Monday, August 31, 2009

Challenges Schmallenges

Mike and I are doing another one of our infamous (or absolutely unknown) challenges. This one is a contest just between us, but since the prize (for me) is a day at the spa and I certainly can't do that alone, I thought I would tell you all to challenge your husbands to a contest with a spa day as a prize and then beat their socks off so we can all go to the spa together.

I don't know what your contest could be--I'm thinking arm wrestling is out for me, as well as any contests involving math, or even racing-- just make sure you can beat him and the spa day has to be sometime after Thanksgiving, because that is when our contest ends.

The rules of our contest:

1. 1 point everyday of the week for 30 min. of exercise. (Going to church counts for exercise on Sunday. I look at it two ways: First, it's an exercise of faith and second, it's a workout to "sit" through sacrament with children)
2. 1 point everyday for 5 min. of scripture study/reading
3. 1 point everyday, except Sunday, for not eating a treat. Because Sunday is an eat-a-treat day. I had to argue heatedly for this. Mike kept saying that he should be able to earn bonus points for not eating a treat on Sunday. I said "Heck no." So a total of 20 points a week are available. Plus 20 is such a nice even number, unlike say, 21. Also, we determined you can get negative points. So if you eat one dessert that's a loss of 1 point, and if you decide to eat another that's another point loss.
Throw down the gauntlet--challenge your hubbies and join me in Nov. for my spa day. Mike doesn't really want a spa day so if he wins I think he's going to buy some huge computer monitor. But, he's not going to win. I am.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Mommy Smackdown

Conversations with Kenzie:

"Kenz," I say while driving in the car to her dance class, "we've had a rough day today. What is the problem?"

Kenzie, whining, "I have to work hard and you don't."

My blood pressure rises significantly. "Okay," I say flat lining my lips and adjusting the mirror so I can see her. "Tomorrow, since I don't have to work hard, you can do all the things I do."

My voice develops a slight edge to it as I begin heatedly listing off her chores: "Who does the dishes Kenzie? Tomorrow, you can do them. Who makes sure you have clean clothes? Tomorrow you can wash them. Who gets your breakfast and cooks lunch and dinner? Tomorrow it's your job. Is that hard? Do you think that's hard work?" Now I am warming to my subject, "Oh yeah, who takes you to dance lessons and get you to places? Cause tomorrow you have to get there by yourself. I hope you are excited. Do you think it will be hard?"

"Mom! I can't reach! I can't put things in and add things to cook. I can't. I can't," says Kenzie, still whining but really worried now.

"Is what I do hard work?"

"Yes. Yes. I can't do it."

"Alright then. If you make a mess you can clean it up. And you'll learn to do all those things because hard work is part of living."

Ohhhhhhh! Nothing makes me angrier than ungrateful little people. This conversation was brought to you by the toy room mess that I made Kenzie clean up because she made it all by herself during quiet time. What a cruel, cruel mother I am.

And you know I do have it pretty good. Those things aren't necessarily hard, just repetitive and time consuming. So I don't work hard, and I'll work even less when I fully implement my evil plan to make both Kenzie and Hannah self-sufficient in the ways of laundry, cooking and cleaning. It'll be the good life for me then. I imagine my schedule will go something like this:

10:00 a.m. - Roll out of bed, blog a little
10:30 a.m.-- Eat a meal prepared and catered by my slave children while I read the paper
11:30 a.m.-- Blog some more while my children make my bed and lay out my clean clothes
1:00--Eat a healthy meal once again prepared by my children
1:30--Go shopping for expensive clothing while my children deep clean the house, scrubbing the floors and bathroom fixtures until they shine
4:00 --Get my nails done. Have my slave children feed me grapes that they've grown in our large well-tended garden. Maybe throw in some Facebook time.
5:00--Allow my children, who have groomed themselves and done all the laundry for the day to read me odes to myself while they kiss my hands.
6:00 -- Eat a delicious gourmet meal with Mike, served by our quiet and polite children. They can ask us how our day went.
7:00--Allow my children to read books quietly, but only if they jump up whenever I have a need that must be met, like a glass of water or a delicious chocolate mousse, prepared by hand.
8:00-- Go for a run while they mow the lawn, weed the flowers and install a deck patio.
9:00 --Let the children put themselves to bed after they help me perform my nightly facial.
9:30 -- Fall in to bed exhausted.

Shhh! Don't tell Mckenzie about my plans.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kenzie Writes Her Letters, Gives a Talk, and Saves a Small African nation from Starvation

By no interference of my own, Kenzie has learned to write her ABCs. I wish I could claim some sort of teaching and motherhood skill, but I'm not quite sure where she picked it up.
I was weeding the flowers while the girls fought, I mean, played nicely in the driveway. When I walked over I discovered a long stream of ABCs written in chalk. "Well, where did you learn that?" I asked. "I don't know. From the Letter Factory," she replied. Well, what do you know? I do believe in educational TV. We don't have TV at home, but in Alabama we found PBS in our hotel room and have loved it ever since.

I believe in it so much that this week I bought about every Word World and Super Why DVD available. I found some good prices on used and new ones at Amazon. Kenzie always begs me to watch a movie and I was getting tired of telling her why Ariel is a brat and how Snow White should have been a wee bit wiser in the ways of the world. I figured Word World and Super Why, awesome reading shows that we fell in love with in Alabama, would be way better than that wimpy deer and those wimpy princesses. (Gratuitous "SandLot" reference.)

On August 2, Kenzie also gave her first talk in Primary. We memorized it on the way home from our camping trip. I asked her what she wanted to say in her talk about how we can strengthen our families. She said, "Keep our rooms clean and help our sisters." We talked about some other things we can do and then I put them into rhyme so she could memorize it easily.

Here's the text of her talk:

I want to strengthen my family
so we can be together eternally.
Here are some things we try to do
to help our family you can do them too.
We pray together at meals and at night.
We play together and try not to fight.
We have Family Home Evening on Mondays
And we go to church on Sunday.
I love my family we try to be strong.
We can be together if we choose right not wrong.

She helped me choose some pictures to print from the computer clip art to go along with it and then she colored them.

When she got up to give the talk, she completely forgot what she was supposed to say. But instead of freezing, she just started talking, saying random sentences like "My family" and "The word of God." I almost died laughing before I managed to get up to the podium and help her with the first sentence. After that she was a pro. We were bursting with pride.

Good job Kenzie.

As for the African nation, she hasn't saved it yet. She's just working on it by eating all of her lunch, even the crust.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Handy Excuses for the Exercise-Averse

It's taken me awhile, but I've sunk to new exercise lows. I have managed to pretend that sleep is the most important aspect of being healthy for 3 weeks now. I need some motivation. I tried to motivate myself by setting up the tripod and taking a picture of my flabby belly, but no that didn't motivate me. In fact it made me think, "Gosh, it's not as bad as I thought," although my increasingly small pants say otherwise. So that's my first excuse. Here are some others I use:

"My butt hurts. I can't bike."
"My Dr. said not to run until January." (This is true. He might have said something about diversifying and doing yoga, but I forget.)
"It's too much work to go swimming."
"I like wearing a size larger pants."
"My metabolism is a gift. I should abuse it while I can."
"If I wake up early I'll be ornery. This won't be much different than normal, but I'll yawn more."
"I'm tired."
"What's the use?"
"I'm a lazy slob."
"Shouldn't I be reading my scriptures instead of out doing something in a tank top?"
"What if my already small chest disappears completely?"
"I can't shower twice in one day. It's environmentally unfriendly."
"I'm busy. Busy eating this bowl of ice cream."
"I'm busy. Busy eating this 5-layer brownie."
"I'm busy. Busy eating this smore."
"I'm busy. Busy filling my body with cancer-causing hydrogenated oils."
"It'll be awesome if I'm so fat I can pretend I'm not pregnant until 'Surprise!' there's a baby." (This is not an announcement)

Okay. Those are sorry excuses! I'm going to wake up tomorrow and go swimming. I'm going to. I promise. Call me.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

And the winner for Miss Congeniality. . .

Hannah. She's the winner.

The grace she displays while throwing tantrums is absolutely astounding. And the frequency? A+++. If you need drama, she will provide it. Her princess dress slips off her shoulders? She'll scream. A fly dares to buzz near her head? Wailing and Gnashing of teeth. She hears the word 'No?' Nuclear melt-down. Someone is playing with a toy she wants? Scratching and hitting ensue. Ask her if she wants some help putting on a shirt? NO! SHE CAN DO IT HERSELF! yelled at top lung capacity.

It's absolutely charming.

I keep telling myself that I must be firm. I cannot respond to yelling and screaming and crying. I will ignore her until she uses a nice voice. I say, repeatedly, "Oh, use a nice voice. What do we say when we want something? 'Please.' Don't forget to say 'please,' Hannah. You may not yell. Either you can sit in timeout or you can help cleanup. Use a nice voice. The answer is still no. Hannah we don't scratch. If you won't sit in timeout I will hold you here and you won't like it. No Hannah. What do you do when you want something? Hannah say please. Hannah stop yelling."

But sometimes at the end of the day, or even sometimes early in a bad morning, I say, "Fine Hannah. Whatever you want. Just for the love of everything holy STOP CRYING." And then I put myself in timeout while she bangs on the bedroom door crying.

I'm trying to remember; I think this is a stage they go through, right? Kenzie went through this, didn't she? It's pretty much the end of the world about every 5 minutes around here lately and my stash of coping chocolate is dwindling.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Lava Hot Springs Fun

On Friday, when Mike got off of work we drove up to Lava with Mike's family. We camped at a nice grass campground just a few minutes away from Lava.

Kenzie and Hannah were so excited to see their cousins. We ate late hobo dinners and then had smores (fitting in with my new camping motto). Kenzie started to get pouty and said, "I want to go to bed." We happily obliged and sent them off to bed. After they were asleep we sat around the fire and played "Good thing, bad thing" and ended up laughing our heads off about a goat with venereal disease. And how "It turns out the youngest son didn't even like cheese." Because that's what you get when you tell group stories. Then we played mafia, where Scott and I dominated as the Sheriffs for one round and the killer Mike was brought to justice.

The next morning the guys headed out for some golfing. We got up right after they did and pretended we weren't bitter to be left all morning to entertain the children. The kids were so funny. It was freezing, but they really wanted to put their swim suits on, so we let them put them on over their clothes. They looked great.

When the guys got back Mike said something about taking up golf. I'm afraid I did not react well. Perhaps he'll have to talk about it when I'm not surviving on 5 hours of sleep. We took down the tents and headed to Lava.

We had so much fun at Lava (see above). It was nice and sunny after a cloudy morning. It did get freezing when the wind blew, but the water was great. We spent the whole day switching off with the kids, riding the slides and jumping off the highest diving platform. Kenzie even rode one of the slides by herself. We had to drag the girls from the water at the end of the day, even though their lips were turning blue. Good times!

Here's my scrapblog (I love that program. Love it).


A couple weeks ago, my sister-in-law Summer was telling me about her family's adventure at Lava and how she and Dave took bets about who in his family would jump off the 40 foot platform there. "I said you would for sure," she said. I agreed and then my chicken-little self thought, "Good thing we're not going somewhere with a 40-foot platform so I don't have to prove myself."

The next week Mike's family decided to head up to Lava Hot Springs for a little family trip. I felt my heart sink a little as I thought about painful past experiences with high dives--the 10-foot kind at the old Clearfield High pool--water up the nose, skin-slapping sorts of painful experiences.

Grace has never been my claim to fame. Awkwardness, yes. High dives require grace. I imagined all sorts of awkwardness could happen in the seconds it took to fall to the pool--and I imagined my dad's voice when I was small and euphorically relating how fun I thought it would be to jump off of a really tall bridge into water, because it wouldn't hurt. "Oh no," he said. "That would be like hitting cement."

On Wednesday we went to the Roy Aquatic Center with Mike's family. Summer, Sherrie and I took a turn going down the slides there. "How high did you say that platform at Lava is, Summer?" I asked as we stood on the steps, dizzyingly high above the ground, waiting for our turn.

"It's like 40 feet," she said, seemingly excited at the possiblities.

"Oh." I said, contemplating throwing myself off the ramparts of the stairs. "I wonder how high these water slides are?"

"Let's ask," said Summer.

"They're like 28 feet," said the teen lifeguard.

"So, it's 10 feet higher than this," said Summer giddily. "Imagine that." Sherrie was non-commital. I looked down and tried to picture myself jumping. I had a hard time imagining just standing on the platform, 10 feet higher than where I was standing. I started trying to think of ways to get out of this. I should have told Summer that I'm a certified chicken, not nodded my head sagely, agreeing that it was totally something I would do. I was going to have to do some serious pep talking to myself before this weekend.

I had to resort to race day tactics to gear myself up for the platform jump. Friday as we packed for the trip, I visualized myself jumping off the high dive. Straight. Keep your body straight. I decided if I was going through with it, I would need a more secure swim suit. My current swim suit falls into the "cute, not functional" category. Pain and indignity would be okay, but not with my swim suit flipped over my head. So I packed a tighter, not cute, top and some secure shorts. I was resigned to the 40-foot* jump.

When we arrived at the pool I tried not to look too hard at the platforms. There were three staggered at different heights. Mike thought we should work our way up. I thought, "There's no way in heck I'll be able to go off the top one if we go off the "lower" ones too. I just have to do it. Before I even get wet. I've got to go."

We agreed that the girls would go first. Stacie, Sherrie, Summer and I headed up the stairs. And up some more. And then up again. Stacie had to give Sherrie a little push to continue when she paused and looked over the side at the middle platform. I was winded when we reached the top.

"We can do this Steph," said Stacie. Who was rather matter-of-fact about the whole thing. "We did a marathon."

"Yes," I wanted to say. "But that didn't feel like hitting cement." (Well, actually it kind of did) Two of us could jump at the same time, and I somehow ended up in front of Stacie and Sherrie with Summer, the pro. I think I figured that if I watched them go it would freak me out.

The guys in front of us asked us if we'd gone off before. I mumbled "No."

"It's farther than you think."

"Shhh! Shh!" I said. "Don't say that." I turned around for a picture with Stacie and Sherrie. When I turned back around, I gasped.

"Oh! They're gone!" The guys had disappeared into the oblivion.

I felt terrified, but somehow I ended up with Summer at the edge. I staunchly refused to look down. I knew if I did there would be NO POSSIBLE WAY IN HECK that I would jump. The mountain across the road seemed like a good visual.

"We're up!" said Summer cheerfully. I think I might have clung to the side for a minute, thinking what a good life I had. How all my body parts worked. "Are you going to go?" said Summer. I must have nodded or said something."Okay. On the count of three. One. Two. Three."

I closed my eyes and stepped off.

This is the third (!) and final jump we did off of the platform. If I had left this picture large you could scroll in and see the look of abject terror on my face, as well as the exuberant smile on Summer's. Summer said she could hear me whimpering on the way down. Thanks Summer! I wouldn't have done it without you, and I am glad I did it.

Here we are before the first jump. "You all look like little ants down there." (Name that movie) That falling feeling is amazingly awful. I sustained a few minor injuries from sitting into my last jump, and Summer and I decided that running off the platform was not a good idea, since it leaned us a little too far forward. I'd do it again, just for the pictures and memories. The actual experience is kind of terrifying. I wonder if I could ever get over the absolute horror I feel when I first step off?
*On the web site it says the platform is only 33 feet tall. My gosh. It felt like 100.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Camping Can be Fun (again)

This is the month of camping. We planned a camping trip last weekend (August 7-8) with my family. We thought we would be smart this year and reserve a campsite instead of repeating last year's brain lapse. (Repeat Note to Self: Cell phones do not work in Logan canyon and if your spot isn't reserved you better arrive on Thursday)

So I tried to reserve a campsite, but they said they had nothing. This should have warned me off. But, they only reserve so many spots and leave the others open for walk-ins and Alisha and Dustin live close to the canyon now and they said they would drive up early and get us a spot. Thursday, it was soggy. Friday the forecast called for thunderstorms. I

enjoy the patter patter of raindrops on my snug and cozy tent, but I do not enjoy the idea of being struck by lightening as I try to construct the tent in a lightening storm. I can totally envision myself holding up one of the tent poles, as it's whipped around in the air, stupidly forgetting that lightening rods are similar to tent poles. So I called it off. No camping trip, although the skies were sunny and blue.

Alisha and I kept calling each other, looking at the dropping chance of rain on the forecast and seeing the clear blue skies. Mike kept saying, "I am a human barometer. It's going to rain. As long as we both know that. It's going to rain." Finally we decided we would risk it. By that time it was late. We left at about 4:30ish and went up the canyon in almost an exact repeat of last year's search. My parents followed us all the way to Tony Grove (a lovely lake with beautiful camping spots), our predesignated meeting spot with Alisha and Dustin. We drove around the sites 3 times, looking like camping wannabees, and did not find Alisha and Dustin. We had no idea where they would be and with no cell phone reception we were about ready to head home. When we got to the turn off, Alisha was waiting for us, telling us our lovely, secluded spot next to the highway in Bridger campground was waiting patiently. Just like last year. We decided that we will reserve a campsite EARLY next year.

So we drove back down the canyon, set up camp right across from last year's spot and cooked up some hobo dinners and cobbler. Dustin made the cobbler and it was almost as good as a smore. I did still have to break out the smores after though. Because you can't go camping without eating a smore. This is my new motto: "No camping unless smores are present."

The next morning, it rained. And rained. And rained some more. So we gathered up everything but the tents and headed to Alisha and Dustin's for an egg and pancake breakfast. Shaelynn met us there and proceeded to entertain the children and teach me that I can pretend that my hair is curly by scrunching gel in it and not drying it. It's my new favorite style. And now I present to you really bad pictures:

Mike, Hannah and Mom enjoying our hobo dinners.

Grandpa and Hannah reading a story in Alisha and Dustin's apartment.

Here I was going to post an unflattering picture of Shaelynn and my mom, just to show you all that I am not the only one in this family that looks slightly reminiscent of mustachiod dictators. But I think I just vowed to be a nicer person. So I'm refraining.

This is a picture of the girls playing on the stairs at Alisha and Dustin's. Hannah and Kenzie love Sophie! And I think she had a great time too.

Eventually Mike, Dustin and my dad headed back up to get the tents. Good job men!

Now we're off for more camp-tacular adventures this weekend. Wish me sleep.

Camping can be Fun

When your children grow up and you get to camp alone--No seriously, either I have mellowed out a little bit since camping last year, or the fact that I don't have a sweetly oblivious, prone to tripping and falling in the fire, and up all night crying 1-year-old to take along this year has made camping more fun.

Generally speaking I enjoy camping. I especially enjoy the idea of everyone, not just me, having dirt and food on their clothing. It makes me feel like I belong.
Besides dirty pants, I've always liked cooking outside, sleeping in a tent, hiking, seeing the stars, being deliciously cold in the dead of the summer, and smores. Smores are almost on the same level as Peeps. Oh, how I love your marshmallowy wonderfulness.

Last weekend we took our first camping trip of the year. Despite the fact that we have all grown in the past year, surprisingly, our car did not. It seemed to have shrunk.

Mike has been really good at humoring me lately, so when I requested that we stop by the thrift store on our way up to Mirror Lake for the Chambers family reunion to buy a "small" inflatable boat, he said, "Okay." I was sure it could fit in the one tiny space we had left in the trunk. Well, Mike might be plotting to kill me with one of the oars of that boat now, since he had to carry it on his lap the whole way there. That is now my definition of a good sport, someone who will allow you to buy a boat and then carry it on his lap for a two hour drive. To further Mike's image as a saint, let me add that I also insisted on packing our cute, completely sanitary little potty. Mike completely configured the packing around that potty. Hannah wore a diaper the whole time and went in the porta-potty. The little potty sat outside our car and served as a mascot.

Stacie and Shirley arrived shortly after we did and they helped us set up our massive tent and entertain the girls. Last year, Mike's Aunt Leanne told me that for every camping trip they bought a bag of toys from Deseret Industries and then their kids were entertained for the camping trip, it didn't matter if the toys were ruined and they were recycled at the D.I. on the way back. While I was buying the large boat at the thrift store on base, I also spent $1 on a bag of miscellaneous toys. It was a hit. The girls had a great time discovering the toys. Another fun thing I brought along this time was play-doh. The girls entertained themselves by smashing it onto a rock (later we had a lecture about preserving nature and trying not to kill the squirrels with play-doh). Good times.

That night we had awesome dutch oven potatoes, corn, watermelon and bbq'd chicken. We eat better when we're camping than we do at home. Afterward we sat around the fire and what else? Made smores. This year not as many of the family was able to come up for the reunion. We enjoyed talking with Lyman and Lonnie, Brad and Lori, Grandma Folks, Gary and his date, Lorraine and Lance, and some of Mike's younger cousins. I still can't believe Grandma Folks survived raising 11 kids and has such a cheerful disposition. (Maybe that is where Mike gets his sainthood from)

Grandma and Hannah hanging out in the tent. We bought this huge tent and I intend for it to last for-ev-er. (Said in the same tone of voice as that kid in "The Sandlot")

Stacie, Mike's sister, captured one of the best Smore moments I have ever seen, as Hannah enjoys her first campfire Smore.

Mike and Kenzie hanging around the fire.

Grandma and Hannah cuddling as it gets cold.

Kenzie loving her new bracelet and other goods from the traditional "Fairy tree." They also got to hit a pinata. The girls were in heaven.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Crafty Schmafty

I remember feeling distinctly stupid during craft moments in Young Women's. While everyone was happily creating beautiful hand-painted birdhouses and tole painted needle holders I was busily creating images for the anti-inspirational poster about mistakes. The poster that reads, "Mistakes -It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others." I yearned to be a craftress, but my skills fell more in the range of hmmm... what were my skills? Oh yes, test taking.

My first liberating craft moment came when I was painting a birdhouse at yw camp. I thought, "Well, screw it. What the heck am I going to do with a cute painted birdhouse that doesn't house birds?" So I painted it yellow and gave it purple and green dots. It was garish. I felt liberated. I kept that birdhouse for years and even took it to college with me to decorate my room.

Anyway, now that they have pretty much ugly-proofed crafting what with vinyl lettering, pre-matched scrapbook paper kits, pre-cut wood, and internet tutorials, I sometimes feel inspired to craft something.
Here is my latest attempt:

Before: The ugly brown bulletin board that decorated my college room next to my yellow and purple birdhouse.

After: Ohhh, it even has a bow tied around a button to hide the screw hanging it on the wall. If this doesn't secure my place in heaven next to Martha, I don't know what will.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Tips for Potty Training

1. Make sure to practice de-clothing your child. Quickly, with one hand, in the dark, while still trying to open your eyes from being asleep.
2. Buy a little potty so your child can stuff their toys in it and so that other children that visit your home can leave surprises for you.
3. Practice your sprinting ability, with a 30 pound container of lemon juice in your arms.
4. Sometimes, let the lemon juice leak on you and practice trying not to be ashamed in public of how dirty your clothes are.
5. Think of some really good threats like, "If you don't go potty right now, I'm going to never let you play with your toys again."
6. Buy some suppositories and prune juice, just in case your child is so afraid of going #2 on the potty that she/he holds it in for three days and then complains of a stomach ache.
7. Install another bathroom in your home.
8. Buy a 100-pack of diapers. They'll be sure to start potty training the day after you open them.
9. Fix dinner. Stand up right before you take a bite and run to the bathroom. Wait there until your food gets cold. Go back to eat. Cut a bite. Stand up and run to the bathroom again. Repeat.
10. Try not to be so squeamish about germs. Maybe carry sanitary wipes with you. Practice saying, "Don't touch that! Don't touch that! Do not lay on the floor! No! Don't touch that. That is so yucky! If you touch that you will get germs and die."

Hannah is almost potty trained. We have finally gotten past her extreme fear of pooping and made it two whole days (and nights) without an accident. Thanks to my mom for the motivating special sucker and thanks to chapstick and one special experience with a suppository we might be a diaper-free family! (Although I still have about 95 diapers in a size 4. Anyone interested?)