Sunday, August 27, 2017

Solar Eclipse 2017

We were not above getting into the frenzied excitement of solar eclipse last week.  We didn't plan ahead to get our glasses, so the morning of Abe dropped the girls off at the local library to get in line for eclipse glasses.  The library had 200 pair and their ended up being a crazy long line to get them.  But they were successful!  We didn't stay at the library for the viewing party, rather we hustled home to our neighborhood park.  We sent out a message on our neighborhood Facebook page and were delighted to hang out with friends for a couple hours throughout the whole thing.
The little ladies.
The bigger ladies.
Chillin' on the grass.
Most of the time the kids were running around playing and just checking out the eclipse when urged by their parents to do so.
Greta didn't like the glasses, but she also wasn't in danger of looking up at the sun.
Being at the park with our friends and family, watching the really cool phenomenon, was a most enjoyable way to spend a Monday morning.
This was my favorite!  Little Evan (his dad is also Evan) was Greta's best friend.  He was so cute in playing with her.  She would kick him and he would exaggeratedly fall backwards and she would belly laugh so hard.  
  She was so tired and he was the only one she wanted to hold her.  He was such a trooper.
Eventually she fell asleep laying on him.  Greta usually goes to sleep in her bed, so it's pretty unusual for her to fall asleep with anyone holding her.  I love that it was little Evan because he is so much like Clark in many ways.  So of course, Greta, who loves Clark so much, would also love little Evan!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

So Far So Good

Abe and the little boys built an animal tower-- fashioned in the same style as Clark and Abe used to build when he was a little guy.  Maybe Abe was feeling nostalgic because Clark was about to start classes at Utah Valley University.
Yes, Clark is a college man now.  Because of the timing of submitting mission papers-- deferment and scholarship and such, he has decided to do this semester of school.
Here he is just about to hop on the Front Runner train to head down to Orem.  Please forgive my enthusiasm, but you must understand, we haven't had a lot of "sending the kids off on their first day of school pictures."  So it was pretty exciting.
One week down and so far so good.
No, not a lot of those kind of pictures, but here is another one of the few--- Elinor's first day of seminary over at the high school.  She's so awesome!  This gorgeous gal stands 5' 11" and doesn't exactly look like a freshman.
Elinor and Bethany are both in the same class and they are doing early morning!  6 am to 7:15 twice a week.  How awful.
See, the thing is, I did four years of early morning seminary and while I loved the gospel, I loathed early morning seminary.  And now here we are and my girls are choosing it!
Well, sort of choosing it.  Bethany has a job teaching swim lessons and the shift option that works best for her is 8:45  am to 12 noon for five days straight.  1st period seminary wouldn't have worked.  Early morning really is the best option for her schedule.  So poor Elinor gets early morning as well, since Bethany is her ride to and from.  She's being a very good sport about it.  One week down and so far so good.
Last Saturday Cannon auditioned for Ballet West's production of the Nutcracker that runs throughout December.  Not knowing how the rehearsal schedule worked or exactly what it entailed, we figured, at the very least, auditions are great experience.  We sort of assumed he'd get in since he is a Ballet West student and did very well at his summer workshop.  I mean, if they don't want him, I can't imagine what kind of boys they would be looking for!
I didn't get the see the auditions, but it seems it went well-- or well enough-- because he did get cast as a party boy.
And then I got a load of the rehearsal schedule and went to the initial parent meeting and I thought, "This is not going to work."  Logistically, I don't see how we could get everyone where they need to be every night of the week."  After talking with Abe and sincere prayer, we both felt I needed to email the head honcho lady and pull Cannon out.  
Shortly thereafter, I got a call from said head honcho lady, pleading that Cannon stay in the production and to tell her about our conflict.  I explained we have 8 kids and Cannon is right in the middle and we didn't think we could commit to getting to to all his rehearsals.  
And would you believe, she said she would find a carpool for him and three days later I get a call from a mom offering to pick up Cannon at a place just off the freeway and have him ride with her and her son.
Can I get a hallelujah?
When I look back over my mothering years, nothing will seem more miraculous to me than when carpooling angels have stepped in and really helped me out in my time of need. 
  So Cannon is in and he had his first rehearsal last week.  So far so good.  Someone else really helped us out in regard to getting Cannon to his first rehearsal.  Abe and I had plans that we could not change.  My big kids were all obligated elsewhere-- so how were we to get Cannon to and from his downtown rehearsal?  This was before my carpooling angel had called me.
I called Clark's good friend, Zach (whose parents we had plans with) and asked if Zach would escort Cannon downtown on TRAX-- wait for him and then take him back to his house.  Cannon knows Zach really well because he frequently plays strategy games with him and Clark.  Thankfully, Zach agreed and Cannon and Zach successfully made it to and from rehearsal.  
I fear my request was somewhat tacky, but I am giving myself points for resourceful planning!  I would say, that is Mom for the win, but it is totally ZACH FOR THE WIN!
Peter really wanted to pet the kitty.  I don't know if you can tell from The Cat's face, but it was not very happy.
The Cat was a little more vocal about its displeasure in this picture.  Peter had a pretty good grip on the cat.  He seems completely unmoved by The Cat's resistance.
I like that The Cat has begun sleeping in various strange but comfortable positions. 
I don't even know why we even like this cat.  The Cat is not a very nice cat. 
I don't know, it just seems to fit in our family.  That's not saying much for our family.  
Also, I'm not disrespecting the cat in calling it The Cat.  That's pretty much what we've decided to call it-- "The Cat".  It started with a name-- McLupe or McFluff, but it's bad behavior had us considering naming it "Hell Cat".  We thought "The Cat" was kinder and more appropriate, seeing as how we have small children in the house.  We can't very well have Peter yelling, "Come here, Hell Cat!" around the neighborhood.  That being said, Peter does yell mean things at us all day long, so why not have him yelling curse words at the cat as well?
A couple of weeks back the girls got to go boating and tubing with Grandma and Grandpa.  Luckies!  They had a super fun time, but I got to wondering, how did I used to parent before I had any teenage daughters around to help?!  Sheesh!  Little kids are a lot of work and perhaps I have underestimated just how helpful these three are!  I should shower them with gifts and special favors more often!
And speaking of helpful girls--- we had cousin Talitha stay with us for a couple days at the start of the week.  She lives in Spokane and they don't start school until after Labor Day.  I am satisfied that my kiddos are very helpful when I ask them to do something and once in a blue moon they will come to me and ask what they can help with.  
But this girl put our whole family to shame!  She was always asking how she could help and stepping in to help with little kids or dishes or reading to kids.  She is a serious gem and Talitha is beloved by everyone in this house.  She's a rockstar!
Now I should explain this picture.  Cannon was giving her ballet lessons and teaching her the ballet splits, push-up, burpie move he invented.  
It looks painful.  He says he hates doing them.  I told him he made them up so he can stop anytime he wants to.  But he continues.  I assume he feels some ownership- like if he doesn't do them, no one will.  And maybe they won't, because like I said, it looks very painful.  

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Trip to Zion

A couple weeks back Abe dropped Bethany off to her Lyceum Music Festival in American Fork.  The orchestra hopped onto a bus and several big vans and headed down to Zion National Park-- or thereabouts.
 Bethany had a very busy summer and was gone from home at least as much as she was at home.  I quite missed her!  She was pretty worn out herself and as much as she has loved the music festival the last couple of years, she somewhat dragged herself to pack up and leave home yet again.
She rarely had any cell phone coverage so we couldn't check in with each other.  Once again, I missed her.
Abe and I had talked about making a short trip to Zions for their Friday night culmination concert in a beautiful outdoor amphitheater with a gorgeous, towering red-rock backdrop.  But Abe needed to work and I'd already been gone a lot during the summer and we decided this was one of her concerts we'd just have to miss.

I woke up Friday morning and after a morning walk with my little ones, I started doing the dishes-- a more daunting task than usual as my dishwasher has been broken for three weeks.  Blah.  And to make matters worse, my washing machine broke on the very same day!  SAY WHAT??  We are in the process of getting them fixed, but in the meantime we are rationing clean dishes and clothing and I'm getting better acquainted with the local laundromat.  Double Blah.  But I digress.

So I was doing my dishes, when the Spirit said to me in no uncertain terms, "Betsy, you must go down to Zions and go to this concert!"
I called up Abe, told him my idea and he suggested I get right on it and make it happen.  I thought about taking Elinor and Faith and making it a girls trip, but that didn't feel quite right.  Then I called up my sister and visiting friend from England and miraculously they were game!  The idea was pitched about 10:30 am and we hit the road at 1:30 pm.

Bethany called us about 2 hours into the drive because she had some cell coverage.  We chatted for a few minutes and I told her how sad I was that I wasn't going to be able to come.  It was just too far and we had too much going on.  Hee hee hee, I was so tricky!
I just prayed she wouldn't have any more coverage and wouldn't call home or Abe.  I wanted to see her surprised face when she saw Brig, Naomi, Greta and I.

And Oh!  What a good surprise it was.  Her face was priceless! I was slightly freaking out about the speed she was running while holding her violin!  I was thinking, "Please don't trip!"
I count that moment as one of the most joyful moments of my entire parenting life.  I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be that evening.
The music, the setting-- it just took my breath away.  Nathan Pacheco was the guest artist and his beautiful, classically trained tenor voice was so moving. 
I did have to manage Greta throughout the concert, but she was pretty good and I was just so happy to be there that I didn't mind.
The orchestra played Copland's "Appalachian Spring" and when the full orchestra played the broad melody of "Simple Gifts" I was moved to tears.  I felt so grateful for the goodness of God in allowing his children such sublime pleasures in this life.
It was pretty much one of the best nights of my life.
But that wasn't all.  One of the miracles of this adventure came about on the car ride down.  Put a bunch of women in a car for a road trip and there will be good conversation! 
I have had several ideas floating around in my mind for several months.  Ideas about focusing on what is most important, restructuring our homeschool so there is time to do those things we deem most important.  Ideas of acceptance of where we are while still striving to be better, and ideas of reevaluating what we really want to accomplish in our family. 
Here are four books I have read and have greatly influenced my thinking this summer.
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An oldie but a goodie.  More than a goodie.  It's the best.  It's plain and clear and applicable now and I feel Heavenly Father and Christ's love throughout its pages.  May I highly, highly recommend it!

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Oh, my, my, my!  Have you heard of this book.  I LOVED it!  Life changing for me.
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This veteran homeschooling mama needed this book.  Big time.  Sadly, it is not about homeschooling from your bed-- although that sounds lovely.  Really good.
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I came upon this little gem as I was looking for another title I'd heard of and wanted to read.  I'm so glad I did.  In some ways I thought, "How does this woman know what goes on inside my head?  How did she get a hold of my internal dialogue?"

It was with the ideas of these four books tumbling around and some good discussions with friends over the summer, that I got in the mega-van to drive to Zions.  I knew I needed to change some of my thinking and I knew I was on the right track, but I felt there were some pieces missing and I wasn't quite sure how to proceed.  
I don't know exactly how it happened, but the eyes of my understanding were opened and I learned things on this trip.  Four hours of talking with my sister and Naomi, and the pieces of the puzzle in my mind fell into place. As fun as it was to surprise Bethany and as beautiful as the concert was, THIS was why I needed to go to this concert.
Some of my thoughts I am going to share might not be that meaningful to anyone else.  Maybe I needed to learn things lots of other people already know.  That's just fine.  I need to record this for myself so I can remember.

I'll begin by saying there is a word that my children frequently say to me.  I have frequently said it to them and to myself.  It's not considered a swear word, but I find I loathe this word.


For years I have hated when my kids say to me,  "You should make such and such for dinner."  "We should go to such and such place".  "We should watch this or that movie".
I didn't know exactly why that word bothered me so  much.  It would not be offensive to say, "Hey, I'd really like to eat this, or go there, or do this."
But by saying we should somehow suggested we were doing something wrong if we didn't do whatever it was.  It bugged me. Bad.  I basically forbade them to say I should do something.

So one of the main things I came to understand is how damaging the "should mindset" is.  There is no should.  There is only what is.  It doesn't matter where you should be.  There is only where you are. You can want to choose to be something more.  You can see better things will await you someplace else.  But should really means you think something is good, but you don't want to do it.  Heavenly Father invites us to choose better, to want something more than what we currently are, but he doesn't should us.  He meets us right where we are in love and acceptance.  HE LOVES US COMPLETELY just as we are.  His love for us is not dependent on the choices we make.  Our value is set and nothing we do or don't do will change it.  Our peace and happiness, however,  are very much dependent on the choices we make, but not his.
We can choose as much light and goodness as we want.  His blessings are forever raining down on us and we can enjoy them as much as we're willing to obey and choose the good.

So now, when I say in my mind, "I really should be more organized" or "I should get up earlier in the morning" or "I should eat healthier"--- I am going to change what I say to myself.
Now I want to say, "I want to choose to be more organized" or "I want to choose to get up earlier in the morning", or "I want to choose to eat healthier".
And if I am not at a place where I want to, or am ready to make those choices, I am going to be patient with myself.  I will accept where I am and trust that I will be ready to make better choices in the future.  I am not going to berate myself or expect perfection from myself.  Heavenly Father doesn't do that to us.  I want to choose not to do that to myself and I want to choose not to do that to other people.   He doesn't shame and badger and berate. He invites and he entices us to do good.   He says come unto him, do good, keep trying, repent when you do wrong, love others and trust that his grace is sufficient to get you to where you need to be.

I have learned about trade-offs that happen because we make choices.  When we choose one thing, we inherently don't choose something else.  If I consistently choose to stay up late to enjoy quality time with my husband or take care of projects I'm working on, I won't be able to consistently wake up early in the morning.  That is the trade-off.  If I choose to cart my children around to lots of activities in the evening, I won't be able to have a calm, healthy family dinner together every night.  That is the trade-off.  I must patiently accept the trade-offs of my choices.  I choose to accept where I am right now and what I'm learning right now-- always trying to shape my desires by learning of him and praying to him.
I have learned that it is not our job to perfect ourselves.  That is His work and His glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.  We are to come unto Him and be perfected in Him.  It says, be perfected, not perfect yourselves.
I understand this to mean we can relax a little.  We can trust and find more joy in life.  Shaming and should-ing ourselves is not humbly submitting ourselves to his will.  In essence it is throwing a little temper tantrum that we can't make ourselves perfect on our own, right this very minute.  I want to trust that He knows what He is doing with me.  He knows what we are ready for and we can trust that He will do "His work and His glory" and He will perfect us as we strive to "deny ourselves of all ungodliness and love God with all our might, mind, and strength..." I want to do my part and humbly and patiently let Him do his.
And we can be patient and loving to those around us as well.  Knowing that they are taking in as much goodness and light as they are able and ready too.  They are His work and His glory as well.  He will work with them.  If they are not obeying commandments, it is sad for them to miss out on happiness and joy that could have been theirs.  Hard things will follow because wickedness never was happiness.  I can let them work out their salvation before God and continue to love them.
I don't want to should the commandments.  I want to choose the commandments.  I don't want to do it because I have to, but because I want to. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Peter, Not Pete, Turns Three and Eats Bacon

He woke up on his birthday at his usual hour.  Peter frequently is the first in the family to greet the day.  He cracks our door and cheerfully climbs up onto our bed, where Abe asks him if he had any dreams.  He snuggles with us for a few minutes, until Greta wakes up and joins us.  And for 10 or 15 minutes we are a family of four, except we have Peter and Greta instead of Clark and Bethany.
These days, Peter and Greta are often my companions on my morning walks.  It was a good way to start his 3rd birthday.
My plans for the day changed drastically (in a good way, but I'll go into that in a later post), so any birthday plans we had for Peter's birthday got put on hold.  Lucky for him, Elinor quickly baked up a very interesting, creative, chocolate, sprinkle, bacon-topped, custom mug-cake for him.
Bless her heart, it looked horrific.
 He ordered, "Now sing Happy Birthday me!"
We obliged.
He blew out the candle!
Elinor cut the cake open for him, but then he proceeded to only eat the bacon bits off the top of the cake.  Peter L-O-V-E-S bacon.  A couple weeks back we put Peter down for a nap and then began preparations for Bacon Wednesday-- sometimes breakfast, sometimes lunch, sometimes dinner, but always on Wednesday.  He didn't fall asleep very quickly and soon opened his door, crept down the stairs and said, "(S)Mell Bacon!"  Only he pronounces "bacon" as Bahckin.
He regularly demands the rest of the family share their bacon rations with him.  We call him the "Bacon Czar".  No one can eat bacon without his say so.  Anyone caught trying to pilfer his bacon is given extra chores and must beg forgiveness of the Bacon Czar.
He was not impressed with the non-bacon parts of the cake.  "Me no like dis yucky part!"
We wrapped his birthday gift in a Winder zipper bag because that's what we hid it in when we brought the gift into the house from the car.  Looks like we didn't get much further than that.
I don't know what he was expecting for his birthday, but he seemed unimpressed with the Fire fighter costume from Costco. 
He can be a little slow to warm up to new things.
You think?
We eventually convinced him to try it on.  He kind of liked it.
He puts his walkie-talkie up to his ear and says, "Hey, Boss."  We pretend to be his boss and tell him where a fire is.  Sometimes he says okay and runs toward that part of the house.  Other times he says, "No!" 
So, you know, as Boss, we never quite know what kind of response we'll get.  Not very dependable as a fire fighter.

But very, very cute.  And very entertaining.  And very determined.  And very spirited.  And very vocal in his opinions.  And we love him so much we don't know what to do with ourselves!  I don't know what kind of child I expected when I was expecting him but he continues to surprise and stretch us.  He is definitely more of everything! 
Should you ever say he is cute or adorable, he will likely correct you and say, "NO! Me Peter!"
And if you as him if you can call him "Pete", he will likely say, "NO! Me Peter!"
 Happy 3rd birthday, Peter Jesse Fox!  
By the way, I love the nickname Pete, so I'm not giving up on that battle yet.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Chicken Hypnosis and Other Bits of Life

I looked out my window and saw Elinor, Faith and Cannon attempting to hypnotize a chicken.  I do not know if they were successful.  I suspect they were not, but I was amused to see them try.
Elinor got a kick out of going to a Harry Potter O.W.L. camp at the county library one day this summer.  Faith also got to go on another day.  They both had fun.  We are currently reading the 5th Harry Potter book aloud together.  I'm mostly reading it to the younger kids and Bethany, since Elinor has already read it about 8 times.
Our cat.  Nowadays we just call it "Cat".
It's doing better, but it is still pretty mean to us.  And yet, we like her.  I suppose the only member of this family who gets away with more than she does is Peter.  The children are horrified by my lax discipline with Peter.
I choose peace.  I don't think they respect my choice.
She's gotten a little bigger since this picture was taken.
These little cuties do have swim suits on.  They are not actually bathing in coolers.  That would be weird.  They were playing with sprinklers and water outside and the coolers that had held water balloons from George's party were still out.  So naturally, they got in them and Abe took a picture.  Makes perfect sense.
George got to go with his cousin Eli to a Salt Lake Bees game a couple weeks back.  He loved it.
With the exception of Faith, we have pretty tall kids, so it's wild to see George dwarfed by his cousin who is a year younger than him!
Another Sunday photo shoot with Daddy and Greta.
When the kids return home from different camps all summer long, the first person they want to snuggle is Greta.  And Greta is so happy to see them!
She's teaching herself the guitar.  Elinor loves to hang out in her clean room-- drawing, reading, playing the guitar.  Can you say, "Introvert?"
A few weeks back we attended a private concert with Kenneth Cope-- a (former) nephew of my stepmom's.  My sister-in-law Misty was in town for the evening as well.  It was so beautiful and it felt good to our souls.