Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween Weekend

Kari, you are the winner of the nicest-comment-ever-made-on-my-blog-where-people-never-make comments-anyway award. And the prize? I will keep blogging. (I know. Generous, right?) Thanks, Kari. (Martin, you always win the funniest comment award. Same prize. Mom--where are your "wacky" comments? Come on! Priorities!)

It's been a bit of a week. (When is it not?) I have a new post up about Halloween on Deseret News for your reading pleasure. We're in high gear for some Halloween fun this weekend. My last post (Cancer, Disney World, and The Power of Fun) has been in the #1 spot for "most popular" among the Deseret News blogs all day, every day this week (even including the sports blogs), but not a single solitary comment has been made. What is it about my writing that makes people so comment-a-phobic? Will you go over there and make a comment on my Halloween post? Pweese? (Kari, you are exempt, for the reason listed above.)

In my post before the cancer/Disney one, I wrote about finding fun wherever we can as mothers since we can't always schedule in "me" time when we'd like. I used the example of me driving around town like a storm chaser one night a few weeks back during Kate's harp lesson when I didn't have time to do much else. I was chasing the moon rise. It was really gorgeous coming up over the mountains. 

I took another moon rise picture in Florida over the Atlantic ocean, but I can't upload it yet. After spending $49.99 on technical support over the phone with Apple trying to figure out why I couldn't export my 5 billion pictures onto an external hard drive (I am only selectively computer savvy), I found out my external hard drive ISN'T BIG ENOUGH! That's a problem. So I have some shopping to do ASAP or I won't be able to take any Halloween pictures. And I would be shopping right now since Rachael is at pre-school except for that fact that my already falling apart mommy van is in the shop for a completely blown out flat tire that I discovered this morning when driving my two middle children to school since they were running late due to Will's last minute insistence on completing a 3D art project for the national PTA Reflections competition. (Started it last night.) Rachael throwing a royal fit over not wanting Elizabeth to get dressed this morning also impeded our progress. And just to make the morning even better, Brandon forgot to take the trash out. (Just another morning in paradise. Maybe I should shower now that it's almost 2:30?)

Sooooo . . . here are my favorite moon rise pics to get you in the mood for a hopefully fun and spookalicious Halloween weekend. (Why can't we have the day after Halloween off school like they did in our school district in California? Why? And why do we have "minimal Mondays" here every stinkin' Monday? Wouldn't everyone be happier if we got out early on FRIDAY? Just another unrelated thought among other unrelated thoughts.) 

Oh! But first I have to tell you about my Halloween costume! My entire life, people--including complete strangers--have told me that I look like Sally Field, so I thought it would be fun to go as The Flying Nun. (Especially since we live in Mormon land. You know, something different. Educate the children.) Stayed tuned for pictures. (After I get my tire fixed, go shopping, export my iphoto library to make space on my lap top, upload the Florida pics to my laptop, take pictures on Halloween, and upload to my blog. And continue with The Great Catch Up. Riiiiiiiiiight.)

Back to the moon rise. Which one do you like best?

Have a super fun weekend! And make these pumpkin doughnuts if you know what's good for you.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bad Blogger

I know, I know. I've been a bad blogger. But give me a break! There wasn't any wifi at the beach house, and blogging wasn't exactly at the top of my list anyway. Then I came home as sick as a dog to my children (and husband) who were ready for me to re-enter their lives and enjoy our school district's fall break with them. (Gorgeous fall hiking in the mountains behind us, great fun at Cornbelly's down at Thanksgiving Point, and a wonderful family photo shoot for our annual Christmas card picture.)

Now I'm playing catch up in a big way, and feeling overwhelmed by the amount of pictures I took and what to do with them all.

Lastly, while I had good intentions of getting back on track today (but look! I did it! I blogged!), I used up my already limited computer time writing up a post for the Motherhood Matters blog. (Man, is my carpal tunnel ever hurting! Did I ever tell you how I used to accompany ballet classes at BYU as well as some studios off campus for work during my college days? Like 20 hours a week, until I started developing carpal tunnel syndrome and I promptly quit. I'll never forget my mother-in-law telling me I'd better stop because I'd really need the use of my hands as a mother someday. She was right, and I was getting tired of the music anyway. I had several hours worth memorized such that I could study for my classes while playing. Seriously.)

October is The Power of Fun, so I used my experience in Florida to create a message. I'll go ahead and leak it to you now. Enjoy! And make a comment or I'll never blog again. (That's a threat, not a promise.)

Lessons From My Sister
Cancer, Disney World, and The Power of Fun (tomorrow we'll see which title Emily choose . . .)

Last week I went to Disney World and the beach with my mom and three sisters. Before you get too jealous, it was a bittersweet “Make a Wish” type of trip for my sister with cancer. She’s been talking about going there for over 25 years--the last time she went as a child with our family--so we thought now was as good a time as any.

Much like Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s “Gift from the Sea” (which I read on the plane coming home and highly recommend to every mother on the planet), I collected several personal treasures from my time with my mom and sisters in Florida. This isn’t really the place to go into detail, but I can tell you at least three things I learned from my sister about The Power of Fun.

1) Fun is a huge motivator.
My sister is not in good health to say the least. We planned this trip around her chemo schedule, so even though she wanted to walk through the Magic Kingdom we pretty much forced her to use an electric wheelchair. Even with the chair, she was exhausted by the end of the day since she needs to take powerful narcotics to keep her pain at bay. Still, she would not be stopped. We stayed at a park hotel so she could go back to rest during the day if needed, but she balked at the suggestion. We tracked down Goofy for a photo shoot, snacked on Mickey ice cream bars, and made it to every single ride on her list before heading over to Epcot for dinner and fireworks. I honestly couldn’t believe her stamina. At my cousin’s beach house she continued to surprise everyone with her determination to walk down the boardwalk to the beach, collect shells, and play in the surf.

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to get moving when all you wake up to is the work, stress, and burdens of motherhood and how the opposite is true when you have something fun to look forward to? While most of our lives don’t consist of the two extremes of my sister’s--battling cancer with weekly chemo treatments or a week vacation in Florida--it is true for all of us that planning and then doing the things that we love (alone and with our children) brings a unique kind of energy that can really get us moving. That energy will transfer into other areas of our life. I also learned from my sister to enjoy those bright moments of fun to the max when they come along, because they can be fleeting.

2) Fun binds us together as families.
Everyone knows how important it is for a family to work together, but I think we’d all agree that having fun together is equally, if not more, important. My sisters and I kept commenting on how our trip was worth every bit of work and sacrifice, but that’s not what any of us will remember 10 years from now. We’ll be reminiscing about our oldest sister dancing like a fool on the beach, my sister losing her chemo beanie in a huge wave, the inside jokes about hand massages, that special birthday dinner in downtown St. Augustine, and how wet we got on Splash Mountain. Through it all, my sister with cancer kept reminding us of fun memories we created in Florida as children so many years before. That was part of the glue of our sisterhood.

Making memories together while having fun is a powerful bonding agent for any family, but especially true for families with young children who are so naturally inclined to have fun at a moment’s notice. We need to monopolize on that by creating moments and memories, both large and small, that will tie us together as families for the rest of our lives.

3) Fun brings perspective. 

Laughter truly is the best medicine, and that old saying about all work and no play making Jack (Jill) a dull boy (girl) is true as well. I’m putting words into my sister’s mouth, but it seemed clear that during those moments when she was fully absorbed in the fun at hand, she couldn’t help but stop worrying about the results of her next scan or how to meet her growing medical bills. By the end of the week I dare say she felt like her burdens were a little bit lightened.

It may not be something as big as cancer, but we all carry burdens of one kind or another as mothers. Having fun can help us forget about and even rise above those things that would otherwise bring us down. But having fun isn't just a distraction, it can actually put our problems into perspective as we turn our minds and hearts toward the joyful things in life. I think the application to motherhood is obvious.

A trip like ours was a once in a lifetime event. All of us are back home now, knee deep in every day life, but I won’t soon forget the lessons I learned from my sister about the power of fun. After getting home and finding quite a bit of chaos in the wake of my absence, it was easier than usual to ease up on my need for clean to spend an afternoon with my family hiking in the mountains on a beautiful autumn day. Life really is short, and it shouldn't take something as severe as cancer to remind us that it's meant to be enjoyed. Just ask my sister.

QUESTION: Do you have an experience when the power of fun motivated you, bound you more tightly to your family, or gave you a perspective that helped you through a difficult time? 
CHALLENGE: Try elevating your day-to-day life with the power of fun. 

If you made it this far, I'll reward you with a few pics from our trip:

Elizabeth said I look like Papa Smurf in this picture. (I never did figure out how I was supposed to wear that thing.) I love the Dad in row 2 who looks like he's about to lose his lunch. It cracks me up every time:

 It's a Small World. Do we look hot or what!? (I mean sweaty hot.)
Occasionally we had to leave Christina's electric car thingy in a place far from where we exited the ride. I always jumped at the chance to go get it and bring it back. I wanted to use the horn, but never had a good opportunity:
Man almighty, do I need to go to bed.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

When You Wish Upon A Star

I'm exhausted. My cancer riddled sister ran me ragged today.

What we did:

Magic Kingdom
Jungle Cruise
Splash Mountain
Thunder Mountain
Haunted Mansion
It's A Small World
Peter Pan's Flight
Space Mountain

Photos with Donald and Goofy
Nemo's Adventure
Breeze through every single country
Fireworks show

Then there's the travel back and forth and in between. Crazy.

We are making the dream come true, and Christina is squeezing out every single bit of Disney Magic in Orlando. We're doing it in style, too. We've got the electrical cart and assisted guest pass that gets us onto every single ride without waiting in any lines, and we're wearing DOO-RAGS. Christina out of necessity (lost her hair from the chemo), and Elizabeth and I to be cool. (Because doo-rags are cool, right? I mean, at least they were in the 80's on African Americans, Axel Rose, and Hulk Hogan. Okay, maybe aren't wearing them to look cool.) We're calling ourselves the Doo-Rag Crew. Minus the #1 rag--our oldest sister Joanna. (Did I just say that?) She'll meet us at the beach house on Saturday.

I need to sleep. We've got more dream making to do tomorrow.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Great Catch Up: Snowbird

Wow! Crazy week. I'm pretty sure I have too much on my plate right now, and my body thinks so too. I've come down with a little bug that kept me on the couch all day yesterday, and now my house is in shambles. Don't believe me? There are 4 pounds of cooked ground beef that I started making two days ago still sitting on the stove top as I type. Totally disgusting. I was going to make a bunch of freezer meals for when I'm gone next week, but then we had an appointment with our realtor to look at a house, and the appointment went on and on and on right through the dinner hour and up until parent teacher conferences, and by the time I got home I was exhausted and forgot all about it, and then I woke up sick. Then there was the day I had the babysitting co-op at my house with 9 small children and a baby, and another day we had a furniture delivery that made it necessary to tear up three rooms. (Will is the first person in our family to get a "real" bedroom set so we can put the bunk beds back together for the little girls--Rachael has been in a crib for FOUR YEARS!) The day I felt like garbage Kate and I had to get her massive harp in and out of the back of the mini van for a group harp recital practice. Every single day last week had something "extra" on top of the usual craziness. Every day also included lots of back and forth emails/phone calls between me and my mother/sisters/Florida relatives as we continue to fine tune the details of our "Make a Wish" trip next week. Making arrangements for Rachael for an entire week was easier than I thought (thanks to good friends), but will still require quite a bit of juggling. Luckily, Brandon was able to tweak almost every single work day that I'll be gone. 

And we had snow last week. SNOW! Of course it didn't stick (well, it's still on the mountains), but I went from wearing shorts with the AC on one day, to wearing my winter coat with the heater on two days later! Next week is supposed to be 60's and sunny, so I won't let myself get too worked up about it.

And that's what's been going on in my neck of the woods. Back to THE GREAT CATCH UP!  

As Brandon put it, they like to "double dip" here in Utah during the month of July. Fireworks are sold the entire month (the big ones!) because once the 4th has come and gone everyone starts gearing up for Pioneer Day on the 24th. (The day Brigham Young first came over the mountains and declared, "This is the right place.")

Not being from Utah or having any traditions tied to this holiday (and because Brandon hates parades-- yes, hates them) we decided to escape the insanity and head back UP the mountains. 

While we loved starting and ending our summer by driving to my family in Iowa and Brandon's in California, we wanted to have at least one mini vacation with just our own little family at some point. This was that weekend. I got a Groupon to stay for a night at Snowbird ski resort with all the summer resort activities included. I know a lot of people think of winter skiing when they think of Utah, but in my opinion the best time to visit the mountains of Utah is in the summer. Here are the pics if you still need convincing.  

The very-outdated, slightly smelly (kimchi and mildew), but view-rrific room we stayed in:
To make life easy, I brought a Stouffer's lasagna and bagged salad for dinner:
Little girls' sleeping stuff is so darn cute:
Da view:

After a really good breakfast (included in the deal--you really do need to sign up for Groupons) we headed over to the outdoor activities. First up, the bungee tramp:


Taking the lift to the zip line and alpine slide: 

Did I ever tell you about the first year we took Elizabeth skiing (4-years-old) and she hopped off the lift too early and rolled down the mountain? She was fine, but if I had been the one on the lift instead of Brandon, I would have died from a heart attack to be sure. (And I know my dad is having a kiniption fit right now thinking of her getting out of adjustment at such young age . . .)

That's Kate and Will:

Me and Kate. (Or should I say Kate and Ally? Come on, who remembers that 80's show!)
Inflatables for the young'uns:
More bungee stuff:
Rock climbing:

 The real gecko of the family:
Ropes course:

Kate and Rachael were arguing about something. I don't know why that cracks me up. A 13 and 3-year-old arguing? I've told Kate a million times you will ALWAYS lose an argument with a 3-year-old. Here they are, a decade and a dad between them:

Isn't this just the cutest?

We ended the day by taking a tram up to the highest point on the mountain:

Still snow near the end of July:

It was probably 25 degrees colder up there:


Driving down out of the canyon that night we had a great view of the many fireworks shows going on in the valley. We stopped for a few minutes to watch 3 or 4 shows at once:
Sign of a good day:
Hours later . . . 

We spent most of the day today having a family clean-a-thon/switching out summer clothes for winter. (I'd forgotten how time consuming this is when you have multiple growing children.) The highlight of the day was digging through the contents of a very full vaccuum cannister looking for Will's shark tooth. It was almost as disgusting as digging through the public trash can at Sonic last weekend after the kids' piano recital to find my debit card. This is why I blog about the fun days . . .
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