuffed animals, barbies, whatever, just to hang with them. They also play legos and boy stuff with him. They love each other.
5. He loves his dad and his big brother and they love their little buddy.
6. He is my miracle child. Henry was born with a double knot in his umbilical chord-the nurse told us she had never seen that in a live birth before. Then, when he was 9 months old, he fell through the railing of the top floor in our rental house and landed 9 feet below on his head. And he was totally fine. I wasn't, I was a wreck. But he was ok.
7. He can read like nobody's business. His teacher talks to me about it all the time because he is so beyond grade level. Which is great because at the beginning of last year he couldn't read yet and it really bothered him. But he caught up quickly and its amazing.
8. All of the girls in his grade and the grade above him LOVE Henry. We walked into the school one day and a particular little girl that especially likes Henry was standing there. He saw her and put his hand out and just said, "Stop!". When I asked him about it, he said that she ALWAYS tries to hug him. And whenever he is sick, a bunch of little girls ask me where he is. It's pretty cute. And it reminds me of someone I am married too;)

Henry is such a blessing to our family. He is our barometer for niceness, being sensitive and kind, and for using soft voices even when we are upset. It's a gift he has. He helps other people see the consequences for how they react to things, and hopefully change because of it.

I love this little boy, so much. And I am so eternally grateful that he joined our family 8 years ago. Happy Birthday Henry!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Julia does not suffer fools. And aren't we glad?

My girl Julia. She amazes me on a regular basis. Her talents, insights, and capability never ceases to astound me. 

She turned 15 in August. In the 15 years she has graced this earth, she has brought nothing but joy to her dad and I. 

From the moment she could talk, Julia has always said exactly what she thought. She has always spoken the truth.

When she was younger, we didn't always know what to make of it since Jeff and I do not always speak our thoughts. But as she has grown up we have viewed this aspect of her personality for what it is, a gift. 

When she was 3, she told a random stranger at gymnastics that she shouldn't drink coffee, because it's bad for you. I wish I could have had a snap shot of this woman's face. She was not pleased at all to hear this from a little 3 year old. But her response, "I can drink it if I want," did not phase Julia one bit. She just kind of shrugged her shoulders as if to say, "It's your body. But you're wrong.". 

It is also impossible for Julia to keep her true feelings from showing on her face. Even when propriety dictates that certain things should not be said, you can just look at Julia's face and know exactly what she is thinking. As her English teacher told us, "I think the best way to describe Julia is that she does not suffer fools."

It is so true. And I LOVE it about her. There is something so freeing for the rest of us when we have that one person in our lives who does not pretend that something isn't stupid. So while the rest of us are trying to be diplomatic, we can count on Julia to say how it really is. 

Her own personal journey will be to figure out when to use that gift. 

For her birthday this year, we played it a little more low key compared to last year.  But there is no way to match last year. That was epic. This year she just wanted a family party and brownies for dessert. Done and done.

This year Julia just wanted art supplies and awesome head phones so that she could listen to music while she draws, or writes. She wrote a book. Yes she did. The first rough draft is done. I honestly believe it will be published some day. Yes, it's that good. 

Julia also has a personal style that I love so much. All 4 of my girls dress very different from each other. So for me, it's like having 4 different dolls to dress up. They pick out their own clothes and put their own outfits together, but I still feel like I am part of it. 

I also cut Julia's hair. Because we are awesome like that. Her for wanting this style. Me for cutting it:)

We are getting our  camera fixed. Yay! No more blurry pictures hopefully:)

Things that are amazing about Julia:

1. She finished her first book at the age of 15. Yeah, I know. It's awesome.
2. She owns her personal style. I can honestly say there is no one in Ellensburg like her.
3. Her confidence is beautiful to behold. She doesn't care if you're a kid, an adult or the President of such and such. She sees no difference between you and her. Unless you're a fool. Then, well, good luck:)
4. Her singing voice gives me chills. If the music industry wasn't such a horrid place, we might have seriously considered that direction for her. But thankfully, she can claim it as a talent while pursuing other interests that help her maintain her happy, wholesome self.
5. Her ideas of right and wrong are pretty black and white. That's just how she sees the world. But it means that she is rarely conflicted about what the right thing to do is. Lucky.
6. She will help me with ANYTHING. Seriously. "Julia will you make dinner tonight?" "Julia, will you make a pie?" "Julia, will you clean the kid bathroom?" "Julia, will you mow the lawn, water the garden and do whatever else I can think of?" Of course Mom. Because I'm awesome.
7. She is perfectly content with the fact that Kate is her best friend in the whole world. I completely understand this since my sister is my best friend. It makes the world such a friendly place when you have someone that has your back no matter what.
8. She loves to be challenged. While many of us enjoy taking it easy from time to time, Julia is more energized by goals that require time, commitment and strength of will. I think she would rather die trying than give up.
9. She is not obsessed with boys. She likes them. She has dreams of a happy marriage to one someday, but she is not easily twitter patted and is pretty ready to dissect a young man's character flaws. She has Jeff as her example of a father and husband. And it does not get any better than Jeff. So whoever she ends up loving, I hope he is working hard right now to be worthy of her someday.
10. Finally, there are two things that Julia will defend to the death if necessary. Her family and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. She is not overly sentimental, but she does feel things very deeply. And her love for the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and for her parents and siblings (even when we annoy her) will come first. It makes me very happy to have faith in that. To know that Julia has decided already what is important to her.

Julia is a prime example of how adults should not underestimate teenagers. Just because she is "only" 15 does not mean that she doesn't know who she is, what she wants, and what is important. Is she a typical teenager in some ways? Of course. For one she knows everything;) But I trust her ability to make good decisions. I trust her to do the right thing. And I glow with pride and thanksgiving that she is my daughter.

So to Julia, I cannot wait to see what the future holds for you. Whatever you choose, you will be brilliant. We love you darling girl!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Turning 11

I may have talked about this before, but when Anne Marie was a baby, she was sooo easy and content.
I would usually know when nap time should be over, but she would never wake up crying. I would always have to go up to her room just to find her laying there, happily staring up at the ceiling.
I have since learned that her personality gives her an ability and a desire to be alone. She recharges by having time to herself.

At the time, I thought it was my good parenting and Babywise. Babywise helped with a schedule, but her content nature is all her. 
It's an enlightening day when you finally realize that your children are born exactly who they should be;)

Anne Marie was my smallest child and my earliest. I delivered her 3 weeks early and she was 8 lbs. The nurses were all commenting on what a good size she was, but we couldn't believe how little she seemed compared to her siblings. Everyone else was close to or over the 9lb mark. So she felt teensy;)

That was 11 years ago. 

Since then she has still stayed on the petite size, but wonderful things come in small packages. She is still easily content and just a sweet, wonderful girl to be around. 

She also likes to be in charge and she frets when she isn't. It will be a great tool for being a mother some day. But right now I hope she can relax and just worry about the things that she is actually in charge of. 

She also shares a love of all things Beatles with her sister Kate, our other easily content child. Beatles music is relatively mellow, just like them. 

In staying with love of all things Beatles, she wanted a strawberry fields cake. I did my best to accommodate.

 Anne Marie is lucky to have a cousin who is only a few weeks younger than her. They are good friends and we love living near her now.

 Oh, and all things Doctor Who. That is a family thing. We all love the Doctor.

10 things we love about Anne Marie

1. As I have mentioned, she is so easily content. Sometimes I have to really drag out of her what SHE actually wants because she is so willing to let other people have their way. We are working on balance between the two things, but to not be instantly fussy when you don't get what you want is a gift.

2.She consistently tries to do what's right. Progress not perfection is my personal motto and I share it frequently with my kids. Heavenly Father does not expect us to be perfect, he expects us to try and give it our best, and Anne Marie lives up to this.

3. She is a fantastic soccer player. I have this on the list because it is so fun to see her love something so much and be good at it. And it is wonderful as a parent to see your children excel at things they enjoy.

4. She is the best big sister to Henry and Nora. Whenever she is gone, they both tell us, "Its no fun without Anne Marie here." They love to play with her and she is so kind and patient with them.

5. She is so creative. You could hand her empty toilet paper rolls, some pipe cleaner and markers and some blank paper and she would have a farm and 8 different animals created within an hour. I love that about her. And I feel bad because that is NOT one of my talents so I don't share in the fun hardly ever. So I just try and provide the materials and get out of her way:)

6. When she is needing a hug or some love she will just come over and plop herself on me. I like that she does that. Not everyone can voice what it is they need, and so when she feels like that she is comfortable enough and confident enough in my love for her to just let me know some other way.

7. She is such a pre-teen! It's awesome. I love hearing the drama of the day and the way she talks with her friends. She is different from Kate and Julia this way and I am enjoying that they are all their own person. The one thing that unites them is that they are all nice girls, even if they view school and life different sometimes.

8. She is always thinking of other people. Again, like with number 1, we are working on balance. But it is amazing to watch how genuinely concerned she is with how other people are doing, what they need, how they are feeling.

9. She is starting to find her voice, like, her actually singing voice and it is beautiful! Again, it is just wonderful and fills me with joy as a parent to see my children discover things about themselves. It is lovely.

10. Anne Marie wants to be with her family. She loves us AND likes us. What more could I ask for?

It is a privilege to be Anne Marie's mom. I feel so blessed to be able to raise her, that Heavenly Father trusted me with this most precious child.

Happy Birthday Anne Marie!!!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Why I still make my teenagers' lunches

Every day I make 7 sandwiches. 2 for Charlie because he has swim practice after school.

I set the sandwiches out and then the kids can grab the side choices that they want. We put it in the lunch boxes or brown paper sacks and off they go to school.

I don't really love it. But I no longer hate it.

I use to dread waking up in the morning and having to make lunches for school. In fact it use to make me feel very grumpy.

As long as they are in elementary school I have made their lunch. As they got older, I began to find reasons why I didn't have to help them as much.

And then this year my attitude has changed.

I imagine there are a lot of parents who feel that it is important for kids to make their own lunches/breakfasts. Maybe to teach them independence, or that other people aren't there to serve them, or whatever reasons they may have. And a lot of kids have to because their parents have to leave for work.

But this is not about other people's children. This is not a judgement about what other families do. This is about my family.

And I make their lunches.

My kids are all good students. Kate and Julia have straight A's. They go to early morning seminary. They are both in AP classes.  Kate has a job, is Key Club treasurer, Laurel Class President and takes piano lessons. Julia is in FBLA, the school play, takes voice lessons, is Assistant Chamber Choir Treasurer. The list goes on and on.

Charlie is on swim team and is working toward his Eagle scout award. Anne Marie takes piano lessons and plays on the soccer team. They both get good grades.

The point is, they know how to manage their lives and they are capable enough to make their own lunches.

But do you realize how busy the above items makes them? Kate was up til 2:30 doing homework for one of her 4 AP classes and she works after school today. Anne Marie has soccer til 7 on Mondays and Wednesdays and games on Saturdays. Charlie swims every day after school and has scouts on Wednesday nights. Julia has play practice every week.

So if I, as their mother, who does not have to work, can ease their burden in any way, then I can get my hiney out of bed early enough to make them breakfast and get their lunches ready. I am not coddling them, or enabling them for future slackery. I am serving them and helping them because I love them.

They will grow up and go to college and get married and I seriously doubt they will be too paralyzed to go to work or finish their homework simply because I made their lunches.

I have taught them to do their laundry, clean bathrooms, help out. But yes, I do their laundry for them til they are 12 and even after that when they need the help.

I have taught my kids some of the basics of cooking but I still make dinner most of the time.

They are only in our homes for a short time. We need to teach them the basics of taking care of themselves and managing their lives. But isn't it also important to teach them that we can be selfless and serve others without any thought of being given something in return?

So that is why I make their lunches. I can't do their homework for them, or deal with kids at school for them, or accomplish things on their behalf. But I can serve them. And hopefully they will learn as much, or hopefully more,from that as they will from being taught household chores.

Friday, September 12, 2014

When you can't sleep

Jeff and I have had some things are our collective married mind lately. Nothing serious, but just decisions that need to be made about buying a house, staying in the country or moving closer to town.

We have talked round and round about it. We have a couple of options, one of which I can't talk about  because it involves other people and no final decisions have been made. 

But after a lot of discussion we felt like we had decided what direction we wanted to go. 

And then we couldn't sleep. 

Midnight came and went and still no sleep for either of us. Most likely because once our minds were pretty made up, all that it would mean kept circulating in our heads-possibilities, logistics and such.

Finally at 12:30 we decided sleep was not coming and so we went on a drive and get cookies. From McDonalds.
I know, I know. But there is not much open in a town like Ellensburg past midnight

So we got our cookies, and drove around for a while. Long enough to feel settled and able to go home and sleep. 

But it was fun while it lasted.

At 8:30 last night I could have easily fallen asleep, I was so tired. But I had to get kids to bed. Why is it, even when we are so tired, that pressing matters keep our minds buzzing? I don't know the answer but I do know I am grateful to have someone that I am happy to stay up all night with:)

Life continues to be an adventure.
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