Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Giraffe Kisses

Have you ever been kissed by a giraffe?

Brant has.  I wasn't fast enough with my camera to capture it, but here's his immediate reaction afterwards.

If you want bragging rights too, go to Out of Africa Wildlife Park, hop on the safari ride, and stick the giraffe treat in your mouth.  You just might be rewarded with an 18 inch black tongued giraffe kiss.

Yes, the park is that cool.  Check it out some time.  We had a blast.

Top right and bottom pics taken from the safari ride.  It's an ideal way to tour a zoo. No walking!

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Cowgirl Birthday Party

Oh my, I just had a bit of Christmas.
Christmas as in family filling my home.
Family sharing our space and kitchen comfortably- sweeping up, doing the dishes, emptying countless trash bags of paper plates and cups, holding babies. Family filling our yard, adults visiting, children playing.
And Christmas as in piles of gifts.
Except these were birthday gifts, and they weren't mine.

Aubrey and her cousin Aliisa share a birthday.  Yesterday we threw a cowgirl party for them.

Birthdays around here are usually pretty small affairs, but this time I couldn't resist making this fun invitation. Or the sign for the front door.

I had a ton of fun setting up, and imagined taking pictures of all the little details.  But once we arrived home from church with guests already waiting...well, lets say I wasn't running around taking pictures as much as I was running around hostessing.  The day literally flew by (and looking back, I'm glad Aubrey and I had a few hours together, just the two of us, shopping and eating out the day before the big party. I got to enjoy her and be more present).

The day could not have been more beautiful'! It was great to see everyone relaxing in the sunshine in the back yard, visiting or running about, hollering and shooting their toy guns.

We ordered fun paper products and a dozen colorful bandannas for all the kids. For games we did a balloon boot stomp and played pin the tail on the pony.  Then a couple of Daddy sheriffs walked up with Wanted posters and "arrested" the birthday girls for growing up and being so cute.  Poor Aubrey gets embarrassed as easily as I do!  I don't think she'll want to be thrown in jail in front of everybody at any future events.

All in all, I count it a successful day.  Especially if everyone else had as much fun as I did!

Now I'm wondering how long till our home can be filled with family once again, because it was wonderful.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Letting my kids know they matter

I now consider my family large.  Somehow, going from four to five children has qualified us as an officially "large family". At least in my mind.  Because this is the point where I shake my head and wonder how other moms make it look so easy.  How other moms don't lose their sanity managing such a large brood.

To the strangers I meet at the grocery store, I have my hands full, lots of helpers, the patience of a saint, and my own basketball team. And about a dozen other sayings that I'm sure many of you have heard.
None of them are true! Except maybe the basketball team one... in five years when they can all get the ball into the hoop.

No really, none of them are true.
I do not have it all figured out.  I do not have all the answers. And no, you should most definitely not bow down to me.
I'm just a mother trying to do her job, and trying my hardest to keep my head above water and stay half a step ahead of the pack.  I make mistakes all the time. I say and do things I regret. I want to crawl into a quiet hole to recoup and actually think clear thoughts on a monthly basis. Okay, make that a weekly basis. Daily?

My recent ponderings have me mulling over my children and how being a part of a large family affects them.
You see, I want each of my children to feel valued and loved.  I want them to know that they are special and unique. I want them to know that I believe in them, and I want them to believe in themselves.

But I have five children.  It's not that I can't love each of them, for I certainly do.  They each are so different, they each bring different joys and gifts to our family.  Its that I hardly have time to think clear thoughts, let alone remember to act on them.  When the school children come home, the amount of noise and activity in this house increases ten-fold.  When its time for dinner, it increases twenty-fold.  Bedtime, 50-fold.  I have all I can handle just trying to keep some peace as I feed the brood, get homework and chores done, ready them for bed, and finally, quietly slip out of their dark bedrooms.

And it is the school children I worry about most.  I demand a lot from them, as they are the most helpful and responsible. The youngest ones demand so much of my time and energy that I worry that the oldest ones feel lost in the shuffle of daily life that equates to busyness and sometimes chaos in a large family.

How do you show your children, especially the oldest ones, that they matter?

This question keeps swirling around my mind as I try to praise them and thank them for their help.  I try to schedule Mom and Child dates.  I occasionally slip notes in their lunches. I try to really listen when they are telling me about their school day.  I try to give lots of hugs.

Some nights I lie awake and wonder, is it enough?  Do they feel as important and cherished as the babies?

Do they feel confident?  Do they feel worthy?

I am not naturally a physical or demonstrative person.  I am working hard to change that with my children.
It is slowly becoming easier, slowly becoming second nature.

Last night, as I was in the kitchen, Aubrey and I were talking about a song she liked called "If I were a mother, for just a little while".  After we sang a few fun made-up versions of our own, I surprised myself by thinking clearly for a change and making up a song, special for her.  I sang that if I were Aubrey, for just a little while, I'd hug my mommy daily because I know she loves that, and I'd keep on being so beautiful and so cute just as I was.  Basically, if I were Aubrey, I wouldn't change a thing - I'd just be me.

And my heart still clenches at her reaction.  Her smile, her beautiful smile, turned kind of shy and kind of pleased all at once.  My heart sang and my inner self jumped and cheered, chalking up one point for this busy mom. Ideally, I'd get five points in a day, but I'll take this victory.  I'm getting there.

My prideful self is gloating at my humbled self;  I'm making up for a past grievance.
Last week, with a few crabby toddlers at my feet and supper sizzling on the stove, I lost my temper and snapped at my oldest.  I caused tears to pool in his eyes.  I made my little boy (because at 8 he really is still so little) feel bad.  My humble self frowned at me (heavens how I try to avoid giving my kids that look, though the disapproving look slips out so easily!), shook her finger in my face, and crossed her arms.  She made her point, quite clearly.
I sometimes move forward one step, then fall back two more.  Am I ever going to come out ahead?!

But you know, perhaps I worry too much.
The other week Aubrey said to me "Do you know where my favorite place is to be? Home!"

My prideful self is fist pumping again and chalking up yet another point!
My humble side is thanking God for these precious children I get to call my own.

Mother's Day 2010.  I need a new picture of me and my kids!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Instead of laying on the beach

Once upon a year, Dean and I were able to run off to the beach on a whim.  I remember one Thursday I came home from work (as a Nurse's Assistant at the hospital) and told Dean that I wanted to go to the beach.  The next afternoon we were on our way to San Diego.

Last week, I wanted to go to the beach, and on Friday night, we started looking for hotels.  It actually was a perfect time to go.  I was all caught up on laundry, I had cleaned the van inside and out, and the forecast for Monday in San Diego was sunny and 90 degrees! But my hubby talked me out of it. Gosh darn his practicality and his full plate at work! We were so close to throwing swimsuits and clothes into our suitcase! Oh how I wish I was posting beach pictures...

Instead, we spent our weekend exploring around home.  Saturday we went for a family hike to Red Mountain - one of the coolest places we've been to.

Sunday we drove out to Wupatki Ruins (I forgot my camera).  On our way home, and after spending two hours in the van, Dean asked me if I got road tripping out of my system. :)  
Yes, by the way, I did. But I did not get the beach out of my system.
I'll be checking the forecast in San Diego again in another week.

From our Red Mountain hike:

The trail is actually a dried out wash leading up to the Red mountain, a cinder cone that is shaped like a U, exposing the inside of the volcano.

My little hiking buddy trekked the first mile and a half on foot.  He cracks me up with his backwards binoculars!

This trail is perfect for kids - it's 3 miles round trip and the destination is well worth the hike.

The place is like a mini Bryce Canyon.

Our kids climbed and explored until their hands were chafing from the rough rock.
The motley crew:

Well, some of them anyway.

On the trail back, we had a view of the distant San Francisco Peaks.
I love that I can associate them with home.  Is this view not gorgeous?!

Hike it sometime!

Monday, October 1, 2012

The one year old boss

You'd think I'd have this whole parenting gig all figured out by now, but no, this little girl continues to make me doubt myself.
I think you could safely say she has me wrapped around her little finger.  And as it's a very tiny finger, I wonder how she managed that?! Maybe that says more about me than her, so maybe we won't go there!

She's one year old (Oh, where did the time go?)!  
She's an early riser.  She started walking a week before she turned one.  She loves to look at pictures of faces. She knows how to sign 6 words.  She leans in for a kiss when Dean leaves for work. She waves goodbye to any bus or garbage truck she hears. She melts my heart on a daily basis with her smile.
She's still nursing, and I love our bonding time. 
I only wish she didn't love it so much and that she would eat more real food.  My problem is that I'm thoroughly wrapped around that little finger of hers, and when she signs that she'd like to nurse, well what's there to do but take her out of her high chair and settle down and nurse her?  Never mind that we're trying to cut back on the nursing and never mind that there is food for her on her tray. And never mind that some day we are actually going to have quit. 

It's not that bad, really. I think she signs 'eat' and 'more' just as often, if not more often, than she signs 'nurse'.  So she does eat, but she's just so picky.  She wrinkles up her nose at just about everything I put in front of her.  This girl won't even drink apple juice! I've found that I just have to wait her out, and she'll eventually eat.
She reminds me of another girl I know that asks for a peanut butter and honey sandwich for her lunch every single day.

This girl loves her baby doll.  She signs baby by clasping her hands together in front of her then moving her clasped hands back and forth.  Cutest. thing. I've. ever. seen!

Perhaps I should teach her to sign 'sleep'.
Nursing sometimes feels like such a conundrum.  I love the quiet moments we have while I'm nursing her. But part of the problem is that I nurse this girl to sleep. At 7 pm, the last thing this household needs is mama hiding out in the bedroom for 25 minutes to nurse the baby to sleep.

Sleep.  You'd think I'd have it figured out by now, but no, baby number 5 is still the boss, just like all my other babies have been, even at one year's old.

She's a pretty darn adorable and precious boss, though.  I'll keep her.