Tuesday, September 25, 2012

harvest moon hurrah

Friday, September 22, the girls participated in their school dance festival and fundraiser.  Bethany's class performed a mix of songs from the 80's including Thriller, hence the zombie.

Caitlin and Mary's classes both performed
Latin dances.

It was a beautiful evening, and I particularly enjoyed letting the little kids play on the playground while we watched the others perform.  Sam was a big help with that.  I am so grateful that he was willing to come with me.  Grandma Martha enjoyed the evening with us too. Sophie enjoyed her lap.

Mary's La Bamba.

Olivia's class performed square dances. I can remember learning the do-si-do when I was in elementary school in Oklahoma.  I didn't look that pretty though.

I wish I were a better photographer so you could really see how beautiful and red the leaves on the mountains are.  Saturday morning we woke up to Fall in the valley too.  Yellow was starting to appear in the trees, and the air was the most perfect kind of cool, just right for opening all the doors and windows, which we did, not just to celebrate Autumn, but because William was trying to microwave his own breakfast and burnt his pizza beyond recognition.  I was upstairs cozy and reading with Sophie in my lap, but was called down by panic and screams. Bethany had to show Sophie how to crawl underneath the smoke. It was kind of comical, owing to the fact that the house didn't actually burn down, having found the already overcooked pizza, just in the nick of time, or before the thirty-nine minutes of cooking time that still remained on the microwave timer.  The burnt pizza sat out on the back porch the rest of the day as a reminder of the morning's events.  Several people stopped to wonder about what it was.

I continued to clean my room, forced the girls to work on theirs, and then sent them off to a Primary service project.

In the evening we drove to Spanish Fork so the kids could be part of their Harvest Moon Hurrah, held on the lawn of the Spanish Fork library.  I had never heard of such of a thing, so I braced myself for the cost, and was so happy to learn that all the activities were free.  The music lesson kids, minus Kyle who was enjoying the day at Lagoon, with his best friend David, were invited to perform on a hayride with their teacher Jessica Knight.  I love the way Jessica provides opportunities for them,  even as beginners.

My only expense was two bags of this amazing kettle corn. For some reason, everyone was starving by the time we opened it. In our awkward frenzy to eat it, we left enough on the ground to feed another family.

These things have been around since the beginning of time, and were still the favorite activity with my kids.

 Everyone had to have their picture taken.

 Several times.

According to William, even the popcorn needed its picture taken.

For the past two Sundays we have met in the stake center, rather than in our normal meeting house.  Last week we had Stake Conference.  Elder Dalin H. Oaks spoke via broadcast. As usual his talk was spiritually uplifting and full of good humor. He made at least two important points, both of which probably shouldn't need to pointed out, but apparently needed to be pointed out. One: the LDS Church is a politically neutral institution and doesn't endorse any political candidates. Loving that one. And two: single adults often feel left out or out of place at church or church activities. 

So being a single myself, of course I was attentive and appreciative. But maybe because I am so often surrounded by my children, I evaluated my own impression of single life in the church and thought, it's not that bad.  Then I went to a meeting alone.

  September 23, early in the morning, I was so grateful to watch my over-eight kids, dressed in Sunday clothes, walk over to meet Granddad and Judith. They were going to accompany them to the Brigham City Temple dedication broadcast. When they returned, I left the oldest kids in charge, and left by myself  for the noon session. 

 I arrived thirty minutes early and sat in an empty, perfectly situated row.  As the chapel filled, the rows in front of me filled up quickly with those obviously less concerned with ergonomic perfection than I was, and  the rows behind me filled as well, but with the emergency exit mentality people, that would usually be me, those suffering from a kind of panic disorder that comes from too many years of bringing small children to long meetings.  And as I sat there I became increasingly self conscious of the fact that I was alone on that long, perfectly situated aisle, to the point that I started to stare people down as they walked by, hoping the catch their eye so I could grab them by the elbow, and pull them on to my row, and beg them not to leave me sitting there by myself. Which I eventually did.  I thought; I either have the obvious look of the social pariah A.K.A single woman, or I look so matriarchal that everyone is assuming that I can fill this row of twenty seats single handedly with my bounteous posterity.  I made a promise to myself that I will never assume that the person sitting by herself wants to be left alone again  of course whomever I should saddle up next to with my ten children, will probably wish that I had.

Monday we were back in to the swing of our very busy weeks.  I am grateful that Jessica has been willing to drive out to our house for lessons now.  The girls have two hours of musical theatre practice on Monday afternoon. We make it home just in time for Jessica to arrive. She stays for an hour and half. I love hearing the lessons as the rest of us eat dinner and do homework. She is helping Bethany get started with the cello that she is playing in the school orchestra. Kyle sounded great last night on the banjo. He has definitely caught the spirit of Pete Seeger.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

garden shadows

Wednesday September 12, in the afternoon I went to McCourd's nursery for the .99 cent sale on mums.  In the evening our ward held the tenth annual neighborhood Salmon Bake in the park. It was our fourth year. There are not that many annual activities that we have attended four times. That almost seems excessive. This activity is highly anticipated however, by Sam and Kyle for the fish, while my other kids fantasize about free reign of this table.

 Granddad helped serve the salmon this year.

Thursday morning  I went out to the garden
to say goodbye to some of my tired petunias and relieve them with red-orange and yellow mums, and purple and white pansies. Sophie kept busy tilling the soil, picking tomatoes (unfortunately she preferred the small green kind) and decorating the kitchen floor with shredded cheese.

I waited all summer for the alyssum to bloom. They seem to be loving the cooler weather, and now the garden smells sweet like I hoped it would.

I found this picture of our backyard that I took at Easter time. The backyard didn't look like this when we moved in.  Jackie, the previous renter, had a beautiful garden...so that added to the stress and guilt I felt everytime I walked out to this neglected space. 

 A year ago we had just moved from a  townhouse facing the park, to this more permanent home that we rent from Granddad and Judith. I was heading toward finals in massage therapy school.  Our house was filled with more than a hundred boxes from the three separate shipments that arrived in July. Each shipment was from a different period of our life: Maine, Ecuador, Beijing. 

When school ended in October I told my classmates I was going to go home and take two weeks to unpack the boxes before I started thinking about working. That's funny now.  My goal: get family life in order, make the house clean and functional, as if I could do that in two weeks.  Most days I felt so discouraged. It seemed like I would never be able to keep up with day to day life and carve out even an hour a day to unpack the boxes, but by January I felt like I had made enough progress that I could start building my private practice.

 As spring came I became increasingly grateful for the days that I had no work and could focus on the family. Everything in my life felt like that neglected garden.  I started with the farthest corner of the garage and worked my way outside to the garden, down to Kyle and Grant's room in the basement, and then upstairs to the kitchen, just hoping that I could make our home feel organized and functional. I think that is so important to me because I have some form of ADHD...real, imagined, or just brought on by my chaotic circumstances.

This was the garden in June. It was my therapy every morning to go out there before anyone else was awake, and tend to it, or sweep, or write in my journal.  I know it looks humble here, but it was so symbolic to me of the blessing of persistence, the joy of improving upon my own circumstances.  Seeing the garden change changed how I thought about myself.

This is the garden now in late summer.  My tomato plants have turned in to monsters. I know you are not supposed to water them everyday, but I just don't think it is fair to starve the leaves to make better fruit.  The tomato plants and I have an understanding. We've had plenty of beautiful cherry tomatoes without having to make any leaves look ugly.

Sunday night we made ham and besciamella lasagna from fresh tomato sauce. We used some of our cherry tomatoes and some fresh store bought tomatoes. This was how the sisters in Padova taught my mission companions and I how to make it.  It brought back happy memories of P-day cooking lessons.

So I have been stuck on the homestretch of my cleaning/organizing project for months now: my bedroom and the girls' bedroom.  I started to pray for help that I could find the energy or motivation or time..whatever it was that was keeping me from finishing so I could move on to some other goals.  Last Sunday I left Sophie in my room watching Wallace and Grommit on my phone, and when I returned, as anyone might expect, it was gone.  All of sudden I was overwhelmed with the beauty of God's wisdom.  That was the two fold  answer to my prayer.

I could feel His gentle chastisement. It was true; I had become a Twitter junkie, obsessing over election commentary in a way I never reveal here, or anywhere outside of immediate family, lest I loose all my friends. I just see my phone and my hand reaches for Twitter like a big bowl of gourmet kettle corn. So there was the motivation and the time. I stayed up until two in the morning hanging up and folding laundry hoping to find my phone under the next pile of clothes.
 My room has been ground zero for months. This is so depressing.  

There is nothing fashionable about this solution, but it is better than all over my floor, and I feel so happy to go into my room now.  Ben said my bathroom looks like a hotel.  Happiness!  So after I made this improvement still no phone. I had to move on to the next disaster, the girls' room.  Friday afternoon I found my phone tucked purposefully in a Dora the Explorer shopping bag.  After a week of no phone there were an underwhelming amount of messages.  Thank goodness for the dentist, or I would have questioned my existence entirely.  The upstairs is still a work in progress, but I am finally considering asking the universe for my next chapter.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

rabbit and fly

August should be an idyllic bowl of peaches on a kitchen counter ripening to perfection, but this harvest season has turned my kitchen into a mixed metaphor from a ninth grade reading list: The Summer of My Flies.

And I had always thought about the song I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, as at worst, morbid in its condemning prognosis, and at best, as a statistical and logistical impossibility, until this summer.  Maybe it's the always open doors combined with the pungent odor of the rabbit cage, dirty diapers, and peanut butter toast crumbs on every square inch of the carpet, wood, and tiles, that makes them feel so welcomed here.  It would be stomach churning, though accurate to report that we have found dead flies floating in abandoned glasses of milk on multiple occasions, to the point that "look before you drink" has become a principle of survival.

Here is the worst thing that was so repulsive, I knew I had to write about it.  It turns out to be my comeuppance for annoying my children repeatedly with my favorite adage you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

 I don't know who alerted the fruit flies that there was a bottle of apple cider vinegar with a missing cap on the top shelf of my bathroom closet on the second floor, but someone did.  And since when I got ready for bed last night it was pretty close to midnight, and since washing my face with apple cider vinegar and a cotton ball has become so second nature to me that I hardly pay any attention to what I am doing anyway, I wondered what had made my cotton balls so dirty when I noticed I was actually spreading little black clumps of something all over my face. Then, with horror, I looked at the bottle of apple cider vinegar. My miracle tonic, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, anti-everything, cures anything that ails you and your skin, apple cider vinegar was filled with tiny fly embryos ( for lack of any knowledge of fly gestation terminology) and the mama fruit fly who had felt so welcomed there, had birthed her children right in the middle of my beauty regiment. My disgust was followed by gratitude as I thought about how long I had been thinking about adding drinking a swig of the vinegar to my routine.  Ironically, I had heard it helps you live longer. Thank goodness I  postponed that one more night.

But this post wasn't really meant to be about flies, but rather about more endearing creatures, our rabbits. Which brings up a question that I have had for a long time, particularly since the day I found a couple of my children playing with Guangzhou sized cockroaches on the way to the school bus in China. Why is it okay to play with lady bugs and caterpillars (but not the poisonous ones...that's another Guangzhou story) but not  cockroaches?  Why are some creatures condemned to the realm of the disgusting, and others are charming and cute? I haven't answered that, but as to not discriminate, I never watch Animal Planet at dinner, no matter what the animal being featured is. I don't want to admit that one is less appetizing than the other.

Back to the rabbits.  I found these long lost pictures of our bunnies, whose birth I reported, but never posted pictures of their cute infant stage, or even cuter toddler stage.

This is when I was afraid Cocoa had post-partum depression.

That little one passed away the same day I took the pictures.  We lost two of the five. 
It seems we have had a lot of pet funerals over my years of blogging.

These pictures were taken by Kyle in the spring.

And here they are grown to present day maturity.  I guess I should not have been surprised by the amount of money and energy it requires to manage their cages.  When I think of rabbits I think of productivity both of offspring and output

I could say this was also the summer of rabbits. Cleaning their cages was a daily requirement and so we tried our best to follow a schedule of who cleaned and who sat or stood by their play pen in the front yard, particularly guarding Cocoa, the Mama, who would regularly escape from its confines and play fugitive in the bushes. Even though who's day is it often became a hot, contentious, debate, there were few occasions when getting up off the couch or away from the x-box, and going outside failed to bring about a better mood.  Whether to scrape rabbit poo into our just for the rabbits trash can, or to just sit and play with the rabbits and the crowd of neighborhood children that would often gather, it was easy to see the immediate benefit of work, particularly serving a smaller creature.

Monday, September 17, 2012

pioneer day 2012

 Pioneer Day Olivia asked me, so nicely, if we could go somewhere out of town to celebrate.  She agreed to a picnic at Mirror Lake.  We took a trip there in the summer of 2010 with Grandma Julia and Grandpa Bob.  I still think it is the most beautiful place in Utah.
 Something about this picture of Grant reminds me of his Great-grandpa Alden. Maybe it is the Maine-like backdrop of pine trees and big clouds.

 Here's a link to our 2010 visit. The kids have grown so much.

 I think my polar bears were the only kids swimming.  I didn't anticipate how cold it would  be there.  I forgot that the kids had played in some residual snow in July 2010.