St. Patrick's Day-001

A Full Week

I recently read an article titled “Busy is a Sickness” that struck close to home. I’m a high-functioning, chronic sufferer of self-induced busynesss as well as the complaining symptom that often accompanies it. Since reading the article, I’ve been trying to change some of that about my life. This last week was a bit of a challenge to that goal. Between having my sister visit, putting on a church event, trying to be involved with a community issue, and getting a little ambitious with projects, things were a little hectic, but definitely full. I’ll spare you most of the tedious details, but here are the highlights.

I knew the week was going to be busy and wanted to knock out as much prep as I could on Saturday. I borrowed my friend’s steam cleaner and cleaned all of our carpets. It turns out the carpets were filthy and glittery.

Glittery Mess

Has my basement been doubling as a night club?

Because I was feeling a little overly confident (or maybe just delusional), I thought I could also squeeze in a tiny house project where I filled a bunch of cracks in our front door and stained it. This is something I’ve wanted to do for the last four years and for some inexplicable reason, bad-timing aside, I just couldn’t put it off any longer. The problem was, I forgot our formula for house projects and didn’t do the math so even though we started the project Saturday, it wasn’t officially finished until Tuesday evening.

Cracked Door

Can you see the light coming through this poor, old, parched door?

All in all, it worked out. Our facade is much improved if I do say so myself. Bonus: light now only comes through the window.

Before and After

Both Cooper and Noel suited up on Sunday and I had to capture my handsome fellas. It was good to have a day of rest – God really knew what he was doing with that one.

Suit Up

Monday, my sister, Hope, and her son, Porter, flew into town. Hope’s husband, Joe, was in Costa Rica for a class (right . . . ) so logically she came to the next best place to have fun. The kids were beyond thrilled. Ellen kept saying, “Porter’s my buddy.”

Cousin HugsTuesday we all wore green and spent most of the day prepping for a dinner for our church women’s organization. The kids did a great job of entertaining each other and even though my support staff was pretty much MIA, we pulled everything together for a lovely evening. Bonus: Since I always make sure we have a nursery for these events, Noel was able to attend a community meeting about an important school issue.

St. Patrick's Day-001

On Wednesday, we picked Cooper up from preschool and spent the afternoon at the zoo. Everyone was a little testy by the end, but it was nice to not be on the clock for wood stain time frames or event start times.

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Picnic lunch

Zoo!

A picture Cooper took of us.

Gorilla

He was very excited to see the gorilla. Maybe because he recently saw Tarzan for the first time?

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Cooper patting Porter’s head when he started to fuss.

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Ellen being a baby.

Thursday, my brother, Mitchell, received his mission call and we got to watch him open it via Skype. He’ll serve a two-year mission speaking Dutch in Belgium and the Netherlands. I’m so glad he’s made this decision and am excited for all the adventures and learning experiences he’ll have.

Mission Call-001

Today is the official first day of spring. I got up extra early to take Hope and Porter to the airport and then made a bunch of mini pies for a teacher appreciation lunch. The house felt a little lonely with Hope and Porter gone, but we’re glad they were able to visit. Life is definitely full.

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The flowers blooming in our front lawn.

A beautiful day

Ski Day

Eight years ago Audrey and I started this adventure of our life together. A lot of things have changed since then. We’ve gained some dependents, moved to another state, and are homeowners. This year we celebrated by taking a Tuesday off from work, dropping the kids with a friend, and declaring a snow day. I snagged us some tickets from Craigslist and we cruised up to Copper Mountain for our first day on the mountain since before Cooper was born and our first time skiing in Colorado. A great time was had by all. We got the opportunity to feel both young again (freedom!) and old (pretty sore the next day).

Minuses

  • Mediocre snow
  • Ski lifts (Can’t we find a less terrifying way to get to the top?)

Pluses

  • No children
  • Gorgeous spring-like day
  • No children
  • Super hot ski buddy
  • The cat snowsuit (see below)
  • Did I mention, no children?
Ellen patiently waited all day for us to sing "Happy birthday," but blew out the candles before we finished the song.

Miss E Turns Three

This was the first birthday that Ellen anticipated. For weeks she’s been telling us that “Ellen’s birthday is next.” When it comes to planning anything for my kids, I always turn to Pinterest and not in the way you would expect. Pinterest is a great way to visually display options which is perfect for kids who are young or struggle with verbal communication. This year, Ellen chose a Chocolate Covered Strawberry cake (check out the review on our food blog) and a trip to the zoo to see the animals. There’s a gallery below that details the fun we had.

While most of the time she looks like a little pig-pen, she actually really likes dressing up in "prince-ah" (princess) dresses.

Ellen at Three

I'm Three!

Back in September she kept telling everyone she was three (which can be problematic as many places have free stuff for kids under three) and would get really mad when we told her she was two. Now that she’s actually three she tells everyone she’s two.

For some reason, I’ve always dreamed of having a spunky, redheaded girl. (Or a mini me ;) ) At three, Ellen may not be delivering fully on the redhead bit (she’s seeming solidly strawberry blonde at the moment), but she definitely makes up for it in spunk.

Classic Ellen, gloveless in the snow. One day I spent a lot of time bundling her up and 10 seconds out the door her gloves were off. Exasperatedly I asked, "Why did you take your gloves off?" She replied, "I have to get a booger out of my nose."

Classic Ellen, gloveless in the snow. One day I spent a lot of time bundling her up and 10 seconds out the door her gloves were off. Exasperatedly I asked, “Why did you take your gloves off?” She replied, “I have to get a booger out of my nose.”

She runs head first at life with a certain amount of reckless abandon that is sometimes scary. She’ll be in the middle of something and then sporadically decide to change course, literally throwing whatever she was working on aside. One time, Cooper saved her from running in front of a car. Thank goodness she has a big brother.

Bunny Hunt

One day, Ellen announced that she was going to catch a bunny. She charged into the yard wielding a plastic golf club and yelling, “Bunny! Come here bunny!” Shockingly, she didn’t catch one.

She provides the best comical relief though. Whether that’s hunting bunnies, announcing she “has a mullet in [her] hair” or bringing me her pom-poms and telling me she needs to “Shake it off.”

Fashionista

One of her favorite outfits. We may never get rid of that binky. It would jus be too traumatic. For everyone.

She’s developed a lot of opinions about fashion, which makes dressing her quite interesting. If it’s comfortable and involves some sort of animal she’s generally pleased, but if an outfit doesn’t meet her satisfaction she’ll refuse to wear it. Sometimes when I find awesome deals on clothes for her, she’ll adamantly tell me to “put it back” when it’s something she doesn’t like.

While most of the time she looks like a little pig-pen, she actually really likes dressing up in "prince-ah" (princess) dresses.

While most of the time she looks like a little pig-pen or a homeless urchin, she actually really likes dressing up in “prince-ah” (princess) dresses.

However, if it’s something she does like she’ll gush “I love it. I love it mom!” Now if only her hair would grow so people would stop telling me I have such “handsome boys.” (And yes, they tell me this even when she’s decked out in pink.)

Ellen in the Hoberman sphere.

Ellen in the Hoberman sphere.

If I mindlessly turn off the car and begin unloading when there was a song on the radio that she likes, she’ll insist I pull it up on the computer when we get inside so she can listen to the whole thing.

Possessively loving some Christmas presents.

Possessively loving some Christmas presents.

If you haven’t picked up on it, she’s incredibly stubborn and fiercely independent. She never wants help putting clothes on, brushing her teeth, or really doing much of anything.

What Ellen looks like on a typical day: running around outside, hair unkempt, dirt on her face.

What Ellen looks like on a typical day: running around outside, hair unkempt, dirt on her face.

In the summer she was fairly interested in potty training, but I was too burnt out to earnestly try anything. When I decided I was interested in potty training, she threw tantrums anytime I even mentioned the potty and no amount of bribery (not even ice cream cones or the promise of a pet, yes we are desperate) enticed her in the least bit. Instead she asks for “space diapers” (disposables) and throws fits when I wrestle her into the less absorbent, bulkier cloth diapers. I’m a little perplexed as to what to try next, especially since she has taken to changing her own diapers which isn’t as helpful as it might sound. (Think: poop everywhere.)

Scripture Power

When church was cancelled because of heavy snow, both Cooper and Ellen made sure we acted like it was still Sunday and repeatedly brought us their picture scriptures.

Despite her fiery personality, she has an incredibly sweet side. She gives the best hugs and is quick to say “I love you.” When Cooper was too scared to sing a musical number with all the other kids in church and was clearly upset, Ellen gave him a hug and said “It’s okay, Cooper.” On more than one occasion she’s brought me different church books and will quietly listen for long periods of time (which is amazing behavior for her) while I tell her about Jesus, the temple, or other church topics. One day when I was telling her all the places we were going to go for errands, she paused and said, “How about the temple?” She has a pure spirit and I’m grateful for her reminders of what’s most important.

Meeting our friend's bunny. (She was asked to leave her golf club at home)

Meeting our friend’s bunny. (She was asked to leave her golf club at home.)

She still loves animals whether they’re wild, pets, or the stuffed animals she drags around the house. Because she’s so charming (and because of the pet-potty-training-desperation bribe) we’re afraid she’ll talk us into getting one some day. Puppies are still her favorite, but I’m trying to brainwash her into wanting a cat (less maintenance). In a way, she’s a lot like a puppy. She’s adorable and affectionate, but if left unattended for more than 10 minutes she can destroy an entire room. (If you’re lucky she might even pee on something.)

Fascinated by an aquarium at the Museum of Nature and Science.

Fascinated by an aquarium at the Museum of Nature and Science.

Despite being an absolute handful, we are glad to have her spicing up our life. We love you miss E!

Miss Pigpen

He's going the distance. He's going for speed.

Snow Days

The weather here in January and early February was nice, but it was also a little eerie. As much as I love 70 degree days and seeing my tulips poke their heads up, it makes me feel uneasy when those things happen in the dead of “winter.” So, even though I am not particularly a fan of cold and snow, when winter finally decided to hit in earnest I was honestly a little relieved. We had so much snow the last week of February (enough to break a 100-year-old record) that things were being cancelled right and left. Work, scouts, school, dentist appointments, and even church. It was like every little kid’s dream. (Except for all the snow shoveling, that part never makes it into anyone’s fantasies.) While I’ve done my best to embrace all of the snow (and frequently reminded myself that “hey, at least we aren’t in Boston”), I’m very excited to have a bit of a reprieve with sunny days in our forecast. Here’s to hoping the two feet of snow didn’t kill all of the emerging tulips.

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First Date All Over Again

Cooper was 9 months old the first time we left him with someone other than family. (And since we didn’t live close to family it was pretty much the second time we’d ever left him.) Even though we’ve been blessed with awesome friends who have made it possible for us to get away now and again for special occasions, necessary life events (classes, ER visits, birth of another child, etc), and the occasional trip to the temple, dating has been a little scarce for our tastes. Despite loving each other immensely, we felt our marriage had been dulled in some way. When a friend kindly watched our kids for our anniversary last year we excitedly went to dinner, but spent the entire dinner talking about Cooper’s ASD diagnosis. Then when the meal was over, we literally couldn’t think of anything to do, got into a bit of a spat, and returned home with a proverbial cloud over our heads. The experience concerned us (especially with the 80% divorce rate, myth or not, of parents of a kid on the spectrum being thrown around) and has since been a topic of discussion as we’ve tried harder to make our marriage a top priority. This last month the biggest step in this effort happened: we hired our first ever babysitter.

For the past few years I’ve been eyeing the young ladies in our ward and finally felt comfortable asking one of them to watch our kids for an evening. It was like going on a first date all over again, I was nervous and excited, but for a totally different reason. A few hours before our departure, I told the kids who was coming to babysit and they pulled out some of their favorite books in anticipation. Despite their enthusiasm, I was worried her arrival might be a let down and repeatedly reminded them that a girl, not a pig, would be coming over. The moment finally came that Noel and I walked out the door. We got burgers and went to the Colorado Environmental Film Festival where we enjoyed becoming more educated about dams and Colorado forest fires.

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We were relieved to come home to a house that was still standing, kids sleeping in their beds, and a babysitter who claimed to “love [our] kids.” We’ve decided to make a monthly date night a time and budget priority. It feels like we’re entering a whole new stage of life in a way and it’s quite exciting!

Scubadivers

Recovery Weekend

I’m sure most people feel the same way, but we don’t take it slow very often. Most days, life is like a treadmill set one notch higher than a pace I’m comfortable with. Just like in training, pushing yourself can be empowering, make you stronger, and help you reach your goals faster, but it also can lead to serious injury or burnout, which is why rest is so crucial. This weekend was a much needed recovery weekend.

Discovery ZoneWe decided to make Valentine’s a family affair and used some free tickets Noel got from a co-worker to go the Museum of Nature and Science.

Water works

Masterbuilder

The kids especially enjoyed the hands-on exhibits. It was really nice to let them be so creative in an environment that didn’t involve me wiping up puddles. After wearing ourselves out at the museum we thought we’d try out a well rated hipster pizza place, but despite having open tables, they told us the wait was an hour and a half. As tempting as it was to hang out with guys with waxed mustaches and girls with androgynous haircuts while our two hungry children melted down, we decided to head back to Golden and hit up Woody’s pizza buffet. The kids were clearly starving because they each ate three pieces of pizza without any prodding from us. Generally, it’s a battle to get them to finish anything, even good pizza.

Sole Mates

For the romantic aspect of Valentine’s, Noel and I bought each other running shoes. (We’re totally sole mates.) Then to negate all the calories burned from working out, we made raspberry cobbler with dark chocolate biscuits after the kids were in bed. Sunday was pretty typical other than all evening church activities were cancelled due to a snowstorm that was moving in.

Put some muscle into it!

Just a tasteMonday, we woke up to several inches on the ground and it was still coming down. We were grateful that we didn’t really have anywhere to go. We played in the snow, built a snowman, and had a snowball fight.

Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?Then we warmed up by snuggling and watching The Lego movie and eating posole. Yes, EVERYTHING WAS AWESOME!

Bedtime Story

Things were going so well that we weren’t totally distressed when the kids went to bed 30 minutes later than they should have. (In case you don’t know, 30 kidless minutes is more valuable than gold.) After enjoying the slow life and sleeping in till 7am three days in a row, heading back into a new week didn’t seem quite so ominous.

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Ode to the Honda

The kids practicing their driving.

The kids practicing their driving.

If Noel hadn’t caught the front bumper of the Honda on the fence of our apartment complex, our first date might not have ever happened. Because if he hadn’t been out in the parking lot that April afternoon trying to fix it, I might not have had the opportunity to flirt with him and he probably wouldn’t have asked me if I was doing anything that night and we never would have gone out to dinner. That’s how integral the Honda has been in our lives.

A rose hitching a ride back to Logan, UT following our "babymoon" to Monterey, CA.

A rose hitching a ride back to Logan, UT following our “babymoon” to Monterey, CA.

When we bought our Volkswagen a year ago, the Honda mostly sat out on the curb. When it stopped working in October and we didn’t do anything about it for three months, we realized having two cars definitely isn’t a necessity for us. Then when we had a buyer almost literally fall into our laps who legitimately needed the car and would be able to give it the care it needs in its old age, we knew it was time to say goodbye.

Getaway Car

The Honda spent nine of its twenty years with us. While part of our family, it bore the plates of three states, was the getaway car for our honeymoon, safely carried both our babies home from the hospital, moved us to Colorado, and accompanied us on countless adventures all over Utah, Nevada, California, Arizona, Wyoming, Idaho, and Colorado.

Baby Cooper riding in style.

Baby Cooper riding in style.

The Honda proudly displayed the badges of some of our greatest running accomplishments and quietly bore the shame of being booted, ticketed, high centered, and left running with the keys locked inside. (In case you were wondering ALL of those things happened the year we were dating. Sometimes it seemed there were powerful forces trying to keep us from getting together.)

Running Badges

The Honda proved that we didn’t need a truck and we strapped everything imaginable on it. Mattresses, kayaks, ladders, jogging strollers, buggies, lumber, christmas trees, furniture, and so much more.

Honda

We also tetrised as many things in it as possible. Dining room sets, mulch, plants, rafting gear, and kids to name a few.

Moving to 20th Place

Sure it had it’s quirks (you had to pop the hood and manually turn it from heating to cooling and there were separate keys for the doors and the ignition), but we loved it. Thanks for all the memories Honda!

The day we sold it.

The day we sold it.

Growing Something Beautiful

We recently attended a kindergarten info session. We were in the 5% minority of people in attendance who brought children. As other parents dragged the meeting on past its scheduled end time by interrogating the teachers and asking lengthy questions about the tenure of the faculty and the extracurricular activities available to kindergartners (yes, kindergartners) our children grew restless. When my attempts to occupy Ellen with my phone failed and she announced “I’m not being quiet right now!” in a high pitched voice, I took her to the back of the room. I suddenly felt guilty for bringing my offspring (to a school for children) and suspected there were several people giving me the stink-eye for not leaving our kids home with our nonexistent nanny.  Maybe I’m imagining it, but I feel like other parents watch me a lot. It makes me feel self-conscious about my daughter who doesn’t have an inkling what an inside voice is and my son who is stubbornly particular. But maybe it isn’t just me. Maybe we’re all just watching each other and hoping no one suspects the truth: that most of the time we don’t have a clue what we’re doing.
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For the most part, I avoid anything that might be categorized as parenting advice, mostly for anger management issues, but every once in awhile something makes its way to me. The other day Noel emailed me a link to an article titled “Six Tips on Disciplining Children from an Experienced Teacher,” prefacing it with the remark, “I’m not sure if this is good advice or if it angers me.” Noel is not as well acquainted with the world of parenting articles where there is an overabundance of advice and general judginess and I was curious what had upset him. I clicked through and quickly saw what he meant. The tips were good and made me think of ways I could improve as a parent, but the author’s matter of fact examples of how she implemented them with her Stepford children was maddening. The calm interactions they had that always ended in the kids doing exactly what she wanted were almost incomprehensible to me and probably any other person who’s ever spent anytime with children or teens. Maybe this woman really has the magic touch or her children are genetically engineered, but it just felt like there was something missing or that there was a truth that hadn’t been fully told. 
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Cooper’s preschool sent home a flier for a parenting class put on by a community organization. It had a picture of a boy with crazed eyes riding a Hobby Horse and read, “A Parenting Manual: Because kids don’t come with instructions” and promised that the class would answer your toughest parenting questions. I rolled my eyes and decided it was best I not go and poison all the optimistic parents who were so earnestly looking for the clear cut answers to how to raise children. In the Ted Talk “For Parents Happiness is a High Bar,” Jennifer Senior asks, “Why is it that raising our children is associated with so much anguish and so much confusion? Why is it that we are at sixes and sevens about the one thing human beings have been doing successfully for millennia, long before parenting message boards and peer-reviewed studies came along?”  I think about that sometimes and vow to relax and just parent from the heart, but before the thought is hardly finished my brain starts to panic asking, “What exactly does that mean?” I’m still working on figuring it out, but the words Senior spoke to her son the day he was born have at least given me a mantra I think I can live by. As she held him in her arms for the first time she whispered in his ear, “I will try so hard not to hurt you.”
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I always hesitate to give parenting advice and have no intentions of ever calling myself an expert. When my sister calls me in hopes of gleaning some wisdom from me on how to raise her growing son my heart always breaks because I know I probably don’t have the answers. I hardly know what to do to make her son sleep anymore than I knew how to make my son sleep, so I blather out suggestions of things I tried or read about or heard other people did and then tell her the only thing on the subject I know with certainty, “I know this hard, but you’re doing a good job, really.”
***
One time I was talking to my mom about gardening. My mother is a Master Gardener and I was trying to express to her how unknowledgeable I felt about our yard. “It just feels like this huge experiment,” I said, “I just keep throwing things out there and hoping something works.” I waited, expecting her to give advice about what I should do differently, but instead she simply reassured me, “That’s gardening.” I think parenting is a lot like that; a huge experiment that even the “experts” haven’t completely figured out. We’re all just out there working hard and wiping the sweat off our brows as we tend what’s growing on our plots of land. Despite our best efforts though, there will always be a neighbor that doesn’t like our methods of landscaping and maybe we won’t like theirs, but we can’t let that drag us down because the truth is we’re all just trying our best to make something beautiful.
Our pajamas this year, made by me.

A Merry Christmas Whirlwind

This year Christmas sprawled across two weeks which in some ways was lovely, but in other ways was exhausting. We celebrated Christmas at home on the 20th then travelled to Utah to celebrate Christmas with my family. By the time we made it back to Colorado more gifts had accumulated on our front porch and so we had what felt like third Christmas. Even now that we’re in the first week of January, I keep coming across bits of wrapping paper strewn about the house. It was a jam-packed holiday that we’re still recovering from. I could probably write a book, albeit a boring one to most, about everything we did, but I’ll leave you with the highlights.

Top 10 Worst Moments

10. Ellen spilling multiple times on my parents’ new rugs.
9. Driving to my grandparents’ houses in a snowstorm.
8. Our car not being able to make it up my grandparents’ driveway in a snowstorm because it was so slick.
7. Sharing beds with the kids at a motel in Rawlins, WY.
6. Staying in Rawlins. Even the best rated motel was questionable.
5. Having our trip home delayed by two days due to weather.
4. Driving through 70 mph winds and past an overturned semi to get home.
3. Driving down I-70’s icy roads that frighteningly resembled a luge track in order to get home.
2. Kids getting sick.
1. Cooper vomiting all over the car only an hour into our drive to Utah.

Top 10 Best Moments

10. Waking up in the night to a crying baby and realizing it’s not ours so we can go back to sleep. (Sorry, Hope and Joe!)
9. Family mustache and lipstick kiss pajamas.
8. Ellen being a not so angelic angel for the church nursery nativity.
7. Snuggling baby Porter.
6. Our car starting up when it was time to leave Rawlins even though we’d forgotten to put anti-gel additive in our diesel tank.
5. Beating the storm to get to Utah in time for Christmas.
4. Going on a double date with Hope and Joe while my parents watched all the kids.
3. Visiting with Vanessa Joy and Chris (Noel’s sister and her husband) since our return trip was delayed and they were back in town.
2. Going to the temple and doing proxy baptisms for my great grandparents.
1. Seeing my entire family, including skyping with my brother who is on an LDS mission.
Bonus: Surviving all our travel and making it home in one piece!