Thursday, January 17, 2019

Wesley is 7

Wesley is 7!!
He is as sweet as sugar, and his birthday was simple and enjoyed by all.
We started the day with waffles
and he marched off to school as happy as could be.
We were planning to meet him at school for lunch
and when he walked into the lunchroom with his birthday crown on he was exploding with joy.

We ate lemon broccoli bowtie pasta and french bread for dinner and then had his cake
(decorated as he requested with a BYU football helmet sculpted out of rice krispie treats)
and he opened presents.
Wesley gives THE. BEST. reactions to gifts. Those faces can't be beat!!

We were cracking up to see his excitement over a Christmas piano book.
I started teaching Wesley piano around the beginning of the summer and he has surprised me by flying through songs and figuring out how to play well beyond his assigned level. The other day he sat down with a Primary songbook and started playing both hands together (!!) and he also started playing the beginning chords of "Praise to the Man" just by ear. He told me he sometimes figures songs out in his head while he's at school. I think music is his natural gift!

Even with that excitement over the piano book, though, he was probably most excited about his remote control car.

Wesley is a pure delight to have in our family.
As a baby, we noticed how he seemed to have an unusual brightness and innocence about him. With his blonde hair, bright blue eyes, rosy cheeks, and sunshine-y disposition, he seemed to literally exude light.
At 7 years old, he has not lost that sweet innocence and we are grateful for his goodness every day.

-Wesley loves school. He has amazing penmanship and when I asked what the best part of his day was recently, he replied by listing every part of school...he loves it all!

-He is quite the little artist! He has a really distinct style of drawing and effortlessly draws detailed scenes filled with emotion.

-He loves to read and can often be found curled up somewhere reading (or reading in any one of a number of unusual positions, such as standing on his head with his lower body propped up on the couch).

-He is super good at staying on task. He will wake up to his alarm, get totally ready for school, and then come downstairs and begin making his lunch without being asked.

-Wesley loves foods from the bread family. His favorite dinners are avocado pasta and lemon broccoli bowtie pasta and he is ecstatic on the rare occasion I pick up a loaf of french bread--he will eat almost the entire loaf himself!

-He also loves babies. He enjoys playing with Benson and getting him to smile, just as he enjoyed being with Maxwell.

-Wesley is a peacemaker. He is easy to get along with and is a mellow, kind friend.

-He has the most contagious laugh and when he starts giggling he gets all of us going.

We are so grateful to have Wes in our family--I don't know where we would be without him!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

I'm Brave

On Friday, Maxwell's finger got pinched in a bench and was bleeding quite a bit.
I was cleaning him up and attempting to soothe his sadness and quiet his cries
when I made the comment, "You're so brave!"
"Yeah!!" he replied.

And then for the next several minutes he kept looking at his finger and declaring adamantly,
"I'm braaaave. I'm braave."
He stood at the top of the stairs and yelled down to Lincoln.
"Lincoln?? LINCOLN??? I'm braave!"
When his brothers got home from school he showed off his bandaged finger and said again,
"I'm brave!"

I was struck by how quickly my comment became a part of his identity.
While I was grateful he immediately internalized my passing comment,
I was also hit with a pang as I remembered times my comments hadn't been quite as positive to my boys.
Although I've always been careful to not give our kids negative labels,
I have said things like,
"Why can't you guys stop fighting?"
"It isn't hard to remember--just put your shoes in the shoe basket when you take them off!"
"They're picky eaters."

And whether I mean to make those things part of their identity or not,
my boys are hearing,
"I always fight with my brother."
"I'm not smart enough to remember to put away my shoes."
"I won't ever like those foods."

Thankfully the positive comments we give far outweigh the negative ones,
but that little incident with Maxwell motivated me to strive even harder to address bad behavior without connecting it to a child's identity--
to say things like,
"You are such a kind person and I really hope you will start showing that kindness to your brother now."
"I know that you'll be able to remember to put away your shoes."
"The boys are good at trying everything I ask them to. I used to not like many foods but I kept trying them and as I got older I began to like a lot!"

I'm grateful for the continual opportunities I'm given to learn and change.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Talmage's Birthday Party

As I mentioned before, we decided on a "wilderness survival" theme for Talmage's birthday party.
I had such a blast putting it together!
We kept things pretty simple, but all the boys seemed to enjoy the activities.

Planned activities:
-making bows and arrows out of wire hangers, string, and wooden dowels
-target practice with bows and arrows
-decorating drawstring backpacks
(these were later filled with water, trail mix, bows and arrows, and birdfeeders for the boys to take home)
-plant and bug identification challenge
-obstacle course relay race
-making peanut butter/pinecone bird feeders
-disgusting food challenge

I was most looking forward to the disgusting food challenge...
what 8-10 year old boy doesn't enjoy showing bravado by gulping down disgusting things??
Sadly, as I was bidding the last guest good-bye, it dawned on me that I had forgotten to do it!!
I was so busy keeping the party going that it totally slipped my mind.
I was super disappointed.

The boys seemed to really enjoy themselves, however,
even without sardines in their mouths.
I was kept busy enough during the party that I didn't have much of a chance to take pictures!
But here are a few highlights:

We had Talmage's birthday dinner a couple of days previously, on his birthday, as a family.
He requested cheeseburgers, chocolate bran muffins, honeycrisp apples, and a BeyBlade stadium cake.
Are you familiar with BeyBlades? They are super fun tops that you wind up and then launch into a stadium and they battle each other with different abilities.
I was looking for ideas online, so the kids were looking with me and I explained that ours wouldn't look as good as the pictures I was looking at.
I was decorating his on his birthday after the wasp incident
and I was kicking myself for ever beginning to make birthday cakes that look like something.
Seriously, it takes all day and it destroys my kitchen and it seldom tastes as good as my regular cakes and I am almost never happy with the end result.
But then the boys came in to take a look.
I was met with a chorus of "Woooowww, Mom, that is incredible!!" "I bet if you put that on a cake decorating website everyone would think it was fondant!" "You got the frosting so smooth!" "That is amazing!!"
It was all so sweet, but I think I would have preferred a chorus of
"You know, we don't care if our cakes look like a non-edible object."
Even with all the little-boy encouragement,
that tradition might soon go out the window.
Here is a picture of his very mediocre cake:

9-year-old Talmage:

-is a great helper around the house and is especially good at helping Maxwell and keeping him happy with piggy back rides, making up games to play with him, and keeping him safe.

-loves studying non-fiction and memorizing facts with his near-photographic memory. He got a book of 5,000 awesome facts for Christmas and has been reciting random facts to me since then.

-is always up for trying something new, whether it's a food, an activity, or something else.

-is still a voracious reader and excels in his school work. I'm grateful for extra school programs and awesome teachers who want to challenge his brilliant mind and not accept less than what he is capable of.

-loves Scouts.

-is always thinking critically and asking "why." One day he told me he thought a watermelon sounds hollow when it's ripe because the sound waves travel more quickly through something that is juicy since it has more liquid in it. He is always coming up with things like that.

-loves creating and is constantly making cool creations out of paper, cardboard, tape, wooden skewers, etc. The latest was his own board game called "Divers vs. Sharks."

-thinks he wants to be a mechanical engineer when he grows up.

-just got the school character quality award for "self-discipline," because when his peers are talking at inappropriate times or speaking crudely he refrains from joining in. I was so grateful to hear that! He can be trusted to make good choices even (probably especially) when we're not around.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Catching Up

The holidays are over,
we've returned from our trip to Utah,
birthday season has passed,
I finished writing an 80+ page book for Sam for our 10th anniversary,
I finished President Nelson's Book of Mormon challenge,
my baby is sleeping through the night and taking consistent naps
(or at least, he was before our trip...),
and I am finally feeling like I can take a breath.

Blogging hasn't been a high priority for quite some time,
but I do want to record events that took place during my absence,
so I'll be playing catch-up for a while.

Feel free to tune out for a few weeks if that doesn't strike your fancy!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Changed Criteria

Totally unrelated picture of my boys at the zoo,
but I think it's pretty cool that the gorilla is made completely out of recycled tires.

With five little boys at home,
some days I feel like things are pretty smooth sailing.
Today was not one of those days.

The kids are out of school all week for Thanksgiving, so I scheduled check-ups for Talmage and Wesley with the pediatrician for this morning. The mother of all colds descended upon our household a week ago, so we've been coughing and sniffling up a storm and my kids' faces have constantly been a very goopy sight to behold.
So I didn't feel like I could ask anyone to watch any of the kids while I took the oldest two,
not to mention the fact that a lot of my friends are out of town for Thanksgiving.

The thought of five little ones, plus me and the doctor, crammed into one tiny exam room wasn't exactly thrilling, but I put a brave face on and hoped for the best.

And then I realized.

I'll spare you the details of why, but our minivan was parked in a parking lot a couple of miles from our house.
I didn't have a car and my chances of getting a ride were slim to none
(how many people do you know with SIX extra seats and carseats in their car??).
Undeterred, I decided we would ride bikes to the pediatrician's office.
It's only about 2 miles away and there are sidewalks almost the entire way, so it would be fine.

Except that I need to fix a part of my bike and the baby seat doesn't fit on Sam's bike.
So I decided I would walk, pulling Lincoln, Maxwell, and Benson in the wagon, and Talmage and Wesley would ride their bikes.
It's only a couple of miles--no big deal, right?

We were cutting it close on time, so I quickly threw my hair into a ponytail, jammed kids into coats and hats, pumped up a bike tire, and set off at somewhat of a jog (as much of a jog as I could manage while pulling a heavily loaded wagon behind me), trying to keep up with the boys on their bikes.
About fifty yards into our journey I realized that I really should have brought a water bottle.
With my hacking cough and the other grossness of a bad cold,
I was struggling to breathe.
But I definitely wasn't turning back, so onward we went, coughing and wheezing all the way.

As we went along an incredibly busy road with cars zooming past us close enough to touch (though we were on the sidewalk),
I was pretty optimistic (ha!), thinking things like,
"There is NO WAY I can make it all the way there pulling these kids while hacking up a storm."
"We are going to be so late."
"I hope no one we know drives past."
(This is Memphis, ya know, and while there is plenty of foot traffic it is generally more the just-out-of-jail type than the mom-with-5-kids type, so I was quite a spectacle...)
"What if that guy right there suddenly just shoots us all?"
"I didn't realize how many hills this road had!!!"
"I am going to die if I don't get a drink RIGHT NOW."
(Spoiler: I didn't die.)

About 30 minutes into our journey we were still a couple of blocks away and it was time for us to be at the doctor.
I stopped the kids and called the pediatrician.
"Good morning! My kids have an appointment and we had some car trouble. I'm almost there, but I'm going to be 10-15 minutes late..."
(No car=car trouble, right?)
"Okay, let me just check and make sure that's okay," the receptionist told me.

"Okay??? Okay?? PLEASE don't turn me away after all this!" I thought with desperation.
Thankfully she came back on the line and said it would be fine and we made it the last few blocks to the pediatrician.

As I stood in line to check in my body began shaking, and I started to feel really faint and nauseous.
"I'm going to throw up!" I thought with horror.
I imagined myself dashing out the door and vomiting in the bushes and then forced the feeling away as I tried to breathe deeply and calmly.
Finally I got everyone checked in (boys with amazing helmet and hat hair)
and sat down to catch my breath and continue working on not throwing up.

The nurse called us back, we stuffed everyone into the exam room, they were all relatively calm (with the exception of a screaming fit when Maxwell fell and hit his chin on the windowsill), I got a drink, and we finally made it home.

As I walked through the door, I remembered three Hawaiian sisters I knew in college.
They lived one floor below me and they became pretty good friends.
One day I was walking up to campus in a snowstorm and they saw me and pulled over to offer me a ride.
I explained to them that I liked to walk in snowstorms because it felt good to tell myself,
"I'm going to get there, and I'm going to get there HAPPY!"

Today when I got home I just thought to myself,
"Well, nobody died and nobody cried. Success."

My criteria for success has DEFINITELY changed.
But maybe not that much.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Birthday Trauma

We had never thrown a birthday party for our kids with their friends before,
and they had never asked for one either.
This year Sam and I talked it over and decided we would plan to do one for each of them when they turn 4, 8, 12, and 16. Since Talmage missed the 8-year-old party last year, we decided to do a party for him this year. I got pretty excited about it, having never done it before, and we decided on a wilderness survival theme.

For one of the party activities, I wanted the kids to make slingshots out of sticks and elastic,
so on Talmage's birthday (a few days before his party), I enlisted the help of the boys to go hunting for forked sticks.
We headed to the park pictured above with the hope that there would be branches on the ground from the many trees that would work for what we had in mind.
The weather was perfect, and I sat happily in the front seat of the car watching the kids while I nursed Benson.
Maxwell wandered along behind Talmage and I thrilled in the peace of the moment.

Suddenly I heard a loud SCREAM and I saw Talmage sprinting through the trees.
I'm pretty immune to screams from my kids by this point, so I honestly didn't think much of it at first and continued nursing Benson for a few seconds.
But he repeatedly screamed as he ran and then shouted, "THEY'RE ALL OVER ME!!!"
I quickly plopped Benson onto the front seat of the car and met Talmage a few steps away as he was frantically slapping his head and arms.
"What's all over you???" I asked.
"I DON'T KNOW!" he replied. I looked at his trembling hands and noticed torn skin with what appeared to be maggots of some kind embedded in them. Horrified, I wondered for a split second what kind of carnivorous maggots could be attacking my son, and then I took in his entire appearance and saw not maggots but WASPS covering his body.

I froze for a moment, wondering what I could possibly do that wouldn't harm him further or hurt anyone else. My heart was racing as I said, "Bud, I'm going to rip your shirt off your head and then I need you to run into the car, okay?"
There were at least a dozen wasps all over his shirt and it looked like they were oddly paralyzed.
I didn't have time to take it in or wonder what was going on, though, so on the count of 3 I ripped his shirt off, threw it on the ground a distance away, and herded everyone into the car.
We drove across the parking lot, away from the wasps, where I could finally assess the damage.

Maxwell had been stung once on the side of the head, but everyone else was okay besides Talmage.
What I had initially thought were maggots were actually stingers and pieces of smashed wasps that must have resulted from the slapping as he felt the initial pain and before he realized what was going on.
He had been stung all over one hand, the other arm, and the head, and his entire body was shaking violently.
I gently removed stingers before the 10-minute drive to home.
Talmage was gasping in the back seat and I kept telling him, "It's okay to cry, bud, it's okay!" because he wasn't doing anything but gasping for air.
The pain just continued to escalate as we drove home and I pulled into the garage.
I yanked the car into park and ran into the house and began running bath water for Talmage.
His head was hurting so much and upon closer examination there was another stinger stuck in his scalp. I removed it as well, noticing that the back of his head was red and swollen all the way around to his ear and down his neck.
One hand remained swollen about twice as large as normal through the following day.
In all he received probably about 12-15 stings (It was difficult to tell how many there were, especially in his hair).
Throughout the evening the pain would go through a cycle where it would decrease and then suddenly crescendo for several minutes. He would pace around the house until it eased back off.
Needless to say it took a couple of hours before he felt up to having his birthday dinner and presents.

The whole thing was really terrifying for him and for me.
I woke up in the night, still thinking about how awful the situation was and imagining all the things that could have happened, and it occurred to me that I was so focused on the bad that had happened that I was neglecting to recognize and be grateful for the little miracles that took place.

Like how only our oldest boy was attacked (who could probably handle it best) and Maxwell, who was right next to him, was only stung once. Talmage later told me that he was just walking along when he attacked; he hadn't moved any sticks or rocks, so they really could have attacked anyone.
Or how Benson didn't fall out of the car despite the way I precariously placed him on the front seat in my frantic response, although he typically rolls all over the place when I lay him down.
Or the way the wasps that were covering Talmage's shirt seemed paralyzed and he didn't receive any stings on his face.
Or how he didn't receive any additional stings when I removed his shirt and the wasps remained frozen somehow to the shirt while I got everyone in the car.

Often when scary situations happen with my kids I am stuck thinking about what could have happened.
But when I focus on what actually did happen and I acknowledge God's loving care, my heart is filled with gratitude and faith that drives away anxiety and fear.
I'm so grateful our boy was okay and that Heavenly Father was watching out for our family that afternoon.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Pumpkin Patch

Talmage's birthday came during the week-long Fall Break from school the kids got.
So, that morning, we headed to a darling pumpkin patch with some friends.
They had a fun wooden ark (yes, this is REALLY the Bible Belt)
and lots of other playthings for the kids.
The weather was perfect and even Benson's diaper blow-out couldn't ruin it.

Good thing we had such a great morning,
because a majorly TRAUMATIZING event happened that afternoon that put quite a damper on the birthday boy's day. That story is up next!

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