Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Missing Teeth-EmmaClaire

Nine months of 2012, EmmaClaire had a big fat hole in her mouth.  Her two front teeth took forever to come in.  I loved her lisp when she would say certain words, and I loved her million dollar smile.

Then, finally after 9 months of waiting, her two front teeth came in nice and big and crooked. At the same time, she lost two more on the bottom and one more on the side. Rich girl, poor tooth fairy!

Her smile has morphed a ton this past few months, and I LOVE it!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Abby is 10!

Abby had her tenth birthday a few weeks ago. She is pretty low key, not very demanding. In times past, when asked what she wanted for her birthday, she would say something like, "I don't know. . . I don't need anything. . . Whatever is easiest."

This time was a little different. All she wanted was roller blades and a shopping spree for clothes with her cousin Leah. And she reminded me daily about those two things for weeks prior to her birthday. So, trying to save money, I found a pair of rollerblades on Craigslist. To my dismay, they didn't even fit and didn't have any breaks. So much for trying to save money.  And we planned a shopping trip with her cousin.

The evening of her birthday, her dad and older brothers had scouts, EmmaClaire had a music class, and I could tell Abby was a little bummed that we weren't doing anything to celebrate. Last minute, I called a bunch of her friends and planned a surprise mini party for Abby. Nine girls showed up, and I took them all to one of Abby's favorite places, Snowguart, a frozen yogurt place.

It surprised Abby, and I'm pretty sure she ended up having a great birthday. A few things I love about Abby; she's super helpful, she is very self driven and smart, she likes to be organized and likes to plan things, she is kind to her younger sisters, and she is sensitive to others and always wants to choose the right.

That weekend, I took Abby and her cousin shopping for some clothes. All she wanted were two uniform shirts and two pair of uniform shorts for school. Not too exciting, but very needed.  She has grown a ton this past year and was down to just a few outfits for school each week. My little girl is growing up!

Happy times at Snowguart!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Backyard Disaster--Almost Finished!

Months ago, John and I finally decided, after dreaming about it for three years, to change up our bakyard and make it "ours".    We planned out what we wanted changed and thought that by starting in February, we'd have plenty of time to change things before the weather got too warm.

Then reality hits, Saturdays are filled with other things, projects take way longer than expected. More time, more money, and more money. . .  And here we are in mid May, not quite done.  But we're close enough to see lots and lots of progress, done enough to see the light at the end of the tunnel, or the backyard coming to fruition.

We started by tearing down a "stage" in the corner of the yard that took up quite a bit of space.  I'm not sure what the intention of this cement eye sore was, but John and I have never liked it since we moved it.  So down it went. . . this process took about 3-4 weeks of full Saturdays and a lot of evening time.  It was a TON of cement!

Having Papa's tractor was a huge help as we got rid of all that cement.  John sure didn't mind working (i.e. "playing) with the tractor, and all the neighbor kids enjoyed riding on the back. I'm just glad no one got hurt.

Along two walls of the yard, we had a neighbor build us some nice planter boxes for gardens.  He also filled in the side of our house with concrete (someday, we'll put a shed there to help clear out our garage), then extended our patio/porch with pavers.  The kids enjoyed marking the fresh concrete with their handprints.

 Here you can see the new sidewalk that goes to the cement slab on the side of the house, the patio extension of pavers and one of the garden boxes along the east wall. 
 In the corner where the big cement stage was, we planted a grapefruit tree.  Eventually we'll put curbing there to divide the tree area with gravel from the lawn of grass.  With all the tractor driving all over the lawn and no water these past few months, our lawn has taken a beating and has gotten buried under lots of dirt. 

My father-in-law is probably the hardest working grandpa I know.  He helped us figure out a new sprinkler system, get the right kind of dirt in our planters, level the ground for grass, etc. . Without his help, this project would have dragged on for at least another month or two.  So thanks to Papa for all your help!

Now we need to seed and water that back lawn.  And start planting lots of vegetables in our awesome gardens. And get curbing to divide the grass from the gravel, then do some more cement on the west side of the house, then find/build a shed, then create something to keep our bikes from the AZ sun, etc. . .

Always a project around here!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Reading with Grandma

My mom is an amazing Grandma.  She loves her grandchildren more than everything else in the world except for my Dad.  Because of that and her strong testimony of the Savior, she lives in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic with my dad.  Both are wonderful missionaries and are influencing many lives through their examples and interactions.

Frequently, my mom asks how she can continue to stay close to her grandchildren and be of service to our family even though she's thousands of miles away.  Always looking to uplift, to help, to serve.  That's my mom.

This past semester I visited with my mom on the phone about a few struggles of managing the after-school hours, i.e. the bomb that hits our house around 3:08 every day and doesn't end till after 9 PM.  It is a super busy time around here; carpooling home from school, helping with piano practicing, homework, jobs, making after school snacks for famished, starving children, then making dinner, cleaning up. . . all while trying to keep a very determined yet tired 2-year-old happy and a 5-year-old out of trouble.

Another of my worries was that with all the chaos and business, I was struggling to find quiet, uninterrupted time to help EmmaClaire with her homework.  And she's one that needs quiet, uninterrupted time.  Very easily distracted, then very easily frustrated.  Which most always leads to absolute disaster.

So how in the world was I supposed to give her the quiet, uninterrupted time she needed and deserved and craved, and still keep the house in order and keep everyone else happy?

Over that phone call with my mom, she brainstormed about how she could help.  In my mind, I thought. . ."if you lived here, you could come over and take the younger two out from under my feet, you could help practice piano with the older three, you could carpool to and from different activities that interrupt my afternoon, you could make dinner so I wouldn't have to worry about it," . . . and the list goes on.  (Wish I had two of me-I could be sooo productive!)

She suggested that she could read with EmmaClaire at 5pm twice a week.  With awesome technology like Facetime and Skype, we could connect with each other through our ipads.

So that's what has happened this past semester (not every week, but enough to make a lasting impression on my little 7 year old).  Grandma has her issue of the Friend in the Dominican Republic, and EmmaClaire picks out what story she wants to read here in Arizona. And they read together, then visit, then talk about the story, then read some more.

What a HUGE help!  EmmaClaire loved her time with Grandma, and through the process she developed her reading skills.  It allowed me to not stress over her as much, knowing that she was getting all she needed from Grandma. On those special days, EmmaClaire comes in from playing sometimes seven or eight times throughout the afternoon, asking "Mom, is it 5pm yet?"  She doesn't want to miss a minute with Grandma. 

 Thanks Mom!  Miles and miles away, yet still so helpful.  Love you!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Annie Jr.

This past few months have been busy for Taylor, Abby and EmmaClaire.  They all tried out for the school musical, and all made it.  The girls were townspeople and didn't have any solos or lines.  Taylor, with the encouragement of his parents, tried out for Daddy Warbucks.  And, to his chagrin, made the part.  After realizing that it would take lots of hard work and lots of time, and realizing that he was the only boy from the whole jr. high that was involved, and realizing that it meant he couldn't be on the jr high soccer team, he decided that he wanted to back out and not be involved with the play.  He wanted to quit.

But we aren't quitters.  We're go-getters.  We are loyal.  We are finishers.

We had lots of talks about being committed, being loyal even and especially when it's not the favorite thing to do or not the favorite way to spend his time.  Even when all of his friends aren't doing it and sometimes tease him about being in "a musical".  Even when he could be on the soccer field with the jr. high team, but instead he's singing and acting with a bunch of girls.

We kept encouraging him to give it his all and be a finisher.  I kept promising him that he'd love it in the end. It was a rough road that first month of play rehearsal--lots of complaining, lots of discussion. Lots of arguing.  Lots of frustration.   But he stuck at it and gave it his all.
He learned all his lines, all the solos and duets, practiced, dramatized at home in front of us, and put tons of hours into it at school.  The more he gave of himself, the more confident he became with his role and the more he started enjoying it. 

He did a super fabulous job.  The school held 3 different performances, and I have to say that Taylor, i.e. Daddy Warbucks was the hit of each show. 
The evening after a super busy weekend of play performances, Taylor came into the kitchen, put his arm around me, and said, "Mom, . . . .I loved it!"

That did it for me! That's all I needed to hear.  Those 4 words made my mother heart melt and made ti all worth it. 

EmmaClaire and Abby loved it.  They were involved in one song with a large group.  And during two scenes, they walked "through the town as townspeople", (walked accross the stage).  Regardless of their minimal part in the play, they loved every minute of practice.  And they encouraged and frequently complimented Taylor, which was a huge blessing to his teenage mentality.

I'm pretty sure EmmaClaire's favorite part of the whole thing was getting make-up on prior to each performance. 

  Taylor wouldn't do stage make-up. In this picture, he's "all miked up".

I took charge of the cast party after the last performance that included 4 directors and over 90 cast menbers.  It was a crazy busy weekend.  We're proud of our kids for being involved.  Especially proud of Taylor for doing something out of his comfort zone, something that he really, really, really didn't want to do.  Proud for being loyal and committed to the end and giving his all.