He rode his scooter up and down the street until I finally told him it was time to go to school.

First Week of School

Whenever the word “kindergarten” was mentioned over the summer, Cooper would light up and I would try not to hyperventilate. Back in the spring, we met with the special ed team from the preschool and the elementary school to talk about his transition. After the meeting, the two teams collaborated to make him a book that would hopefully help him adjust easier to his new school. I also took Cooper on a tour of the school and then during the summer we read the book and talked often, through nervous smiles, about his new school. I know kindergarten is a hard transition for most parents, but I was especially nervous.

When Cooper was first diagnosed with ASD, I read a lot about how early intervention is so important – that the earlier you start therapy, the better it works. I felt like we were doing just that and for some inexplicable reason I told myself that by the time he reached kindergarten no one would even know the difference between him and the next kid. I don’t know why I choose kindergarten as my “deadline.” I never read anything that indicated this and no therapist ever even close to insinuated it, but for some reason it helped me sleep better at night to tell myself that everything would be “fine” by the time elementary school rolled around. When preschool ended and Cooper was still using a communication book (his teacher would jot notes of what they did that day) to tell me what happened at school and we were adding on more therapies, my heart sunk. It was clear, even to me, that my arbitrary deadline was a farce. Over the summer, we kept up our therapies, played hard, and for the most part I didn’t think about kindergarten (denial), but every now and again it would come up and I’d feel the panic start to rise.

At the school open house, we met Cooper’s teacher for the first time. While we were talking to her, the principal started to talk over the PA system and Cooper began to look around confused and agitated, twisting his ears with his fingers. The teacher got down on one knee and calmly tried to show him where the speaker was in the classroom and explain that it was the voice of the principal. As I watched the two of them, I started to relax a tiny bit. The first day of school the elementary school does a unique thing called “Getting to Know You” where the kinders get to bring their parents to school, the idea being that it eases the transition for everyone. In our case, it really did ease the transition, probably mostly for me. On the first “real” day of school I dropped Cooper off and then nervously waited for the next three hours to pass. When I picked him up he bounded out the door beaming. Then he told me that he went down the slide and across the blue bridge and that they went to the library, but didn’t get any books. He also showed me a picture he drew of the public library. I was speechless. If I added up all the things he voluntarily told me during his two years at preschool it wouldn’t be that much. Later, he also added that his favorite part of kindergarten was the playground, lunch (snack time), and drawing. Also, he felt it was important to tell me that his teacher has two garbage cans. He hasn’t been that talkative every day, and I’m not counting on this year being a cake walk, but he’s progressing and that makes my momma heart over the moon.

Two little monkeys sitting in a tree.

As Summer Draws to an End

Joy is measured through that we touch daily.
golden light stripes the wall in morning
as apparition appearing
(though no false god this!)
to silently nudge slumber with a most gentle alarm of holiday dream.
was it a dream? — no matter.
to heat, to water!
to the green depths of lake that curtain summer stage.
a dive, then first breath, the slow blurring of edges,
the lack of form between things.
soon a plot unfolds.
cloud and shadow scheme,
draw plans on distant hills
while breeze, waiting in the wing,
rehearse with wave their entrance and exit,
the tricky part,
all the while whistling vaguely
in the manner of summer.
ah yes, summer.
the season meant to remind,
in the final act and measure,
that a clarity lies just out of sight
(on the lakebed perhaps)
awaiting the memory of future days.
– Ken Blackburn

Every time I ask a mom of older kids if they’re ready for school to start they emphatically answer, “Yes!!” Maybe it’s because this is the big year when Cooper’s life becomes ruled by the school system and it feels like some carefree chapter of his boyhood is being closed, but I’m not so sure I’m ready for school to start. This summer slipped through my fingers like sand and the harder I tried to hold onto it the faster it went. Even though it’s over sooner than I’d like, it was one of those wonderful memory building summers. Here are some pictures from the smaller moments of summer that didn’t get their own blog post.

Kids having a Walden moment on our weekend trip to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Personal Best

In high school I could run a sub six minute mile. In college, I ran two Boston qualifying marathons.* I have a box in my basement full of ribbons, medals, and trophies, but as proud as I am of those accomplishments, the miles I’m proudest of these days are much slower. They’re long lasting miles fueled by patience and full of silliness, lack of focus, and creative endeavors at motivation. They’re the miles I do with my children. These miles require calculated self-control to keep my temper in check when Ellen stops to inspect the millionth rock and an endless resilience against discouragement as senior citizens with trekking poles pass us. In some ways, running fast was easier; holding back can be so much harder than giving it all you’ve got. These miles aren’t always as instantly gratifying. There aren’t any finishing medals or prize drawings at the end. But in the midst of the trudge Cooper will announce “I like hiking!” or Ellen will engage in the most ridiculously hilarious conversation about chipmunks and I’ll get a little taste of parenting flow. When we arrive at our destination and realize that our kids are the youngest to get there on their own two feet I can’t help but puff up with pride. These aren’t even close to being my fastest personal records, but they may be some of my most important ones.

*For the record, current me is slightly flabbergasted by and jealous of those PRs.

P7040024

First Fireworks Show

Cooper excitedly waiting for the fireworks.

Cooper excitedly waiting for the fireworks.

There has been a dearth of fireworks in our lives since having kids. Something has always prevented us from venturing out with our kids to one of the big shows on the 4th of July (rain, fire bans, a deep love for bedtime, etc). We decided this year was the year we finally introduced our children to the great American tradition of pyrotechnics. (Technically, we did take Cooper to see an impressive Cherry Blossom festival fireworks show on the Mall during our month in Washington DC, but he doesn’t remember that and we were also somewhat far away.) Every year the fancy golf course excuse me, country club in the neighborhood has a fireworks display for their members. The great thing about fireworks though, is it’s hard to keep them private. Our church building happens to be right across the street from the course which made for a perfect viewing area.

Ellen running SO fast.

Ellen running SO fast.

The kids were so excited, talking non-stop about the fireworks as we set up our chairs. Ellen carried on long conversations with perfect strangers and Cooper snarfed all of his friend’s popcorn. It was a fairly windy night so they kept sending up test fireworks with 10-15 minute waits in between. We were starting to wonder if they were going to just cancel the entire show when they lit up a ton of fireworks. (I think they accelerated the show to try and get as much lit as they could during a calm stretch.) We’d tried to prep the kids for what the fireworks would be like (telling them they’d be loud, showing them youtube videos of fireworks), but when the real thing happened they were terrified. Ellen buried her head into Noel’s shoulder and I literally thought Cooper might break me in half with how tight his thighs were squeezing me. We tried to calm them down, but Cooper was especially frantic and we ended up taking both kids to the car. Once they were safe in their carseats they actually didn’t mind the fireworks as much. Introducing them to fireworks in a slightly more low-key environment was a good move with our sensitive kids. I’m just glad we didn’t take them to the city fireworks were there would have been a lot more people and our car would have been much farther away.

More ladder climbs at Cave Springs.

Chutes & Ladders: An Epic Road Trip

When we initially planned this trip months ago, it started out as just a little family road trip, but then more and more fun things came up that got added on. I usually like to come up with a story to share or a thread to follow when talking about our adventures, but there is so much I want to share about the last two weeks. Forgive me for this being a little bit journal-y. I’ve highlighted each day with just one picture, but there’s a big gallery at the end if you’re interested in more. 

 

Foil DinnerDay One – Telluride, CO

Our big summer trip began on Father’s Day. We went to church before heading out and Cooper gave Noel the best gift: joining all the kids when they sang a medley of songs about dads. Previously, whenever the kids sing special numbers in church, no matter how much we’ve tried to prep him for it, Cooper would get really tense, refuse to go up on the stage with the other kids, and then burrow his head in the pew the rest of the meeting. This time he went right up with the other kids without a problem. Noel and I both had tears in our eyes to see him take such a big step. The rest of the day was spent driving to Telluride and setting up camp. We had extra fancy tinfoil dinners with fish and asparagus and chocolate cherry cobbler for dessert.

GondolasDay Two – Telluride, CO

We had really high expectations for Telluride, maybe too high. The town was really cute, but most of the really cool hikes were beyond the capabilities of some of our crew members. There was a 1/4 mile hike to a waterfall that was recommended as “family friendly” by someone at an info kiosk, but what the hike lacked in distance it made up for in washed out trails with steep slopes. After almost tumbling to our death a couple of times, we turned around. There also seemed to be a bit of a lack of signage in the town, but thanks to our data plans we were able to figure things out like the location of Carhenge (the giant free parking lot). The highlight of Telluride was the free gondola rides and eating Detroit Style Pizza at Brown Dog. (Our neighbor is a co-owner of Blue Pan, the sister restaurant to Brown Dog that just opened here in Denver.) We’ll probably visit Telluride again, but maybe when the kids are able to hike 5+ miles of difficult terrain.

Mesa VerdeDay Three – Mesa Verde, CO

After packing up in Telluride, we headed straight to Mesa Verde National Park. We got to explore two cliff dwellings (Spruce Tree House on a hike and Cliff Palace on a tour). The cliff dwellings were probably the coolest thing we saw on our trip. Our tour of Cliff Palace  ended up being at 5pm, which wasn’t ideal, but despite the heat and it being the time of day the kids really start to be monsters everyone did really well. When we went to purchase our tour tickets the Ranger asked if we thought our kids could climb 10 foot tall ladders. We did our best not to laugh. (The tours are pretty inexpensive by the way, $4/person, and totally worth it.)

Natural Bridges

Day Four – Natural Bridges, UT

We crossed into Utah and headed to Natural Bridges National Monument. The kids were hot and tired so when we first started out on a hike to Sipapu Bridge everyone was super ornery, but once we got through the first three minutes of whining the kids gave up and decided to enjoy themselves. The trail is slightly technical (it’s steep and you climb three ladders) which was a little scary, but I think made it more exciting for the kids. A lot of the trail was in the shade which was also nice. Ellen hit another meltdown when we got back to the car (she was a wee bit sleep deprived since she was now only sleeping when the sun was down) so we just did overlooks for the rest of the trip. That night we stayed in some quirky cabins in Blanding, UT. It was a nice change of pace to sleep in a bed and have our own bathroom for a night.

Cave Spring Petroglyphs

Day Five – Canyonlands, Needles District

The last time we went to Canyonlands we took the kids to the Island in the Sky District, so this time we went to the Needles District. We hit up Newspaper rock and then headed into the park. Once again, Ellen was super ornery. She yelled and cried the whole .3 miles of the Roadside Ruin trail. (All the childless people were running the opposite direction). We let her take a nap in the car while we drove the loop to look at some of the landscape and then hiked Cave Springs. The caves were a nice respite from the heat, but we didn’t stay there too long because apparently Cooper hates caves. After having a nice picnic lunch, we headed into Moab to do some much needed laundry and grocery shopping. Somehow, we weren’t the stinkiest people at the laundromat.

Shoot the Chutes

Day Six – Moab, UT

The main reason we were in Moab was for a big “Dirty Thirty” bash/cousin reunion with Noel’s side of the family. Overnight a couple of siblings and cousins had arrived, so we all went to breakfast at Jailhouse Cafe. After that, we planned to hike Delicate Arch with the kids, but some plans got changed around and Ellen fell off a picnic table and cut her head. Instead, we hung out at the campsite doctoring her and monitoring her for signs of concussion. While we were doing this, Cooper was messing around in the car, fell out of the trunk and hit his head and got a nasty goose-egg. (Note: We did a lot of semi-dangerous stuff on this trip and hanging out at the campsite is when people got injured.) Morale was low; we were all very hot and annoyed. Everyone else had spent the morning at Mill Creek (or the shoot the chutes as my dad calls them) and we were a little jealous, so after some lunch we headed there ourselves. It was so hot that everyone ended up joining us even though they’d already been there. While we were all sliding down the “natural waterslides” Noel said, “If I were to name this trip I’d call it ‘Chutes and Ladders.'”That night even more family arrived and we had a big dutch oven dinner and Dirty Thirty Mud Cake (AKA Mississippi Mud Cake).

P6270484

Day Seven – Moab, UT

Once upon a time, a few of the members in our group used to be river guides in Moab and the main reason we’d met up there was so we could all go down the Colorado River. When we went to pick up our boats, the rental company freaked us out about taking the kids down the section of the river we were planning on (the river is really high and fast right now) so our trusty guides refigured the trip so we’d be on a safer part. The part we rafted was so safe it was almost boring. We hopped out halfway down so all the kid-less people could enjoy the exciting stuff (also we had some more traveling to do). We think the rental company may have been a little overly cautious in their recommendations, but better safe than sorry. And really, it was pretty daring of us to take our little people rafting at all. After we had an interesting lunch of mexicones (see the gallery at the end of this post) we hugged everyone and headed to Northern Utah.

Lounging

Day Eight- Brigham City, UT

The main purpose of the trip to my hometown was to hear the address my brother, Spencer, gave about the two-year-mission he just served for our church in Oregon and my brother, Mitchell, give an address about the two-year-mission he’s about to serve for our church in Belgium and the Netherlands. (As well as spend some quality time with family while we’re all in the same country.) Both brothers gave mature and touching addresses that were followed by a big lunch party at my parents house. We enjoyed multiple flavors of cheesecake and chatting with old and new friends.

2015-07-01 12.55.02

Day Nine – Northern Utah

I took Noel to the airport so he could get back to work then spent the day with my sister and her toddler (what?!). We did super fancy things like shop at Target and the DI and chat with my sister-in-law, Danielle, before she flew back East. That evening I swung by my grandparents to say hello and pick up my brother, Spencer, who had helped them make it to a doctor’s appointment. The kids stayed with my parents and a had a grand time with Grandma Cindy and Grandpa Wayne. Cooper drew the picture above while I was gone. It’s Sully and Mike from Monster’s Inc. For the longest time drawing has been such a frustration to him. The only thing he would draw was the same stick figure. (I literally have 100 of them from preschool.) When he’d try to draw anything else he’d get mad that he couldn’t draw what he wanted and would yell and surround himself with piles of crumpled starts of drawings. In the last few weeks he’s suddenly blossomed in this area.

2015-06-30 20.49.09-1

Day Ten – Brigham City, UT

During the day, my dad rigged up a waterslide in the backyard. It was pretty warm so we all joined in the fun. That night  we went to the Brigham City LDS temple with all of my siblings, this was one of the things I was really looking forward to. What made it even more special is that we (along with my parents, aunts, uncle, and grandfather) were able to perform some temple sealings for my grandmother, her parents, and many other ancestors. Getting all the paperwork and foundational ordinances completed is something several of us had been working on for months, so this was a much anticipated trip. Sometimes it’s hard to explain how we “do work for the dead,” but it’s one of my favorite parts about our church – that even after death God still gives you a chance.

P7010672

Day Eleven – Promontory, UT

On our last day, we took the kids to see some of the most notable sites near my hometown. First was the Golden Spike National Monument. The rangers there were super nice. Noel flew home with our parks pass and they kindly let me in with a scanned copy of it and my name in my checkbook since I’d left my ID at my parents’ house. (I looked super together.) Though Cooper loves trains, he was really rattled by the loud sounds the trains made during the demonstration. Both he and Ellen tried to climb my legs like a monkey climbs a tree. After a picnic, we headed out to the Spiral Jetty. I’ve only been to the jetty a handful of times, but it’s always different which is part of the allure of this earthwork. The jetty always reminds me of this braided essay I wrote in college, which in turn always gets me thinking about how I should write more.

2015-07-02 18.48.40

Day Twelve – UT/WY/CO

After eleven days of fun, it was time to head home. This was the first time I’d made the trip by myself. For the most part it wasn’t too bad, but we did have several emergency potty stops, a close encounter with several busloads of pioneer trek reenactors, and the privilege of driving through a terrifying hail storm followed by a torrential downpour. (Driver of the car in front of me that drove slowly and confidently with your hazards on, I wish I could hug you for being my anchor through the storm!) When we finally arrived home we were happy to have all our traveling behind us, but sad to no longer be on vacation.

 

 

Ellen the underwear model.

Goodbye Diapers!

Potty training ranks pretty high up on my worst things about being a parent list. Potty training Cooper was a long process that had it’s own set of challenges and by the time we finally got things acceptably under control I was completely and utterly exhausted on the potty training front. Everyone told me girls are so much easier to potty train and several of my friends have little girls that are potty training prodigies so I was really, really hopeful. But alas, the stereotype did not hold true for us. Ellen did not self potty train at 18 months nor did she take to it naturally. Instead we found ourselves with an over three-year-old who seemed she might be in diapers forever. Last summer she expressed some interest in the subject, but anytime I tried to implement any sort of method she’d retreat or worse, fight back. I did my best to play it cool, but we were getting to a point where anytime the word potty was even mentioned in her general vicinity, she would fly into a fit of rage. She expressed absolutely no remorse when she urinated on the floor and no amount of sticker charts or bribery could sway her. We even said we would buy her a cat and while she talked endlessly about how she was going to get one, she seemed unmotivated to actually earn one. I’d pretty much given up, but kept trudging on through the screaming, the puddles, and the heaps of dirty laundry.

Ellen the underwear model.

Ellen the underwear model.

I’ve sort of grown accustomed to slogging through my parenting journey. Rarely do I get sudden flashes of inspiration on how to get my kids to sleep or eat or behave. It isn’t that there hasn’t been miracles, but they’re the slow, almost imperceptible kind. After months of trying to be optimistically patient and tapping everyone under the sun for advice, I finally surrendered myself to the slog of potty training, and stopped thinking about how many weeks or months or years we had left to go. Then last Monday happened. Ellen woke up and when I asked her to go potty she went to the bathroom without a shred of protest. I was flabbergasted to say the least. Nothing had changed in our approach; I was sure it was a fluke. A few hours later, I cautiously asked her if she needed to go potty. I braced myself for her usual tirade, so when she cheerily ran off to the bathroom I had to pinch myself. Then, later that afternoon she found me and said she needed to “poop in the potty” – something she had previously told me, in so many words, would only happen over her dead body. I tried not to get too excited about it as surely she was playing some sort of practical joke (she can be conniving like that), but it has now been more than a week and she has only had one accident! (We’re not counting nights yet, although she has been dry 6 out of 8.) I have no idea what spurred her sudden change of heart and I’m fully aware that she could regress, but I am just so happy for this bit of divine intervention that put a bit of spring back in my parenting step. I literally have thanked God every night for the last week. After five whole years (six years and eight months if you add up the time each of the kids individually spent in diapers) I’m finally able to put my hardworking cloth diapers away.* Hallelujah!

My two big kids taking the horses at the grocery store for a spin.

My two big kids taking the horses at the grocery store for a spin.

*In case you were wondering, according to my calculations I saved anywhere between $2,500-$4,500 on diapers depending on which brand you look at and saved around 17,000 diapers from ending up in the landfill.

Cooper Scissorhands

Ellen’s First Bad Haircut

StylistIt was bound to happen eventually. Cutting another child’s hair (or your own) seems to be a kid rite of passage. I blame the preschool for having that beauty salon center that Cooper took such an interest in. The real shocker here though, is that she let him do it. When I passed through the kitchen with the laundry basket and saw Cooper combing Ellen’s hair, I stopped in my tracks. Combing Ellen’s hair is always a decision I weigh carefully. Is freshly shampooed good enough for Sunday Best? Does her hair have few enough rat’s nests that no one will call child protective services in concern of negligent parenting? Whenever I attempt to comb her hair she simultaneously screams, writhes, and swats at me, but there she was sitting perfectly still while her brother gently combed her hair. What a tender moment, I thought, and snapped a picture before heading on my way.

Cooper Scissorhands

When I made another pass through the kitchen I wasn’t as awed. Panicked, I dropped the laundry basket and snatched the safety scissors out of Cooper’s hands. I almost cried looking at the precious locks spread woefully across the kitchen floor. I don’t particularly think of myself as being any more vain than the next person, but hair is definitely my weak spot.

Tiny French Braid

Neither of my kids were blessed with lush heads of hair. Cooper was practically bald until he was two and Ellen wasn’t much better off. I’ve had to be patient in the hair department and had finally arrived at the point where I could do things with her hair, even if they only lasted a few minutes.

Cropped

Ellen on the other hand, has no sense of vanity and felt absolutely no mortification. I got out the scissors, did a little snipping to blend in the two cropped spots, and trimmed up the back so it wouldn’t look so freakishly long in comparison. It will be awhile before I get to reattempt any cute hairdos, but it really is just hair. And as a bonus, I’m already used to people telling me I have such handsome boys . . .

"New" guest room.

The Unscheduled Basement Remodel

The day my parents came to visit, I noticed a smell in the basement when I was exercising. At first I couldn’t figure out what was causing the smell. The carpet didn’t feel wet so I opened windows and sprinkled baking soda over the carpet hoping it was just normal basement funk. Later that evening after vacuuming, it still smelled and I asked Noel for a second opinion. He agreed it smelled weird, but also couldn’t detect any wetness in the TV room. He proceeded into the guest bedroom and moved the table that sits under the window. When we saw that the spot the table legs had rested on was damp and moldy our hearts sank. We pulled back the carpet and discovered it had traveled the length of that room, under the wall and into the TV room. The carpet padding (most of it replaced from our 2013 trip to Funky Town) had done a really good job of soaking up the moisture which is why the problem was not immediately obvious. Since we had guests arriving within hours we did what damage control we could and then let the rooms sit torn apart for several days. Leaving the room for awhile actually turned out to be a good thing. The next week was another heavy rain week and we were able to figure out exactly how water was getting into the basement. Honestly, we feel a little bit stupid about the whole thing. As it turns out, the dirt in front of our house isn’t graded terribly well. That in itself is a problem, but we had also dug up some sprinkler lines in preparation for a sprinkler reconfiguration project and piled a bunch of dirt close to the house. The pile was perfectly positioned so that water from an insufficient downspout would hit it, head back towards the house and flood the window well. We were getting so much rain that the water was rising above the windowsills and leaking into the house.The very first thing we did was buy a downspout extender, move the pile of dirt, and regrade the dirt in front of the house. Yet another crazy downpour happened a few days later and the guest bedroom’s window well stayed nice and dry; the water didn’t even come near it. (The window well outside my sewing room, the other room that flooded in 2013, didn’t stay nice and dry, but I was vigilant and spent a clothes drenching 30 minutes bailing it out and digging trenches with my brother. We may have been soaked, but the sewing room stayed nice and dry.) 

The water path.

The wall all patched. My only regret was not taking a photo of the huge bubbles that bulged in the paint during our period of observation.

Once the mitigation had been taken care of, we turned to the damage itself. Even though we feel a bit sheepish about the whole thing, we’re pretty sure this has been happening for years and long before we were the homeowners since there were a few areas in the basement that had been touched up with bad paint color matches that align perfectly with the path of the water damage.

Goodbye Wood Paneling!As we inspected the damage, we became worried about the bottom of the wall that bordered the guest room and the TV room. Even though we didn’t really want to, we felt like we needed to pull the wood paneling off the wall in the TV room to check on the sheet rock. It added a lot more work, but we’re glad we did as the bottom of the wall was pretty saturated and not in great shape.

Cut out the damage. We opted to just cut out the bottom of the wall and replace it instead of replacing the whole wall. It did leave a detectable seam, but because one side was in a closet and the other is behind the treadmill we decided it was okay, at least for now.

Stretch that carpet.Once we’d taken care of all the structural stuff we started on the cosmetics. My brother and I laid the new carpet padding and then he and Noel re-stretched the carpet. (The carpet didn’t get too wet and dried out decently, so we didn’t feel an urgent need to replace it.) Luckily, Noel has a co-worker who is a slum landlord and let us borrow his carpet stretcher so we were able to save a little bit of money from bleeding out of our emergency fund.

PrimingThe final step of this project was painting. We considered paint matching the room for a minute, but ultimately decided to repaint it in a lighter color. (The subpar paint job and the nice touch the previous owners had added of painting over the outlet covers was also motivation.) We’ve lived in our house for four years now and this was the first room that we’ve painted. We were really impressed with Lowe’s paint matching technology to get us a color that matched the walls in the TV room, but were not as impressed with our paint matching ability when we tried to match the white trim with some cans of paint we inherited with the house. We tried every white and would think we had a match, but by the time the paint dried it was obvious the paint wasn’t actually a match. In the end, I just repainted all of the trim.

TV Room

The wall in the TV room post “remodel.”

"New" guest room.

Finished guest room.

Everything is put back together and functional again.The carpet has also been cleaned thanks to a friend who let me borrow her steam cleaner. We had everything up and ready for business by the time Vanessa Joy and Chris (Noel’s sister and her husband) came to visit over the Memorial Day weekend. You can see some “before” pics from this post, although I wish I had more that showed you all of the little details we upgraded like getting a cover for the cable wire that used to just snake into the room or installing curtain rods instead of literally stringing the curtains up with push pins. And please do laugh at the lawn chairs in the old basement tour, I did. In case you were wondering, we now have a real couch (secondhand of course) down there.

The aftermath of that storm. This one had Mitchell and I bailing out the window well of my sewing room. Thankfully nothing penetrated the house.

Please Don’t Take My Sunshine Away

This last month has been a time of almost constant rain. A desert girl at heart, I generally love rain. Growing up rain was novel and needed; any time it happened was a time to rejoice. At first I did just that. I reveled in the smell of rain and introduced my children to the beautiful sport of puddle jumping. As the weeks went on though, the skies grew darker, the sunny days turned into moments, the basement flooded, my four-year-old Target rain boots failed the waterproof test, and we floundered to know what to do indoors with a string of visitors. Every morning Noel and I would wake up, look out the window and beg the skies to “STOP raining!” Then we’d check the forecast and try not to cry when rain clouds paraded into the foreseeable future. We trudged on, checking the basement window wells to make sure they were dry, subduing our fears of dying in a hydroplaning car accident (maybe that was just me), watching the hourly forecast for an opportunity to dash out and mow the two foot tall lawn, and taking turns slogging through the rain on miserable runs that did little to rejuvenate the soul.

I generally consider myself to be slightly on the optimistic side of realistic, but I was beginning to feel genuinely blue. After a solid week of scattered showers with the occasional torrential downpour to spice things up, a literal ray of sunshine peaked out from behind the clouds. The kids ran outside to play and Noel and I sat in lawn chairs on the porch soaking up the sun Wall-E style. The sun only stayed for a half hour that evening and it would be a couple more days before the sun came out like that again, but it was enough to remind me that life wasn’t so bad and the skies won’t always be gray. The rain has finally eased up. The trails are passable enough for morning runs and we’re able to work in the yard without sinking into a mud bog. Despite what an unhappy month it was for me, I really am grateful for the rain – for how green it has made everything and for how much more I appreciate the sunshine.

This should be our purpose—to persevere and endure . . . as we make our way through sunshine and sorrow. Were it not for challenges to overcome and problems to solve, we would remain much as we are, with little or no progress.

– Thomas S. Monson “I Will Not Fail Thee, Nor Forsake Thee

Also, I have decided a move to Seattle might not be in my best interest. For those that were missing us, here is a gallery of photos that should catch you up on all our adventures this last month.

 

Chocolate with sprinkles!

Golden Birthday

I get pretty excited about birthdays, but especially excited about birthdays with special dates like a golden birthday or the time Noel had a birthday on 12/12/12. Needless to say, I’ve been looking forward to Cooper’s fifth day, probably since the day he was born. This is also the first year that Cooper has anticipated his birthday. Ever since Ellen’s birthday whenever the subject of birthdays comes up he would tell us, “My birthday’s next!” The Sunday before his birthday they sang to him at church and gave him a little gift. When we picked him up he beamed, held up all five fingers, and whispered “I’m five!” When I broke the news to him that it wasn’t actually his birthday he was pretty upset, but then when I showed him the calendar and talked about the next couple of days of birthday fun he brightened up.

P5040052
About a year ago I learned that the fire stations in our district do free tours if scheduled four weeks in advance and I put a reminder on my calendar to call and schedule the tour a month before Cooper’s birthday. Once the date was set I prayed there wouldn’t be a fire since fires would take precedence over the tour. (Then I felt bad and prayed no one would have to be involved with a fire as it seemed less selfish . . . ) We invited a handful of friends from church and preschool and started the party at the fire station. The firefighter that led our tour was really great with the kids. We had one of those small world moments when he noticed Cooper was wearing a CTR ring and told us that he too was LDS and used to attend meetings at our building when he lived in the area. After the boys had their fill of hoses and trucks, we headed back to our place for lunch. I let Cooper choose the menu and we ended up having Mac n’ Cheese and Churro Cupcakes.

The day after the party was Cooper’s actual birthday.

CincoHe woke up early and perched on top of the couch grinning over his presents, waiting for Noel to get back from a run so he could open them. Our schedule was pretty normal (school and speech therapy), but he was excited to take fruit kabobs to school, show off some of his new toys to his therapist, and have a “special” lunch at Costco.

That night we finished our fiesta with fish tacos and chocolate tres leches cake. I thought for sure he’d be completely worn out from all the excitement, but about an hour after bedtime I heard Woody announce, “There’s a snake in my boots!” and went into his room to find him huddled under the covers with several of his new toys.

Tres LechesBecause we hadn’t done enough celebrating, I took him to the zoo the next day where he got his free birthday ice cream cone and ride on the carousel. I was kind of glad when the birthday celebrations were finally over, but I really did love what a kick Cooper got out of everything. Even though mothering him sometimes stresses me out or makes me emotional, I’m truly blessed to be his mother.