Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Birthday thoughts and details

I turned 38 years old yesterday. I can calmly and confidently admit to my age because although it puts me a lot closer to 40 than 30, somehow I'm okay with that. Admittedly, I do have minor freak-outs occasionally. Going to my 20 year high school reunion, finding more and more gray hair, having a daughter that is learning to drive...these are all things that make me understand my age, even if I don't necessarily feel it. Luckily, I look young for my age. All those people who tried to console me back when I was a 12 year old-looking high schooler by telling me that when I was in my 30's and looked like I was in my 20's I would be grateful...were right. And somehow I don't physically FEEL old either. Well, you know...other than the fact that my metabolism isn't what it used to be. Those cookies, cupcakes, chocolates and licorice that my neighbors so kindly gifted me yesterday will take some effort to work off. Because yes, I WILL be eating them!

But mostly I'm okay with turning 38 because I have a lot more confidence in myself now than I did even just a few years ago. Confidence in who I am, life experiences and wisdom. About 8 years ago or so I had a conversation with Sharlene Hawkes, a friend from my old neighborhood. She is a few years older (and wiser) than me...and told me, when I was complaining a bit about my upcoming 30th birthday, that she quite enjoyed turning 30. That she was enjoying her 30's for numerous reasons but mostly because people took her more seriously. I was rather surprised at this. She was Miss America for heavens sake, traveling all over the country doing speaking engagements and performances. And an ESPN reporter after that, interviewing big sports greats....all in her 20's. And people didn't take her seriously until after she turned 30?? I couldn't understand made no sense to me until after I reached that big (scary) milestone age and grew into it a bit. What I came to realize, for me anyhow, was that it wasn't necessarily that people started magically taking me more seriously. It was that I was taking myself more seriously. I had done some pretty heavy duty reflection leading up to that 30th birthday. Reflection about who I was, what I had done with my life, what I wanted to be and do with the next 30 years. I wrestled with it for quite a few months. I came out of it more grounded...which then led to me reflecting back that confidence in myself to others.

I don't want this to sound like I am the most confident, self-assured person on the planet. I have my moments of doubt. I am wracked with shyness and self esteem struggles periodically. But I am happy with my life and who I am. And that makes my age rather irrelevant.

A few details from the day in pictures:
1. An early morning bike ride with some neighbors. All of us training for LOTOJA, we did hills. My leg doesn't have hills like theirs do. But I huffed and puffed up Crestwood hill and was rewarded by seeing 4 deer on the side of the road! Beautiful!
2. Facebook Happy Birthday greetings. I was overwhelmed with how many messages I got! It was a definite highlight of my day.
3. Lilian had ballet class. Here she is waiting for the carpool to come pick her up.
4. The Relief Society birthday banner flying in my yard.
5. Ah, roses. They smell so good!
6. Went to voice lessons. That song is the Queen of the Night aria from Mozart's "The Magic Flute." And if you look really close...see that ridiculously high note up there? Yeah, it's a high, high F. Highest I have ever sung.
7. Family tradition holds we make our own birthday banner for each family member's birthday throughout the year. The kids had a good time coloring this one for me yesterday after school.
8. Gymnastics workout for Brandon. I was on carpool duty.
9. Julianne and Lilian.
10. Star of India for dinner....yum!
11. After dinner. (We took two different pictures. Bryan has his eyes closed in both. Oh well.)
12. Came home to find numerous treats on the front porch. I have such kind neighbors....who know me extremely well! :)
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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Weekend camping trip

In one last summer hurrah before school started, we went camping with two other families in our neighborhood this past weekend. One family with 4 boys, the other with 4 girls...all of the kids with ages very similar to each other and already good friends. Though we aren't really hardcore campers (hahaha! See our camping trip from last year...) and though Lilian and I would have to come up a little late because of our Disney trip, we decided it would be great fun and accepted the invite. Tony's Grove up Logan Canyon was the destination and what a beautiful camp site it was! Colorful wildflowers everywhere and a gorgeous little lake....clear and calm. We spent the weekend fishing, shooting and kayaking and had a blast!

This butterfly was found struggling in the water. It was rescued and given to a delighted Lilian...where it then was content to stay for the next 10 minutes or so until it dried out and flew away.

Kayaking was a big part of our trip. The kids all took turns paddling around the lake. Even the 3 moms got a chance to head out for a bit. At one point all 6 teenagers took the kayaks driver, one passenger per kayak. They came back laughing and very wet (I think a tip-over was involved...) but it was fun to see them enjoying their time together.

Anthony, Daniel, Rebekah and Kirsten

Being the novice campers that we are, we still don't own a tent. Borrowing one was, I think, the plan (I was gone during packing and prep, remember) but somehow it didn't get done. Rebekah and Julianne had already made plans to share a tent with Kirsten and Taylor. When Lilian and I arrived, we were informed that Bryan and Brandon had been sleeping in the back of the truck. This is not the first time Bryan has camped out in the truck. (See here) With a big foam pad in the bottom and the cover over the top, the back of the truck makes a cozy, albeit sardine-like, bed. But for anyone who may struggle a bit with claustrophobia (me, me, me!!) it's less than ideal. Add to this, the news that mine and Lilian's sleeping bags had been left behind! (To this day, the girls are still blaming it on their Dad, and vice versa.) We rounded up some extra blankets and a pad and made a bed for Brandon on the back bench in the cab of the truck. The other two sleeping bags were zipped together and placed in the bed of the truck for Bryan, Lilian and myself to share. It was tight, and dark but it looked like it would work. We cracked the top for some air, I prayed mightily to stave off the claustrophobia and then shut my eyes tightly and went to sleep. It wasn't the best nights sleep by any stretch of the imagination but we did get some shut eye.

We awakened to a boom. Literally. 5:00 am we were subjected to an impressive thunder and lightning rain storm. Wow! We were all covered, we were all dry, we were all cozy...but we were a part of that big storm being out in nature like that with only a tent (or a truck bed) for protection. It was seriously AWESOME! I'm a big fan of summer thunder storms anyway, so this was really fun...even if it meant we weren't getting much sleep!
Back at camp...Daniel, Kirsten, Rebekah, Nick, Taylor, Julianne and Anthony

Bryan and Didi checking on the dutch oven chicken. We had quite the fancy dutch oven meal on Friday night....

Faith is a good 3 years older than Lilian but they got along really well and enjoyed playing together the whole trip.

The three couples....Bryan and Sarah, Didi and Curtis, Sarah and Blake (and Faith) :)

Brandon and Ben

We had such a good time with such great friends and there is already talk of making this an annual end of summer tradition.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

First day of school

School started yesterday. Unusually enough, all 4 of my children are in different schools....Rebekah, a sophmore in high school, Julianne in 8th grade at the brand new jr. high, Brandon in 5th grade at the neighboring elementary, and Lilian in her second year of preschool. It will be a challenge to keep all of these schedules straight with 4 different start and end times...not to mention early out Fridays and late start Tuesdays!

Rebekah's schedule consists of 8 classes split up into A and B days....4 classes per day, an hour and a half each.
1. Food/Nutrition
2. World Civilization
3. Fit for Life
4. Choir
5. English
6. Geometry
7. Seminary
8. Biology

She had the first 4 classes yesterday. Which means that today is another first day of school for the second half of her schedule.

Funny story about Rebekah's first day....
We're still trying to figure out how to get Rebekah to school each day. Originally she figured she'd catch a ride with a friend who can drive. However, this friend is newly 16 and according to Utah law, may not drive anyone other than herself for another few months. There is a bus. But because so many high school students drive to school or carpool with those who do, there is only one bus for the entire west side of our town. Which means that Rebekah would have to be at our assigned bus stop at 6:38 am. School doesn't even start till 7:30!!! That's awfully early! There is another bus stop at 6:51 am that isn't too far...I'd have to drive her to the stop each morning but maybe we'll give that a try. The past few days I've just driven her to school. But regardless of the morning commute, we decided that she could certainly ride the bus home. Yesterday she and some friends went out to the bus after school only to find it broken down. A replacement bus had been called but was still supposedly 15 minutes away. Rebekah and 3 of her friends decided to go back inside the school for a drink of water while waiting. They swear they were quick as quick could be but when they came back, the replacement bus and all the other waiting kids were gone! Why, at this point, did they not call a parent, I don't know. But the original bus driver, seeing their plight and feeling awfully bad that they had been left behind, called ANOTHER replacement bus. Just for the 4 of them! Rebekah arrived home a good hour and a half after school got out, but she made it. :)

Julianne has 7 classes...each being attended for 45 minutes every day.

1. Keyboarding
2. Science
3. French 2
4. English
5. U.S. History
6. Theatre 1
7. Algebra

A new Jr. High was completed over the summer so Julianne is attending a different school this year than last. And although originally she was less than thrilled about changing midway through Jr. High, the principal and staff have tried very hard over the summer, through emails and activities, at keeping the kids in the loop and excited about their new school. It's a really nice building...our old jr. high, as much as we loved it, was 50 years old. Julianne is especially excited about having air conditioning! :) Another new and neat thing...every single student gets their own Netbook (laptop) for assignments and ebooks, etc. Julianne's History teacher, who is jazzed about the possibilities, remarked, "You guys are guinea pigs. These netbooks will either be a rousing success and the first step in changing how we do things. Or it will be a huge flop!"

Despite the fact that this new Jr. High is right next door to our elementary and the elementary kids are bussed, the Jr. High kids will not be. I guess they figure that teenagers are a little more traffic savvy and street smart? Julianne has chosen to ride her bike with some friends to school and back...well, at least until the weather gets colder and the snow flies.

Last week while I was in California I got an email from the elementary school stating that the 5th grade was overcrowded and that they had hired another teacher. I started having uncomfortable deja-vu. Last year around the same time, I got the same sort of email. Brandon ended up in a funnel teacher in the morning and then splitting off to another class in the afternoon...a class that was already being team taught. He had 3 teachers all together! And although Brandon rolled with it, I had some issues with the situation. I so did NOT want to do THAT again! But when I called the school in somewhat of a panic, I was informed that Brandon was not in a funnel fact, he had Mrs. G., the same teacher Julianne had in 5th grade...a teacher we adored! Needless to say, Brandon was thrilled and had a great first day.

With all 3 older kids having very distinctly different first day experiences and stories to share (Lilian doesn't start preschool until after Labor Day) we had a special Back to School dinner. I decorated the table with little bouquets of pencils, pens and crayons. I printed out the mascot/mottos from each of the various schools, stuck them into apples and made them into place tags, of sorts. We just had navajo tacos...nothing fancy, but while we were eating we had each of the kids give us a first day report.

It'll take some time to get back into the swing of things, to give up the relaxed and unstructured way of life we had during the summer and trade it for the schedules of school and all the extra- curriculars that have been on hiatus the past few months. But it's all good and I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

More Disneyland...

What's Disneyland without the characters? Just your normal, average theme park really. The characters are what makes Disneyland magical. We loved seeing the characters in the parades, available for photo-ops, or just randomly wandering through the park. Lilian was particular about which characters she was willing to stand in line to see. Amazingly enough, she didn't want to meet the princesses. (Well, other than Rapunzel. But the line to her tower was 90 minutes long and we had a plane to catch....) Mostly Lilian wanted to watch them for a moment and then move on.

The characters she WAS insistent on wanting to officially meet...and willing to patiently wait in ridiculously long lines for:

One of the "handlers" for Winnie the Pooh and gang was some young guy who was keeping the line entertained by asking trivia questions...Disney in general and Winnie the Pooh specifically. I was answering questions right and left that no one else knew the answers to. He was all sorts of impressed and determined to find something that would stump me. Finally he got one. What is Winnie the Pooh's real name? He even gave me a hint...that the name was only mentioned in the book, that it was an old fashioned name and it started with an E. He was feeling all sorts of triumphant when I couldn't figure it out. He made me promise to go home and look it up. Do any of you know the answer?? :) It is Edward Bear. You know...just in case you're someday in a long line and a Disney employee, trying to kill time, asks you that very question. Now you know!

Lilian was completely fascinated with any and all things Minnie. She patiently waited in line for a good 45 minutes...not even giving up when Minnie had to go on a break.

Mickey, on the other hand...well, she did want to meet him, but seemed a little nervous about it....judging from the fact that she was clinging so tightly to my neck and trying to put as much distance between her body and his. :) I don't know if it was because Mickey was the first character we met, or if it had to do with a bit of celebrity awe seeing as she watches "Mickey Mouse Playhouse" almost daily.

Mater and Lightning McQueen. Lilian recognized them and the line was short so we hopped in for a quick photo-op.

We were on our way out of Disneyland to get some dinner when Disney's Soundsational Parade was just getting started. Crowds lined the street. Did Lilian want to watch the parade first? NO! She wanted to keep on moving. She was very insistent about it...until she heard the music and saw the drum line that begins the parade, followed closely by a very big, very colorful float with Mickey and Minnie on it. Lilian quickly changed her mind and we scooted into a spot where we could watch the rest of the parade. As you can see from the picture below, she was enthralled.

I personally, loved the parade so much myself that a few days later I bought Lilian an ice cream treat and told her we needed to sit down to eat it....mostly just because I knew the parade would be passing through very shortly and I wanted to see it again! :)

Disney sure knows how to put on a great parade....
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Saturday, August 20, 2011


As I mentioned before, this past week was a girls trip to Disneyland. Lilian, my mother and myself. We decided on a 4 day adventure completely planning to make it a Lilian guided, Lilian paced trip. 4 days in the park meant that when Lilian wanted to go on the Little Mermaid ride 3 times (in a row!) we could. It meant that we weren't worried about spending 45 minutes at the splash pad (while Lilian got SOAKED). We could go back to the hotel in the middle of the day and swim for a few hours without worrying that we weren't going to be able to fit everything in. 4 times in through Sleeping Beauty's castle and more than your average time spent at Goofy's playhouse and Tom Sawyers tree house? No problem. Which also meant that although Disneyland isn't usually a hugely relaxing type of vacation....we didn't feel overly rushed which was nice.

At the Salt Lake airport waiting to board the plane. And although Lilian was very excited about flying in an airplane, she was less than thrilled with all the waiting around that comes with travel.

Entrance to Disneyland

Cotton candy at Paradise Pier in California Adventure and a Mickey Mouse shaped sucker at New Orleans Square in Disneyland. We fell prey to the sidewalk vendors probably more often than we should've. The popcorn and Mickey shaped creamsicles were especially yummy....

Paradise Pier

Waiting to meet Minnie Mouse.
Getting surprised by a jet of water at the splash pad.
And riding the carousel.

Yes, that is a Mad Hatters hat on my head. What is it about Fantasy Land that makes grown men and women decide to wear the silliest things on their heads? I justified my purchase by telling myself that I would wear it for Halloween as well....

Jungle Cruise
After we got off this ride we discovered the Bengal BBQ. Amazing meat and vegetable kabobs. We highly recommend it the next time you find yourself in Adventure Land....

Waiting for and then riding on the Disneyland Railroad.

On Tuesday night we watched the World of Color at California Adventure. It's Disney's big fountain and lights show over Paradise Pier. A half hour worth of oohing and awwwing, jaw dropping, amazingness. (How's that for a description??) It was AWESOME! But it was standing room only. So I held Lilian so she could see. For 20 minutes before the show started and then 30 minutes of the actual show. Then she fell asleep....just as my long walk back to the hotel began. It was like carrying the dead weight of a sack of potatoes. Paradise Pier is in the very back of the park. And the going was slow seeing as there were hordes of people all trying to leave at the same time. Once out of the park we walked all the way through Downtown Disney. And then a few more blocks to our hotel. All told I think I carried Lilian in my arms for close to 2 hours. Oh my aching back...and arms...and legs...and feet! Needless to say, I was on ibuprofen the next day...

Fantasy Land
It just IS Disney to me. My favorite part of the whole park. Even if it is also the most crowded....

We took a raft over to Tom Sawyers Island and let Lilian run around for awhile. She loved the tree house. My mom and I loved the fact that we were able to sit on a bench and rest our weary feet while Lilian played.

Toon Town

Friday, August 19, 2011

A little sneak peak...

Can you guess where we are in these pictures?
Multiple choice:
A. The Land of the Mouse
B. The Happiest Place on Earth
C. The place people go to wear silly hats, wait in long lines and spend a lot of money
D. Disneyland
E. All of the above

The correct answer is E but if you answered with any other letter I will still give you full points.
We spent 4 days. "We" being just Lilian, my mom and myself. Well, you know...also Mickey and Minnie, all the princesses, Winnie the Pooh and his friends, and a few gazillion other people.

More pictures and stories to come but here is a sneak peak for today. A story in pictures, if you will indulge me....

I decided it'd be a great idea to take a picture in front of Sleeping Beauty's castle. After all, not only is it one of THE PICTURES TO TAKE while in Disneyland, but also, the castle was one of Lilian's favorite attractions. We toured the darn thing FOUR times!
I handed the camera to my mom and....

Trying to get Lilian to look at the camera. Despite what it may look like, it's NOT the view behind her that is making her not want to turn around. It is pure 4 year old Lilian stubbornness. This picture was NOT her idea. Therefore, she is NOT going to participate.

Ummm..... ??? Should we just call it good? Sorry for making you stand and wait there, Mom, on what should be a quick photo op.

Maybe if I flip around really fast when she's not expecting it we'll get some face time....

Wrestle, wrestle, wrestle

{Resigned.} Okay fine. Bag it. Maybe I don't want the picture THAT bad anyway.

Lilian: Oh! Mom gave up? I guess I can stop hiding my face now.

Hi Grandma!