Monday, June 29, 2009

Down By The River

Last week it finally heated up here in Utah. (We had lots of rain this month and I started thinking I could really like living on the northwest coast area. I never get sick of the rain.) So anyway...the kids have been begging me to take them to Provo's Veterans' Pool, which has a great splash pool. But we've been crunched for time and I don't want to spend $20 to splash for two hours or less. Then it dawned on me, after living here for almost six years, that we are within walking distance of the Provo River and never have gone there to play in the water. DUH! So last Thursday we headed over. (#3 was at her Grammy's for a few days.) We took a picnic lunch, an inflatable water chair, and a bottle of bug repellent. The temperature dropped as soon as we reached the river trail, and it dropped noticeably again when we were within a couple feet of the water. So even though the rest of the neighborhood was baking at 92 degrees, we had a pleasant afternoon in the shade. Our favorite spot on the river has a long swing hanging from a tree. You really get that flying sensation on it. #s 1 and 2 took turns walking up river a little ways and gliding down on the inflatable. The water is quite high and fast with all the snow melt, so I was glad we brought lifejackets. To stop themselves, the girls had to catch a tree branch that was hanging down by our spot. After one of #3's tube runs, I noticed the water shoes she chose for the trip: new Church sandals. Lovely.
#s 4 and 5 just played in a calm spot by our private "beach". They tried to build a mudman there, but he kept absorbing himself. It was a good thing I brought the repellent because we were attacked as soon as we picked our spot. I sprayed everyone down, and too late realized I had forgotten #5's head. (Click on the picture to be impressed.) We counted 14 bites across his forehead, poor kid. All in all, we had a nice two hours and we look forward to going back when the water is calmer. I think it will be fun for all of us to tube down a mile or so together.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Hard Working Dad

Yesterday I saw my neighbor mowing the lawn with his baby boy strapped to his chest. I later commented to Kent that it was cute to see those two working together. Today as I was organizing photos, I came across this one (from three years ago). Looks like my husband is just as cute a dad. He was working on the lawn with #5 before we even had the grass!

Kent is a hard worker and I appreciate all he does for our home and family. When we bought our house, he warned me that I would either do all the yard work or we would hire someone because he did not enjoy working outside. But he has since discovered that good earplugs and a phone full of his songs makes yard work doable--maybe even pleasant. Sometimes he'll even take out the earplugs and converse with me for hours while we kill bindweed or sift rock mulch. It's one of my favorite times with him.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Day With My Kids

As I was driving the kids home from the library yesterday, I wondered if it would be entertaining to anyone to know some of my daily interactions with them. Here are a few from yesterday:

I was teaching #1 a piano lesson in the morning. She had reminded me that it was her lesson day, and I think she wanted to play everything perfectly. We came to a song that has been really frustrating for her, and it was far from perfect. She has the right hand figured out, but can't get it to work with the left hand. She was in tears four measures into the piece. It reminded me of my own frustration as a piano student. I probably cried at a lesson or two back then too. It also made me realize how important extra-curricular lessons and activities are in teaching us to overcome obstacles. I'm sure similar moments of frustration are to be had in dance, sports, debate, choir, etc. Back to her lesson... I wouldn't let her leave until she had played--slowly--through the whole song. Then we shared a high five! I hope she feels more confident to conquer this piece now.

While I was teaching a second lesson to my friend's daughter, #4 popped in the doorway wearing only her underpants to show me her new cool trick. She rippled her belly. All I could do was laugh! She grinned, then waved--with her hand and her belly--and walked away. She'll make a good belly dancer someday!

Coming home from the library, I heard #5 pipe up from behind me, "Mom! I saw a woo woo uh meh-hi-go." Want to make a guess on the translation? Fortunately, I already knew that "woo woo" means anything with a siren. It's an easy way to sum up firetruck, ambulance, and police car. So I said, "You saw a siren in Mexico?" (I know it doesn't make sense, but it was my best guess.) "No. I saw a woo woo meh-hi-go." Then I remembered that we had just passed a policeman writing out a traffic ticket--and a motorcycle with its lights flashing was parked behind them. Translation achieved!

#3 spent most of the afternoon laying around in her bedroom when she should have been cleaning it. I opened the door to toss in some clothes that had been left in the hallway, only to discover #4 in there strapping on a bike helmet. So I shut the door. Then I used my brain. Why was she wearing a helmet in her room? At the window? So I went back in and found #3 letting herself down from the window sill. She had pushed out the screen and escaped. She said she had to use the bathroom. Really? Does getting a bedroom cleaned have to be so difficult?! Note: It's still not clean. We're returning to that battle in about 81 minutes.

#2 picked out the "Nancy Drew" DVD at the library and somehow got the idea that we were watching it before the day was over. So when I came home (after her bedtime) from Enrichment, she asked if we could still watch it. I thought about (by contrast) what a good kid she had been all day, and agreed. So we cuddled up on the couch, each with a bowl of ice cream, and watched the movie. Summer bedtimes are great!

One more from #5. While we were watching the movie, #5 left his bed to use the toilet. After doing so, he wandered into the family room and announced, "I shoot like Dad!" Great. Looks like I'll be scrubbing the bathroom floor today.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ward Campout at Blackhawk

This past weekend our ward held its first family campout at Blackhawk Campground on the Nebo Loop. After a week of rain in Utah, we had a warm day Friday and being in the cool mountains was very pleasant. I love spending time in the mountains and my senses were awakened driving up: the vivid greens from all the rain and the colorful wildflowers fresh in bloom; the smell of pines and a campfire. I was really excited to spend time in the outdoors with my ward family. I really love the Parkway 5th Ward. Our family has good friends here, and I am grateful that my children can spend their childhood with people I trust and love.

Last Thursday I attended a short class at the library about using digital cameras. The instructor taught us the five elements of a good shot and recommended that we practice them individually before combining them. After we feel comfortable with the rules, then we should break them. The first principle I am mastering is the rule of thirds, which says if your shot is broken into a 3x3 grid, the ratio of your subject to negative space (or vice versa) is 2:1. So basically, the subject should not be centered. I found that I'm a lot better at cropping for this rule than following it in the original shot. You can look for that on some of the photos below. I think it does add interest. There is one picture where I played with lighting instead and I really like the dark shadows of the late-night game table (though Kent wants me to add fill light so he can see their faces).

Anyway, the campout was great. The kids had a blast. Our bishop asked us to use the weekend to evaluate our 72-hr kits, and I've learned that I need to add air mattresses and ear plugs. I don't know why I always forget that tents are not soundproof. With dozens of tents laid out together, we heard babies crying and dads snoring all through the night. After packing up camp, we took a quick detour to the Payson Lakes Recreation Area (top picture, which, by the way, I don't know why it looks blurry; click on it to see how beautiful it really is) where we found some of our neighbors. They let the girls borrow fishing poles and we spent half an hour watching the fish jump just beyond the lines. I just relaxed with a book and enjoyed the cool morning. Once we were home Saturday afternoon, the wind ushered in pouring rain, which provided the perfect excuse for all of us to nap. Camping is exhausting!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Drum Roll Please...

After my post with the slide show of my spring flowers, I wanted to post a lot more about my yard. However, I realize that most of my readers here are not as passionate about landscape design and gardening as I am, so I created a new blog where I can write all I want about flowers and vegetables. You can check it out here: How My Garden Grows.

Thanks so much to my hubby for helping me put the blog together.

Monday, June 8, 2009

So Tired

I think I may have a sleeping disorder. I frequently wake up at night and sometimes cannot get back to sleep. Last night I woke at 2:45 a.m. for no apparent reason. At 4:45 I decided to get out of bed and do something with my time. (This is not what I had in mind when I wished for more time to finish everything on my to-do list.) It was nice to be productive for a few hours in the wee hours, but now I'm dragging through the day. I think maybe my sleep problems stem from not exercising enough. All winter I exercised and slept pretty well. Then I missed a few consecutive days of exercise and started sleeping poorly. But my lack of sleep makes me too tired to want to work out, so the vicious cycle continues. Sorry to be whiny. I'm just tired.

I envy my kids. Yes you saw that right: four of them are on one twin bed. My children frequently sleep like a litter of puppies. Makes me wonder why we even need two bedrooms for them. One seems to work fine.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Let Me Tell You 'Bout the Birds and the...

...Mosquitoes. Honestly, the mosquitoes this year are more numerous and more vicious than I remember in years past. I kill at least a dozen each day inside my house. The kids are getting eaten alive, but I guess considering all the dangerous stuff mosquitoes carry, I should just be thankful they (my kids) are still alive.

Now for the birds. In years past, we usually have a bully Magpie that chases the sparrows and finches away from the bird feeders we put out. This year we have two Magpies nesting, and they had babies. Their favorite activity all day is chasing my cat around. I woke up a week ago to their squawking and looked out my sliding door to see my cat cornered and staring at the fence with one Magpie on top of the fence and one on the ground behind her. And the noise! It's worse than roosters.

Here's a short video of them bullying Brownie the cat, who came to the front door meowing to come in away from these obnoxious birds. (The cats are strictly outdoor cats and only ask to come in during snowstorms when we let them sleep in the garage.) It's not great cinematography; the camera seems to lose focus from the subject partway through, but you'll see why.

The last few days I've heard some higher-pitched squawking and discovered that we have four baby Magpies in the tree. (Try to imagine the video with four more voices. Annoying!) These babies are as big as their parents; their tail feathers just haven't grown in all the way. Since they can't fly away yet, they spend all day creating a racket, and their parents spend all day yelling at the cats who probably have headaches from the noise and wouldn't want to chase these crazy birds anyway. Kent wants to borrow a BB gun from someone. I've taken to spraying them with a jet stream from the garden hose. Either way, I'm hoping they vacate soon and let the quieter birds come back to our trees.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Polish Grandma

A friend of mine, Kinga, sends occasional group emails to her friends. I love the most recent one and wanted to pass on excerpts of it to all of you.

The background is that Kinga immigrated to the USA with her family when she was a teenager. She is now in her thirties and is a mother of five. Her sister, Sylwia, comments on my blog sometimes. (Feel free to set me straight on the facts Sylwia.) Last October, they "kidnapped" their grandmother who has lived in Gizycko, Poland all her life. From what I understand, she separated years ago from her husband when he moved to another city for a new job and she refused to go with him because it would mean leaving the only place she knew. So in the kidnapping process, they took her to Germany and then brought her to America to live with Kinga's family. It has been so fun to hear updates on her life in America, my favorite of which came this past Sunday:

"Yesterday we had a wonderful day together with the kids and grandma. We got a summer pass for the brand new outdoor Lindon swimming pool. I bought one for her and she is thrilled to be so spoiled she said. She said I overindulge her in the pleasures of life. We went swimming with all 5 kids and had a great time.

Grandma was very slow in the lazy river and was not making any progress but holding on to the edge so she won't be blown off with the strong current. I told her to let go, but she would not let herself go scared to go under or hurt her leg even though the lazy river is only 3 feet deep. So I just gave her a piggy back ride as fast as I could a few times around the lazy river. That was so much fun. She was screaming with joy. She would not go down the yellow slide, but promised me that she will one day, just not today. Then we all went to the hot tub. Oh, she has never experienced anything like it, the jets massaging her back and nice warm water. She said she could have sat like that all day.

Afterward we were all very hungry so I took everyone out to Chuck O Rama....Gma was so full afterward she thought she was going to die. I take Gma out to eat once a month and she loves it soooo much. In Poland they don't have all you can eat restaurants and when I told her we had something like that she did not believe me. Well since she came to America she has been to them once a month now. She said if they had something like that in Poland, then people would just come in the morning and go home late at night especially if they have the bathrooms here. I told her no one would do that, they would die of overeating. But I am sure grandma imagines herself doing that.

Afterward we went to Wal-Mart to buy Gma some things and us some things we needed. Gma loves going to Wal-Mart and sit in a big wheel chair and get pushed around the store or drive around the electric one. She loves window shopping. But always reminds us not to spend too much money because we can live simply if we try. She has in Poland. She teaches me to take care of my old things or fix them instead of buying new ones every time. But whenever I buy her something she talks about it for a week she is so happy."

I love seeing my America--the one with water parks, hot tubs, buffets, nice bathrooms, and cheap shopping--through the eyes of an 84-year-old who has lived her whole life without those things. As you can see in the picture above, taken at the Baltic Sea, Lusia is a spunky little old lady. I love that she can experience the fun things of America that we often take for granted. Thanks for sharing her adventures Kinga.