Thursday, July 14, 2016


Oh my goodness, people, the last couple of months have been pretty crazy!  End of school, baseball season, physical therapy, kids HOME for summer all day long, gardening...lots to keep us busy.

Instead of a bunch of little posts, I'm just going to give you one big post to get us all caught up.

So, Monkeyboy graduated from Kindergarten, and Bluebird graduated from the sixth grade a week later.  Yeah, my kid starts junior high next year.  I am not old enough for this.  She's very excited to start junior high, most especially because she got into Honors Science, and she's got her fingers crossed that she'll get into Drama.

And then it was baseball/softball season.  Five days a week, Monday through Friday.  Monkeyboy played his second year of T-Ball, Junebug played her first year ever (Coach Pitch), Penguin was in her second year, and Bluebird in her third.  They don't keep score in T-Ball or Coach Pitch, but Monkeyboy and Junebug will adamantly tell you that their teams were the league champions because they were so much better than all the other teams.  Oh, they crack me up.  Junebug surprised us with some natural talent in the hand-eye coordination category, and she played pretty well.  I think she's got a competitive spirit, which bodes well for organized sports.

Bluebird's team placed eighth in their league out of nine teams, and failed to beat that #9 seed team to even get into the City play-offs.  However, she learned to steal bases like a scary psycho woman.  Bluebird isn't terribly competitive, but she took to base-stealing with an enthusiasm that was a lot of fun to watch.  She got in a couple "pickle" situations over the season, and there would be this moment when she'd get this mischievous little grin on her face and a twinkle in her eye, and you knew she was going to stick it to the other team...she scored quite a few runs that way.  Loved it.

Penguin's team did it again this year--League Champions, City Tournament Champions, AND State Champions once more.  She started hitting the ball quite a bit, and in the words of her coach, during the State Championship game she "made a play at 3rd that was pivotal- absolutely amazing!  I jumped about 15ft in the air :)  I was so proud of her and happy she experienced it!"  She improved a lot over this season!

No, I didn't see the pivotal play at the State Championship game.  Because I wasn't there.  Because my darling boy, who wanted to come along and cheer for his big sister at her important game, royally smashed his right hand in the bathroom door at the ball park about two batters into the game.

Michael saw him first after it happened, saw the blood, picked him up and ran him over to me and deposited him in my lap, blood dripping everywhere.  I finally got Monkeyboy to let go of his hurt, saw that his finger was completely flat and that I could see the inside of his finger through a nasty gash on his knuckle, and said, "To the ER it is."

So while Penguin was making her awesome play, I was letting Monkeyboy squeeze my hand while the doctor injected numbing medication into his finger.  He ended up needing eight stitches and he's got an almost straight-through fracture in his right index finger.  Stitches need to stay in for two weeks, and the finger needs to stay splinted for a month.  Oh, this boy.

Bluebird is attending Girls' Camp for the first time this year.  Michael and I are certain we've misplaced about four years of her life somewhere because this isn't supposed to be happening yet, it's too soon.  What?

From what I've heard from the Young Womens President, Bluebird's having a good time, so I'm pleased.

It's been a good summer so far.  My back is still giving me fits here and there, so we're taking it easy and mostly staying at home.  We go to the library once a week, we play with water in the front yard, and we run errands.  I've kept the freezer stocked with ice cream treats and popsicles, and the kids think it is the highlight of their lives that I let them have one every day after lunch.  Sigh, sweet summer days.

We've spent tons of time in the garden, which was coming along nicely until a mole moved in, and a couple of voles have also decided to make it their place of abode.  The mole took out one of my sunflowers yesterday, and this morning when I went out to water the garden I noticed that my entire parsley plant is just gone, roots and all.  Parsley was next to the murdered sunflower, so I'm suspecting the mole made his move yet again.  Ugh, I am going to kill that thing.  Literally.

I'll need to take some photos of the garden, I'm quite proud of it.  The climbing roses are doing well; not much climbing in this first year, which was expected, but blooming.  The mole got one of the climbing roses early in the season, and I really thought the plant was dead, but it put out shoots two weeks ago on one side, so it might just make it.  The wisteria is still pretty shrimpy, but that's also expected.  It's alive though, which is all I'm shooting for this year.  The hydrangea is...alive.  I've got to do some research because I think I'm doing something wrong with them, they look kind of sad.  The zucchini plant has started producing, and I think my new tree is completely dead.

The morning glories are crazy.  I've planted them numerous times in the past, but have never been able to get them to sprout very well, and then the grasshoppers would come along and eat the one or two that did sprout, but this year I sprayed for grasshoppers and we're being treated to a great show of insane growth--one of the plants spilled over the top of the wall in my backyard yesterday, which is a pretty tall wall.  I think I see the beginning of flower buds on them, so *fingers crossed*.  I'll show you in pictures next week, hopefully.

I hope your summers are going well, and hopefully, now that I no longer live at the ball park, I can resume with some regular blogging.  :)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Kindergarten Graduation

Keeping in line with the whole "no more babies" thing going on around here...

He's already asking when first grade starts.  Patience, my son...let's have a wonderful summer first; a summer where you and your sisters can still be little kids before you're all in school full-time and your oldest sister heads off to junior high.

They really weren't joking around when they said that it would go by fast.

My Girl and I Made a Quilt Together

Last summer, Junebug begged me to take a "Mommy & Me" Learn to Quilt class with her at the summer art camp for children in our town.  I obliged her, and two weeks later she had a cute little quilt that she "made with Mom." The moment it was finished, she started asking if we could make another one.  "Maybe next summer?" was my response, "We need to focus on getting you ready for the new school year."

"You mean second grade?" she asked, "I don't want to go to second grade.  I want to be done with school."

"Well, that's a bit of a problem, because you've got about fifteen years' worth of school ahead of you still, babe," I answered, "but don't worry, second grade is one of the best years of school.  You're going to like it a lot."

"No.  I'm not.  I hate school."

We had multiple bouts of this conversation in various ways, each time ending with her declaring her abhorrence for all educational endeavors.

The first day of school came along, with her frowning through breakfast, rolling her eyes as I chirped about all the new things that were waiting for her and her siblings in the new school year, and scowling and dragging her feet as she made her way to the bus stop.  I prayed that the day would soften her heart, but she returned home with the same sour look on her face, and the next morning it was more of the same.  Awesome. the end of the first week of school, she was converted...because she fell in love with her teacher.

So, when she ran home from the bus stop sometime last autumn, burst into the house and screeched, "My teacher is going to have a baby!  CAN WE MAKE A QUILT???"  I immediately replied with "Well...YEAH!"

I made her wait until she knew what the baby was going to be, and she skipped through the door right before Christmas Break and told me that her teacher's baby WAS A GIRL!  Over the course of Christmas Break, while I worked on other projects, Junebug mosied through my craft room, taking fabric out of drawers and asking opinions about whether or not her newest selections looked good together before launching into chattering about the things that were on her mind.  It was a lovely way to spend those winter afternoons.  She's such a sweet girl.

We continued on in this fashion for weeks, until one day when I took a little gander at the "pre-order" page at my favorite online fabric shop and saw the Vintage Picnic fabric collection and started crushing hard enough to actually consider pre-ordering a bundle of it...but then I started to talk myself out of such an extravagance.  But then my lil' Junebug walked by and saw the fabric on the computer screen and she stopped dead in her tracks and said, "Can we use that fabric for the baby quilt?  It's pretty."  And her eyes were all big and shiny with the pleasure of looking at a beautiful thing...what else do you say to those eyes besides, "Well...YEAH!"

We made it through the wait until the release date, and spent many a happy hour discussing fabric placement and auditioning our choices.  I was wrapped up in birthday season and the last mile of prep for the Amethyst & Diamond banquet, so we had to wait until mid-April to begin actually working on the quilt, but it's an easy pattern that comes together quickly, and we went with an all-over stipple for the quilting, so we were good on time.  I finished binding the quilt last week, and two hours later I received an email from the Room Mother announcing a surprise baby shower for the teacher.  Perfect timing.

So Miss Junebug skipped off to school last Friday, her backpack brimming with a baby quilt for her much-loved teacher.  I hoped her teacher liked the quilt (always a gamble when it's a surprise), and I actually heard from her yesterday about how much she liked it, so yay!

Normally I wouldn't go to such lengths for a teacher's baby, but this is Junebug we're talking about, who is about seventeen clicks more enthusiastic about stuff than most people, and I am deeply indebted to this teacher--I have had to listen to a million reasons why "my teacher" is so great, and what wonderful things "my teacher" teaches about, and how smart "my teacher" is, and, and, and...I'm just so grateful for it all because that was most definitely not how I thought this last year was going to go.  This woman changed my little girl's life for the better, so yeah, a baby quilt seemed like a good idea.

Hopefully her little baby girl will have teachers who spark her enthusiasm for learning like her mama has done for my own daughter.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Randomly on a Friday

  • I was prescribed a new medication last week to help with the residual nerve pain in my back, and I've spent almost every day since in my bed with vertigo that has had me feeling like I'm going to be flung off the edge of the Earth.
  • Being that dizzy also brought along some lovely nausea.
  • Totally worth it, though--no nerve pain for the first time in three years.  Yeah, nerve pain sucks that much.
  • My doctor gave me the go-ahead to reduce my dosage yesterday, so today I'm upright...a little bit.  He says that the dizziness should clear up in three to four weeks.
  • I'm all caught up on my DVR and Netflix queue.
  • Softball season officially started this week!  ALL FOUR of my kids are playing this year, which is going to be super crazy.
  • Bluebird played two games this week.  She stole home from second base in the first game, and stole home all the way from first base in the second game.  The girl is becoming a pretty confident ball player.
  • I didn't see the games because we had an Activity Days meeting at the same time--right about the time she was taking off from first, I was discussing armpits and acne with the Activity Days girls.  Gotta love a "Health and Hygiene" lesson.
  • I'm not ignoring my other kids--Penguin's game was cancelled due to rain, and Junebug and Monkeyboy's seasons start mid-May.
  • Some of my plants arrived in the mail this week.  I have big plans for my backyard; I want to turn it into an "English cottage garden" of sorts.  We've tried growing vegetables back there, but it's just too small a space for the effort, so I've decided that I would like a lovely little space to sit and sip lemonade during the summer.
  • I have plans to put in some hydrangea, climbing roses, and wisteria so far.  It's going to be a long process of multiple years to realize my vision, but it's going to be beautiful and totally worthwhile.
  • The landscaping crew stomped through my barely-sprouting Lily of the Valley patch in the front garden.  Sigh.
  • The kids want to study Ancient Civilizations over the summer.  Nerds.
  • They come by it honestly.
  • Bluebird and Penguin want "homemaking lessons," too.
  • Oh, to be a young girl again and think that homemaking is just about making quilts and baking cakes.
  • Regardless, I'll totally indulge their fantasies.  I remember when my grandmothers would teach me baking and sewing, and I loved it so much.  I'm all too willing to give my own girls the same happy memories.
  • I was really hoping to get some sewing done today, but I think I'm still too dizzy.  
  • Which is really too bad, because there are A LOT of babies due this summer that I'd like to sew for, and between crazy softball/baseball season and gardening, there's little time leftover for sewing this time of year.
  • Ah, well, we'll survive whatever it turns out to be.  First World problems and all.

  • I hope you all have a lovely weekend!  Hopefully I can have some pictures for you next week.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

No More Babies Here

There is something about a child turning six years old that definitively says, "This kid is no longer little" to me.  All the birthdays after six are about "big kid" accomplishments and behaviors.  It is truly bittersweet, even after being told by veteran mothers to slow down and enjoy my kids' baby years, and feeling like I slowed down as much as I could and spent as much time with them doing baby and toddler things, that I still wish I had done better.



Of course, had I "done better," I'd have gone insane--I never understood why people said being a mom was "the hardest job" while I was raising toddlers and babies; but, now, looking back on it, I am completely amazed that I got through that.  It's a chapter of life that is very physically demanding, mentally demanding, and it. never. stops.  You are constantly trying to protect a human being with very little in the way of logic skills from constantly killing themselves, which, understandably, takes up a lot of your time.  And then they finally go to bed and you get to make the decision about whether or not you're going to do one of two things:

  1. Catch up on your other responsibilities, or
  2. Rest.
It all boils down to that, and no matter which one I chose, I always felt like I should also be doing the other one at the same time.  It was years of feeling stuck in a no-win situation every night.  Because it was a no-win situation.  I could pat myself on the back and remind myself that the kids were happy and healthy, and that's what mattered most, and be a little stern with myself to stop fixating on the imperfections, and I'd rest uneasily with that truth.  But truly, I like things to be done right, and I wanted to do all the things every day and go to bed with the feeling that "everything" was done.  And it bugged me royally to go through all those years feeling like things were not "done;" to force myself to choose the priority of relationships over order.  With choosing order, you get instant gratification; with choosing relationships, you simply get to hope that what you did that day will matter in twenty years.  And that feels like a big gamble.

But then, because life is life, you have to find a balance between the two!  Because, while spending time with your wee ones is always well and good, you also need to eat, you need clean clothes, and you need to not live in a cesspool of germs.  It was always a tightrope walk routine for me--how much time could I spend with my children before the dishes in the sink start to stink?  Would my child remember this time that I chose vacuuming over playing a board game with them, and resent me?  It sounds almost silly to even write that down now, but goodness, was I ever consumed by those kinds of thoughts for the past twelve years.

I really didn't like being told that my job was hard during those years--people have been raising babies for centuries, I had machines to do most of my dirty work, and none of my children had disabilities.  It always felt like people were trying to elevate something very ordinary to make themselves feel better about their life choices or something.  Raising kids is  The praise felt condescending at times.

But now, I look back on it and think, "Oh my goodness, you are freakin' amazing.  That was hard."  I couldn't see it while I was in it, and I didn't know that it would ever be any different because I've never raised kids before, but not having babies and toddlers is a completely different game.

Monkeyboy helping in the garden, 2011.
I am in the process of rebooting my garden after two years of neglect, and it's very slow-going because I have to respect my poor back's limitations.  The front garden looks rather OK, and it's a raised bed that I can somewhat handle on my own, but the back garden is a nightmare that I can't even begin to tame without the threat of serious re-injury.  I was standing in the back yard, surveying the chaos and trying to come up with a gameplan, when I had a lightning-flash of realization: my kids are no longer babies and toddlers.  As in, they can help me with the garden.

So I called them on out, explained what needed doing, assigned them each an area to work, and we got going.  What would have taken me two hours and confined me to my bed for a day afterwards was done in ten minutes.  We talked to each other while pulling the weeds, and the kids hovered about me afterwards while we continued our conversation.

And after they had wandered back to whatever they were doing before I called them outside, I sat in dumbfounded amazement, remembering all the years that we'd spent in the back yard with me on the verge of a nervous breakdown as they tried to help and truthfully just made almost everything worse--the year I finally put in some peonies, only to have the kids pinch off every. single. bud. because they thought they were helping me with weeding; the year that one kid kept picking all the green strawberries because "they tasted gross" and she thought she was doing everyone a favor by throwing them away; the millions of times that balls and toys have accidentally destroyed every living thing in the garden.  Years later, all of those things are stories we laugh about at the dinner table.  But in those moments, they felt like constant impediments that were keeping me from rising to a vision I had for our home and family.  Ironically, those are the moments that make up some of our family's most treasured history.



We will have peonies now; despite the rough start those poor plants have had, peony bouquets will be part of my children's memories.  That one growing season's failures did not dictate the entire story of peonies in our lives.  It was but a moment.  They learned not to pinch the peony buds and we have years of peonies ahead of us.  We will have strawberries, and we will have other plants.  All those so-called "setbacks" were simply moments, NOT permanent storyline endings.

On the other side of the babies and toddlers phase, I can say that I have learned patience, and that I have learned the worth of a soul in comparison to all the other "stuff" in life.  I wouldn't have the patience now to teach my children about weeding if I hadn't gone through their toddler days with them--now I am so ridiculously grateful to be able to explain a task and have it performed somewhat sufficiently.  Gone are the days of nitpicking about tiny imperfections; if you didn't kill my plants while trying to weed, I'm pretty OK with a little bit of rogue weeds left behind--we'll get 'em next week.  My kids probably wouldn't care enough about these plants in the garden to ask about them had they not seen me caring for them all those years.  There have been so many lessons, and so much foundation laid already for them, and it's humbling to think that all those normal, ordinary days ended up mattering so much.  We remember and talk most about the big days, but it is the small and ordinary days that make us who we are.

We're heading into the teenage years, and I'm going to be honest and admit that I do worry a lot about these years.  Relationships are hard for me, and talking to people is hard for me.  I am too easily consumed by my creative projects, and chatter...ugh, chatter grates upon my soul at times.  But I know that talking is a big, important part of the teenage years, and that, even though they'll start becoming more and more independent, teenagers still need a lot of your time.  Based upon my experiences as a teenager, I fully intend to always lean towards the more "involved" option when it comes to parenting my own teenagers.  I make no apologies for that.  I've witnessed way too much of the "distance yourself" option and most of the time I don't like the end result, so I will lean towards over-involvement.

And we'll get through it all.  I don't know what I'm going to look like on the other side of this chapter, but the human race has kept going, so I think we're going to be OK, ha ha.  Mistakes will be made, regrets will happen, and lessons will be learned.  And years later, once the dust settles, we'll be thankful for the things we learned amidst the difficult moments, and we'll have kept pushing through the difficult moments because of fleeting happy moments that remind us of the joy of our daily lives and the joy that awaits us if we'll only just keep working towards those big, crowning moments of happiness.

I am so thankful to be a mother and wife.  I am so thankful for this life I lead.  I'm thankful for my "full hands" of many children, and I'm glad for the memories we can now laugh about that, once upon a time, made me think I was going to lose my mind.  Everything turns out OK in the end, and toddlers become big kids that stop destroying things.  All that matters to me now is that I wish I had kept that in mind during those years.  I worry that hasty, angry words may have found a permanent resting place in my children's hearts, and that makes me so sad.  I hope that is not the case.

Me, Penguin, and Bluebird, 2007-ish.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the chance to have babies and to be driven insane by toddlers and sassy preschoolers.

Junebug's Blessing, 2008
Please bless that the negative moments are softened in their memories, and that their hearts are full of love and good thoughts.  Please bless us in this next chapter that we can remember the big, over-arching point of all this living, and to behave ourselves and not hurt each other with words or actions.

Please bless us with more time in the garden together.

Please bless me to be able to focus on my children, and please help me to ignore the leftover weeds.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Six Years of Monkey Business

It was a very busy week in Brooketopia--the day after the epic Achievement Night Banquet for Activity Days was Monkeyboy's sixth birthday.

Thankfully, he only wanted "pepperoni pizza, salad, and root beer" for his birthday dinner, so dinner prep was simple.  Gifts had been purchased a month in advance because I knew I'd be too stressed with banquet prep, and that was pretty much everything.  I even ordered the cake from the bakery, which thrilled him to no end because it had BB-8 on it, and not some mediocre "done by Mom" decorating job.  Hey, give 'em what they want, right?

He was a pretty happy kid.  I made him his blueberry pancakes for breakfast, and he played with his new toys...that's a pretty good day for a SIX year old.

Oh, big boy.  My baby isn't a baby anymore.  He's obsessed with when first grade will start, when baseball will start, when x, y, and z will start...he's on the move and he's not slowing down.
Happy birthday, little man.  You are tangible joy.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The "Amethyst & Diamond" Achievement Night Banquet

My friends, my friends...I promised that I was back at Brooketopia, and then I totally disappeared.  Last night was the reason why I haven't written since my announcement of return.

I'm currently serving as the Activity Days Coordinator for my ward, and I am having way too much fun with this calling!  We're encouraged to have two "Achievement Nights" per year to give the girls an opportunity to show off what they're working on in Activity Days.  Having attended a Cub Scout "Blue & Gold" banquet a couple of years ago, I thought it'd be fun for the girls to also have their own year-end banquet of their own.  The other leaders and I decided on purple and white to symbolize our royal heritage and end goal of celestial glory, and off we went.

It turned out fabulously.

It was so much work, but it turned out so great because of all the work.  It was a potluck because it was a family event and my Activity Days budget could not afford to feed twenty-three families, ha ha.  We wanted it to be very elegant and special, and I think it turned out just right.

We also had a display table for these little beauties:

We started teaching the girls how to do English Paper Piecing (EPP) last summer, and they've been working on their projects all year.  I did the quilting and finishing work for them this last month, and they were happily reunited with their projects at the banquet.  The adults "oohed" and "aahed" over these projects, and the girls definitely had some proud little grins on their faces as they explained their projects to everyone who came over to take a look.  Some of the parents asked if we were planning to do a yearlong project this next year, too, and I'm afraid I probably did a deer-in-the-headlights impression every time I was asked.  I'm a little EPP'd out at the moment, but I'm sure that when regular Cara returns to life, we'll come up with something.  It was fun to have a long project.  (Not all of the girls shared this opinion...)

It was a very simple program, seeing that this was the first time we'd done something like this.  We had dinner, I gave a talk about the past year and what the whole point of the Activity Days program is, and then people looked at the girls' projects, and by then our evening was over.  Simple, but effective.

It was a lovely night.  A friend stated that it was "nicer than a wedding" and then declared dibs on attending any weddings that any of us leaders may happen to throw in the future.

We have a wonderful ward/neighborhood, so most of these kinds of things turn out so nice because everyone is so helpful and talented.  I'm really looking forward to putting together more banquets over the next few years.  I love "my girls" and doing whatever needs doing to help them feel extra special.  It was a good night.