Thursday, May 31, 2012

Graduation...preschool style

It's a red-letter day, my friends.  Lilian has graduated from preschool.  Do you know what this means?  Can you grasp the significance of this?  All of my kids have finished preschool!  And even more importantly...I never have to drive a preschool carpool again! 

And yes, okay.  When Brandon graduated from preschool back in 2006, I thought that was it.  Lilian wasn't yet a part of our family...not even a thought in my head or a twinkle in my eye.  So I suppose you could argue that this is the second time I have experienced this particular red-letter day.  (Let's hope it really is the last this time, shall we?)

And okay, actually I was a little bit sad.  I'm not prone to be a mommy-crier at things like this.  And realistically, I'm more than ready for Lilian to head off to Kindergarten.  What I was more sad about was the thought of losing Miss Cindy.  Lilian adores her and amazingly enough, that adoration is mutual!  Not only has Lilian enjoyed her two years with Carefree Kids Preschool, she has also learned a lot!  More so than her siblings did in their years at the preschool they all three attended in our last town.  Lilian is a lot more prepared.  Yes, she has more than likely learned a lot just from her place as the youngest in the family, hanging out with and picking up things from her older sisters and brother.  But I have no doubt, most of her academic growth has come from preschool.  And my heart swells a bit when I think of Lilian's sweet teacher who spent so much time working with her.

 Celebrating all the summer birthdays.  (Lilian's birthday is in just 3 more days....she has a paper chain in her room that she has been diligently counting down the days with.  Can you say excited?)

Apparently Miss Cindy has some super-secret-teacher-fairy power that turns the kids into official Kindergarteners. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

One more star, one more stripe

It's been a week.  Over a week, actually, since I last posted.  This is unusual for me.  But it's been a week.  You don't need the details... and frankly, I just don't want to get into it.  Suffice it to say, my emotions have been all over the map.

But right now I am listening to some Sara Bareilles, Lilian is still asleep (at 10:52 AM!!!) and everyone else is gone.  I'm enjoying some down time.  Should I be vacuuming, emptying garbages and sorting laundry?  Oh, undoubtedly.  There is a very good chance I will regret this potentially unwise use of time later.  But maybe it's not unwise, after all.  I think maybe I need this sit still and be quiet time.

Life is busy in May.  I've long since realized that May exceeds even December in terms of hectic.  But when I glance at my calendar I realize that things aren't about to get easier any time soon.  I have so many things penciled into each and every square in every shade of pink, orange, green and blue pen that the whole month of June looks like a firecracker ready to explode.
3 days till school's out.
4 days till Little Red Riding Hood.  (We're going up Friday, actually, and spending the night.)
5 days till Lilian's birthday.
11 days till San Diego.
16 days till Ragnar.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
(Yes, I realize I'm mixing my metaphors...fireworks and icebergs don't tend to go together.  Work with me here, people.)

So I'm busy.  Maybe I'll be able to truly take time off somewhere around the second week of July.  We'll see.  So what that I've somehow found myself in charge of numerous events?  (An example:  Ragnar team captain...more work than I thought it would be.)  It's all good stuff.  I just need to be thankful for and savor the experiences, yes?  Delve into the details and find the joy in them.  At least that's what I keep telling myself.  Because as much as I am physically busy, the stress comes from trying to mentally keep it all straight in my head.  And in the meantime, I've decided that a spotless house and a perfectly manicured yard is overrated.

In a completely unrelated change of topic but something I have been thinking about nonetheless...
In my voice recital last night I sang "The Flagmaker, 1775" from Songs for a New World.  All about a woman whose son and husband are fighting the British in the Revolutionary War.  She's worried, scared, frustrated, so she spends her time more star, one more stripe.

With the guns flaring, and the drums pounding
There's no hope of getting rest.
With the lights glaring, and the calls sounding
And the clenching in your chest.

When the man's in battle and the baby's rattle
Only makes you more depressed...
The wise woman does what she knows.
If it's fighting she fights. If it's sewing she sews.
When the tension inside overflows and goes too far...

One more star, one more stripe, to escape your lonely bed.
One more star, one more stripe, join the blue, the white and red.
One more star, one more stripe, as you pray your child's not dead.

With the roof leaking, and walls wetter
And the night as black as pitch.
With the wind shrieking, and his last letter
Says he's fighting in a ditch.
Then the candle flickers, and the river bickers
What else can you do but stitch?

One more star, one more stripe, til you feel the rising sun.
One more star, one more stripe, til this foolishness is done.
One more star, one more stripe. Who'll be waiting when we've won?

Grab a needle, grab a thimble if it's all that keeps you sane.
Think of freedom as a symbol, think of justice as a gain.
Think of life with independence, think of muskets and brigades
Think of taking the oppressors, think of banners and parades.

When the gate creaks
And the paint cracks
And the cat cries
And the night crawls
Raise a flag!
Raise a flag!
Raise a flag til you're free!

One more star, one more stripe, til this bloodshed's finally through.
One more star, one more stripe, til they come back home to you.
One more star, one more stripe, when there's nothing you can do.

If they take all the things
That define what you were and are...
One more star...  

I really dug into this performance, really put myself into the character.  By mid-song I was more or less into full mental break down mode as the character finds herself trying hard not to completely lose it.  It  Well, yes...actually.  It's always a neat challenge and experience when you can feel the song you are performing well enough to really become the character.  I admire this woman.  And the other men and women like her who fought for our independence, for our freedoms.  I think we take those freedoms for granted today.  And I think that we are all too willing to give them up in the name of "security."  Freedom comes with risks.  If you want to be truly free, then you have to understand that things like 9/11 can happen.  Ask yourself....15 years ago if you could see into the future and watch yourself try to board a plane, would you be appalled at all the hoops we have to jump through? To the point that we are willingly walking through full body scanners, letting strangers see us nude, just so we can fly?  With only the slightest bit of a whimper from the public as a whole.  Scanners that are so graphic that children under 12 aren't allowed to walk through because the images are too close to child porn?  But we feel safer, right?  So it's all okay.  It's a slippery slope, my friends.

My privacy has been breached this past week.  It's a little bit funny if you think about it, because I spend a lot of time being anything but private as I share all sorts of details about my life on Facebook and this blog.  And is MY CHOICE as to what I share.  I live a small life.  Valuable to maybe just a small handful of people.   But the thought of someone snooping through my private life without my consent, bothers me more than I can tell.  I feel violated.  Realistically, however, there is nothing I can do about it so I go on with my more star, one more stripe.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Presidential Fitness Challenge Decathlon

Remember the Presidential Fitness Challenge when you were in elementary school?  My memories revolve around being forced to do the long jump and shuttle run and 200 meter dash, push ups and sit ups....all outside in the heat and all on one day.  Things have changed a bit in the last 30 years.  They seem to take it all more seriously now, for one thing.  Or maybe they did before, but my 10 year old brain couldn't really comprehend why they were making me put my body through all these sporty kinds of activities.  Sports and I didn't really mix well back then.  So the only cool thing about it was that I was allowed to wear shorts to school that day.  (Now that I think about it, the Presidential Fitness Challenge was our actual end of year Field Day.  How pathetic is that?)

Anyhow, the Fitness Challenge now is spread out over a few weeks.  Most events are done inside the gym instead of out on the grass.  There are more events including:
200 meter dash
jump rope
shuttle run
archery throw
sit and reach
basketball dribbling
standing broad jump
cup stacking

Cup stacking?  Yep.  Cue the song from Sesame Street...

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

You've got the melody in your head, right?  I've been humming it all day.

I understand that cup stacking is all about eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills and all that...but I have to admit that I found it rather humorous to watch the kids all seriously making and un-making stacks as fast as they could...all in the name of physical fitness.  Seems a rather broad definition of the word "fitness" when you add cup stacking to these other specific Fitness Challenge events.  At least in my opinion...

But scoring in and completing all of these events at your elementary school isn't the end for some students.  After tallying overall scores, the 2 boys and 2 girls from each grade 4th-6th with the highest scores move on to a decathlon where they compete against kids from other schools in the district.  Brandon was one of the two top boy score-getters in his 5th grade.  He was pretty darn excited.  This morning I drove him to a neighboring high school for the big event.  It was barely controlled chaos with so many kids and so many events to get through but it was fun to watch.  Brandon and his team did not place but I think he had a great time.  He kicked trash on the curl-ups and push-ups, obviously.  Five days a week conditioning at the gym before working on gymnastics skills makes for a pretty strong kid in those areas.  But  I tell you what, it was a little odd to watch Brandon dribbling a basketball around a bunch of cones.  Brandon and basketball hasn't ever been a mixture I've seen before.  And probably never will again...good thing I got a picture!  

Monday, May 21, 2012

Looking forward to early mornings

This right here? 

This is the best way to start my morning.  Out on my porch swing on the back deck, with a mug of hot chocolate, a blanket (depending on the temperature), and my scriptures.  (Or this morning, the April General Conference talks.)  I can't tell you how rejuvenating it is, both spiritually and mentally, to start my day out this way.  The birds are chirping, the weather is mild, the sun just starting to peek over the mountains....and I'm reading the word of God that inspires, uplifts and strengthens me for the upcoming day. 

I am not a morning person and have always struggled with getting up early enough to make sure the girls have awakened and are in the process of getting ready for school.  (Seriously, why does high school have to start so early?)  Now that I have discovered this little morning routine, when that alarm goes off I can fairly easily convince myself to get up because I have something to look forward to. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cue the music...

Rebekah and Julianne put on a Broadway Review with their theatre group last night.  Julianne's Junior Productions group performed songs from Thoroughly Modern Millie and Hairspray.  Rebekah's Senior Productions group took on music from Wicked and Les Miserables.  Julianne also performed as a member of the Disneyland performing group...a subset that is putting together a show to take to Disneyland the first week in June.  Good heavens, do I have talented girls!  They just blew me away!

Thoroughly Modern Millie:

A show with a lot of numbers perfect for a lot of fun choreography and dancing.  They even had tap dancers!


Rebekah absolutely shined up onstage doing these Wicked songs.  She was just so ON with all her choreography, her facial expressions, her stage presence.  Aren't the costumes great?  Our city performed Wizard of Oz last summer so green was in great supply and readily available for loan. 

Disneyland performing group:

Focusing mostly on music from Newsies (props to the director for realizing how awesome of a show Newsies is!!!) they also did a big medley of more traditional Disney songs.  Julianne sang the solo "Colors of the Wind" from Pocohontas in the medley.

Les Miserables:

Very serious songs call for serious expressions while singing.  It's not a show that involves lots of lighthearted dancing...but Les Miserables has always been one of my very favorite shows so I was thrilled that it was included in the Broadway Review.


Julianne sang the role of Amber Von Tussle and had quite a big solo.  She was awesome!  Call it motherly bias if you must but in my (somewhat) expert opinion, she was clearly the best of any of the solos throughout the whole performance.  She was thrilled about the chance to wear a body mic again....  (Remember "Power in His Touch" here.)  

Monday, May 14, 2012

Oh, my aching back

I spread mulch throughout my flower beds today.  Two truck loads worth.  Entirely by myself.  Well, unless you count Lilian.  Which I don't.  Because realistically her attempts to help were more of a hindrance than anything.  (Shh.  Don't tell her I said that.) 
That's hours and hours worth of shoveling, raking and pushing a wheelbarrow around.

I came in with a bright red face (it took a few hours to determine whether it was a sunburn or just related to my tendency to turn bright red when it's hot) and covered head to toe in a thin layer of dirt.  (Yes, I wore shoes.  Just no socks.)  I have no doubt my back will ache tremendously tomorrow.

But hey...sure looks nice, yes? 
I think I'll give myself a few days before I tackle the backyard flower beds.  Luckily that should necessitate only one load of mulch.  (I hope.)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Favorite Photo Friday: Times Square

May 11, 2011

One year ago today I was here...Times Square in NYC, having just had lunch at the famous Roxy's Deli and getting ready to see "Anything Goes" on Broadway. 
This is what I wrote on my blog later that night when I got back to my hotel:

I had my first experience with Times Square today. I thought I was prepared for it. I'd seen pictures, I'd seen video. Regardless, I was still stunned. Because those pictures do not do it justice. I found myself out there in the middle of it all...the signs, the colors, the lights, the noise and the people...and turned circle after circle to take it all in. I have tried really hard to fit in this week. To act with confidence and like I know exactly where I am going and what I am doing...just like a native. Once in Times Square, though, I have no doubt that I looked every inch the epitome of a visitor...with "tourist" rolling off me in waves. I could not stop the awe from showing on my face.

I am aching to go back to NYC.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Rebekah turned SIXTEEN yesterday!  Remember my list of markers that show how life is passing ever determinedly and rapidly....despite not really feeling my age?  Things like grey hair and wrinkles, a 20 year high school reunion and a husband turning the big four-oh?  Having a daughter turn 16 is right up there at the top of the list.  Thank you, Rebekah, for the shocking reminder that I really am 38 years old.

I don't cry when my kids go to primary for the first time at 3-years old.  I don't cry at preschool graduations.  I don't cry when at 5-years old they go off to Kindergarten.  I DO, apparently, cry when they turn 12 and go into the Young Women program at church.  And apparently I DO get a little emotional when they turn 16.  Heaven help me when Brennan comes to pick up Rebekah for a date tomorrow night...I'm pretty sure that if I cry as they walk out the door it might be humiliating, for both mother AND daughter.

To celebrate this momentous milestone birthday...well, we thought it would be appropriate for Rebekah to go on her first date.  With her father.  Maybe the sentiment wrapped around a father being his daughter's first date is only something I appreciate...still, Rebekah and Bryan had a good time.  Dinner and then "The Avengers" movie made for a great evening.
But the biggest part of Rebekah's 16th birthday observance will actually be a month from now.  Bryan and I decided to start a new tradition...that of taking all of our kids on a trip for their 16th birthday.  Oh, nothing too exotic, but something that would give us the chance to have some one-on-one bonding time with our teenager right before they head off into the land of dating and jobs and even more general teenage busyness.  When asked for guidance in selecting a spot, Rebekah's main criteria had to do with sitting on a beach.  So we booked a resort hotel at Mission Beach in San Diego for 4 days.  I have to admit, I think I'm just as excited as she is!  Doesn't it look amazing?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Father of Bride

I used to think a wedding was a simple affair. Boy and girl meet, they fall in love, he buys a ring, she buys a dress, they say I do. I was wrong. That's getting married. A wedding is an entirely different proposition. I know. I've just been through one. Not my own, my daughter's. Annie Banks Mackenzie. That's her married name: Mackenzie. You fathers will understand. You have a little girl. An adorable little girl who looks up to you and adores you in a way you could never have imagined. I remember how her little hand used to fit inside mine. Then comes the day when she wants to get her ears pierced, and wants you to drop her off a block before the movie theater. From that moment on you're in a constant panic. You worry about her meeting the wrong kind of guy, the kind of guy who only wants one thing, and you know exactly what that one thing is, because it's the same thing you wanted when you were their age. Then, you stop worrying about her meeting the wrong guy, and you worry about her meeting the right guy. That's the greatest fear of all, because, then you lose her. It was just six months ago that that happened here. Just six months ago, that the storm broke.

Father of the Bride is one of my all time favorite movies.  You know the one, right...with Steve Martin?  This movie came out when I was in college.  I saw it at the one-movie-a-week Ephraim theater with my roommate Leslie.  She must've thought I was a little nuts when I see-sawed back and forth between uproarious laughter and sentimental tears throughout the entire movie.  But that movie made an impact on me, hit me pretty hard.  And I'm sure it was because, though I wasn't engaged at the time, I knew it was getting close.  Even then, the movie reminded me of my Dad.  Which became all the more humorous when I did actually get engaged and start planning a find that my Dad was reacting in very similar ways to Steve Martin's character.  Oh, not to the same extremes, of course.  He didn't get arrested for stealing hot dog buns or anything like that.  But the decisions to be made of how many guests, where to hold the reception, the "Please don't make me wear a tux!!" plea, and how much everything was going to cost....mingled in with his emotions of losing his oldest daughter.  

Who presents this woman? This woman? But she's not a woman. She's just a kid. And she's leaving us. I realized at that moment that I was never going to come home again and see Annie at the top of the stairs. Never going to see her again at our breakfast table in her nightgown and socks. I suddenly realized what was happening. Annie was all grown up and was leaving us, and something inside began to hurt. 
 This quote from Father of the Bride makes me cry every single time of the countless times I have viewed the movie.  Thinking was the night before I got married.  I was puttering around downstairs taking care of last minute items.  Taking a shower, setting out my clothes I was going to wear on the way to the temple the next day, making sure I had my new pearl earrings my parents had given me to wear with my wedding dress, etc.  On one pass of the countless back and forthing through the hall, I saw my parents coming down the stairs together.  My Dad lightly grabbed my arm to stop me from walking past.  And then, to my complete astonishment, he picked me up...all 19-years and 100 lbs of me...and carried me to my bedroom.  He set me down gently on my bed and pulled the covers up around my chin, tucking me in like I was a little girl again.  He kneeled on one side of my bed, my mom on the other and then he proceeded to give me a fathers blessing.  I don't remember the words of the blessing.  Only the feeling of love and protection.  And then when he was done, he wrapped his arms around me, and cried.  I'd never seen my Dad cry before.

Last night I saw Father of the Bride in a play version at Hale Centre Theatre.  And as I sat there I had a mix of emotions.  Thinking back to my own time as a bride, yes.  But also about my own first born daughter.  Rebekah turns 16 tomorrow.  I met Bryan when I was that age.  She's already got boys clamoring for dates, waiting anxiously.  Oh, a wedding is still a few years out, certainly...and if she doesn't get married when she is 19 like I did, well...I'm not going to be upset about that!  But it will come and seeming all too soon, is my guess.  And then we'll have another Father of the Bride situation at our house.    

Monday, May 7, 2012

My Reason 2 Ride

I woke up Saturday in the early morning and cold for a bike race.  But this time, rather than ride it, I volunteered at it.  The Cinco de Mayo Fiesta was a century (100 miles) race hosted by Biker's Edge (my favorite local bike store) and Reason 2 Ride, a charitable organization started by some people in my neighborhood.  

MyReason2Ride (R2R) is a charitable organization that unites cyclists and charities, raising money for their specific cause. Our goal is achieved by putting on cycling events where bikers choose a reason to ride from one of three categories; Health & Wellness, Education and Humanitarian Aide. Each year we ask R2R participants, "What Moves You?" allowing them to determine which charitable partners... we support under each category. Money for these charities is raised through direct donations, ride entry fees, sponsor participation and club partnerships. 100% of the profits from each event are donated directly back to our charitable partners. In addition to organizing our own events, R2R has various strategic partners in the cycling community including other established charitable cycling rides, races and events. 
I spent my morning checking in riders, taking donations and answering questions.  Surprisingly, it was a lot of fun...and rather interesting being on the opposite side of the table for once.  Registration was free.  The fully supported race and lunch at the  Donations were hoped for but not required.  And if you donated, you got to choose which, from a list of charities, you wanted your money to go towards.  The goal was to raise $1,500.00.  We raised $3,800.00!  100% of which goes to charity.  Such generosity!  We even had a few bikers that were not part of the race that just happened to be riding by, stop to see what was going on and then donate!  It was pretty awesome to be a part of all that.  I've already volunteered to help again later this summer at another event....

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo with Subway and a big, bright super moon

As the kids get older and therefore busier, we're finding it harder and harder to find family activity time.  Oh, we have moments here and there.  We're usually all together on Sundays.  (Well, you between the various ward and stake choir rehearsals I'm encouraged to support and odds and end meetings, firesides and home teaching appointments.)  We're usually all together late on weeknights...but then family togetherness is usually all about doing homework at the same table.  It takes effort to carve out family time.  It takes sacrifice.

Yesterday we found a moment.  Rebekah willingly sacrificed her plans to go to The Avengers with friends so we hastily made plans for a picnic at the park.  Being Cinco de Mayo and all, I suggested tacos.  I was voted down in favor of Subway sandwiches.  But regardless, we spread out the blanket on the lawn and had our family dinner in the great outdoors.  Afterwards we had a big frisbee game that included all 6 of us.  And then, when we realized that other park-goers had left and we were the only ones still around, we took advantage of the empty playground to play tag on the equipment.  I'll tell you what, Bryan made a very formidable "IT."  I got quite a workout trying to scramble all over that playground in an attempt to keep away!

A little bit later that evening we hauled a bunch of sleeping bags out to the back lawn, snuggled down into them and let the sky, rather than the TV or computer, be our entertainment for the evening.  It was the night of the "Super Moon"....meaning that one day a year where the moon is the closest to the earth making for an especially bright and big ball of light.  It also coincided this year with a meteor shower from the tail of Haley's Comet.  So cuddled and cozy in our sleeping bags with the 43 degree cold air on our faces, we watched the heavens, sang silly songs and told equally silly stories until all 4 of the kids fell asleep around 11:00.  It was a fun evening.  I hope we can make the time for family activities again soon.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Favorite Photo Friday

It's like one of those screen tests:
Upset...maybe sad?
Scared...or maybe surprised?

December 2008

Thursday, May 3, 2012

It's the thought that counts...

It's Teacher Appreciation Week at the elementary school this week.  Instead of taking flowers, this year the PTA has changed things up a bit.  They gave each teacher a basket and the kids were supposed to fill it with a sweet treat on Monday, a piece of fruit on Wednesday and a school supply on Friday.  Because he thought it would be funny...and because he knows his teacher, who is quirky and has a great sense of humor, would most likely appreciate it...Brandon took a watermelon for her fruit basket.  His idea, completely.  I had to drive him to school because the thing was a bit awkward for hefting around on the bus.  I'm dying to hear what Mrs. G said when he put a big watermelon on her desk!