Friday, July 23, 2010

from our last trip to the beach in sunny SoCal. April 2007

After basement renovations and driving from here to there delivering and gathering children to and from swimming, dancing, rugby and tennis...

Its time for a family vacation.

We are headed to the beach for a week in the sun. No one asking me to decide on paint color and no one asking for a ride home from one activity or another...

Looking forward to:
A ride on a roller coaster
A book on the beach
A nice sun tan
A chance to try my wetsuit in the salt water of the sea.

Coming home to finish:
The basement
The triathlon
The Summer; My Way

have a great week, have you had a summer trip this year? Where to? Was it Great?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Its been quiet around here lately...

the kids drove up with John to bring our boy back home

the view from the ranch, the Tetons to look at in the distance

some quotes from Dr. Lowell Bennion. Founder of the Ranch and community activist, philanthropist and all around Christian man.

Mason with a fellow camper and owner of the ranch, Dick Jacobsen

Mason left on June 28, and came back July 17. He began with a week on the campus at BYU, enjoying Especially For Youth, a program where kids from all over the world (a couple in his group flew all the way from England) come to take classes, have fun, go to dances and be uplifted in keeping the standards of our church.

After a week of BYU Mason was driven, by his dad, up to Sky Mountain Ranch near Victor Idaho. For two weeks solid Mason worked the ranch and enjoyed the chance to learn leadership skills and become more service oriented. He applied to attend, and was selected by the owners/operators Dick and Sue Jacobsen. The ranch was begun by Lowell Bennion many years ago (Mr. Bennion is well known in the Salt Lake Valley for his tireless comittment to community service and the building of community centered youth-from teenagers to college co-eds.)

Mason had a great time.

Contrary to his predictions, we got along o.k. without him. Though things were a little quiet, we were willing to suffer the silence in order to build this boy into a good man.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

She Wowed me..

notes of admiration and encouragement were plastered on the front door about an hour after the movie ended. Maybe next time Bryn won't leave by herself. Maybe her actions will encourage another to walk along with her in the future.

Brynley went to a birthday party. All the girls met at a local restaurant.
An hour into the festivities I got a phone call from the birthday girl's mother.
All the girls were going to a movie.
It was rated PG-13.
All the girls are 12 or under.
The mom was explaining that, uh hem, Brynley didn't feel good about going.
The mom then explained to me all the reasons it was o.k. that she did go (not a lot of swearing, good message, not a lot of kissing and on and on...).
I thanked the mother.
I asked for Bryn.
I said "wow, Bryn, what a tough spot. What do you want to do?" At this point I expected Brynley to tell me she wanted to go, she didn't want to get in trouble for wanting to go, and would I please understand and let her go.

Brynley said, "I don't feel like I should go."
I asked "want me to come and get you?"
she said, "no, they can bring me home..."

a little while later Bryn came skipping in. Smile on her face, relief in her eyes.
"You can always tell your friends your mom wouldn't let you..." i said, wanting to give support and help her out a little.
she said, "MOM! We take responsibility for the choices we make..."
No excuses for Brynley.
It was her choice to stand alone.
It was my privilege to stand with her.

That girl, she really wowed me. I'm so impressed by her. I'm so glad she walks before the other girls (and boys) in our home, showing them a better way.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Our Own Recovery Act...

Mr. Experience, the ill-informed plumber, digging a bit pit out of the dirt under our house. It was a smelly and painful job, hurting my heart as well as my budget.

Our first plumber felt that cutting into the foundation of our house and replacing some of the pipe would solve our recurring issue. He proved not to be the expert he professed. And as a reminder of my blind acceptance I have a scar in my basement floor and a very big hole in my pocket book.

I have literally spent HOURS talking and learning the ways of the plumber. This screen shows a picture of the camera that is being shoved down the pipes from our kitchen out to the city's watermain. 3 hours of footage was recording. "The dirtiest movie you'll ever see" was the title the plumber wrote on the dvd that I get to keep

the basement has been torn up since June 31. Carpet pulled up from the floors. And a make-shift wall placed between our living space and the area where the muck flowed freely.

the kitchenette cupboard has been removed and will be replaced, to ward off any offending bacteria from the many sewage overflows that spilled up and out of the sink...

The week before school ended I had a rooter company come out because our disposal was backing up into the basement sinks. That was the beginning of a very long string of unpleasant plumbing expenses which have ended with our Home Owner's Insurance rescuing our family from sewage stained carpets and unsavory plumbers. This experience has been expensive, frustrating, discouraging and unnerving on so very many levels. Having your basement torn up (with the threat of having it torn up more in order to solve the problem) has left me with lots of pent up frustration.

But the recovery is nearing the end.

Not so unlike our Nation's current economic issues, our problems were manageable to begin with. Then as we left the situation in the hands of people we were supposed to trust as experts, it became much much much worse. While our home owner's insurance definitely feels like a bail out of sorts, the true relief to the problem came when we finally stopped clawing away at a quick kind of fix and asked many experts to give their advice. Then we took the least expensive, most basic and most "old fashioned" option. It took more time this way, and we had to baby our sewage system as we tested the value of the solution. But this has proven the be the way we were able to solve the plumbing problem. We didn't need to throw more money into possibilities. We needed to sit back, think about it, and make decisions based on reason and not panic or emotion.

Over the next week our basement will be restored. With a few upgrades of our own, we'll be back to having the kids sleep in their beds and be able to watch movies on the tv and soak laundry in the sink. Until then we are in "recovery mode". Learning lessons about our inablility to manage too much mess, and feeling grateful that our recovery-though slow and a little bit painful-has been better than it surely could have been. Here's to the hope of what happens at the end of recovery; peace and prosperity...and the confidence that what goes down the disposal stays down the disposal for good ;)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

If you call before 11 I won't be answering until September

popsicle jobs have a chore written on the end of the stick. I vary the jobs, and I repeat them too, so over the course of the summer the kids will do the same things just a few times. I introduce new jobs each summer depending on the ages of our kids. This year Mason is excused-he has a real part time job now, and he works for me when he's not there. And Lucy will begin her popsicle jobs next summer after she can read.

Porter does his math page. I'm not as strict as his teacher, as you can see he is adding with magic marker in hand instead of pencil and eraser...

the weekly "check list" which includes a room in our house which the children are to "keep up" each morning. Piano practicing is part of the weekly check list...

one of several pages injected into the summer journals, poems, sayings and scriptures the kids can memorize. I am shameless with this one; the kids earn full size candy bars for every two things they memorize. But I'm pretty difficult too, they have to say it to me, word perfect, an hour after they think they have it down...this way they keep repeating it in their heads over that long hour, and then I know for sure it is woven into the fabric of who they will become.

this is the 10th anniversary of our summer journal writing. It has been a hard year to keep this tradition going, but it is something I believe in, and something I want them to have for themselves as they walk forward into their adulthood.

every summer for the last 10 I have organized for my children a morning routine. It involves daily regular chores (make your bed, pick up your floor), a "popsicle job" which helps our family keep things running with everyone home (weed the garden 20 minutes or wipe down all the stainless in the kitchen or empty and load the dishwasher...). They write one page in their summer journal, which is full of prompts for them to write in (tell us about a perfect ski day...or write about why you admire your sister...things I want them to think about and record for their future enjoyment). There are book lists from which they read daily, and quotes and scriptures for them to memorize.

We make a family "summer fun list" that the kids keep in their journal as a reference. Then we try and do the fun things on the list. Today, for example, was "Baskin Robbins Day". Which meant that Porter got to use his "free single scoop ice cream" coupon that he's been holding carefully since before the end of school. All the kids who are home right now enjoyed single scoops. Ice cream trip; check.

And there is a place where the kids set goals for them to work on in the summer. One to improve their mind. One to improve their bodies. And one to improve and strengthen their spirit. And I set goals right along with them...

we all are home in the house on summer mornings, working and writing. I have the chance to train our kids (those popsicle jobs help me teach them things like how to weed or harvest a garden, and how to sort the laundry-not to mention how to clean the bathroom). This is my golden instruction time. I have taken it seriously for a decade of my summer life.

only this year my routines have been truly interrupted, with plumbing and swimming and general contracting of teenage hard labor. And I have felt ripped off. I want this time with my children. I need this time with them. To feel I am giving them what they will need to be good and useful adults. And for me to feel that while summer is free and fun and lazy and laid back, it is always good to develop our abilities and to become better individuals too.

So, for the rest of summer, our mornings will be like they used to. No phone calls before the summer work is done, no games or dance or swimming. No plumbers or carpet layers. No computer or blogging.

I'm claiming my summer again.

Friday, July 09, 2010

A short story about Mothering...

My mom and I, working together. She is the best mom ever, and I'm so glad I get to belong to her.

On the eve of John's birthday party I realized I was in way over my head. Projects in the house, and gearing up two kids for summer camp and EFY along with centerpieces, dirty dishes, outdoor tables can get the picture.

I was not going to make it on my own. I said a little prayer. I didn't know what to do.

Then I felt this little feeling, "you can call your parents."

Let me tell you a little about my parents right now. My dad spends hours each week visiting with his aged father. Grandpa, so dear to all of us, is in his early nineties. He lost his wife last month. Many mornings he wakes up and doesn't remember she is gone. My dad's face is one of the few he recognizes again and again. My dad is carrying his father quite literally upon his shoulders.

My mom visits her father in a rest home 30 minutes from her house several days each week. Grandpa can no longer communicate well because of a disease which has taken away the functions of his muscles. He has to have help to eat, bathe, and move. My loyal and tender mother has done all she can to make his life comfortable and to make his life happy as he endures the end of his days.

My parents, both in their 60's, are the parents to a little 7 year old wonder. Bringing him, quite literally, out of the shadow of death, my parents meet Alex's every need with determination to help him progress and excel. Alex faces physical and social challenges every day, but my mom and dad are his mom and dad, and they are wonderful dutiful and loving parents.

So, when the feeling was "you can call your parents." I didn't want to trouble them. My problems were my own, and in the scheme of the broader picture they didn't matter much. Yet, as I worried more about the deadlines in front of me, I gave in to the tugging feeling and called mom and dad to come to my rescue.

And they rescued me indeed. Dad hung pictures. Mom did dishes. Daddy read stories to my little girls so they'd go off to sleep. And at 10 o'clock at night, after a hard evening's labor, they were there with me in the house when my sewage pipes overflowed

right on to the basement carpet...

right onto the laundry room floor...

Dad helped plunge the plug.
Mom helped me wipe up the sludge.
Daddy took Alex home to his bed, and mom stayed vigillently by my side until all we could clean up was cleaned.

You know, a few weeks ago my mom was crying. Sad she couldn't be "the mother she wanted" to be. Raising a little boy and caring for an aging parent puts my mom in the squeeze.

But that night, as we tried to laugh over bleaching the sink and wiping the floors, she was the perfect mother to me.

"you can call your parents." I'm so glad I listened to that little small voice.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Feeling like I used to for just a few minutes...

This little fella is the nephew of my sister in law.
His parents let me hold for a minute the other night.
As I put him in my arms I could literally feel my heartbeat slow.
A Calm came over me.
A peace I have been missing.

This is who I have been for most all of the last 15 years.
A mother with a baby.
It has been a great part of my identity.
I've worn my babies like a great accessory.
They have identified my style. My persona. My being.
I have been a mother to a babe-in-arms until about 18 months ago.

I haven't really felt like myself since then.
It was nice to feel like I used to for just a few minutes.
I didn't even mind when he threw up on my shoulder.
I would have kept him longer.

But, sadly, I'm not his mother.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

OK, here is the best part of our summer so far...

an old fashioned ice cream social. I brought toppings and cones and bowls. Friends brought home made and favorite-flovored ice cream..

my children mingle amidst friends from college, graduate school, and our neighborhood here at the Spruces

A book for friends to leave good wishes, sprinkled with words that describe the birthday boy...

These were the women I brought my first baby home to. Velma, center, was our landlord. Tricia, right had a baby just 8 weeks before us an dlived in the basement. Lois lived downstairs, and loved to hold Mason in her lap. All came to wish John a happy 40th. It was a wonderful reunion.

yellow sunflowers and vintage game pieces along with candles in old fashioned ice cream dishes were the centerpieces for the evening. John LOVES games, thus the game pieces. I love to entertain, thus the flowers and candles...

John turned 40.
And I threw him a party.
He went away for the weekend.
We worked like crazy while he was gone.
He came home. early.
The party was almost ready.
Then our backyard filled up with friends new and very old. We were both surprised at who and how many we enjoyed.
The back yard was perfect for a good old fashioned ice cream social.
Because our back yard is kind of old fashioned.
We loved every minute of the hot summer evening.
Thanks to my family for being such a help (my parents especially and Mandy and Jessa)
Thanks to our kids for hanging in there to get things "ready for dad's day".
Thanks to John for living 40 years worth celebrating.
Thanks to all who joined us to celebrate with us.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Almost caught up with our Summer...

Porter acts as an anthropologist, digging for fossils left behind in Jurrassic era Lake Bonneville

she is the apple of my daughters' eyes. All of my girls adore Jenna. And she oozes love and goodness all over them whenever she comes to town.

After a weekend running Ragnar, we enjoyed time spent with Jenna. She and her sister, Carine, had come to town for Carine to attend an academic camp at BYU (go smarty pants Carine!). It is always a pleasure having Jenna around-and this year she came with her own set of wheels...she delivered kids to practices and play dates, she babysat and ran errands, and we tried to have a little fun with her as well at the neighborhood shave-ice shak. Thanks for coming Jenna!

While Jenna was here I got to take Porter and his cub scout troop up to a full day of camp. While life in the valley was nutty and full, I sat in the mountains and watched my child learn about the world around him, enjoy the beauties of nature, and be re-introduced to values I believe in. My mom and Jenna managed the chaos of our daily life at the Spruces and allowed me a day with one of my own-a breath of fresh air and a taste of perspective.

Just when you thought this was all we could fit into the busy month of June...check back tomorrow for the crowning activities of this crazy first month of summer.

and, no, I haven't forgotten about summer journal downloads. My tech support is away on business, I'll post it as soon as I can!