Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sweet Girls Night

When the boys are away, the girls come out to play!

Can't have too many sprinkles, right?

Sugar coma...

Time to lick the plate clean.

And the hands.

Don't think about the germs...

The time has come when my daughter's cookies look better than mine... okay, it wasn't that hard.

The girls wanted to sleep in the tent like they usually do, but Russ took the smaller tent this time. They were satisfied with stealing his spot in my bed.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The One... A Love Letter

Soon after my high school boyfriend got home from his mission, we stood and held each other next to his car as we were saying our goodbyes, just like we had done a hundred times before. But this time it was different. It was so different, I wanted to jump out of my skin and leave my body standing there without my soul. As I looked into the sky, it seemed so fake - plastic, with a hole for the moon - a spotlight casting its dull glow on the alien world around me. I wrote a poem about it then... I'll never forget that empty feeling of holding a stranger in a loving embrace. We had grown so different over the two years he was gone that I felt like I didn't even know him anymore. Or maybe I just finally realized who he really was. Either way, I convinced myself that night that it would just take time and readjustment. We shopped for rings a few times, but we both kept putting off anything official. It sounds so trivial now, but I actually said once that I wanted one more summer to wear short shorts. Really? And now I see it as an immature manifestation of the more complex feeling I had deep down inside. I wanted to wear short shorts forever if it meant I wouldn't have to marry someone who just wasn't "the one."

I had met some guys online while he was gone, and when we went to California for my cousin's wedding, I met one of them in person. He was so into me. California looked good on me, too, so I came home from that trip and broke it off with my boyfriend. It didn't seem to matter that I didn't have any real feelings for this guy. Every time that plane dropped me off in California, it was like I was in a different life where I could just have fun pretending to be his girl while we had all sorts of fun adventures. And then he wanted to move to Arizona for the summer. Not good. I never tried very hard to find him a place to live, and that frustrated him to no end... he knew he wasn't "the one," and yet he kept holding on to basically nothing.

My next escape route came through my best friend. She invited two guys over... two (ahem) very good looking guys. As the flirting went on throughout the night, it hit me that I could NEVER find "the one" until I got rid of... not the one. So I broke another heart. I dated the new guy a couple of times, but it never went anywhere. That didn't matter, though. What mattered was that I was finally free... free to get to know the most important person of all... ME.

What happened in the next six months taught me everything about relationships and dating that I could never learn while I was attached to... not the one. My friends and I spent every Friday night at the dance, every Saturday night on a date or out having fun, and every Sunday night delivering goodies (or what we called "Gospel Cheer") to the houses of the guys we liked. Most importantly, I spent Valentine's Day single and alone for the first time in years, and it was LIBERATING! If only I had mustered the courage to let go earlier, I could've found myself sooner.

So many guys in six months, but never "the one." I'm not gonna lie, it got me down sometimes, but the way it ended with each one just taught me something important about what I wanted in "the one," for better or for worse.

I don't feel comfortable using names, so let's just start with Kachina Man. One day he told me he needed to pawn his kachina doll to make his rent. He was cute, so what did it matter that he was no good with money? Yeah. I actually went out and spent about $150 on clothes after I met him just so I could dress to impress. I must've known somewhere in my subconscious that he was shallow... everything ended after the day I told him I used to be twenty pounds heavier. His reaction made me feel awkward because I genuinely thought he'd be impressed. Can you believe I actually tried to call him after a few days to set up another date?

Then there was Milton Man, as in John Milton, the English poet. I was an English major, so what better place to find a soul mate than the halls of the liberal arts building at ASU? He promised me lunch between classes, and when he went to use the restroom while I waited, I switched to the other side of the booth so he'd have to pay attention to me instead of the basketball game. That was the end. Seriously. I didn't want it to be the end, and I let the confidence I felt when I made the move erode into the weak position that I should've just let him continue to half listen to me while he watched the game. Since I couldn't just let go, I would drive down to ASU on Saturdays and pretend I needed to go to the library to study just so I could see him while he was working. One day the vending machine on the first floor of the liberal arts building didn't have pretzels in it, so I went to the second floor and realized he was waiting there for his John Milton class to start. Next thing you know, the vending machine on the first floor never seemed to have what I wanted, and I went to the second floor all the time. It was my little pathetic version of paradise lost every day. I'd feel myself getting nervous as I walked by and fumbled for something to say. Why? Because the only person I could honestly be was me, and it was hard to admit that he didn't want whatever that was... and even harder to admit that I really didn't want to have to convince someone that I was worth loving.

And then there was Banker Man. In some ways, Banker Man was worst of all. We got along fine, but there was no fire in my heart for him. When I turned 24, I started to let a little doubt creep in about whether I would ever find a soul mate... I really didn't know how young I was, and I felt time was running out for my happily ever after. I let my fears convince me that we could make a marriage work because he already had a good job and he was a good person. Oh how my thirty-eight-year-old heart aches for my twenty-four-year-old heart... girl, you have forever to be married and just one chance to find out who you really are as an individual. You are too DANG special to spend your life with someone who doesn't light your fire. Fortunately for me, Banker Man sensed the problem, too, and ever so gently put me down and let me float away.

The list could go on, but it doesn't need to. By February, my heart was sufficiently pruned, and the stars aligned to make it possible for me to meet "the one." I never knew how I'd know until it happened. No analysis needed, really... I just knew. And I knew that I knew. There was nothing fake or strained about it. I told him about the $150 in clothes just the other day, and he said, "Did you buy any clothes when you met me?" I said no... and then the explanation that I had never contemplated before followed so easily, "I knew I didn't need to." He said, "Good." And that's really the essence of it. I didn't have to look any certain way to get his attention, didn't have to pretend to be anything I was not, didn't have to settle for "pretty good." Our souls fell in love beginning on the night we met, and all that was on the surface never really mattered at all. That man loves who I am deep down, and that is a gift that can only be given by "the one."

Yeah, I was worth the wait.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Gone Country

Yeah Mel, I stole your title. I'm just practicing for the day I visit you in Wyoming.

We all were... starting with the tractor.

Kyle got to be Grandpa's farmhand for the day. Don't you just want to shout, "Run Forrest!"? Me, too. (I must confess, I do not know how to punctuate that particular sentence... the shame!)

When the girls got back, they were ready for a snack. Finding a snack in Grandma and Grandpa's farm pantry is far more fun than finding one at home... as long as you make sure to check the expiration dates. Just sayin'.

Brandon was asleep during the first tractor ride, but he got some practice on the little tractor... he just needs a cowboy hat and a bale of hay in his trailer!

Soon he graduated to the big tractor... apparently he's big enough to drive it already. Memories! My dad used to let me sit in his lap and drive his van and my mom's Trans Am all the time! Thinking back, it's somewhat appalling... those were the days. His van only ever had two seat belts... usually all the kids were riding loose in the back because there were no seats at all. One time we drove on the highway with the big sliding door open for fresh air (yes, while we were riding loose in the back), and the car behind us was honking trying to let us know our door was open... as if we didn't notice. I didn't realize the danger back then, and it's kind of funny because my dad was so dead set against street motorcycles because of the danger... I'm just glad we all made it to adulthood! But I digress...

Speaking of those days, I used to have that Asteroids game in my bedroom when I was growing up. Just to be clear, I grew up on Nintendo, so it was somewhat of a relic even then...

There are so many fun things to ride on at the farm.

The main event of the day was walking over to see my mom and dad's new horse, Scout!

He's a big, gentle horse.

My dad and his farm. My dad's a farmer... that is so funny to say! You know, he programmed computers to make a living most of his life. Guess he finally just had to escape his chair and the four walls boxing him in. He worked long, long hours, especially when I was a teenager... he even rented his own apartment once so he could work day in and day out without any interruption, except to sleep in his sleeping bag. He's finally free!

My lil cowboy.

My dad always has gadgets and gizmos for everything... his grain dryer made a great patio heater and marshmallow roaster... as long as you didn't get your marshmallow too close.

Fastest roasting ever... mine was done in less than 10 seconds.

Uncle Jeremy's got a few tricks up his sleeve, too... ring pops for everyone! I like how her mouth matches her eyes.

And even though I missed my chance to get any pictures of it, I can't forget to mention the yummy chalupa dinner that my sister brought for everyone. Oh, and my mom's puzzle that she let me work on. It really was a perfect day at the farm, and it felt so good to have the family be "unplugged" for a while. Thanks everyone! Now back to being bored for a few more days...

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Happiness at 4300 Feet

'Tis foolish to think that mountain will ever stop calling me. Russ says I have an unnatural obsession, but that euphoric feeling at the top never gets old...

Super Kyle! I know, it looks scary... I actually let him do that?!?!

King of the Mountain.

I hope they soak up the feeling and crave it all their lives.

The battery charger for my little camera is still MIA, so it was a good thing Will brought his iPhone so I could snap a selfie.

As we were approaching the top, I kept saying, "Hey guys, we're about to VICI!" It's impossible not to feel the excitement pulsing through your body as you're scaling that last wall. Yeeeaaaaaahhhh!!

Okay, I do sound a little obsessed. 'Til next time, Flat Iron... I know you'll keep staring me down from your lofty perch.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Spend Every Weekend at the Renaissance Fair...

We long ago accepted the fact that we're white 'n' nerdy. Only one black guy in the whole place, and he was with his white girlfriend!

K, first I have some explainin' to do... one of the first times Russ came out to visit me, and maybe it was the first time, I took him to the Renaissance festival. Still have the ticket around here somewhere. We planned to meet my sister in front of the elephants, which totally never happened, we saw the shows "Three Guys and a Bunch of Drums" and "The Wyld Men," had a Chipwich, and of course Russ had to demonstrate his masculinity with the axe throwing. Yes, fun was had by all. And so I went looking for a Chipwich (to no avail), but we did catch the same two shows along with some others. Never will we plan to meet anyone in front of the elephants again.

Oh yes, and we always go to the Art of Falconry show. I am so, so sorry, but this picture with the gigantic butt in it is the best one I had of the falconer. I forgot my real camera once again, so I had to settle for cell phone shots.

Brandon didn't give a hoot... get it? Groan.

Hey, when no one else is gonna take your picture, sometimes you just have to do it yourself!

I think Paige enjoyed the show even though she was a little distracted by her burning desire to get a rubber pet dragon. The kids managed to talk us into getting them one to share... its name is Sniper.

See him? Sticking right out of Brandon's forehead...

You see some interesting people at the Renaissance fair... it's like Halloween. You get people in costume, and suddenly they don't feel it necessary to act normal.

Trying to make up for lost time with the picture taking...

Last show of the day was, as always, the JOUST.

Our knight was gallant and brave... and a bit cocky, too.

For good reason, apparently, because we finally sat in the section that was rooting for the winning knight! Huzzah!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

I ♥ My Family

We had tickets to tour the Gilbert temple the afternoon of February 13th with our neighbors since the girls had a half day of school. I had such good intentions, but all these problems kept coming up. Will had missed too much school, Russ had a busy day at work and didn't want to go twice, the neighbor's husband forgot about parent teacher conferences and didn't have time... I tried and tried to make it work, but I just couldn't make everyone happy... and then of course, that made it so I wasn't happy either. We did what we could, though, and I took the three little kids with my neighbor and her kids. It was super crowded, and as we were walking toward the temple, my neighbor noticed her tire was completely flat. So crazy. She was a little distracted during the tour, as she had to keep answering texts from her poor husband who had to come change the tire. I felt like it wasn't quite the experience I was hoping for... with the crowds and the distractions, I felt it was impossible to convey the significance of the temple in my life to my friend, but at least it was something, and I'm thankful for that.

Russ had planned to take the older boys after work, and I planned to go with them because I was set on standing in OUR temple with my family. After all, I didn't know when or if that would ever happen again. We figured it would be quite crowded, and I think Russ was somewhat dreading it since we didn't have tickets and would have to wait in the standby line. Eventually, we both came up with the idea of keeping the kids home from school so that we could go first thing in the morning. It wasn't the perfect plan, but it was all we had.

To my delight, even though there was a bit of a line to get in, we somehow made it on the very next tour. We sat in the chapel to watch the video, and I put my arms around the kids that I could reach and pulled them in for a hug. "Temples are like hugs," I said, "They hold us together." There were a lot of people, but no where near the crowd I had experienced the previous afternoon. It was relaxed and not stressful. No flat tires. Even the tour itself seemed to go at a slower pace. With the help of my boys, I noticed things I hadn't noticed the day before. We noticed the agave symbol in EVERYTHING... the tiles in the font, the wood, the glass, the floors, the lights, the door hardware... even in the embossed carpet in the celestial and sealing rooms. I took in the art, the beautiful desert images, the images of Christ. And then when we entered the celestial room, I took in a private moment... seeing my husband and each of my children there with me. My heart was full to overflowing. As we went into the sealing room again, my little Brandon knelt at the altar in his cowboy boots. I wish I could have a drawing of that. Everything made me smile... it was complete redemption from the frustration of the day before, and I was so thankful.

Now because it was Valentine's Day, I had made up all these dreams in my head about how cute our family photo in front of the temple was going to be. We could hold the letters in the word FAMILY plus a little heart, and we'd be laughing and hugging and having fun with the temple in the background. I can see it all now. Actually, I just thought of something... the word FOREVER... families would be implied by the people holding the letters. Oh my goodness, I may just have to bribe my family into a photo shoot like that. Well, none of that actually happened, and we had to rely on the photography skills of random people nearby... plus, my hubby and son had pamphlets in their pockets and Brandon was wearing a freaky large parka (with his hood on, too). It was so imperfect, but it makes me laugh to think how our totally imperfect family can be so perfect for me.

So that was how we started off our Valentine's Day, and I couldn't have asked for better, but then... just when I thought my husband, who isn't really the romantic type, wasn't going do anything special, he totally made my day by having a barbershop quartet come and serenade me. You know, the fact that he doesn't do things like that very often makes it more special in a way... I mean, I know he really went out of his way to do something he thought I would like (and I did!).

I was the one who hadn't planned anything, so after that I rushed around to make sure we could have a little bit of a celebration. I made Russ a candy bouquet that didn't look anything like the ones in the store. He loved it anyway. I always like to eat in on Valentine's Day because restaurants are so crowded, so we had a candlelight dinner with the kids. Russ and I served them and cleaned up after them just like they were at a restaurant... they really thought that was awesome.

This is what a romantic dinner with kids looks like. Silly.

Monkey see, monkey do.

After dinner, we had yummy banana splits.

Perfect Valentine's Day.