"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Friday, April 30, 2010

Marlowe's ??? years old

Last one for awhile, I promise.

I usually try to stay out of the photos because I have a tendency to be self depreciating. But since it's my birthday and I know that one day I'll look back and not really be able to remember myself as I used to be, I though I'd post at least something.


When Christian asked how old I was today, I told him quite honestly I just couldn't remember. He was shocked and I had to assure him that it was no lie -- if he really wanted to know he'd have to do some math and figure out how many years it had been since I was born. It's what I have to do every time. I'm just not a numbers gal. I don't ever step on a scale to let a number determine how I'm going to feel today, and I'm sure not going to let some number make me feel any older either.

Ah ... but this picture did the trick because all I could see were the wrinkles. Guess that's why I usually stay out of the way. As I thought about it, though, here's what I came up with:

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It would appear that the good ones out-weight the bad ones. And which wrinkle causing moments would I give back to be free of every care worn line?? Not one.

Well, maybe some of the frustration ones between the eyes but even those have helped me to grow into the sort of person I want to be. Loving every year and looking forward to more.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Annie's 10!

Did I forget to say that this is birthday week ... so buckle up.

For my tenth birthday, I recall that my entire family had a terrible case of food poisoning from an undercooked hot dog party the night before resulting in a family full of sick folks and one spared ten year old. My poor mother begged me to help change sheets and assist as the clean-up committee. So, I always hold a special place in my heart for tenth birthdays.

Ten years with Annie have been sheer delight. I see myself in her every day.

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Things I so love about Annie:

1. She shadows my every move and wants to do all of the motherly things a mom gets to do. She longs to cook, loves assisting with babies and younger siblings, and is the biggest help I could ask for.

2. Like it or not, Annie can do hard things. She's got persistence on her side. As a new baby, I left her once with Newel and when I returned, she was closed up in her room wailing. I asked how long she had been at it and he said she'd cried since I had left several hours prior. And she proved to us that she could keep going until the cows came home. Persistence from the very beginning.

3. Annie is creative. She likes to make things from clay, paint, words, beads ... she's always showing her inventive side.

4. She's got a real sensitive streak and she loves with all of her heart.

And we love her. Happy 10th Birthday, Annie. I'll always hold a special memory of the day my second, perfect, beautiful baby girl came into my life.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Boxed badness

I have a friend with a daughter the same age as one of my own. For a birthday gift one year, she brought my girl a game full of fake fingernails for five players. It was the sort of present that caused me to spend the next year of my life cursing the nail game pieces and the name of my friend.

For her daughter's birthday, I sent a Costco size box of stickers.

The next year for my daughter's birthday, her little friend arrived bearing a cute little birdhouse kit. The kind that requires a parent to assemble and hand hold every step of the way. There were tears, there was hair pulling, there were more curses.

For her daughter's birthday, I sent along a very simple "learn to knit a scarf in a day" kit.

Before getting into Lite-Brites, Playdough mega packs, and tie die kits, we decided to call a truce.

I love a man who will go out and get birthday gifts for his children. You can't knock that because it's a really rare and valuable quality in a father. But, I guess anyone can be suckered because ...


There are some things that should never be gifted and though Janie was thrilled with this one from her dad, I'm still not sure who agreed to market brightly colored packing peanuts as an actual gift. All I can say is, he wins ... he wins. And I'll be cursing his name for the next little while.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Janie's 8!

Such a big day for this girl. 8 is a fantastic year.

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Reasons why we love Janie.

1. She's got spunk...and lots of it. She doesn't get pushed around, that's for sure.

2. Her creativity is unsurpassed. She comes up with the darnedest things that make us laugh our heads off.

3. Boy, can she ever negotiate. Law school, perhaps?? Politics?? Wherever she goes in life it will definitely be up because she's one tough cookie.

4. She never gives up. She believes in herself through and through.

5. I think the colors of my life will be a bit dimmer when she leaves our home because she's such a bright spot. When Janie is around, she keeps us hopping and when that daily excitement isn't quite so daily, I will miss it so.

Happy Birthday, Janie. We were the luckiest parents alive the day you came to our family. You have taught us oh so much!

Friday, April 23, 2010

deception

Colorado spring. She'll break your heart every time.


There's a ripple of excitement.


You can smell it in the air.


(Thanks for the pic, Annie)

And then,


You realize you were smelling a load of crap, quite literally. (Sorry mom, I said crap).

Good morning everyone. Welcome to April 23rd.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

the king

Dentist day. It's the one day that can make or break that "mother of the year" feeling. And I'm not sure why it is but no one has the power to cut a mother down to size or put her on a pedestal better than a pediatric dentist.

With six kids -- five with teeth -- nothing starts the trip out in a sweat like running late with the knowledge in your head that you have all of the dental hygienists and chairs tied up waiting for your tardy arrival.

Never a good beginning to walk in five minutes behind schedule with all of the office staff standing in the lobby ringing their hands and waiting on you.

BUT...

Nothing makes a mother pat herself on the back like walking out with only one child having a single enamel imperfection to look after. I'm celebrating, deserving or not, that is, because lets face it, who really has time to brush and floss six sets of teeth twice daily -- one being their own -- seein's how that's somewhere in the ballpark of 124 teeth give or take a few.


Funny though. I try not to let other people's opinions or comments determine my self worth. Except, in the world of motherhood, somehow the dentist became king.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Days off ... again

It's secretly called by parents "the bloated school schedule". The fact that on this year's calender, we have had what seems like a Friday or a Monday off just about every other week since the start of the year. I don't really get why we can't just avoid these "necessary teacher workdays" and start school later or finish a little earlier in the year but, it seems just as we get our routines going there's another day off right around the corner.

I mean, we did just do spring break and school is out in nearly four weeks so why exactly didn't we have school Monday and Tuesday?

My kids wished they had as I put them to work de-junking their bedrooms and preforming other chores all day Monday. They were begging -- nay pleading -- to go back to school.

But I did reward them yesterday by taking everyone to the Denver Nature and Science Museum, one of our favorite hang-outs.

We watched a really cool IMAX about the Hubble telescope and all it sees including galaxies far far away, and what is called the "Nebula Nursery" where scientist think that millions of solar systems have been created. Nothing makes you feel smaller and yet a completely valuable part of such an enormously masterful plan then watching something like that. We were all a little awestruck afterward.

And then there was this game in the health exhibit. By relaxing the mind, opponents push a ball from one side of a table to the other. It really works and the brain waves are shown on a screen. Since it was so uncrowded, we got to challenge each other for quite a while.


Grant really knows how to use the force, I mean, he's either really good at relaxing his brain waves or there's nothing going on in there other than thoughts of candy.


Christian is not good at controlling anything. He has to ... work ... so ... hard. As you can tell.

Then we did this fun face scan that shows how you will look aged. Only Janie would let me take a picture. Everyone else cringed and ran.


Yikes, Janie. You better stay out of the sun, girl!

And then we watched a fun movie about homeostasis. There was a scene sort of like this picture of red blood cells moving through the blood stream.


Grant, sitting beside me in the darkened theatre, loudly exclaimed "OH, that's where jelly donuts go when you eat them!!!" So glad we're larnin'. And strangely, Grant, you aren't far off there.

Fun to hang with the gang. Now -- can we keep a consistent schedule until school really lets out??

Monday, April 19, 2010

The value of hard work

There's nothing like the smell of fresh cut grass, the feel of it on your feet, the happiness of that color green. But our yard is littered with pine trees with a constant supply of needles laying like a blanket across our would be grass. And pine needles are grass killers.


We have to work for it if we want it. When we first moved in three years ago, our front yard was waist high scrub. We cut it, raked it, re-seeded. Now every fall when the weather turns cold, and spring after the winds have stopped, we have to go out and rake the needles if we want to enjoy the fruits of our labors.


With a front yard over half an acre large, this is not a one man job. I mean, it can be and I've done it but there's no point when everyone can help and everyone is hoping for the same end result. A place to play kickball, a place to run through sprinklers, a place to catch butterflies, and a place to soak in the sun on a blanket.


These guys were amazing. Everyone pitched in either babysitting, shoveling or taking a turn at driving the tractor. Not one complaint! And as we worked we talked about valuing hard work. I mean it's one thing to learn to work and work hard, but it's another thing to work because you value the end result. I wanted them to know that because they were so willing to work hard, we would all enjoy the beauty of a green front lawn and the fun we get to have there each and every year.



Loved watching you all work together. Now bring on those April showers and let's green this baby up!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Laying things to rest

I read recently that two of the top ten things you should never blog about are your cats and your kids. Yet, it just doesn't seem right to let the misfortunes of Friday go unnoticed. And so, since it's my journal, I'm making mention because it will be one of those talked about things when the kids are grown and we visit together and retell the events of our lives.

Friday morning, unable to be in two places at once, I got kids up early, dressed and mostly ready for school so that I could jet up to the middle school for Celia's honor roll presentation. The plan was to let the kids finish their morning routine and return just in time to drive them to the elementary school. All was on schedule until I re-entered the house calling time to go and found all of the children in tears in our living room. "We found Snicker's", they said.

And sure enough, there was his body perfectly curled up directly beneath the kitchen window next to the railing where his brother has been sitting for the passed four months. We were astounded, if not saddened, that all this time we had not known. All we could surmise is that he must have ingested a neighbor's poisoned rodent or been hurt in a tangle with a predator and limped home injured only to perish in a spot where we would have had to actively look to see him. Yet we had navigated around that same spot multiple times since December and never taken note.

Some of the children insisted it was better not knowing. Celia said she'd rather have continued picturing him leaving us for a girl. Christian said he'd prayed every night for his return and felt as though his prayer had finally been answered, albeit not as he'd expected. For him it was comforting to know that our cat considered our home a place of safety to come back to.

Thank heavens for dad's who are willing to come home from work and bury family pets. Worth their weight in gold, they are. No one really wanted any sort of service for Snick. They agreed, for the most part, that they had accepted his loss over the course of the last four months.

But being the kind of mother I am, I couldn't just let them sigh and walk away. Newel gathered us around for nightly family prayer and I asked to say a few words. The kids listened solemnly as I expressed some feelings I needed to share.


Some say a cat is just a cat, or a chicken is just a chicken, a rabbit is a rabbit and maybe they are right to feel that way. Animals will come and animals will go through our family but I don't ever want my children to take them for granted, to be desensitized to life and it's purpose. I asked each child to relate a fond memory of our brown cat though his body was just a shell and his spirit long gone. Each took their turn and then it was mine again.

I doubt I have or ever will see a stronger love than those two had for one another. When the gray one disappeared for a few days on a neighboring roof, the brown one paced. When one came over the hill, the other ran to greet with enthusiasm. Neither could sleep until the other was in. I expressed my hope for each child to feel that way about their siblings. To know such love. To live such loyalty. It is what it means to be a family. If they could learn just one thing, that being each other's best friend is my greatest hope in building an eternal bond, then Snicker's time with us had been fulfilled.


And so, never taking for granted the littlest of creatures, we learned so much from a cat ... even if he was just a cat.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Not even a chance

I so dislike taking that one super cute outfit I've been saving in a drawer until it fits, removing the tags with the thrill of anticipation, and being set to soak in that adorable moment only to find that the right time has passed and she's out grown it before she even had a chance to wear it.


I can tell myself all I want that I'm absorbing every single second like a sponge, that with this child, I'm not letting a moment go unnoticed. But this ... this slap in the face by my old arch-enemy, Time, is just another rude awakening to the reality that it's all so fast and ever changing.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Weekend project

Growing up in western North Carolina, we had acreage and one of our favorite family traditions would have to be our outdoor hot dog roasts. Dad would spend a day working to clean out some underbrush, pile it in a big pile, and as dusk set in, he'd light that baby on fire and we kids would all stand around in wonderment seriously weighing whether or not the height of the licking flames would burn the blue ridge mountains to bits. Mom would whip up some homemade chili and slaw and I'd help her carry dawgs (that's said southern style), buns and side dishes out to the picnic table set near the fire. We'd usually have to put the curious cat into the car for the eve, but then we'd roast and listen to Dad play us a tune on his harmonica until the darkness set and the coals burned to ash.

Sometime last year, my dad came to visit for a rare extended length of time and because he doesn't sit still very well, my husband contrived to engage him in some woods clearing of our own. The two of them hauled brittle scrub oak into piles for the better part of the morning and I headed out with a lemonade in each hand to cool their mounting exhaustion. We sat briefly before my dad asked (and imagine the deeply southern drawl here), "Mar-lowe, whata ya reckon are yer fiiire lauws??"

Surrounded by nearly 200 bone-dry Ponderosa pines on our property alone, I could only think to say, "Um, Dad, don't burn anything okay?" before heading back to the house. But watching out that front window, I've never seen my southern California husband stick as close to my father as he did that day. I mean, for heaven sakes, he grew up with flames knocking on his back door so often that the paranoia of it all drove him to take a "fire science" class in college just in case he should ever need to quench a backdraft (I'm just kiddin'. I don't really know what a backdraft is). I'm just hoping the fireman helmet, coat and boots required for the class and stored in the basement will come in handy cuz you can bet if anything ever does happen, I'm gonna make him run down there, find that random box and suit up before taking care of biz.

Anyway, ... that all said, I'm excited about my completed weekend project. So excited, I've made the kids tell me how cool our new fire pit is about 100 times. Even cooler when we fired it up this weekend with some really great friends. Nothing like the smell of smoke and dawgs as kids run around awash in spring's fading sunlight.


Time for our own memory making. Let's hope we don't scar the planet by burning down Franktown -- and if so, at least we've got the proper grear to wear. And, thanks Christian, for pushing the wagon while I hauled the bricks! Now, let's go make sure we obey the "fiiire lauws".

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Natural disasters


Oh good .... Because I was really worried about this whirlwind weekend and the results.


Good to know we're livin' it to the fullest ... and that Monday is on it's way.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Naptime

I thoroughly enjoy a good nap. Especially as I still have a baby waking up in the night. Oh, I know it's a real time waster and I do feel my nagging conscience tell me all of the things I could and should be doing while my two youngest doze through the afternoon silence. But some days, nothing feels better than to close my eyes and reopen them when my brain decides to return to reality.

I can't do it everyday as my to-do list is much to long, but I do try to lay down every afternoon and read with Grant. His eyes get droopy as the sound of my droning voice lulls him into heaviness. I, myself, fight to keep from slipping away knowing that once he's deeply sedated, I must slide noiselessly out and on with family needs.

But taking that one last minute to look at his peacefully slumbering face, I'm struck. Is this fair?? Should a boy be blessed with such fabulous eyelashes???

Friday, April 9, 2010

Thursday, April 8, 2010

This is IT

My life has certain "This is IT!" moments. They fall somewhere between the chaos of pushing clingy, bored children into some sort of involvement and the moment when it all falls apart because the combination of strong personalities struggling for the top of the pile becomes just too much. For instance...

A blown out, diaper-rashed baby escalating into a slightly more than upset frenzy as bath water is running. My heart is pumping just a little bit harder as I work fast as I can to alleviate her obvious discomfort and reach a harmonious outcome. But after that tearful time, that moment when baby is naked and freshly diapered, smelling of Johnson and Johnson's, wrapped in her favorite blanket with her head on my chest and blue eyes looking trusting in mine .... "This is IT!"

Morning, as some mornings go, can consist of draggy people, left over homework remaining from the night before scrambling to be done, dislike over breakfast served, disgruntled over sandwiches made, rush and holler, chase the bus. But, mornings where the folks hurry to greet the day, pack the packs, love the meal, fulfill their duties, listen to scripture and gather for family prayer, help siblings to the car and make the bus stop with time to spare and chat with friends .. those days, I turn my car around and head for the house with "This is IT" singing in my soul.

I savor those moments. I breathe them in deeply. I take a mental picture to recall in later days when I know things will be different.

Something tells me that those moments are contagious.


Grant's unloaded pile of papers on the counter containing weeks worth of graded schoolwork pages left me this:


Okay, pay no attention to the fact that the first time he completed the above sentence, he wrote it upside down AND backwards. What he is learning are how impressionable some moments are.

And as I watched out the kitchen window that day, I felt it too, Grant. My heart was full of "This is IT"! -- until it all fell to pieces once again.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

More

It's April.

And when you've been enjoying some of this:


Waking up to more of this is just really painful.

Icing on the cake

The icing on the cake this passed weekend was definitely General Conference on Easter Sunday. It was the perfect touch. I always feel like there is a generalized theme, ... or maybe I'm simply impressed by what is relevant to me. And this time around just seemed about ways to be so much better at strengthening our families. It's the boost I really needed and this week, I seem to have a dose of the post-conference blues. Those inspiring words just seem too far between.

AND, between sessions I made Grandma Great's wet coconut cake with my girls and it turned out beautifully. Our loving husband and father did say that we lost points because we failed to make it in the shape of a rabbit, but I felt that might be desecrating the memory of my deceased grandmother.

It added a special touch to have something of hers there for Easter.


Grandma Great's Wet Coconut Cake

1 boxed yellow cake (butter recipe is best)
Bake in two 9" rounds (or three)
cool completely

Heat in a saucepan 2 cups of water with 3 cups of sugar to make a syrup
In a separate bowl: Beat three egg whites to stiff
Add 1 tsp almond flavoring
Stream the syrup into egg whites while beating

Put first layer cake on a plate and poke holes with a fork
ice with the above syrup/egg white mixture
layer with 1/2 bag of sweetened coconut

Add second layer of cake
ice with remaining mixture
sprinkle with coconut

So rich, I could only eat this once a year and it's probably best to starve myself of all sugar for a week before having a slice so that the overload is euphoric. But still, a beautiful combination -- Grandmama's cake and uplifting messages. Definitely the icing of our weekend.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Last of the First's

Simply because it was the last of the "first" big holidays for this one before her birthday (yes, June is coming that soon) ... that is, unless you count Mother's Day and Memorial Day which don't feel quite the same.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Saturday

Every Easter Saturday as a child, we colored dozens of eggs and I mean dozens. 9 children x 12 eggs (because six eggs just color too quickly) = 108 eggs. Dad put on his bunny ears and dutifully walked around the yard, hiding eggs while we kids anxiously waited in an upstairs bedroom trying so hard not to peek out a window and spoil the surprise. The anticipation was static charged and then the hunt that ensued would be over entirely too quickly. We'd gather on the hill side for the annual egg count afterward and inevitably one or two stray eggs would have to be hunted for. Either we'd find them then or the lawn mower would later. I loved this tradition so much that each Easter while at college, I made close-by family members, roommates and later, an eye rolling fiance, participate in reliving this family tradition with me. The beauty of having kids is there is no eye rolling, only pure memory making fun.

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Yeah, the dye eating explained a lot.

Let the hunt begin:


150 plastic eggs along with the dozens we colored. I only bought so much candy and the kids decided it was the hunt and not the exuberant amounts of sugary goodness that make the day fun. So, with one candy per plastic egg, they certainly had enough to go around and it's just as well as Janie announced that she didn't love the candies with the compressed bread inside. The malted milk companies should be devastated.


Then the traditional egg counting:


And how do Dad's soak in the fun?


By begging for candy:


And stealing it if need be with the ole' pine cone switcheroo:


But always the life of the party.


I love making family fun a tradition.