Sunday, September 29, 2019

Ho Hum.

I don't really have a lot to say. I mean I have TONS to say, but I don't feel that this is the appropriate place for those kinds of thoughts. Because honestly, I'm pretty cranky lately.

I am overwhelmed. Four kids seems about 10 more than 3 kids. And we even have an easy baby. And I even know people with 10 kids! And they are all alive, and what's more--dressed! 10 dressed kids! That's amazing.

I used to have lofty goals for teaching my kids things and feeding them nutritious food and for providing "a soft place to land". I've been fixated on that phrase for several years now. I heard someone describe their home that way, and I thought it was so lovely.

 I love it, I want it.

I can't do it.

Unless the soft place is my four-baby postpartum tum tum. Or bum bum.

It seems I can only get things done around here if I'm a crazy screeching banshee. A scary place to land.

But every night I go to bed and resolve to try again and do better.

It's not enough, really. I am going to have to seek outside help. More prayers, more use of resources, advice from other parents, perhaps a therapist. But I'll keep at it.

Wow, hope that wasn't too much of a downer. I'm fine, you're fine, we're all fine.

And even though I took hardly a picture this week, I do have exactly one photo of each kid doing something. Perfect.

This week:

June's teacher sent me this cute photo of that cute girl at school during snack time.


Gwen came home wearing this hat she made at school one day.


Here's a great question for the readers: What do you do with all of the stuff your kids bring home? Or what did your parents do? I am throw-away kinda gal myself. But I have to do it in secret because my kids have serious attachment issues. Not with me, to be sure. But with every post-it that has ever graced their hands or every single rock in the walking path at the park.

Maybe because post-its and rocks aren't banshees? Something to think on.

Here's Harris looking at a race car book Grandma Sandy sent him.


We couldn't find Harris after church today. He was waiting by our van in the parking lot. Which means he crossed the parking lot by himself. Yep.


And here's that baby. Number 4. Don't worry, kiddo! We don't blame you for all of the craziness. It's definitely been a team effort.

Another question for the readers--Who does this baby look like? I hear Gwen most of the time, and every once in awhile someone will say June.

And no Sunday pictures for the second week in a row! My excuse for today was that just as we were heading out to go to church, Gwen remembered this lesson Dan gave awhile back about Fast Offerings and wanted to pay a Fast Offering to the bishop. We were literally walking out the door when she remembered, and we said we could get her some money next week. And then she screamed and cried and ran around the house looking for loose change to give the bishop.

That's the last time we ever teach the commandments in this home.

Speaking of kids getting their way, June has been begging to go to a pizza place within walking distance of our house. Every time we pass it, June moans, "There's Johnny's Pizza! When do we get to eat there?" We finally obliged this past Friday night. I pushed a couple of kids in the stroller, and Dan drove the other kids down to meet us.

June and Dan watching the pizza chef toss the dough.


The food was okay, and the service wasn't great. But of course our kids can't wait to go back again.

And perhaps the biggest accomplishment of the week (besides 2-year old Harris navigating a parking lot full of departing vehicles all by himself) was that Dan and I finally watched Dances with Wolves.

This has been a goal of ours for close to the decade that has been our wedded bliss. I love the music, and whenever I hear it, I tell Dan we really need to watch the movie. We then rent said movie and fall asleep within the first 5 minutes. I mean, I fall asleep in everything but I've been especially doomed with this film because Kevin Costner's voice is flatter than the prairie-setting of the movie.


So we've probably rented it at least three or four times in our marriage and have always slept. For some reason, this time was different. Dan found that it was on Amazon Prime, and we started watching it Friday night. And we didn't recognize any of it, not the first scene, not nothin'. That's how pathetic our attempts have been. But this time, we watched it over three different viewing sessions (it's looooooooooooooooong), and we finished it! And we really liked it! It's really good. Which is why it won Best Picture in 1991. It's only taken me this long to get on the bandwagon.

The End.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

DESTINation.

Okay folks, it's currently 1:37 p.m. on a Saturday, and I haven't served lunch yet. No one's complaining, and I'm hoping I can get away with skipping it altogether. But I'd bet the farm that what will actually happen is everyone will cry about their starvation, and we will spend the rest of the day eating.

So I have to be quick before the cries of starvation commence. Here goes.

We went to Florida for a solid week. A Wednesday to the next Wednesday. Not a long weekend. A full week. This is very unlike us. And makes me realize that the new "us" is way more fun than those old stuffy people we usually are. New "us" throws caution to the wind and skips school and eats an entire box ice cream bars the last day of a vacation so that nothing goes to waste. New "us" is chill and fun and goes to the beach. New "us" doesn't set an alarm or pay bills.

This new irresponsible person is who I was truly meant to be. I'm reaching my full potential now.

And if I really try, I can teach my kids to be totally irresponsible too.

So let's break this trip and its millions of pictures down.

First, the PLACE:

Destin, Florida. In a condo, right on the beach. Every morning, we would eat breakfast on the balcony overlooking the beach and listening to the waves (Yes! There were actually WAVES in Destin! Amazing!) crash onto the shore. Kinda like every morning in New Jersey when we eat while listening to personalities crash into each other at the breakfast table over whose turn it is to put the clean silverware away.


 Yes, exactly like that.

On the beach, we did what anyone who goes to the beach with Dan Jolley always does--they get buried in the sand. Dan LOVES burying people in the sand. I am not sure why--maybe it's a psychological thing for him? Maybe he's plotting my demise?



And like I said, we had really great waves the first few days. We rode on our boards. This is June's favorite activity, and she shows no fear. She wants to stay out doing this the whole day, trying to go farther and farther away from the shore. You have to reign her in or you would be stuck in the middle of the ocean.




And Harris and Gwen love playing in the sand and with the toys. Gwen was feeling pretty artsy fartsy while we were there and kept concocting the weirdest things with toys. Here is her installation art exhibit.


Other PLACES we visited besides the beach (which was almost every day):

We went to the Pier. And Dan did the zipline. 


He asked me if I wanted to take a turn when he was done. Nope, I really didn't. I'll just die when you bury me in the sand next, thanks.


Here he is, a changed man. This is the look of a man who didn't have to go to work for a week. This is a man who shed his minivan life for a rental suburban. This is a dad living on the EDGE.


I wish I would have taken a picture of my own face during this moment. Because while Dan was ziplining, I was ice creaming, and the man who served me my ice cream gave me the tiniest scoop of all time, and I was most displeased. Like Lady Catherine de Bourgh displeased.

Another off-beach site detour was to the free Air Force museum. We loved looking at all of the planes, and I especially loved looking for all of the typos and grammatical errors a free museum offers. All snarkiness aside, it was most enjoyable, and I highly recommend.






Here we are in front of the MOAB, or "Massive Ordinance Air Blast", more commonly known as "Mother of All Bombs". Insert your own 7th grade joke here.

And we went to church in Destin. I forgot to take a pic from the condo, so here were are en route. That ward never knew what hit 'em.


And also, we just lounged around and read books and watched movies and played games.


2. The WHO:

Image result for the who

No, not the band. Our PEEPS.

I didn't expect this when we planned the trip way back in February, but we were able to see a lot of friends and family on this trip to Destin. First off, my mom came with us for the first few days, and that was a real treat.


Yes, my favorite nightie also made several appearances on the trip. It's comfy!

This picture is funny because my mom is not a card player. Neither am I. I bought Old Maid so that I could teach the kids while on the trip. Number of times I played Old Maid with the kids: Zero. Number of times I played Old Maid with my mom: a trillion. I don't know why, but we just kept playing and laughing our brains out because when you play Old Maid with only two people, it's pretty obvious who has the Old Maid. We made Dan join for a few rounds, and it was still totally obvious who had it because my mom turned BRIGHT RED anytime someone took it from her. She's so fun.

The same day my mom left, two of my cousins and their wives drove with their kids to see us. One family lives in Destin, and the other used to and was visiting. We hit the cousin jackpot!

They stayed all day and we beached and pooled and watched movies and ate and ended the night with ghost crab hunting.

All of the adults were using shovels and buckets and whatnot, while the kids really got the job done just using their hands.




Creepy little critters.


And then another night, we drove about an hour away to see some friends who used to live near us in Tampa but have since relocated to Destin. They have a pool and donkeys and 35 acres, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time with them.


3. The CRITTERS.

Ghost crabs and donkeys were just a couple of the critters we saw. My kids LOVE critters, and seeing them brought up the old "Mom-can-we-have-a-pet" discussion that never ends well. They seem to forget my heart is made of un-meltable ice. Mwahahaa. 

We also saw dolphins! And a dead jellyfish. And some other crabs. 

And Gwen caught this snail with her BARE HANDS.


It stained her hands purple. It also stained the sand it was resting on purple. I wanted to vomit.

And every night ended like this. A huge bath to get the remaining sand off (pool first, or "pre-shower"), and then stories and bed. Everyone was so tired every night. One night, Dan was doing to the baths and he set Gwen down on the bed to grab another kid out of the bath, and Gwen was asleep by the time he brought the next kid to the bed. I get it; I'm still sleeping it off, days later. 

And now we're back and slowly digging ourselves out of suitcases to be unpacked and put away, grocery shopping to do and bills to pay. Back to our old boring minivan driving selves. It was fun while it lasted.

And I'm already thinking about where we should go next year.

The End.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Back to School for Four Days.

We had the last few days of summer, and then school started Thursday. To keep busy during the final days of summer, I introduced the girls to a game of my childhood. Stickball. Okay, maybe I'm not THAT old, but we did play "Guess Who".


I haven't played this game for quite some time, but I do remember thinking I needed to ask tons of questions in order to narrow down the card that the other player had. Now I realize that you can pretty much get there in four questions--gender, hair color, hat/no hat, and glasses/no glasses. 

But my kids have definitely NOT figured that out yet. They ask the worst questions. June will look at the picture of ONE possibility, see that their names has an "L" somewhere in it and ask, "Does your person have an "L" as the second letter in their name?" And when you say no, she puts down that ONE card. Painful.

Gwen repeats the same questions over and over. I believe I was asked if my person had a "moo-stache" three times in a row during one especially hot game.

But I can't beat them too easily. I always have Harris on my team, and he loves to knock down as many people as he can, set them back up, and do it again. So I get to memorize who is really up versus down, and my 4-kid mom brain can barely keep up with it.

A bunch of detectives, my kids.

We had a Back to School Feast. I had planned to do an amazing dinner, but we had so many leftovers in our fridge, I just couldn't justify it. So we ate boring leftovers, but presented the girls with a scripture theme for the year, as well as a small present to wear every day.

The theme:

Dan and I thought and prayed about this and felt that our family could make some really huge changes by doing some small things. So we are hoping to focus on that this year, teaching the kids how a small amount of preparation can lead to more successful days. The first thing we want to focus on is listening better. That's something we all really need to work on.

And a present:


The girls and Dan and I each received a heart necklace, so we are all connected throughout the day. Dan is going to hang his on the rearview mirror of his car, and I will probably have to do the same since it fits like a choker on my neck.

The night before school, I had the girls make their own lunches. I've tried this before and have failed miserably. This year is going better because of two combined factors--1. I made all of the sandwiches beforehand, and 2. My expectations have lowered significantly.


On Labor Day, I spent some time making several loaves' worth of sandwiches, slicing them diagonally, wrapping them in foil, and storing them in ziplock freezer bags. So now when the girls "make" their lunch, they grab one of the frozen sandwiches, and then they really only have to throw things into their compartments, and then they are good to go.


They also need a snack every day and can pack that in these handy dandy reusable snack bags I bought.

The First Day of School!!!

The most anticipated day in Gwen's little life finally came, and she got to start school.


I think it was a bit of a disappointment to her because she said she didn't make any friends the first day. I think she expected to run around on the playground all day and then made the realization we all arrive at eventually--school involves a lot of sitting.

Don't get me wrong--my girls both seem to like school. But Gwen especially is not the world's best sit-ter. And she told me she will start getting homework soon. Kindergarten homework has got to be against the law.

Of course, we had to reenact the photo from Dan's childhood when his older brother left him behind for school:





And here's the one from last year again (which was unintentional but inspired us to make this reenactment a "thing"):




Can you believe how much my girls have changed?

And the glorious backpack and lunchbox choices. Gwen went with a rainbow unicorn motif, but not to be outdone, June went with a rainbow heart FLIP SEQUIN motif.


I feel like such a chump when I buy stuff like that. Like the Claire's Icing store just barfed all over my living room.

Harris wanted to be included with the cute doggie backpack I bought to carry his diapers and wipes that we take to the gym when I work out. He loves the backpack and has yet to actually wear it once. That's what I'm for, I guess.


We walked over with some friends, and I showed the girls where to get in line for their classes. Some boys in June's class were obviously BFFs who were reunited after a long summer. They bro-hugged, and then their moms stepped into take a picture of the two of them, arms around each others' shoulders.

June, not to be excluded, marched right up, put her arm around a shoulder and smiled for the picture just in time. June, the unintentional photobomber.

The first two days went well. By well, I mean yes, I picked them up late both days and apparently I bought June the wrong folders and I had two out-of-control screaming boys in a stroller when I finally got to pick up on Friday, but yes--I'd say that's pretty well.

I kinda set out this year to fool everyone into thinking I've got the four kid thing down, but nobody has been fooled. I feel like a mess of a mom, but everyone has been patient.

Luckily, we only had two days of school and then the weekend. The weather was perfect, so Dan biked and pulled a trailer full of kiddos over to the park while I drove Beck and me.

We got there by 7 AM. We are early risers. The kids rode bikes, and I took another turn on Dan's bike. I'm getting better. I'm learning how to start turning earlier so I don't crash into inconvenient things like curbs and fences and huge playgrounds. Dan wants me to try pulling the kids into the trailer soon, but I am not quite ready.



I often joke that Dan is Captain Forced Fun. I think every dad probably is, and I get such a kick out of it. Gwen climbed to the top of this spiderweb thing with a little help and coaching, but June was ready to quit. But Captain Forced Fun (CFF for short) stepped in and forced that girl to achieve. And you know what? She was glad.


And Saturday afternoon, we went to Hanover Township Day, a little festival our town has every year.


They had free food, which pleased me greatly. I had corn on the cob that changed my life. It was the most perfect texture, the most perfect amount of the most perfectly-flavored butter. It was sweet, but not too sweet. I'm a new person. All things in my life shall now be placed in time in relation to the perfect corn on the cob I had at Hanover Township Day 2019. There have been events Before The Corn, and there will be many After The Corn. The moment I ate the corn shall just be The Corn.

(There is no picture of the corn. No picture shall do it justice. Also, I ate it faster than the speed of light, so no picture would register.)


Besides The Corn, the girls did some science experiment thingies, and we walked around and did some other fun stuff.



And here's Gwen holding Beck after baths one day. 


To continue my reputation of being the on top of it mom that I am, we are ditching school for the next six days and going to Florida. Yes, I know I am probably known as "that mom" up at the school, and I totally deserve it.


The End.