"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tiny Paxton


Second full day of their visit.

My favorite place ... the middle of the desert. Off-roading. Exploring. Appreciating.





Friday, February 25, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by Soule Mama







Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cousins and Legos

Tonight my brother in law and his family are here from New Hampshire. It's the first time they've been out to Phoenix since we've moved here, and it's hard to believe that it's been over five years. The kids wasted no time in getting to know each other...

Autumn & Tegan


And the big kids are currently bonding over Legos.


Tomorrow is a visit to the zoo, Saturday we hope to do Spencer's postponed off-roading trip, and otherwise the plan is to hang out and catch up on 5 1/2 years.  

And it's good.





Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Birthdays, Donuts, and Wayward Chickens

John the chicken

So my friend Brandie told me that it'd been awhile since I'd blogged about any animal stories.  And then wouldn't you know... yesterday we had a animal incident that very nearly begged itself to be told.

It was Tegan's birthday, and we were home all morning, babysitting Luna:

Isn't she sweet?
The girl wanted to go to Krispy Kreme to get her free dozen birthday donuts, and I needed to go to the grocery store to get the food for her dinner (she'd requested chicken fingers, fries, Dora fruit snacks, and strawberry ice cream.  We keep none of those things in the house)   So I make a general announcement that we were going to be going out, and everyone started getting dressed, brushing teeth, and otherwise doing all those things that you do to get ready.

I asked Spencer to round up the chickens and get them back in their coop.  As long as we're home, they free-range during the day, and then we close them in when we leave or when we go to bed at night.  Up until yesterday, I never worried too much about them getting out of the yard.   Plus their coop is here, and they have so far seemed to feel safe and secure within their space.  Our yard is walled in, and there's a fence between us and the neighbors.  I'd seen them sort-of-fly, but never getting more than a couple of feet off the ground.




Ordinarily, Spencer doesn't have much trouble rounding them up and getting them back into their coop, but yesterday they weren't being cooperative.  So he came inside looking for reinforcements (AKA Paxton & Everett)  I carried Luna out back to watch, and they all played "herd the chickens."  The first one to escape was one of the Leghorns - either Foghorn or Sam - who squeezed through the fence and wound up in the backyard of the vacant house next to us.  The troops all went over to retrieve her, and she came running back up our side walkway, properly remorseful.  They continued to try to shoo them, but the chickens were having none of it.  So I gave the baby to Spencer, and told them that I'd catch them myself and carry them, one by one, back to the coop.

I started with John, because John's always the easiest to catch.  One of the Barred Rocks was next,  but as I was trying to put her in, Paxton opened the door a little too wide, and John escaped again.  I put him back in and went to get a third.    We talked about what percentage of the chickens were in the coop.  As I was walking back with the chicken that would make it 50%, John got out again, and took off across the yard.

This went on for a very long time.

At some point, Sophie got outside.

This is Sophie

We've been very closely monitoring her around the chickens, because she seemed a little too eager to eat them.   But as she's been getting better and better (and since she's a herder and not a hunter) we've been giving her  too much  a little more leeway.  And yesterday, she was fine.

Until she wasn't.

She chased one of the Leghorns, who reacted with a little more panic then usual, flew straight up into the air, and landed on the roof of the patio:



I didn't know chickens flew that high.  Now I know.

I ran to get the ladder from the garage.


It's a new fangled fancy ladder that Mike just got over Christmas.  No clue how to use it, and no clue what I was actually going to do if and when I got up there.  So I'm carrying this (extremely heavy) ladder through the house, when I hear the boys yelling at Sophie again, and then screaming at her to stop.   I dropped the ladder right where I was, in the middle of the kitchen, and went running out to see what was going on.  She'd chased, and caught, the other leghorn.  She'd escaped by the time I got out there, and was hiding - terrified - behind the cooler on the patio.
 
And the one on the roof?  They could no longer see her anywhere.  Gone.

Dog goes back inside, I finish dragging the ladder out to the yard, and I'm fully prepared to venture onto the roof.  Except I couldn't even figure out how to open the ladder.  Have I mentioned that I don't do well in high pressure situations?

So I'm standing there, fiddling with the ladder, hoping and praying that the missing chicken hadn't made her way to the other side of the house (and the street), when Everett yelled out, "I see her!"

She'd decided she needed more of a challenge, and had gone higher:


I share the pictures just for a little perspective, but you'll notice that there is no chicken there.  I - briefly - considered running inside for the camera, in the midst of all my ladder finagling, but I did not.  I wouldn't have forgiven myself if it ended badly and I had to live with the knowledge that one of my sweet chickens met a tragic demise and I was taking pictures like a tourist. 

So you just need to imagine that there's a tiny, white, trembling chicken on the edge of that roof.

Imagine that you're trying to figure out how in the heck you can help get your young chicken back to safety.  Now imagine that you look away for half a second (because you're having an internal struggle about a camera) and you hear a huge squawking, fluttering commotion as the chicken flies over your head and lands, nonplussed, right in front of its coop.  

And just like that, it was over.  I finished gathering the others, including the traumatized one still hiding behind the cooler :( and safely locked them all inside.

We headed to the donut shop and grocery store about two and a half hours after we'd started getting ready.  We had our donuts, we had our dinner, and Tegan got to blow out the candles that I'd neglected at the party this past weekend.




And the chickens lived happily ever after.

The End.





Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Letter To My Daughter

To my sweet Tegan,


You turned three years old today. Three years! That really shouldn't surprise me, because I've watched you growing and learning every day the past three years, and I've been with you every step of the way. I know every story, I remember every wound. I've seen you become the amazing little girl that you are. But you know, to be a mom, and see your babies growing up... especially your last baby... there's always something about it that catches you off guard. That bittersweet moment of wondering, "How did you get so big so fast?"

And it's important for you to know: I'm pretty much in awe of you. You're three years old, and you are just so perfectly and authentically YOU. You know exactly what you like, and exactly what you don't, and you're always true to both. You have a whole drawer full of cute little jeans that you never wear, because you're just not a jeans girl. You don't like ponytails, instead choosing to leave your hair long and loose, beautiful and crazy curls bouncing around your shoulders. You're particular about your chocolate, and you absolutely love sausage (which, I'd be remiss not to mention, you still consistently call "hostages.")

You love Dora and Diego, you love reading books and drawing pictures, and you love dancing in the living room. You love walking baby Luna out to the car when she leaves. You love laughing and being silly.  You always appreciate potty humor.  You love to be naked.  You love your pink swing.  You love painting your fingernails. You love helping me bake.    You are sweet and genuine and love surprising people.  You love your family.

You are wonderful.

And today, on your birthday, I have to ask you something.  I have to ask you to never lose that absolutely beautiful self of you.   Embrace it, and stay true to it, and never let anyone tell you that are anything less than perfectly and uniquely created just as you are.  Do what makes you happy, and always follow your own heart.  While the world (or even people you love) may tell you you're crazy, or dreaming, or weird, YOU are the one who gets to choose how you live your life... from the work you do, to the company you keep, to the way you treat people, right down to the way you wear your hair. 

You are you.  You're an individual.   Be proud of that, and never compromise on who you are for the sake of fitting in.  It's okay to be different, and it's okay to blaze your own trail.  Never let anyone else tell you who you should be... not me, not your friends, not "society."

In return, I make this promise to you:

I promise to love you, unconditionally.  I promise to encourage you, to help you, to be there for you.  I promise to be your ear, your shoulder, and your cheerleader.  I promise to support you in your efforts, and advocate for your passions.  I promise to treat you with kindness and respect and in a manner that I would like to be treated.  I promise that when I mess up (and I will mess up occasionally) that I will own up to it, and I will apologize, and I will do better the next time.   I promise to hold you close when you want me, and to let you go when you don't.  I wish I could promise to protect you from every hurt, every disappointment, every heartbreak... but I can't.  I can promise to pick you up when you fall, to wipe your tears when you cry, and to sit beside you as you mourn. 

And I promise to let you be you.

Thank you, for the past three years.  Thank you for being you, and thank you for teaching me to be a better me as well.






Monday, February 21, 2011

Alice's Handmade Crafts Giveaway WINNER!


Thanks Alice, and to all who read and participated in my first giveaway.  :-)  It was a lot of fun.  I have another really cool one coming soon, so if you didn't win this one, come try again! 

I used a site called randomizer.org to give me the random winner, and without further adieu, the winner of Alice's flower accessory is:

RoddickFamily

Congratulations!  Send me your mailing info so we can get it sent out!

And stay tuned for my next one.




Sunday, February 20, 2011

Thou Shalt Not Do Yoga


I have a long, complicated history with church. I think the last time I blogged about church, I was at something of a crossroad. We were not going to church regularly, I had concerns about judgment and hypocrisy, and I felt my spiritual life was healthier outside of a church atmosphere.

Now, seven months later, I'm at something of a crossroad.  We are not going to church regularly, I have concerns about judgment and hypocrisy, and I feel my spiritual life is healthier outside of a church atmosphere. 

However.

I don't want to ever say "never."  I want to stay open, and listen, and go in whatever direction it is that we're called to go.... whatever that may mean.

The yoga teacher training I'm going to take is through a Christian yoga program.  I have gone back and forth on this so many times that I've lost count.  I want to do it, I don't want to do it, I want to go through a secular school, I don't want to go through a secular school, I want to do it, I don't want to do it.  It's exhausting.   What I've realized though is that no matter how many times I talk myself out of it, for whatever reason, it keeps. coming. back.  I cannot make it go away.  It has been placed on my heart so strongly that I just can't ignore it, and I don't want to ignore it.  It's clearly something I've been called to do.  I share that both to demonstrate what my faith means to me, and to give some background as to one of the reasons I'd have such a bias against the ad we recently received for a local church here.

The ad says:

Strobe Lights..... NO
Disco Balls..... NO
Fog Machines.... NO
Choreographed Praise Dancers..... NO
Canned Sermons..... NO
Yoga Classes..... NO
Plastic People..... NO


SPIRIT.... YES
TRUTH.... YES
I understand what the ad was trying to convey.  I do.  They're proud of the fact that they strip away all the other "stuff", and concentrate on the simplicity and on the truth.  In theory, I agree with that.  I personally feel closest to God in the middle of the desert, or a mountain, or the woods.... with no walls or pews or Bibles or ministers (or any people, for that matter) in sight.  So I can relate to the sentiment.  

But...

By bringing attention to the very things they want to avoid, they're making them more important than they need to be, which seems to be the opposite of their intention.  Using those things as a reason to go to their church as opposed to a church that does have yoga classes or praise dancers or strobe lights feels like a negative campaign to me (and is one of the huge reasons that I have little tolerance for political ads)  It's implying that there's something inherently wrong with all those things, and I just don't think there is.  Who's to say what's right or wrong when it comes to someone else's spiritual path?  What if someone DOES happen to like strobe lights or disco balls, yoga classes or bongo drums?  What if those things help bring them closer to God, or help them reflect, or help them worship?  And wouldn't a church that is specifically advertising as not having certain things only serve to alienate people... people who might otherwise be looking for a church and want to attend?  

There is so much division among religions of the world.  SO MUCH division.  And we're not making it any better.  We're even creating division among Christian churches, churches which all claim to be worshiping the same God.   I've been to churches that had major conflicts (ie:  people getting so offended that they were leaving the congregation) over things like replacing the pews with chairs,  getting rid of song books and putting the words on an overhead projector, having pot luck dinners in rooms other than the designated "fellowship hall."   These things don't matter. Preferences over lights and praise dancers and yoga classes don't matter.  

A few weeks ago, this photo of Christians holding hands and forming a protective ring around praying Muslims in Egypt was going around Facebook.  That's what life should be about.  It should be about coming together, not finding more reasons to get further apart.  It should be about helping one another and loving one another and accepting one another, regardless of where or how or whom one chooses to worship.  It should be about finding the common thread, instead of looking for the different one.

It should not be about splitting hairs over inconsequential things that at the end of the day just. don't. matter.  

I don't know what the future holds as far as my family and church.  I really don't.  What I do know is that if I'm ever taking a yoga class with plastic people and choreographed praised dancers, while listening to a canned sermon, under the glow of strobe lights, the brightness of disco balls, and the haze of fog machines... that the God that I know and love will be there with me.






Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tonight

I want to be sad tonight. I can think of no other way to say it. For so many small, small reasons, I want to be sad.

I want to be sad because all the Krispy Kreme donuts (which we have about twice a year) were gone before I got to heat one in the microwave and experience its cloud-like goodness.

I want to be sad because we had a last-minute birthday party for Tegan and Spencer today, and we never even sang Happy Birthday, or had them blow out any candles.

I want to be sad because I didn't get any good pictures, because for some reason even though I've managed to learn how to use the camera when it's not a particularly important shot, using it under a high-pressure situation still has me completely flummoxed. 

I want to be sad because I'm TIRED, oh. so. tired.  because once again too many nights of not sleeping have caught up with me, and have magnified everything to larger-than-necessary proportions.

I want to be sad because I don't understand people sometimes, and have a hard time accepting that people will continue to do passive-aggressive hurtful things instead of talking about their issues like grownups.... because people don't respect themselves enough to do things differently.

I just really want to be sad.  But I can't.

Fourteen years ago from tonight, I was brand-new 23 year old mother.  I was nursing my first child, an oh-so-tiny 5 pound little boy, with big eyes, lots of black hair, and skin he'd yet to grow into.  My life changed that night.  It became less about me, and more about HIM.  Tonight, that little baby is a healthy and happy teenager.  




He didn't care that we didn't sing happy birthday, or that he didn't blow out any candles.  In fact, he hasn't stopped talking about what a great birthday he had.

I went on to have three more healthy children after that day (three more... seriously, how blessed am I?)  including this one, who also claimed it was the "best birthday ever,"  even though her birthday isn't technically until Tuesday:




I can't be sad tonight.  I'm too grateful to be sad.   Tonight, I'm grateful.  


I'm humbled.
I'm blessed.
I'm so very blessed!

I will not sweat the small stuff.... and it's all small stuff.






Friday, February 18, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by Soule Mama






Thursday, February 17, 2011

Nostalgia

I had a post all planned for tonight. Got ready for bed, replaced my jeans with yoga pants, got a glass of water, got all settled in with my laptop.... and proceeded to stare at my screen. And stare some more. No words. I'm very much inside my head tonight. Not in a bad way, but in a I'm-so-distracted-I-can't-possibly-write-something-new kind of way.

I've been thinking a lot about the past, and about what brought us here. In lots of ways, I feel like the person that I am - and the family that we are - was not really born until we moved here to Arizona. Everett was just a baby when we moved, Paxton 5, and Spencer (who will be FOURTEEN the day after tomorrow) was 8. And we of course had no idea that we'd eventually have a Tegan. In more ways than one, we were different people when we moved. And for better or worse, our life together will now forever be divided into "before" and "after" that move.

In my little journey into the past, I went back to re-visit some old posts. This one from November 23rd, 2005 gave a recap of the week-long trip as we moved across the country. It was odd to read it, almost as if it'd been written by someone else. But I read it, and I remembered. Bittersweet is the word that comes to mind... such a big move for us, such a huge leap of faith, but one that we were so very very excited about.

Here is the post from that trip, the bridge between "before" and "after":

Day 1 - Departure

We planned to leave NH at 8:00 AM, and ended up leaving at 8:45. Not bad considering that it was a cold, rainy, dreary day. The first leg of the trip went incredibly smoothly. The boys slept off and on, and we rarely heard a peep from the animals. We had lunch in New York, and it was also somewhere in New York that I first noticed that our trailer swayed like crazy everytime a tractor trailer passed us. I vowed I wouldn't look back anymore, because it freaked me out, but of course it just made me look EVERY time. The drizzly sky finally completely opened up and poured on us as we entered Pennsylvania, and we all laughed as we ran through the rain into to PA Welcome Center. First overnight stop: Mifflinville, Pennsylvania. We got some sandwiches from Arby's, then spent the evening playing the bingo game that Paxton got in his kid's meal at lunch.

Day 2

We woke to freezing temperatures and snow. It snowed on and off all day, but thankfully never enough to delay our trip. We entered Ohio, and had lunch in Akron. There were tears in Akron too - lots of them - over where we were going to eat. A scene was made, and I think there's a distinct possibility that we won't be welcome at that Subway ever again. Ah, traveling with kids. Everyone felt a lot better after we ate, and we enjoyed a gorgeous sunset coming through Columbus. The boys broke out their gameboys after lunch, and I ate my way through a box of Junior Caramels while I read two more magazines and caught up on all my pop-culture news. We noticed a strange thump in the trailer, and couldn't figure out what it was. We were excited to see gas prices drop below $2.00, a very good thing since our 4Runner was barely making 11 MPG with the weight of the trailer. Second overnight stop: Dayton, Ohio. There was a Perkins right next to our hotel, so that fit the bill for dinner. We'd never eaten there before, but the boys and I were able to get pancakes, and Mike got some sort of meat, so we were happy. The hotel was NOT a four-star establishment, and I had to laugh each time I found something wrong.... a lamp that didn't work, a missing clock, a shower drain that didn't drain, and not even a single spare roll of toilet paper.

Day 3

This time we woke to the first casualty of the trip. My Christmas cactus, lovingly grown from a shoot from a plant that was originally my Grandmothers, was frozen dead in the truck. Our luck continued through the morning into Missouri. It was a boring stretch of highway, and a rough stretch of highway, so much so that I was starting to feel carsick. Everett was starting to get grumpy and bored, so I picked up a little chalkboard for him to play with. It kept him happily drawing for 20 minutes or so, until he found more creative uses for it, like bopping his big brothers in the head. It revived me a little bit to come into St Louis, and I took several pictures of the arch. It finally started to warm up a bit too, something that made us all happy. We played the alphabet game in the afternoon, and we got to "Z" just as we passed a Lake of the Ozarks sign. Third overnight stop: Lebanon, Missouri (at a much nicer hotel than the night before.) We rolled into the parking lot with less than a half a gallon of gas, checked in, and ordered a pizza. While we waited for dinner to arrive, the boys ran around the courtyard for a good half hour, waving their arms over their heads, shouting "We're freeeeeeeee!!"

Day 4

We had a rough, windy ride first thing in the morning, but it cleared up as the morning wore on. The boys played their gameboys, and I finished the second of the 4 books I brought with me. We crossed into Oklahoma, and had lunch in Tulsa. We saw our first official cowboy in Wendy's, complete with Wrangler jeans, cowboy boots, hat and silver belt buckle. The boys were excited at lunch because they got new prizes in their kids' meals (we'd already eaten fast food enough times that they'd gotten some repeats) The day was going smoothly, if long, and we booked our hotel for the night. We were about 60 miles away from our destination, and I turned to Mike to tell him what good time we were making, how happy I was that we were ahead of schedule. BOOM. Or bang or pop or whatever words conjure up a dreadfully loud and sudden explosion sound. In the ten seconds it took me to realize we weren't in fact being shot at, but had blown a tire out on our trailer, Mike already had the truck under control and was maneuvering it onto the shoulder. Unfortunately it happened on the one of the worst possible places on the highway... a barely-there shoulder, a tight curve, and a 75 mph speed limit. We just sat in the truck for a minute, looking at each other, while tractor trailers zoomed by fast enough to make our teeth rattle. We did have a spare, but neither of us were comfortable with Mike changing a tire by himself on that section of road. We wanted a professional, preferably with flashing lights. We called AAA, who sent someone out, and it took about 20 minutes for him to arrive. It was dark by this time, and 2 of the 3 boys were crying, exhausted and freaked out. It was a quick fix once he got there; and ten minutes (and $120) later, we were on our again, stopping at a closer hotel than planned. Fourth overnight stop: Elk City, Oklahoma. We were exceedingly thankful to get there safe and sound, and the hotel room - complete with its hot pink sheets - was very inviting. I stayed with the baby, while Mike and the older boys ran out to pick something up for dinner. I found Racing Stripes on HBO, and thought they'd be excited about that when they got back. They were.

Day 5

Everett woke up hot with a fever, but with no other symptoms. I felt bad making him get in the car for another day of driving, but knew that he'd get the sleep he needed to fight whatever it was off. And sleep he did. We drove around most of the morning looking for someplace to buy another spare tire for the trailer, but it was a difficult feat being a Sunday when everything was closed. Walmart's tire center was open but did not have the right size. We took the chance while we were there to grab a few things we needed... snacks, baby tylenol, another magazine, new magnadoodles for the kids. The guy at Walmart sent us to a truck stop, also open, also wrong size. We finally found a service station that appeared to be open. The guy who worked there, called in on an emergency repair for somebody else, was gracious enough to help us. We were back on the road by 10:30 AM, and finally crossed into Texas. Lunch was at McDonalds in Amarillo. The boys wanted an icecream after lunch, and were bummed to find out that their icecream machine was broken. After lunch we crossed the border into New Mexico, and it was just as beautiful as I remembered it from the first trip. There's just something about the miles and miles of wide open spaces, mountains, and red rock buttes that's good for the soul. I love the southwest; I always have. The difference between this time and our trip in June is that in June it felt like a vacation, and this time it feels like going home. Fifth overnight stop: Albuquerque, New Mexico. The kids made me smile when they walked into our rather typical $60 a night hotel room and said, with all sincerity "Wow, what a great room!" We had dinner at an interesting cafeteria-style family restaurant in a not-very-nice part of town. We'd promised the boys icecream.... and the icecream machine was broken there too. We headed back to our hotel, and to the McDonald's sharing its parking lot, for icecream and another night of much needed rest. We pulled out the US map as we had every night so far, and marveled at how far we'd come.

Day 6

Everett's fever was thankfully of the 36 hour variety, and he woke up cool and happy and his usual stinker self. The older boys however woke up with their own unique versions of impending colds... Paxton a hacking cough, and Spencer a flurry of sneezes. We'd set the alarm for 7, but not being used to the time change we woke up at 5:45, ready to get going. We had our first really good cup of coffee of the trip when I spotted a nearby Starbucks. Mike ran in for them, and came back swearing that he was never going to Starbucks again.... too many complicated choices for a simple cup of coffee. We enjoyed a relaxing drive through the rest of New Mexico, and I finished my 3rd book of the trip in between drinking in all the scenery. We crossed into Arizona before noon, and began the long stretch of desert highway. Exits were few and far between, so when we stopped for a bathroom break, Mike decided to fill up the gas tank just in case. He was already up to $40 before he realized that the gas was almost FOUR DOLLARS a gallon. We shed our jackets sometime around lunchtime, and enjoyed the warm air. Lunch was at Denny's in Holbrook, and we decided to call it a nice early day. Last overnight stop: Flagstaff, AZ. We stayed at a nicer hotel than the previous ones, in a two-room suite, which was fitting for our last night of the trip. We got their at 4:00, enjoyed a complimentary cocktail social hour, gave the kids baths, ordered room service, and vegged out in front of the TV.

Day 7: Arrival day

We woke up early again, and were lounging around in bed watching the local news. Mike got a weird look on his face when he heard that it had dipped below 20 degrees overnight. I just stared at him until he said "Paxton's fish." It had been so warm in the evening, we hadn't thought about the fact that we were in the mountains and that it might get cold at night. Paxton's fish - who'd made it completely across the country just fine - had been left in the truck in the cold, and didn't make it. We'd brought him into the hotel with us the nights we knew it was going to get cold, but were fooled by the warm Arizona evening. We felt HORRIBLE. Paxton was of course sad, but handled it better than either one of us would have expected. He seemed as excited as the rest of us that it was our last day of driving, and that we were only 3 hours away from our new home. We fueled up at a nice breakfast buffet, complete with belgian waffles, and let Everett run up and down the corridors while Mike loaded up the truck. We took it easy on the 2 hour drive down to Anthem, both because we didn't want to blow another tire and plummet off the side of the mountain, and because our overloaded trailer didn't let us do otherwise. The views coming down into Phoenix were, as we remembered, spectacular.

We got to my sister's house at noon, and it was like no time had passed between us.. certainly not 4 months. We chatted and visited, and the kids wasted no time getting down to the business of playing with their cousins. It was warm and sunny and happy, and it felt good just to be there. We called our realtor and set up a time to meet her at our house. As we drove down to Tempe, I was literally so excited that I thought I was going to hyperventilate. I had to keep telling myself, and the kids (who were nearly bouncing off the ceiling) to calm down. We underestimated how much time it would take to get there, and we were 15 minutes late meeting the realtor. The house was very easy to find off the highway, and the area was just as she'd promised - a nice, clean, beautiful family neighborhood. She promised we wouldn't be disappointed, and we were not. One misconception I think people have about Arizona in general is that everything is drab and brown, and it's just not. As we drove into the development there was green grass and palm trees, petunias and marigolds, and a whole bunch of gorgeous blooming bushes that I've yet to learn the name of. It was everything we'd hoped for... and if it hadn't been for the occasional crying, the fever, the blown-out tire, and the dead fish, the trip would've been too perfect. We made it safely across the country together, and it's all good.






Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Somewhere Out There...."

It got kind of long because she got herself in a loop and kept repeating the same line over and over and over... And the camera started shaking because I was laughing for the same reason.  But in my not at all humble opinion, I think it's pretty darn cute.  A bright spot in what turned out to be a not-too-bright day. 






Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I'm Sorry

I heard two "I'm sorry"s before 7 A.M. today.  The first was when Mike was saying goodbye to me just after six.  I told him that the terrible headache I'd had for the past three days still hadn't gone away.  He hadn't caused the headache, but he said he was sorry to express his empathy over the fact that I wasn't feeling well.  About half an hour later, Tegan rolled over in bed, and the back of her head collided with my face.  It had of course been an accident, but I instinctively yelped when my tooth met my lip.  Realizing I was hurt, she too said she was sorry.

A couple of nights ago, Paxton was in our room talking with us, and Spencer had thought he'd gone to bed.  Trying to be helpful, he shut down the PS3 (on which Paxton had a game paused),  and turned off the TV.  When Paxton came back out, he realized that the progress that he'd been working on for the past hour and a half had been lost, and was understandably upset.  Spencer felt terribly about the mistake, and sincerely apologized.  

I myself have given dozens of "sorry"s over the past several days... from the small (bumping into Spencer in the kitchen) to the significant (expressing condolences to a high school friend whose husband recently passed from cancer).

I tell my kids I'm sorry when I've been less than patient.  I tell my husband I'm sorry when I've spoken unkindly. 

Yes, "I'm sorry" are two very commonly spoken words in this house, as I imagine they are in most houses.  Kids pick up on them - and their meaning - as well as any other words.    So I honestly wonder:

Why do parents think they need to make their children say they're sorry?  Perhaps more importantly, what exactly do they think that forcing an apology is going to accomplish?  Just like respect, being sorry is a feeling.   You cannot make someone feel something.  You could make your child SAY they are sorry, but if they're not feeling particularly sorry, what have you delivered, beyond insincere words?  I don't want my kids to deliver insincere apologies, and I certainly don't want to be the one coaching them to do so. 

Children learn how to treat people from their parents.  If they have parents that say please and thank you, then they will say please and thank you.  If they have parents who say sorry, then they will say sorry.  They will learn social intricacies like they learn everything else, as they experience them.    If they are around people who care about them, and care about others, they will learn.   No coercion necessary.  They are human.  They will screw up, they will make mistakes, they will unintentionally hurt someone's feelings.... and when they do, they will know, without even having to stop to think about it, that they should apologize.  It's what human beings do.  And what if they say or do something in anger, and just don't really feel sorry yet?

Let's be honest for a minute.

Adults do this all the time.  We'll have words with someone, or a confrontation, or a conflict.  Maybe someone has done something really hurtful, and maybe we responded in a way that we're not particularly proud of.  Deep down, we know that "I'm sorry" would be an appropriate way to follow up, but we're just not ready to say it.  Or maybe we're so angry or hurt that we don't even feel it.   So we take a day, or twelve days, or a month, until we're able to honestly say, "You know what?  I didn't handle that well, and I'm really sorry."   The difference is, as adults, we don't generally have someone standing over us saying, "Jennifer!  You go apologize to her right now!"

I don't make my kids apologize.  They're in charge of their own apologies.  And if I'm at a playground, and one of them does something that hurts or offends another child, and for whatever reason they don't apologize, then I will say that I'm sorry  that whoever-it-was did whatever-they-did.  Because I'll mean it.  But to be completely honest, I can't remember the last time I've had to do it.  Ninety nine times out of a hundred if an apology is warranted, then they will give it of their own accord.   And just like Tegan when she realized she'd given me a fat lip, they'll mean it.





Monday, February 14, 2011

Alice's Handmade Crafts Giveaway

For my first giveaway, I have an adorable offering from my friend - and fellow unschooler - Alice, who runs Alice's Handmade Crafts.

My business started mostly as an excuse to make things for little girls. I have 3 boys, and it wasn't long before I ran out of nieces and friends with girls to give away tutus and crocheted flower hats to. So I started an etsy shop almost a year ago, and really love having it. I've always felt a need to create things, and this is the perfect outlet for me. My biggest seller is definitely the hat with flowers on top, with tutus as a close second. My newest item is the flower accessory and I'm hoping they'll be popular as well. But my favorite projects, and the ones I'm most proud of, are my embroidered products. They are my most intricate items, and the ones I feel like I can really put myself into through design and color. They are also the only things I make specifically for adults, which may be part of the reason I love to make them. You may notice there's nothing of that description for sale in my shop right now...because they are also the most time-consuming! Between unschooling my 3 boys (6, 4, and 1) and expecting twin girls this spring, there's not a lot of free time around here. But I do take custom orders for all of my products, including embroidery, so be sure to check out my "Sold Items" section to get an idea of what I've embroidered in the past. Become a fan of my Facebook page; my shop's one year anniversary is next month and I'll be putting a coupon code on my Facebook page to celebrate!

Today's giveaway item is one of Alice's new, hand-crocheted flowers, in ivory. It's value is $8, and it is perfect for tying on a baby girl's head for a newborn photoshoot, tying around a ponytail on an older child, tying on a wrist like a bracelet, decorating a purse or a package... anything you'd like to decorate!


Want to win it?  Just comment on this post... any old comment will do.  (If you've come from Facebook, make sure you comment here, not on Facebook)  If you'd like to enter twice, just post the link to this giveaway on Facebook or Twitter, then come back and comment again to tell me you've done it.  :)   I'll keep this open for one week, and announce the winner (chosen randomly) on Monday, February 21.

Check out Alice's Etsy Store to see some of her other popular items, like her best-selling hats:


tutus:


and custom embroidery:



Thank you to Alice and Alice's Handmade Crafts.  And good luck!





Sunday, February 13, 2011

Giveaways!

Forty three days into my blog-a-day challenge to myself, and a funny thing has happened. Blogging has become less about pontificating for the sake of pontificating (though I do love my pontificating) and more about interacting. I've realized the past several weeks how much I truly love the give and take, and the feedback, and the sharing that a blog allows. I don't think I've really appreciated that aspect of it until very recently. Starting the Facebook page has surely helped in that regard, as have those of you who've passed my link onto others.

And as I've spent more time on my own blog, I've also been spending time perusing others... seeing what I like, seeing what I don't like, seeing what works, and seeing what doesn't.

My own personal favorite blogs are the blogs that make visiting fun, whether it's just through a light writing style, a sense of humor, or lots of pictures.

Oh yeah, and the giveaways.

Giveaways are an awesome way to interact, and a chance to learn about great products and small mom-owned businesses that you might not otherwise have heard of.  And they're FUN!  So, doing a giveaway seemed like the next logical step in creating this little corner of the blogosphere.   I had to do a giveaway.   I'm going to do a giveaway of my own making at some point (homemade vegan lip balm anyone??)  but thanks to two beautiful volunteers, I get to start with something even better.

My very first giveaway will be tomorrow, in honor of my I-don't-celebrate-Valentine's-Day celebration, and I have another in the works for next week.  I am so excited! 

If you're a mom who has a unique product or business, and would like to donate something for a giveaway and get some more exposure for your site, drop me a message.  And make sure you come back tomorrow for giveaway number one!





Saturday, February 12, 2011

Best Friends


When I was six years old, my best friend was Heather Weant. I haven't seen Heather for about 29 years, but if I close my eyes I can still see her face, and I can still hear her laugh, and I can still remember what her house looked like. I moved away the summer before second grade, and while we exchanged a couple of letters in the beginning, I have absolutely no idea what ended up happening to her. Still, it's with fondness that I remember this childhood friend. Almost like a first love (who I also remember with fondness), I think there's always a special place for that first real best friend.

This picture - quickly shot in a dark restaurant on a cell phone - is Everett and his own Heather Weant. I don't know where their lives are going to take them, and though I'd sincerely hope they'll always be friends, I know that there could come a time that they'll go their separate ways.

I also know that those early friendships are special, and precious, and something to be treasured. I thank God for both the times that they are sharing now, and for the future memories that they will become.





Friday, February 11, 2011

My Ode to Valentine's Day



I sort of hate Valentine's Day. Not with quite the amount of passion that I hate it when people text when they drive, or use apostrophes when they pluralize their family name... but I hate it all the same.

Even as a kid, I remember the anxiety I'd feel over those Valentines parties at school... having to have a perfectly decorated box, and picking the right cards, and comparing and analyzing what the cute boy that both myself and my best friend had a crush on wrote on our valentines. It was nerve-wracking.

And in high school, they always sold carnations on Valentine's Day. People would buy them for their significant others (or their crushes, or their pawns in making other people jealous) Then a big deal would be made about delivering said carnations to students during their classes. A lovely and exciting thing if you were one of the people receiving a carnation. I never was. If I did have a boyfriend, we were broken up by the time February rolled around. My junior year, I actually had a boyfriend in February, and as silly as it was, I was excited to think that I'd get a carnation on Valentine's Day. I would get to be the one to ooh and ahh over my beautiful carnation and my thoughtful boyfriend while the rest of the class waited to see if they too, were going to experience the thrill of that artificially dyed flower and crinkly paper.  My excitement was short-lived however, as he broke up with me ON Valentine's Day.

I will always remember that afternoon in French class, when my teacher was calling on students to ask them what they were doing for their valentine.  And when he called on me, I had the distinct honor of being the only one to have to answer:

Je n'ai pas Valentin.

That was the year that I officially swore off the holiday forever. (Yes, Mike W, you were the one who ruined me for the most romantic holiday of the year. For the rest of my life.) I'm kidding. Kind of. But oh how that high school drama hurt at the time!

The following summer, of course, I would meet my now husband. I have had the same "valentine" now for 20 years. And to his credit, when we were newly together and he was still "wooing" me, he did get me flowers and chocolate and sweet little nothings on Valentine's Day. One year, after we were married but before we had kids, he even booked a special weekend away as a surprise.

But I still hate Valentine's Day. I do. I'm the Valentine's version of Scrooge. Going in to the grocery store right now makes my skin crawl.... all the balloons and pinks and hearts and flowers and cards... It's so commercialized and driven by money and just... icky. My biggest objection though is just the fact that it's a specific day set aside to tell people that we love them, to be sweet and kind and giving because it's Valentine's Day. Shouldn't we be doing those things anyway? Whatever happened to a gift of chocolate on a Tuesday, in the middle of June? Wouldn't it mean so much more then, when it's "just because"? Why not send your loved ones nice notes any random old time that you're thinking of them? Why not get your best friend (or your husband or your child) that present that you know they'll love now, instead of waiting for Valentine's Day, or Christmas, or their birthday? Why not surprise your spouse with a fancy candlelit dinner in the middle of the week, on March 17th, just because you want to?

It should be noted that because I don't want to pass my anti-Valentine bias onto the kids, we don't completely ignore it. They've participated in many a Valentine party, and I never pass up an excuse (any excuse) to try a new cupcake recipe. But I just think there's something odd, and silly at best, to a holiday that's devoted to love and romance, and a sentiment that should be part of our lives year-round.

Or maybe I'm still bitter about those darn carnations.

Either way, I'm greatly looking forward to the 15th.






Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Eyes Have It


Spencer and a friend went to a class at the science center today, where they learned about, and dissected, a cow's eyeball. Paxton had opted out, and Everett was home fighting off a cold, but Spencer was very excited to do this particular class. One of his favorite TV shows is Dr G: Medical Examiner, and he relished the chance to play medical examiner himself for awhile.

He came home talking about corneas and irises, blind spots and eye juices. And he's now pretty sure he does not want to go into the field of pathology when he grows up.






Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Feeling Crafty

By nature, I'm a highly disorganized person. I've blogged about it before, so this is not anything new. I tend to make a mess out of everything I touch. But the fact remains that I will forever be in love with things that make me FEEL like I'm being organized. I walk through Staples and Office Max and just sigh with pleasure.

So I get very excited when I come across do-it-yourself organizational projects, especially quick ones, and even more especially, cheap ones.

Someone posted this idea for a free menu planner, and I thought, "You know what I don't have?  A free menu planner."  As much as I like the concept of planning meals in advance....  ah, well, you know the rest.  Nice in theory, but in practice, not so much.  But maybe if I have a fun menu planner, I'll actually use it.  And it's cute.  And it's free!  So after three failed attempts (I have issues printing things at the correct size) I printed it out:


Next was a trip to the Dollar Tree with the two little ones, for a $1 frame. 



I trimmed the heck out of it, 


Put it in my dollar store frame, and grabbed a dry erase marker (Is there anything greater than dry erase markers?!)  And voila.  For a dollar, some ink, and a couple of minutes of time, we now have a nice, reusable, menu planner.  And the illusion of organization.







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