Monday, April 29, 2013

April Fool

April Fools day fell during spring break.  It was a glorious day where we didn't have to get up early.  So I stayed in bed.  I could hear the children moving around, but since no one was screaming, I stayed put.  Then I heard whispers and movement outside my door.  Obviously, my children were up to something.  But again, since there was no screaming and it sounded like they were all actually cooperating and getting along, I didn't want to do anything to spoil it.  Like, say, get out of bed and open my bedroom door.  So I lounged some more.
Of course, I didn't remember it was April Fool's day.  So when I finally decided I better call out to let them know I was awake and would be emerging from my room momentarily, I was totally surprised by what I encountered.
A booby-trapped door which made the closet door swing towards me and block the way when I tried to open my bedroom door.  I managed to maneuver through that difficulty to the sound of my children's muffled laughter.  Then I had to navigate the blanket blockades.
And came face to face with the camera lady.  Ugh!  Didn't she know that had just rolled out of bed?
Then, I was shot by my son.  With a nerf gun.  But the bullets were caught by some plastic wrap that had been taped across the hallway.  Phew!  That was close.  I was almost a goner.
The peanut gallery was cheering me on.
Those blankets were supposed to act as a barricade to keep them out of the way.  But B doesn't follow instructions very well and her big sis followed her example of sitting on top of the barricade instead of behind it.
Which made me feel rather nervous since the stair case is just behind them.  Needless to say, the peanut gallery didn't last very long.
These were the three masterminds.  Apparently they'd been plotting this for a few days.  Good thing they are so well supervised in this house that nothing escapes the notice of their very attentive guardians.
Or not.  I seriously knew nothing about this.  It was a complete surprise.  I was a total April Fool.
Which was quite delightful to this girl.  This is what the hallway looked like from the other side.
They even set up a corner with my transformed children.  The kids dressed various stuffed animals in their clothing next to a note from Muriel Taggart, the bad witch from Fablehaven.
And my sweet, creative kids even made me lunch.  Though I had a hard time sorting out which was real food and which was plastic.  Pretty good look-alikes, aren't they?
Good job, guys.  You got me.  That was some great teamwork put to good use.
And just in case I didn't say it loudly enough before, I AM AN APRIL FOOL!

Yeah, But You're An Adult

My girls are growing up.  They're passing milestone after milestone which is sadly not being documented properly by their overwhelmed mother.  Like the rite of passage for so many modern teens and pre-teens: braces.

S had her braces taken off clear back in June, before we left Cali.  Yep, 11 months ago.  I think maybe this sets a record for longest blog delay ever.  Good thing K had her braces taken off 3 months ago to help motivate me to get my act together.  Sometimes my motivation is very slow in coming to fruition.

Fortunately, I took some photos here and there during this phase of their coming of age drama.  It was fun to go back and sift through old photos so I could show their toothy progress.
Here's K, pre-braces.  Not too bad, really.  They look mostly straight.  But that's only because she wore a space maintainer for a whole lot of years before she got braces.
 She didn't have room in her mouth for all of her teeth, a flaw definitely passed down from Shaggy.  So she had to have an expander put in along with the braces to expand her palate to make room for all those pearly whites.
 She endured it fairly well, even though it was uncomfortable and made her talk funny.  It was a long few months, but she was a trooper.  Then the expander came out and she was just left with braces.  She did pretty well with them, except when it came to trail mix.  She loves trail mix.  She couldn't resist it.  But gratefully, she only had a couple brackets pop off here and there during her two year stint as a metal mouth.

Here she is a few months ago when the metal came off for good.  Happy smile, slimy teeth.
I think everyone who had braces remembers how slimy their teeth felt when those suckers finally came off.  I  know I do.
K is a full-fledged teenager in every aspect.  Who was it that said teenagers alternate between acting 3 and acting 30?  So true.  This girl goes from calmly navigating the demands of feeding, bathing, and tucking in her younger siblings to getting irate over the fact that someone touched her stuff.

Mood swings?  Oh, yes.  Occasional bad attitude?  Yep.  Endlessly debating every minor (or major) point her parents try to make?  Uh, huh.  My very favorite counterpoint she's made thus far during one of these debate episodes was, "Yeah, but you're an adult!" 

For the life of me, I wish I could remember exactly what we were talking about.  All I remember is that it was so funny because she said it as a counterpoint to a completely inarguable fact.  It wasn't an opinion or an observation, or even a request.  It was a hard core, proven fact.  Yeah, but we're adults, so naturally it makes sense to us.  Not so much to teenagers, apparently.

I have plans to make a family quote wall in our kitchen.  That one's definitely going up.

When K is mad, she sings broadway songs.  The more loudly she sings, the more mad she is.  I actually love that she does this.  It makes me smile.  Which I have to hide because it would totally ruin the whole, "I'm too mad to talk to anyone so I'm going to sing at the top of my lungs and be disruptive in a passive/aggressive sort of way." 

Thanks to her beloved French class, K talks in French as much as possible at home.  Shaggy and I always stare at her blankly (or answer her in Spanish or Italian), but she doesn't give up.  Her younger siblings are picking up some French phrases.  It's kind of fun to watch her teach them.  Sometimes I feel bad that I'm not even trying to learn any of it.  Then I think about how hard it is for me to keep the names of my children straight (or their birthdays) and then I get over it.
She's doing great in school, even the advanced biology class that's really making her work for an A.  I love to watch her rise to a challenge.  It's tough.  She complains.  And she makes sacrifices.  Sometimes she has to stay up late even though she has to get up super early for seminary the next morning.  But she always pulls it off.  And I adore the look on her face when she shows me the A+ on her report card.

And now for S.  AKA snaggletooth.  AKA Nanny McPhee.
S was not fortunate enough to have a space maintainer.  Either the dentist forgot to suggest one, or we forgot to request one.  Either way = crooked teeth.  And the need to begin braces several years earlier than K.  We're really hoping that there won't be a need for a phase two when she gets older.
S also had to have an expander.  Thanks, once again, to Shaggy.  But, she endured it stoically.  Even though it made an already super shy girl even more shy and reluctant to talk in class. 

Each month as we forked over the monthly payment to the orthodontist, it was at least nice to see the gradual straightening of her teeth.  For a while, she couldn't even close her lips over those puppies.
See that tooth sticking out?  Nice.  Why didn't my children inherit my dentition?  I didn't have quite so many problems.
Of course I didn't think to take pictures back in June when she got her braces off.  Well, maybe I thought of it.  But I had just a few things going on back then that might have distracted me from actually following through.  So here she is last fall.  With gorgeously straight teeth.  Hooray! 
And they stayed straight all through the winter because we make her wear her retainer religiously.  Hooray!

Actually, retainers are no picnic.  Just ask K, who recently broke hers and was looking at paying 100 bucks of her own money to help pay the $350 retainer replacement fee.  She was so relieved (as were we) when they were able to repair it rather than replace it.  Saved her $67 (and us even more).  I'm hoping she learned her lesson and will forever take better care of that thing.  We invested too much money to let those teeth slide out of place now because of carelessness.

S hasn't had any retainer mishaps thus far.  We hope it stays that way.

S is also doing well in school.  But it makes me sad to see that she's not being challenged enough even though she's on the most advanced track the school offers.  At least she has band to push her, which she loves.  She's pretty diligent about practicing, mostly because her teacher requires it, not because her mother is so together about making her practice.  Thank goodness for demanding teachers.  I love to hear the sounds of her flute floating up from the basement when she's practicing.  I love it even more when she comes to find me, eyes shining with delight over a new melody she has learned, and insists that I listen to it even if I'm in the middle of delicate toddler tyrant negotiations.
On the home front, S could use some improvement in the attitude department.  She gets huffy when we ask her to start her chores, and finish her chores, and redo her chores because she did a sloppy job.  But huffy, or not, she usually complies.

She loves to read.  Which I love.  She hates to be interrupted when she's reading. 
Which I don't love.  We hear the sound, "hmmpph!" escape her lips entirely too often.  That will not make it onto the family quote wall.

But she can sometimes be found without a book, off leading the younger crew in a crazy adventure game.  Or on a hunt to find Rapunzel.  Or outside watching owls.  They love to play with her when she's happy.  And I love to overhear those interactions.  I think she's starting to glimpse the tremendous force for good which is within her.  The power that she commands when she represses her own desires and focuses on making another person happy.  I look forward to watching that power develop.

These two girls help our family run.  I'm not sure we could function even as well as we do without their help.  They may not be able to see life from an adult's perspective quite yet, they may not always have a stellar attitude, but we rely on them.  And we love them.  And they crack us up (when they aren't pushing our buttons). 
I found this as I was sifting through old pictures.  They were having some drama dress up session, or secret identity expo, or something.  The details are a little hazy.  They're a little crazy.  But I wouldn't have them any other way.  I will gladly endure their drama and their not-so-bright moments if they will endure mine.

Heaven knows I've been having enough of them lately. 

But we've also had some great moments.  The kind of moments that end up being the building blocks of character.  There are definitely some perks to serving in the Young Women's program while two of my girls are in it.
This was S's first temple trip.  I was so happy I could be a part of it.  And as I was in the temple, helping the girls, my mind turned back to the different temple trips I went on as a youth.  And I'm sure that there were leaders there who were helping me along.  But I don't remember them.  Maybe I couldn't see the effort and sacrifice and love that they put into making sure my visits to the temple were good ones.  Because they were good.  And now that I am a leader, loving and sacrificing and working so that the girls under my charge have good youth experiences, I can look back with a kind of gratitude that I may not have been capable of all those years ago.  Because I couldn't see life through their eyes.  My vision was limited by my lack of experience, my inability to see very far beyond myself.  I am grateful for this chance to make good on all their efforts on my behalf.

And I get to do it with my daughters by my side.  As much as I may feel weighed down by my responsibilities at times, I know that this is where I should be serving.  I know that there is something I can offer these girls and much that I can learn from them. 

And I will try my best not to act like too much of a dork, because I am an adult, after all.  Even if I mostly just feel like a former teenager.

This goal was put to the test as I found myself chaperoning K's very first stake dance.  I was standing along the wall, feeling awkward and thinking that youth dances are pretty much exactly the same as I remember them.  I was keeping watch over my little flock of girls when a slow song came on.  I think my heart actually made a sound.  Twang.  And I tried to see through all the people who were standing between me and my baby girl because there was a boy.  And he asked her to dance.  And my heart stopped for a moment and tears sprang to my eyes and I had to physically restrain myself from hopping on top of a chair to get a better view of K as she swayed to the music in the arms of that boy.  

Anybody who has a hard time sending their kid off to kindergarten should never, ever chaperone their first dance.  Because that's when the realization hits that one day, not too far in the future, one of those boys is going to whisk her away from you forever.  And she won't even come home everyday to do homework and chat with you and laugh about all the crazy things that happened during the day.  Because she will be an adult.  And there won't be a single thing that you can do about it.


There were a few things I missed about Cali during this Easter season.  The warm weather.  The blooms.  The green.  The one whole week off of school before Easter and the other whole week off after Easter.
This year felt rather rushed.  We crammed in some egg dying after school the day before our egg hunt.  Had to get those puppies done.  But sadly, I had no white vinegar to make the dye vivid and bright.  So I had to make do with rice wine vinegar, which seemed to have worked just as well.  Just smelled a little odd.  I decided to use food coloring this year.  I chose some frosting dye in cool colors, which interestingly enough dyed the eggs colors very different from what the dye water looked like.  
Doesn't look like eggs like this should come our of jars like that, does it?
But the kids didn't even notice the discrepancy.  They were fascinated by the process, as always.

We used rubber bands and stickers to add a little pop of white to our eggs.
I even managed to get in a picture this year.  Without combed hair or a shower.  But, whatever.
J and B made kissing eggs, apparently.
One of which was promptly demolished by a hungry toddler.
R was really proud of her rainbow egg.
I enjoyed having colors other than the standard ones that come in those kits.  I think I may be done with those forever.  Just need to remember to buy some vinegar.
My very favorite way to color eggs is with melted crayons (see here).  But I didn't think that would be such a hot idea with B in on the process.  So we stuck with the color bath method.  And even then, trying to limit her mess making potential was no picnic.
We almost postponed the egg hunt.  We'd had a very busy Saturday and had to jam in some dinner before the girls and I sped off to a youth broadcast.  But I couldn't face the disappointment of the kids, so we went for it.  Quickly.
The kids swear that jelly bean carrots are the very best kind.
It's blurry, but I love their faces as they tear out to begin collecting eggs.
And then we had to follow the clues to the last treat.
Which took us all over the place and finally down the long driveway to the mailbox for the final surprise.
J had to make sure that no one beat him down there.
Love those sugar-coated lips.
The kids all know, as do we, that Easter is not really about eggs and egg hunts, jelly beans and peeps.  Those are merely fun traditions our family has built up over the years which we all look forward to.  Sort of like Santa and presents and gingerbread have worked their way into the way we celebrate the birth of Christ.

These Easter traditions are things that we enjoy along with our celebration of the resurrection of the Savior.  We've always left Easter Sunday for the spiritual aspect of Easter.  I like it that way.  I like the separation.
After a nice Easter dinner of homemade calzones, (I never said we had traditions for everything, did I?  Any day is a good day for homemade calzones.) . . .

and a nice dessert of chocolate chip cookie egg nest things . . .
we got down to the business of the meaning of Easter.  The big girls rolled their eyes and asked if we had to talk about it again, because we talk about it every year.
Yes, my dears, we do.  But it was nice this year that we could go more in depth about all the events that led up to Christ's death and resurrection.  K really enjoyed chiming in with all her newfound seminary knowledge.  And the little kids still got their basic meaning of Easter conversation.
It was a great Sunday.
And weeks and weeks later, when spring had finally started around here, we were hooked up by a fab friend and went to an orchard to take some very late Easter photos.  Which made me happy, and the kids not so much.  But I figured that since the rest of Easter is always for them, they can do this for me, all grumbling aside.
It was soooooo nice to have someone there to take these family pictures rather than dealing with the tripod and a timer.  So much less painful.  And way faster.  Which is why it's less painful.
And she was so good at being engaging behind the camera.  Way better than I am.  She made us alternate between happy and goofy faces.  But only some of us were actually paying attention, apparently.
I love my family!
And I love that we have a Savior who lived a perfect life, who died nobly and for our sake, and who makes both repentance and resurrection possible for all of us.
Happy Easter!
You can think of this as a month-late wish for this year, or an 11-month-early wish for next year.  Whatever floats your boat.