Monday, April 24, 2017

Four Years

It's so fun to celebrate birthdays with my kids, but this year was a little different for our little Bubba (who is not so little anymore) because Andy had his annual AECOM conference and wasn't going to be home all weekend.  We still managed to have a good time and make it a special day for Bubs.  I think 4 is the age when my boys have both come to realize it is their birthday and that they can celebrate themselves all day.  Last year, we were in DC for Bubba's third birthday and after birthday donuts, we headed off to Philadelphia to see family.  It was still a great day, but he barely realized it was his birthday besides blowing a candle off of a cupcake at night.  The difference a year makes, because this year he was so excited about the fact that it was "my birthday!"  He woke up, ran into my room, and told me he was "four years old now!"  He doesn't quite understand that height restrictions are what held him back from riding certain rides at Universal, he thinks it's turning 4, so he then exclaimed, "I can go on the Transformer ride now!"

Throughout the day, he would exclaim, "It's MY birthday!" and then when we went to Andy's parents house for dinner and family members started to show up, he ran around screaming, "Say hello to the birthday boy!" It was so funny.

We had been watching an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Mickey had a Mickey shaped cake.  He turned to me, and told me (this was a few weeks ago) that he also wanted a Mickey cake.  The boy are having a combined birthday party after both of their actual birthdays at Jump Around Utah with a Captain America (Bubba) and Spiderman (Jordan) theme, so I figured why not - we can do some Mickey Mouse stuff now.

But buying two cakes over the course of a week seems a bit overkill.  I decided I better make him a cake, and then another for Jordan next week.  So last minute, I went with a box cake and tried to imitate a Mickey Mouse cake I saw on Pinterest that was much like the one he wanted from the show.  Cooper was not having it.  So May was nice enough to come over and hold Cooper while I worked on the cake.  I also left the three big kids with my in-laws on Saturday afternoon and went off to get balloons for Bubba.  I had to sneak them into the house downstairs below the stairs and then retrieve them after the kids had gone to sleep, because I can't blow balloons.  I'm not kidding, every year - we have done balloons on the floor for the kids, but Andy has always blown them up.  So without him around, I had to go buy helium ones.  HEHE.

Dear Bubba,
My sweet dear four year old!  You are such a stubborn little boy.  You know exactly what you want, you are hard to persuade, but you seem to eventually come around and want to help mom out.  You love your big brother so much, in fact, you idolize him, he is your best friend, and you always want to know where he is, and you can't wait until he gets back from school.  Even on days when you have school, you are back before him, and eager to play with him again.  You love your sister, but you also find it amusing to bug her from time to time.  You love Mommy and Bubba time, and any one on one time you can get from anyone, but you also are always thinking of your brother and sister.  At gymnastics, if you get a treat after, you'll always ask if you can also get one for Jordan and Dagny.  If given the option to only get two things, you'll of course pick Jordan over Dagny, but he is your BFF for now.  One day, it'll be him and Dagny and Cooper.  Speaking of Cooper, you think he is the cutest baby in the world and you tell everyone he looks just like you and shower him with kisses, about 25 a day, at least.  You take care of him the way Jordan took care of Dagny, and you love being near him when Mom is nursing because "he is soooo cute!"  
You love sweets, more than any of our kids, and you will eat cake and ice cream for dinner if we let you (you did tonight, but then you had some carrots with ranch).  You also love ketchup and ranch, and will eat carrots with ranch, and eggs and chicken nuggets with kethcup.  You love grilled cheese sandwiches, in n out burgers and milkshakes, McDonald's nuggets and burgers and breakfast sandwiches, and pizza pie cafe's oreo dessert pizza.  
You sometimes cry in anguish when mom asks you to do something and you feel you need "help" from Jordan who is coincidentally at school.  You cry for a bit before coming around and telling me you did it all by yourself!  You are also stubborn.  But sometimes, in a good way.  You can buckle yourself in the carseat and always do it correctly, pulling the buckle to your armpit as instructed by mom and refusing to wear a jacket in the carseat because Mom told you it's dangerous.  You even once yelled at Grandma and OGO to let you take off your jacket before putting it on, and then started to cry when they tried to convince you it was okay.  
You are deathly afraid of elevators after getting stuck in the 15 floor elevator at the Hilton in Florida when we lived there for the month of May last year.  You were returned to us by a security guard, but those few minutes have scarred you for life, and you are super duper careful everytime you enter an elevator now, and also cautious about everyone else in the family, because you know how quickly you could get separated.  You take walking with Mom in the parking lot VERY seriously as well, and you never joke around when Mom says something is dangerous.  
You love drawing, doing "homework," cutting, running around, being Captain America, jumping off of our couch, and being outside.  You know so many letters and have already begun writing them without much instruction from us, you just seem to recall them from all the endless alphabet games you have played.  You don't care what anyone thinks, you pick out your own clothes, and on occasion, you decide that you want to wear jeans and a nice sweater because you do.  You love playing pretend, pretend cooking, pretend family, pretend ninjas, pretend superheros, pretend dinosaurs, and you have learned how to chew gum and spit it out.  
You have surprisingly turned into our best stay in your own bed at night sleeper, a huge change from when you used to crawl into bed secretly with us, every single day.  You are independent and full of ideas, and the only one of my kids who came out through a knife cutting me open.  It's as if you knew four years ago, that you didn't want to be upside down, so you stuck to it.  I love you so much, even if sometimes you're too cuddly for me and Dad, but we know your love language is presently physical affection and we try to remember to give you that attention whenever we can.  Happy Birthday my dear Bubba.  I cannot believe you are four years old already.   

Love, Mom

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Tithing Miracle

At Church, we always hear those stories about how people didn't have enough money to tithe and they did with faith, and then someone showed up at their house with food or a job opportunity.  I've always listened bewildered with a bit of pessimism and doubt.

We have enough money to tithe.  That wasn't the issue.  It was more that we make money, and yet we spend money, and at the end of the day, we don't have a lot of money saved, and most months, we go into the red.  So I began to analyze and compare.. the latter being the dangerous one.  I thought of all our resident friends with a lot of kids, with kids enrolled in private schools AND activities, and wondered, gee how do they make it work?  Is it because they aren't giving 10% of their money to a Church?  They might be Catholic or Jewish, or some other religious denomination, but it's still difficult to not stop and wonder how others do it.  I ask my close friends what they spend on their monthly grocery bill and it ranges from how the heck do they survive spending that little?! to ohh okay, that's more along what we spend.  There's not absolute answer of "this is what you are doing wrong."  Different people, different spending habits, different appetites for different things.  But it is still frustrating and unsettling and most of all, STRESSFUL.

Andy asked me the question the other day, how are we making more money but saving less of it?


In an effort to cut down, we could give up cable.  We could also give up dining out on the weekends. And a lot of other things.  But I guess I'm just not sure how all the little stuff adds up so quick.  We've decided with 4 kids, we need to cut back on the amount of activities our kids attend.  I'm not dealing with the timing of when expenses hit, making sure I time our automatic billing so we have money in the account before it's taken out.  To be honest, I've never dealt with this because I'm usually very good at saving and pretty frugal with my spending.  While my income went up when I was working, I kept my contribution rates on an incline so that my take home was about the same, so I lived off of a first year associate's salary for five plus years and saved enough to have a hefty 401k and enough to put a down payment on a home.  But without a firm footing the bill for most of my meals, and with four little ones running around doing stuff, life gets expensive.

So I've been couponing.  And pretty much looking at our expenses on a daily basis.  I am monitoring it DAILY now.  Yes, I am a bit obsessed.

Recently, I was talking to two friends about couponing and expressing my concern with how expensive life is becoming.  I got to hear experiences about how others do the same stuff I've been doing with stocking up on goods while on sale, and shopping smarter, and it felt good to know I wasn't alone.  Really really good.  And then my one friend told me she gets free or discounted meat from her MIL.  I forget the reason why, but she offered to call me next time she got some if I wanted in.  I said, "YES PLEASE!" with much enthusiasm and joy. This was about a week ago.

Last night, she texted me that she dropped off two boxes of frozen meat at my house.

It filled up my 10% full before freezer and we have enough meat to probably last us through the summer.  This, my friends, is a true tithing miracle.  It may not be the "we did not have enough food to eat" scenario, but I had just told Andy that we could truly save a bit if we had ramen or mac'n'cheese about twice a week from here on out and ate very simple grilled cheese or tuna and egg salads for dinner.  It is not much, but it is my tithing miracle.  And it makes me remember that the Lord is looking out for us, even if we think it's just a coincidence, or act of kindness from someone else.  He really is looking after us.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

April 12 of 12

It only took me about a year, but I finally managed to get 12 photos on one day again.  It's hard, because I always overthink it and want there to be some cool photos, some different formats, different angles, colors that pop, etc., and then it ends up being an over analyzed hodge podge.  Oh well, at least I did it!

1. Takes the boys a while to get dressed... we don't eat breakfast til they're dressed so sometimes that means 9 AM... 2. the peonies outside our house, so beautiful, as I pass by to throw away diaper poop 3. Dagny, our best eater scarfing down a tortilla with leftover taco meat and rice in it 4. Baymax vs Megaman downstairs 5. Cooper up close and personal with Jordan (who took this photo) 6. Oh Mai for lunch with friends after we dropped off both brothers at school 7. Wheeler Farm with friends (that's a lot of Asians in SLC!) 8. Removing husks for fresher corn since boys love corn... sadly, nobody ate much, I ended up having two myself  9. After dinner trip to Deseret Book for John's (Andy's cousin's son) baptism gift 10. quick park trip after errands with some batting practice 11. Dagny's second playground of the day, she is lovin every moment and asks all the time, "we go playground now?" 12.  Cooper sleeping through the park, the purple blossoms were beautiful, as was the mountain background

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Still Here...

My days seem to be measured by tantrums, hugs, an spit-ups lately.  I made it through a full week on my own with four kids, but I am wondering how in the world other people do it, especially those with even more kids than me!... because I am barely surviving.  If post-partum anger were a thing, I'd have it.  I am constantly angry and frustrated.  Mostly angry at myself, but a lot of times, at my kids who don't seem to understand the many things I want organized, cleaned, and done, and then sometimes at my husband too.  I know from Positive Parenting (a paid online course I am doing), that Andy and I are both "controlling" and "superior," not exactly a wonderful combination but probably explains why we get along so well.  Translated, it means we lecture, direct, demand and expect way too much.  It can be difficult to have two superior and controlling parents because we don't provide enough choices, show enough love, and need to listen more.  So lately, I've been trying to deflate the seriousness of the situation with humor, redirecting a blatant act of disobedience or whining with immediate one on one time, and "training" my kids whenever things are abnormally quiet and calm, not laced with multiple cries and whines.  Patience has never been my thing, and I am learning now, more than ever, why my demanding personality made a few associates cry back in the day (what? that never happened to you?!) but also give me the highest praise through anonymous upward feedback.  I am trying, failing most days, but picking myself up and trying.  Again and again.  I'm a record on repeat these days.

It's hard.  I can't do it.  I have to do it.  Why did I have four kids?!  These thoughts go through my head in and out, out and in, as I'm overwhelmed with activities, house tasks, grocery shopping, and coordinating everyone's schedules, needs, and wants.

I try to find time for myself to just relax with a face mask, watch a show while I'm nursing after everyone's asleep, work out, or blog (so I can look back and laugh at myself).  Blogging is indeed therapeutic for me, but also, when I hear older ladies at Church talk about how they don't really "remember" raising their kids, I get scared at how feeble my own memory may be in the future and make a silent commitment to be better about blogging with details and photos.

So I started off the week by going to the dentist with all 4 and then Dagny's dance class. Later, I did Costco with Dagny and Cooper while the boys were in school Monday afternoon.  We found out the $1.75 smoothies had gone up to $3 and are now sugar free and healthier.  On Tuesday, we planned to go to the library but Jordan laughed while Dagny disobeyed me, and I threw in the towel.  We did some couponing on Wednesday while the boys were in school again and Jordan had practice for soccer that evening.  On Thursday, we surveyed the backyard and the impending work we'd have to put in to get it back into useable shape, drove carpool for school, and retreated home afterwards.  I managed to get in a workout since Andy's thumb is not completely well so he's been skipping his weekly ball.  On Friday, we made it to a Partners in Medicine Easter egg hunt, and then stayed home and watched a lot of TV.  Andy got back early so we had In-n-Out for dinner and spent some time at a park before Andy went to a Jazz game with his mom (compliments of work), and I cleaned after the kids went to bed.  I barely cooked this last week, it was my reward to myself for surviving a week on my own.  We ate a lot of egg sandwiches, chicken nuggets, leftovers, quesadillas, and at my MIL's.

The weekend proved relaxing and a good reset on being at home with four kiddos. We had French toast and McDonald's wannabe ham and egg mcmuffins for breakfast, and the snow brought unexpected snow play.  I got more adult time when my HS friend Genny visited for a bit Sunday afternoon, and then the new week came upon me. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Spring Break and Cooper's First Trip

Andy took off two days to give our family a four day weekend.  We headed to nearby St. George where we were lucky enough to stay with our friends, the Knights.  Andy had this idea of making a day trip to Vegas for dinner and climbing some red rocks, I was hesitant, but it ended up happening against my better judgment and hopes.  

Our photos are a bit of a cluster mess.. they're from my phone as well as Andy's.. but instead of sitting here and trying to put them all in chronological order, I'll just detail them with captions.  

We kicked off a lazy Thursday with running around and enjoying the Knight's toys.  This after a horrendous night of Dagny yelling that it was "good morning, not good night!" Jordan laughing hysterically, and Bubba eventually waking up to join the unapproved party.  Andy and I both knocked out before the kids did, so we're not sure exactly when they fell asleep - but we arrived at midnight, and they were up past 1 AM... so there's that.  

St. George's food options are basically every glorified chain restaurant you can think of, but we luckily found one of our favorite SLC joints there, Evens Stevens Sandwiches, where everytime you eat a sandwich, one is given to some organization helping others eat.  Awesome! 

Ava and Cooper - Ava is 7 months, Cooper is 3 months... 
All the kiddos together.  It's insane to me that not too long ago, Becky, Andy and I were all single, now we have a collective six kids!  Yikes! Time flies!

We heard about this amazing all abilities park, so we made our way there after lunch.  The sun was out, the kids wanted to do the splash pad, so we changed into our swimsuits, and upon exiting the bathroom, saw the clouds cover the sun.  Killjoy. 

We spent the rest of the afternoon with our friends the Bells, but between the windy sand at Snow Canyon and the hailstorm at Firehouse Park, the phone never made its way out.  We eventually ended up at their house chilling for a bit while the kids played or watched TV, and had some stimulating adult conversation.  I know, shocking... right?  Dinner was with the Bells at Five Guys where besties Jordan and Asher sat together doing who knows what, my back was to them.. but our kids ate well and that, as always, is a huge win.  

We started off Friday morning with a drive to Vegas.  We started off at Container Park, but apparently the gentrified park is quite worn down, the slides had cracks on them and were roped off with big bright yellow CAUTION signs, so we ventured around to the entertainment area after eating a packed sack lunch, one we were kindly advised is prohibited in the park, but since none of the restaurants were open yet, and most likely they felt sorry for our huge family of six sitting there eating our sacked lunches, they let it slide. Whew! 

It was a bit breezy, so after running around a bit and exploring the over priced toy store with lots of repeated, "No, we're not buying that" statements, we headed towards Town Center, a mall playground we had taken Jordan to when he was about Dagny's age (2.5).

It's a trip to see your grown up kids playing at a park they played in a few years ago at another age.  Yes, this is the theme of this post, time is a thief.

The weather started to warm up a bit while we were at the mall playground where Bubba and Dagny both had a massive tantrum in Gameworks, so we left, which triggered a huge tantrum from Jordan who was upset that he didn't get to play any games due to his brother and sister's bad behavior.  Welcome to your life in a big family of kids buddy.  Sorry.  We headed off to Red Rock Canyon, a National Park Andy had been raving about since before we got married.  He had gone for Thanksgiving the year we were dating (2009), and came back talking about how much fun it was and how badly he wanted to go back.  Well, we finally made it back.. with four kids.

Andy headed off with the three big kids while I nursed Cooper in the van.  Understanding that I'd have to go down no matter how long I nursed (yes, I thought about just nursing the whole time...), I put Cooper in the bjorn and headed off to meet them.  I'm not a big hiker  I had this horrific experience with experienced hiker friends back in 2008 and have not been especially fond of hiking since.  The sacrifices we make for our family...

It was pretty cool though, I'll admit it.  That is.. until I heard Cooper poop what sounded like something BIG.  About 30 minutes later, as we proceeded to change him on the side of the road, we realized it was not only huge, it had trickled up his back when we lay him on the lopsided seat to change him.  Oops  A thousand wipes later, we said farewell to the green onesie he is seen wearing above.  Everything went into a plastic bag that we disposed of later.

Dinner was at Fuku Burger, a joint Andy had found online with fusion Asian burgers.  Burgers two days in a row?  Done.
The kids had a loco moco and grilled cheese ($8).  In retrospect, we should have requested all the toppings on the side.. because that is a rip off.
We went to Chinatown for some Chinese bao for breakfast the next day.
Here's an out of order Red Rock Canyon photo
And then Saturday morning was Conference.  I got about 20% of it...I can tell you who spoke, but not what about.

Container Park video:
Town Center mall videos:

And then along with all the other Mormons in St. George, we headed to Subway and Panda Express for take-out to the downtown creek.

then made our way over to 25th and Main, a cute little cafe we took engagement photos in 7 years ago...

We headed back to the Knights' to relax, clean, and pack up, then headed to dinner at Viva Chicken, a new place in St. George that we will definitely be back for!

And then we headed back to Salt Lake City.  It was a great trip, a much needed break from my first three days with four kids on my own.  Though I'm dealing with an overload of laundry, I'm adjusting to life with four back home a bit better than last week.  Here's hoping I survive...