Friday, February 15, 2019

Thanksgiving after Valentine's

When I was pregnant with Benson, everything was overwhelming to me.
I typically LOVE celebrating holidays with my family, but the thought of creating a holiday celebration during those trying 9 months was almost more than I could handle. I felt so sad that something that typically brought me so much joy became a dreaded event to be endured.
I was afraid that, because of the busyness of raising 5 kids, I would never again enjoy holidays.

But to my relief, once the dust had settled after Benson was born,
I was once again dreaming and planning fun events to bring our family together
and holidays were joyful again--something I loved to anticipate and create traditions around and enjoy together.

Although our celebrations are typically very simple,
we feel united as a family as we enjoy those simple things together.
And, as demonstrated by the title of my blog, I am a big advocate of embracing simplicity in family life.
So bear with me as I finish catching up this blog with a re-cap of our holiday celebrations,
finishing up with our fun Valentine's Day activities.
love to celebrate love--romantic and non-romantic alike!


We had grand plans for Thanksgiving this year.
My friend and her husband were going to drive up from Atlanta and my sister was going to fly in.
I was planning an extensive menu
and dreaming up a gorgeous table consisting of pine boughs, clementines, gold-brushed pinecones, cranberries, and white dishes placed on thin slices of a log.

But gradually my well-laid plans fell apart.
My friend ended up not being able to come,
my sister had plans to travel out of the country for work so she pushed her trip up earlier in November,
and everyone I asked already had plans.
I said good-bye to my mental celebration and wondered if we would have yet another Thanksgiving spent alone as a family. Our kids don't even enjoy most traditional Thanksgiving food much, so it seemed pointless to even have a feast.
I can be pretty sentimental, especially when it comes to traditions, so I was feeling down about it all.
To me, Thanksgiving=lots of (traditional!) food and LOTS of people,
so the thought of eating tacos with just our family was bringing to the surface all the sadness of the challenge of living away from family.

But then, we ended up gathering with some other loner families at our friends' beautiful home on acres and acres of wooded land where we made new friends, ate lots of yummy food, and played games until late in the evening.
In the end, Thanksgiving was filled with lots of food and lots of people, and I came home that evening filled with contentment.

I snapped these pictures in those kind friends' backyard.

Today the kids are out of school for parent-teacher conferences and we are having a "yes day."
Which is why it is after 10:00 and the kids are still in their pajamas,
playing pretend video games they created out of construction paper
while squashed together in the hammock.
We may not have a high-tech game system (or even a TV, for that matter!),
but hey, we have cardboard, construction paper, tape, a stapler, and pens.
And that's kind of the same thing.

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Stuff of Nightmares

Being a mom is hard sometimes.

YES, it's a great blessing
and YES, I'm tremendously grateful for the opportunity,
but it doesn't change the fact that it is definitely a stretching experience.

Today's trip to the grocery store was rather dismal.
Maxwell was running away from me,
the kids were blocking annoyed shoppers as I tried to corral them patiently,
Benson was sick with a cold and fussy and ready to eat so I opened the box of Cheerios in the cart and started feeding him,
and I finally set him down on the grimy floor,
scooped up Maxwell and put him in the cart's baby seat so he would stop running away from me,
and then continued on my way with Benson in my arms.

Have you ever held 23 pounds of fussy baby who likes to fling himself in all directions while pulling a cart loaded with $270 of groceries with a mad 2 year old in it, keeping track of a 5 year old, crossing things off the grocery list, and trying to keep track of coupons?
It's not the most pleasant experience in the world,
and I think if I got a dollar every time someone stopped me to say,
"You've got your hands FULL!"
I just might be rich.

But somehow I juggled everyone and everything and made it out to the car,
came home,
unloaded everything,
put away groceries,
fed the boys lunch,
nursed Benson,
changed two diapers,
noticed I forgot to use my coupons,
got two out of three boys settled for naps,
and was working on the third when I heard footsteps.

And they sounded like they were coming from Benson's room.

I froze, certain my ears were playing tricks on me.
I crept down the hall and stood outside Benson's room, listening, when I heard knocking.
Not on the front door.
Coming from his bedroom.

I flung the door open and he was sound asleep in bed and nothing was amiss.
I checked on Lincoln, who was also still in bed.
But the noises persisted!
What was going on?!?
I peeked out the window and saw, to my horror, a ladder leading up to Benson's window.
This was the stuff of my nightmares.

My heart was racing and I was ready to shoot someone to defend my little ones
when I had the presence of mind to look and see if a maintenance worker was here.
A quick check out the front window revealed that a roofing company was indeed here and the footsteps and knocking sounds were coming from the roof!

I sent our landlord a text to see what was going on and apparently she asked the company when they were available to come and, instead of telling her, they just showed up. So she had no idea they were coming either.

It's all very laughable now, but seriously.
I just about had a heart attack.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Angel

In our church, the temple is a holy place where we can attend and make promises to God.
Unlike our church meetinghouses, we don't have congregational worship services in temples, but we can attend them during the week as we choose.
The temple is a beautiful, sacred, peaceful place, and each time I attend the temple I feel as though I have left the world behind. I am given increased clarity and peace within the walls of the temple.

Sam and I have missed being able to attend the temple regularly--
throughout our marriage we have been able to attend at least monthly,
but the Memphis temple closed for major renovations shortly before we moved here and the next closest temple is in Nashville, so we have only been able to visit the temple a few times in the last year.

We have loved watching the Memphis temple be re-constructed from the beams up!
The gleaming limestone from Portugal and blue stained-glass windows are stunning.
Each week we have been able to see its progress.
It is due to re-open in early May and we are thrilled!
I am looking forward to being able to partake of that peace again more regularly.

In late November the construction crew put the angel Moroni on and a big crowd of people came to watch. It was quite an exciting event!
Talmage and Wesley were at school, but I took the younger three boys and we sat and watched as they raised the statue into the sky and settled it down into the hole at the top of the spire.

Fun fact:
The sculptor of the angel Moroni that is on the Brigham City, Utah temple is Cyrus E. Dallin. Although he is not a member of our faith, he said that working on the project "brought me nearer to God than anything I ever did. It seemed to me that I came to know what it means to commune with angels from heaven."

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Glasses for Lincoln

One of Lincoln's eyes didn't pass his eye exam at his well-child visit in the Fall,
so we were referred to an optometrist.
The whole experience was new for me
(I always wanted glasses when I was young, but I've always had perfect vision!)
and I was totally fascinated by it.

It turns out he has very slight astigmatism and is also very slightly far-sighted.
He didn't really need glasses, but the doctor said it would help a little bit when he went to school.
So we picked out some frames and I just about died from the cuteness!!!
Sadly for me, he doesn't feel the need to wear them often.
But I am tickled pink on the rare occasion that he puts them on.
Doesn't he look just like the emoji with glasses?!?

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

9 Months In, 9 Months Out

Benson is now just over 9 months old!
Time has flown by extra fast and I am missing my cuddly, tiny boy.
He is growing up fast!

-He wants desperately to be able to walk and cruises around the furniture like a pro, pulling himself up to stand on just about anything. He can push his cart around the house while walking, too! I am thinking he'll be walking independently in the next month, but for now he gets around great by crawling on all fours or walking while hanging onto something.

-We were really slow to start him on solids (laziness on my part) but now he loves food--especially dinner foods.

-He was about 20 pounds at his 6 month appointment. I haven't taken him in for his 9 month appointment yet, but a rough estimate on our scale has him at about 22-23 pounds. He is thinning out because he is sooo wiggly! Thankfully he still has those amazingly chunky thighs.

-He is super mellow and continues to love Maxwell despite his rather rough attention at times.

-He typically sleeps well through the night from 8-6 or 6:30.

-He still spits up quite often, which is especially unpleasant now that he is eating lots of solid foods.

-He loves to swing at the park, plays peek-a-boo, loves being outside, and likes to be thrown in the air.

-He is experimenting a lot with talking and forming different sounds. He says "Dada" on demand, but I don't think he associates meaning with it yet.

-He lights up our world with his giant smiles, slobbery kisses, squishy cheeks, and adorable giggles!

Since I dropped off the blogging bandwagon for a while, here is a dump of Benson pictures from the last few months:

He was soo proud when he first learned to stand up! 

He wasn't too sure about cereal/applesauce the first time I fed it to him but he quickly caught on.

He used to clasp his hands like this all the time, which I found utterly darling.

Goodness! Those thighs are irresistable!

And he has the best "smize," don't you think?? (smiling with only your eyes, not your mouth)

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Veterans' Day with Breanne

My sister, Breanne, came for a quick visit over Veterans' Day.
Unfortunately, her trip here had a ridiculous number of frustrations with the airline and she ended up spending the night in North Carolina while en route to Memphis.
Her short trip was made even shorter, but she made it just in time to come to Stake Conference with us Sunday morning!
That afternoon, after a quick trip to the Crystal Shrine Grotto, we took the older three boys to a veterans' cemetery not far from our home to see the flags.
Breanne read "In Flanders Fields" to the boys and we walked around looking at headstones and trying to figure out what each of the symbols on top stood for (there is a symbol at the top of each headstone that indicates the religion of the person buried). We were so excited when Talmage found one with the angel Moroni on top!

Breanne was leaving the next afternoon, but we tried to cram a few fun activities in!
We swung by Panera on the way to school to get bagels--the boys were so disappointed that Breanne's flight had been delayed such that our planned dinner at a restaurant was foiled, so this helped ease their sadness.
Then we dropped Lincoln, Maxwell, and Benson off with my friend and Breanne and I headed to St. Jude to take a tour and meet up with Sam for lunch!
They only allow people over the age of 16 to visit the hospital, so I hadn't yet been for a tour.
St. Jude is such a happy place!
They strive to meet the needs so well of all they serve, from having a supply of red wagons to pull the kids around the hospital in to having short check-in desks that kids can easily see over to having a special teenage waiting area with video games, pool tables, etc.

In addition to the fun environment of the hospital (snippets shown in the pictures below), here are a few cool facts:
-ALSAC (St. Jude's fundraising organization) organizes 34,000 fundraisers every year to provide care for 8,500 patients each year. The families of these patients never receive a bill, but the donations are not just handouts--each patient is part of a research study, so the good comes full circle.
-St. Jude costs about 2.4 million dollars a day to run.
-The area of St. Jude that takes care of academic lessons for sick kids ensures that they have the specific curriculum each child would have been studying in their hometown.
-The survival rate for ALL (a common type of leukemia) was 4% when St. Jude began and is now 94%. St. Jude played a huge role in making that progress!
-The hospital chefs are very attentive to making good, nutritious food for the patients, employees, and visitors. St. Jude has a nearby garden and they use many of their own plants in their cooking.
-St. Jude began in the 1950s and the founder, Danny Thomas, insisted that all hotels he was working with serve the families of every patient, regardless of race, despite the fact that it was during a time of segregation in the South.
-Our favorite story was when we heard that a little boy had lost his appetite (a common side effect of cancer treatment) and didn't want any food except his grandma's macaroni and cheese. So the hospital chef called his grandma and got the recipe so he could make it for him! They strive to make everything about a patient's care extremely personalized.

After a delicious lunch with Sam,
we headed back to pick up the kids.
We were planning on going to Phillip Ashley Chocolates to check out their amazing selection of chocolates (each one is a piece of art and they create unique flavors such as BBQ, Maple Bacon Pecan Praline, Sweet Potato Walnut, and Passion Fruit Vanilla Bean). They were served at the Grammy Awards a couple of years ago, and we were looking forward to experiencing it!
Sadly, we discovered that they are closed on Mondays, so we had to save that experience for another time.
We drove a few blocks down the street to a sweets store called "Sweet Noshings," and Breanne went in with Lincoln to get some treats and some tasty hot chocolate while I stayed in the car with the babies.
Maxwell hadn't been feeling well and had been getting more and more sick over the course of the day.

Benson, on the other hand, was happy as could be.

We stopped by the house long enough for the boys to come home from school, and then we loaded everyone up and took Breanne back to the airport.
We were sad her visit was so short but we knew we would see her in Utah just 6 weeks later!

After we dropped Breanne off, we picked up dinner and picked Sam up from work to head over to the Memphis Grizzlies vs. Utah Jazz game! Despite the fact that it was a school night and the game would be very late and it was in Downtown Memphis...we decided to take the boys.
We arrived super early in hopes of avoiding crowds and it worked!
The boys (mostly) had a great time.
Poor Maxwell was running a fever by that point and was really quite sick, so I cradled him in my arms and he slept off and on and I tried to keep him from breathing on anyone else.
The other boys watched the game and munched on overpriced, disgusting nachos.
The game was pretty fun (especially for Sam!) and after we watched the Jazz win, we took some very exhausted boys out to traipse through the cold streets of Downtown Memphis back to our car.

It had been a busy weekend and we were all tuckered out, but it was a weekend full of great memories!
Thanks for the amazing visit, Breanne!
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