Thursday, February 28, 2013

They say it's your birthday...again

Grandma sent Ashley a present for her birthday.
But it didn't come.
And it didn't come.

We figured she'd probably get it in time for her next birthday.

But then, it came!

 As you can see she was overcome with excitement over her new batch of presents and her birthday that never seems to end.
Ethan and Josh were pretty excited, too. They pulled out their pompoms and cheered because they got to play with the box that held Ashley's presents.

 The loot. All pink and sparkly. It's like Grandma knew exactly what to get a little girl like Ashley.

Basking in her new sparkly dress-ness.

Thanks Grandma!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What I saw out my window

A few days ago, we heard a marching band playing {this song} in the middle of the day.
I was pretty sure there wasn't a parade going by.
I knew there wasn't a football game.

So I looked out my window,
and this is what I saw:

Seventy six trombones caught the morning sun, 
With a hundred and ten cornets right behind. 
There were more than a thousand reeds springing up like weeds, 
there were horns of ev'ry shape and kind. 
~The Music Man

It was some kind of alumni activity,
with zip lines and food and bounce houses.
Too bad you had to pay a fortune to get in.
But lucky us, we got to see it all happen right outside our window.

Today we have a tornado watch all afternoon,
so I hope I don't see anything else too spectacular out my window today.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Yes, I own one of these...

...but I rarely use it.
(although, doesn't this picture look so cozy, you just want to snuggle up with that machine?
I could sew all day if my life looked all soft and blurry like this.)

As you know, Domestic Craftiness isn't part of my skill set.
Notice the instruction manual sitting right next to the machine.
It might as well be in Chinese.

I didn't inherit the crafting or sewing gene from anyone on my family tree.
But Ashley did.

What I did inherit is some gator fabric from a neighbor.
And Ashley was set on using it for something.

So we used this pattern and made two dresses for her American Girl dolls.
Now they can cheer with the best of them when it's game time.

 And just in case you can't tell what's going on here, 
the dolls are having a birthday party on a boat.
With a gator theme, of course.
Cuz that's how we roll here in The Swamp.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

no more zombie dreams

Two nights ago, Josh woke us up about two in the morning. He said he was having scary dreams about monsters.

"Have you ever seen a monster in our house?" I mumbled, my mouth still asleep.


"Have you ever seen a monster anywhere in real life?" I croaked, my voice still asleep.


We talked him through his fears, kissed his face a few times, and sent him back to bed.

Of course he came back and woke us up a second time to tell us he still couldn't sleep. We weren't quite as nice the second time, but talked him into going back to bed.

In the morning he explained that he'd been dreaming about zombies. And when he went to bed he was really worried that he'd dream about them again.

Chris said, "How about I wake you up in the night if I get scared? Is that okay?"

"No," Josh said, in a growling Dad voice. "I have to work in the morning."

Chris laughed and then bent over Josh in his bed. He put his forehead against Josh's and said, "Why don't you put your zombie dreams into my head. I'll take your bad dreams tonight." Then Chris was nice enough to offer to put his own good dreams about rainbows, ponies, leprechauns, and Lucky Charms into Josh's head. That made Josh relax and fall asleep with a smile.

This morning when I woke up, Chris was still sleeping. I came out to find Josh and Ashley snuggled on the couch reading Lego and American Girl magazines.

"I had really good dreams last night," Josh said. He seemed amazed that Chris's trick worked. "I wonder if Dad dreamed about zombies?"

He could hardly restrain himself from running in to wake Chris up to find out. When Chris finally dragged himself out of bed (looking a bit like a zombie--no wonder Josh was scared of them, since his parents look like that every morning), Josh ran up to thank his dad for trading dreams and asked if Chris had dreamed about zombies.

"Nope," Chris said. "I didn't have any dreams at all."

Then I told them I'd dreamed about zombie clowns last night. Josh giggled as I told them that maybe when I kissed Chris before bed, he transferred Josh's dreams to me.

Be careful when transferring dreams around. It's dangerous business.

Friday, February 22, 2013

a few presents for a birthday girl

Ashley's jump rope broke recently, so one of her birthday wishes was to get a new one.
Every time we went to the store, she looked around the jump rope isle.
Little did she know I had one waiting in the closet for her.

Living in the Swamp has made us appreciate the small things.
Being a poor college family, we don't have money for big presents,
and our kids have been surprisingly happy with the small things we give them.

Sweet Ashley was just glad to get something new
and be the star for a while.
Since neither of those things happen on an average day.

Then they all went outside to try out her presents
and have fun together.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

baby Ashley is growing up

When I was pregnant with Ashley, the doctors never could tell if she was a boy or a girl,
even though I had lots of chances to find out with ultrasounds, due to low amniotic fluid levels.
But I knew she was a girl.
I knew it before I even got pregnant.
It was just a feeling I had.

Still, when the doctor held up my baby and announced, "It's a girl!"
I was overwhelmed with happiness.
I always thought I wanted all boys,
you know,
to avoid the hormonal roller coasters girls go through once they reach the ripe old age of 13.
But Ashley was exactly what I never knew I needed in my life.

 Doing her "lady pose" and rocking those chunky baby thighs.

 Beautiful eyes. Beautiful baby.

 Her super feminine "teething face"

 Nobody believes me that she had blue eyes when she was born.
But here's the proof. Now they're greenish brown.

 She's always had nice hair. It's sort of a gift she has.

 And you can always find her snuggled up somewhere with a good book.

 She's the best kind of princess. She'll put on her tiara, then go dig in the dirt.
I guess that's what you get when you're born between two boys.

 Again, with the good books.

She loves the Swamp. She loves the desert. She loves the mountains. She loves the beach.
She's a pleasure to be around wherever she goes.

 She's a great sister and tries to take care of everyone in the family.

Ashley was born with a distinct personality.
She seemed to know exactly what she wanted, when she wanted it, and how she wanted it.
I knew one of the Mom Rules was to get her on a napping and feeding schedule,
but Ashley had her own ideas about all of that.

Her distinct personality surprised me, and even scared me sometimes,
but I was also glad about it.
Nobody was going to push my little girl around.

It has been fun watching her grow up.
Her distinct personality has only been a good thing in her life.
She's one of the most determined people I know.
She's super smart, hard working, and a good example, too.

I can't wait to see where the next 9 years will take us!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

On a lighter note...

Here are a few random funny things from last week:

Ashley's teacher asked that the kids try to make their own valentines and cards this year. We happened to have a bunch of half-used books of Mad Libs, so this was what Ashley gave to her class friends on Valentines Day. A rolled up Mad Libs  sheet with a note that said something like, "You have MAD skills!" or this one, "I can't LIB without you." Lots of kids didn't know what Mad Libs were, so when she explained how to play, she got lots of giggles. :)

 We were playing with our camera and I wondered what the fireworks setting would do. It turned Josh into a ghost. This is what we'd look like if we were a living version of Katy Perry's Song {firework}.

And here is a note Josh taped on his door. "Mom is silly all the time. Ashley and Josh and Ethan are silly. Dad is silly. Vote. Which do you like." And just in case you're wondering, yes, in the bottom drawing of chris, he's sticking his tongue out. We're a pretty silly family :)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Alligators go away, I don't want to come out and play

This blog used to be called Life in the Swamp, because we're wrestling with life's alligators and things like that. I don't talk about the alligators we wrestle with very often because I'd rather laugh than cry. But some of those gators (which are also blessings in disguise) include living so far from "home" and being poor, and stuffing our family of five into a small two-bedroom apartment.

Some of you may remember {this} post from my writing blog, about the night the police pounded on our door and tried to take Chris away because of a violent argument the neighbor's thought they heard coming from our apartment through those thin, thin walls. Well, we were so asleep we never heard the argument coming from wherever it came from. We were so asleep we never even heard the police banging on the front door. When we finally opened the door, you could see it in their eyes: we were guilty.

It took me weeks to get over the fear that the police would come back. I was so scared that I wouldn't let Chris turn on the air conditioning at night, because I didn't like knowing that someone could be screaming for help and police could be knocking on our door, and we'd never hear it above the roar of the air. So we slept in sweat for weeks.

I'm still not quite over it, even though I've relaxed a little. Until a few nights ago. Something woke me up at 3 am. A man's quiet, controlled voice, and a woman crying. It sounded like he might be hitting her, but she never screamed. Just whimpered louder. I couldn't tell where it was coming from, and since I couldn't figure out if he really was hitting her or if it was something else making that "thwack, thwack"  sound, I didn't feel comfortable calling the police. This continued off and on for an hour and a half.

The next morning I let the apartment office know what had happened, and they appreciated the information since they take this stuff seriously here. But there wasn't anything we could do, since I couldn't tell where it was coming from.

And I was left feeling homesick again. So, so homesick. For my quiet yard. My house with no neighbor noises. No neighbor smells. No neighbor fights.

It seems like every time I get brave enough to think, "This is good. The gators are sleeping. I can be happy here," one of those alligators wakes up and tries to bite me. And I have to start all over trying to make myself love the Swamp again.

But last night when I went to bed, I looked at Chris in the dark. Even the fighting neighbors were a blessing in disguise. It made me realize how thankful I am that Chris would never raise his voice at me. He would never talk in a negative way to me or about me. He will never, ever hit me.

Wherever Chris and my kids are, that's home. And I'm happy there.

So I put the gators back to bed, and life goes on in the Swamp.
Until they wake up and I have to go pull on my wrestling pants again.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

my lucky 13 valentines day

 Thirteen years ago this week my older brother and his wife were lounging around my parents living room, asking me about dating.
Were there any guys in my life that were interesting?
I'd recently gone back to college for another degree, and I told them about this totally amazing guy whose desk faced mine at one of my internships, but explained that he would never ask me out.
I was pretty sure he wasn't that into dating,
even though I could see he liked me a little.

  I went to bed after that conversation thinking about Chris.
He was the one who made my heart speed up when he said my name.
He was the one I couldn't stay away from.
I had to be near him, even if it meant working late or doing jobs I didn't need to do.
I skipped class and hours at a newspaper internship just to be near him, which was a crazy-not-like-me thing to do.

  I was shocked the day after that conversation with my brother (a few days before Valentines day) when Chris called and said he had a trunk full of newspapers I needed to clip for work (yes, this was way back in the olden days, when people read real newspapers).
I didn't care that he was calling about work.
He called me.
Then he laughed and said he was kidding. He wondered if we could "hang out" sometime this week
(what does that mean? is that a date? or just-a-friend kind of thing? Did he like me, or was he looking for someone to "hang out" with?).

 I jokingly told him I had big plans on Valentines Day, so I couldn't "hang out" that day.
He was quiet for a moment.
Then, because I didn't want to play any dating games or play hard to get with this guy who made my heart speed up when he said my name, and caused me to skip class and do extra work, I explained that I was delivering valentine cookies to the girls in my singles' ward with my fellow  Relief Society presidency members.
But I could "hang out" the day after that. So we had a date.
I couldn't stop smiling for days.

When he picked me up (about an hour late? what does it mean when a punctual guy shows up an hour late? does it mean he's just not that into you? that you really are "hanging out" and it's not a date at all? sheesh.), we went to play laser tag (which, by the way, I happen to enjoy, so don't feel sorry for me all you laser tag haters out there).
Since we were "hanging out" I wasn't sure if I was supposed to pay for myself.
I stood there all awkward at the cash register, still trying to figure out if this was a date or not.
I can't remember what I said to him or the cashier, but I do remember Chris looking at me funny and telling me he was paying for both of us.

No, this isn't how our "hanging out" date ended.
But it was the best "hanging out" date I ever had.
We bumped shoulders and looked at each other and smiled an excessively large amount of the time.
We talked so much that he drove right past my neighborhood on the way home, and I didn't even notice until we were several blocks away.

I was a gonner.
I'd fallen in love with this boy who made my heart speed up when he said my name, this person I was so drawn to I had to skip class and do extra work to be with him.
No doubt about it.

I'll tell you the rest of the story another time.
But I'm pretty sure you know how it ends...

Monday, February 11, 2013

A late birthday present

Both sets of grandparents gave Ethan money for his birthday. Four months ago. And he finally decided what he wanted to buy with some of that money.

He thought it was pretty cool that he got a roller coaster for his birthday.
Not many kids can say that.

If you're dying to watch the birthday roller coaster, here's a little clip.
(Pay no attention to Josh's mess in the background. We have to choose our battles...)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A few good stories

Here are two stories Josh wrote at school:

"WheN i was at a iscecream shop i lefT My Moune. First, I woud faeNT. I woud waeck up. NexT I woud GeT My Moune. I woud run AND run. So I will Nevre leve My MouNe AGen."

His next story has a little more suspense to it (and apparently he likes to faint and run when things get hard):

"THere wus a BuG iN food. First, I would fant aNd evreBude Would Look aT Me. evreBude would tshrie To make Me awake. Like I was aslepa. NexT, I would ruN awae. THe waetr Would ruN aFtr Me. I would nevr Go THar agaiN."

Friday, February 1, 2013

morning news

 In breaking news out of The Swamp, we had frost on our windshield this morning. We tried to spray it with washer fluid, which turned it into ice. Luckily, we had our trusty window scraper in the back and were able to drive within a few minutes, and didn't have too long of a delay in our morning commute.

We headed to the elementary school to watch Ethan be a news anchor. It's a six-week job he was selected for, and he gets to be a camera man for two weeks, a reporter for two weeks, and an anchor for two weeks. We had see it for ourselves, since Ethan can be reserved in front of people.

 But there was no reservation this morning. He even wore a silly costume, since it was Friday. He spoke clearly (although a little quiet), and even told a joke. His co-anchor was the principal.

 They've got a great program. The kids learn how to set up green screen backgrounds, insert photos or music, and work on the computers without any help. They learn how to use a camera, and how to read notes in front of the camera.

The screen behind them has a spinning globe, just like in real world news.
The kids were proud of that, after experimenting with a few other backgrounds.

I'm not sure I would have been brave enough to be on the news in fifth grade.
And especially to be on the news in a backwards cape.
In front of the whole school.

Chris and I admire Ethan's ability to just be himself, and to go for things he's interested in.

Here's the broadcast morning news if you're interested: