Sunday, September 14, 2014

Playing in the yard

Mike and the boys went outside to play soccer today.  It's a Sunday and soccer isn't something we normal do on a Sunday but the kids haven't seen a ton of Mike this week because of an assignment that took a lot of his time and it has been really hot and humid this month except for the last two days so we decided that it would be ok to kick the ball around for a bit.  I was able to take a few pictures.  A lot of them did not end up as focused and crisp as I'd like but some of them did.
This one is blurry but look at that crazy red beard!
 We love having a yard big enough and flat enough to play soccer.  I looked at a lot of houses before we decided on this one and a large portion of them had crazy steep yards.  Knoxville is a very hilly place.  Our yard is not flat but it isn't too bad.

 Piper spent a lot of the game keeping herself protected in this plastic netting.

 I wish this picture were in focus because it's so funny.  She's got a funny pose here.

 This one is also not in focus but I wanted to share her cute curls.  Her hair appears to be like mine was when I was little.  And I love that hair color!

 Piper has been getting bloody noses.  It's very sad.  Just before this picture we had stopped some bleeding and then right after it started again and bled for awhile.  It was a little traumatic for her and I'm hoping her dress isn't ruined.

 Darn mosquito eating her forehead.  I didn't notice it until I looked at the picture later.
 From my backyard

Sue Larsen

One of my favorite people in the world is a wonderful lady named Sue Larsen.  I got assigned to visit her when I first moved to Colorado.  She greeted me at her door with a Halloween gift.  I felt silly since I was her visiting teacher and she was already giving me gifts.  From that point on she continued to keep giving--her friendship, her love, her faith, her positive outlook, her encouragement.  I was assigned to visit her a few weeks after Laila passed away.  One month I showed up and my partner wasn't able to come so Sue and I sat in her living room and talked for hours.  She shared with me some personal experiences from her life that tried her and helped to develop her into the empathetic, wonderful woman she is today.  Hearing her stories and knowing the kind of woman she is increased my faith and determination.  She inspired me and encouraged me to have faith in my own trials.  

A year or so later the presidency reassigned her to someone else.  I was so sad but Sue called up the presidency and told them that she needed to be put back on my list and that she loved me and we needed each other.  Sue was put back on my list before the month was up!  

This week Sue has been on my mind a lot.  I even had a dream about her one night.  It's been a difficult month for her and I'm sad I'm not there to give her a big hug.  I woke up on Thursday morning and I had this image in my mind:  I saw myself driving up to her white house with the green trim and the rose bushes under her windows.  I saw her open her door with her cheerful smile and light flooding through her house.  Then I walked in and sat down on her couch and saw her fall decorations above her cabinets and I just felt happy and comfortable.  Mainly, I felt warmth.  I felt surrounded by the light of my friend, her welcoming home, and the sunshine streaming in through the windows.  It was such a sweet image that I got teary eyed thinking about it.  

Sue will kill me if she reads this blog and sees these pictures but I don't think she reads this blog so hopefully she won't be embarrassed.  I just wanted to post these two pictures so you could all see what a beautiful woman she is.  The first one is not flattering to either of us but it happened when Will was trying to take a picture and something silly happened and we were both caught off guard.  She started laughing and looking at this picture I can almost hear her laugh and remember that moment perfectly.  I love and miss her!

Monday, September 08, 2014

Prepping (for pool closures, school schedules, and food)

 The pool closes at the end of this month.  We didn't get the key for the pool until the Saturday before Labor Day so we have been trying to go as many times as we can before it closes.  The kids love it.  The boys have become such great swimmers and Piper is so much more brave than I ever was.  She is still a little scared but she is getting more courage each time we go.  Her favorite thing to do is jump from the side of the pool in the deep end into my arms.  She loves that.  The boys want to grab her and swim her around the pool but that scares her so she mostly just lets me or Mike hold her.  She also does not like the floaty but realizes that if she is going in the deep end I will make her wear it.  While at the pool, I saw this butterfly near a puddle of water and amazingly caught it in flight.  The picture isn't in focus but I'm just happy I was able to get it at all.

As predicted, Mike's schedule got much busier.  His teachers finally gave him homework.  He spent almost every waking hour on Saturday in the bedroom studying.  He doesn't do homework on Sundays so we were happy to see him yesterday.  The boys were a little irritated when they discovered that Mike's new calling would require him to stay after church.  He wasn't gone long however, and as soon as he got home he sat down with them and gave them each their piano lesson and then played computer with each of them.  Today he was back to studying.  He was home to help get kids off to school then came home and ran (he still has to take his normal PT test next month), showered, and then sat at the desk in the room to study.  He stayed there until he grabbed a quick lunch and headed to school.  Piper and I had some things to do so we did our own things and came home to find him still here but leaning over the hood of his car.  He said, "Come here.  I have a problem I don't know what to do about."  I went over to see what he was looking at and couldn't see anything.  He said that he was about to leave when he saw a little snake and he thought, "The boys will be so happy if I catch this snake for them" so he went to catch it and it darted away and climbed right up into his car!  He tried to find it and get it out but it wouldn't come out until he started the engine and backed out.  There it was chillin' on the driveway again.  He got out of his car and caught the little guy and put it in the bucket.  He was a feisty thing and tried biting Mike.  The boys were thrilled when they got home.  They tried to find crickets and gave it water but because it was so aggressive towards Mike I don't really feel comfortable with them getting near it.  Anyway, back to Mike's schedule.  He went to school and was there until 7, caught the end of FHE, listened to Eli read his book, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and is now sitting on the couch doing his homework, where he will most likely stay until we go to bed.  I am still trying to get used to the new schedule where he doesn't leave at 6:30 and get home at 5:30 as he did in Colorado when he was teaching.  I think it will become normal soon and we will all be used to not seeing him as much as we once did.  I'm very grateful he is so helpful and involved when he is home though.  I appreciate how he balances all his responsibilities and I am trying to do the same on my end.

I am not good with the after school chaos.  It makes me all crazy.  Helping the kids with homework, getting them a snack, making Piper happy, getting them to read for 20 minutes (as part of homework each night), making sure they practice their piano and having them clean their rooms, as well as making dinner, just makes me feel so crazy!  I have tried to stagger the homework so that I am only helping one person at a time and thankfully, Will is pretty much able to do his own work now without much involvement from me, but it is still a lot of different things to juggle.  I'm sure every mom understands this, but also, I am probably worse at the after school chaos than a lot of moms.  I've been trying to come up with a plan and this is my best one so far:  yoga.  Silly, right?  I just thought, "Maybe if I do Yoga right before I pick up the kids I'll be calm and focused."  Ha, ha.  Also, I have started to say a prayer before they all get home.

After dinner I still have the clean up and bedtime routine to take care of.  Mike gets home just about when we are starting scripture reading unless it's a Tuesday and then he gets home after the kids are in bed.  It makes for a long day for all of us but it could easily get worse--in fact, it probably will around when he needs to take a test and such.  Anyway, things haven't been bad but we are still learning to adjust.

Finally, Mike and I have been thinking about our year supply of food lately.  We have a lot of cans of rice, beans, and wheat.  We also had a lot of canned foods like canned corn, diced tomatoes, refried beans, etc. but we made sure we ate all that before we moved because our food storage takes up a large chuck of our weight for moving, and also, they aren't supposed to move liquids.  In addition, we have some freeze dried meals that we figure will taste fine if we have to use them.  They can be pricey so we only buy them when they go on sale.  We also bought 5 gallon water jugs (11).  Anyway, we haven't bought food storage for awhile because of the move and now that we are here we have been thinking about working on getting our rotating supply back up.  We have been buying grass fed beef for a few years but only 1/4 a cow.  We don't eat a lot of beef so it has taken us over a year to eat the 1/4 a cow.  Mike decided to buy a 1/2 cow this time, and I am not sure why we need that much since it takes so long to eat 1/4.  This month there is a message in the Ensign from President Monson about preparedness and we both feel like we should focus on that a bit more.  Yesterday I was told about some bread that a woman in the ward gets from Panera Bread and then gives out on Fast Sunday after church.  I didn't go get any because I didn't want to take bread from someone else that needed it.  It turns out, she first distributes the bread to those that need it and then takes the extra to church for those that want it.  Whatever is left gets thrown away.  So today my friend showed up with two huge boxes of bread that weren't claimed after church.  We don't eat a lot of bread in our house--a loaf for the boy's sandwiches is sufficient--but we do like the occasional bagel, french toast, garlic bread, etc.  Anyway, the box was filled with bagels and baguettes.  All this bread will go bad pretty quickly so I bagged them up and wrapped them in foil to freeze.  I figure we can use the bagels for french toast if it's dredged in egg, use the baguettes for bruschetta (since you eat that on crispy bread anyway), and for other random things like that.  I think this bread will get pretty dry and will last us a really long time but at least it can be an addition to our food storage and I think I can find some uses for it.  I had all this bread, plus four gallon size bags of bagels (half cinnamon, half whole wheat), and then a few other random loafs of bread.  

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Redhead Day

Well, this is the most random thing but I happened to discover that in Denmark on the first weekend of September they celebrate redheads by having a Dutch summer festival called Redhead Day.  Well, it just so happens that I have two redheads and a husband with a red beard and plenty red hairs throughout his hair.  It just seemed like the funnest way to spend this weekend was by celebrating with the Dutch.

Our dinner consisted of red foods:  Mexican Lasagna, homemade salsa, red juice, strawberries, and red peanut butter cookies.
These cookies did not end up being nice and puffy like I hoped.  They were flat, but good.

We had the sister missionaries here for dinner so we forced them to participate with us.  We played pin the freckle on the redhead and then we did a photo shoot with facial hair.  It was silly.

He does not appreciate his freckles but I LOVE them.  Cutest freckly face I've seen

Devil horns
If I owned Anne of Green Gables, I'd end my night by watching it.  That would be the perfect way to end the celebration.  

Instead, I was lucky enough to catch a rainbow outside before bedtime.  It's been awhile since I've seen one and it made me so happy.  That, and watching Piperleigh cheerfully playing in the rain with her "Doggy" made the day a success.  My mom said my grandma always wanted my mom to have redheads but my mom used to pray that she wouldn't.  It skipped a generation but I'm so glad I got them!  I love my little redheads.  They make life so fun!  (I can't wait to see if Will and Isaac will have red beards like their dad)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

This week

This week I've had a mixture of feelings.  I really believe and know that sadness and gratitude can co-exist.  I feel sad and lonely for my friends.  This two hour time difference is hard for me.  I wish I could just pick up the phone whenever I want and call one of my friends but instead we usually have to schedule times to chat.  Also, this week one of my dearest friends moved from Colorado Springs to Las Vegas.  My group of friends got together to say goodbye and it just reminded me of the night they all showed up at my door the last night we were there and how they all stayed until 2 AM.  It was such a sad day for me and having my friends come be with me meant so much to me.  I wish we could all still be there together, not moving away.  But, I was thinking this week about when my mom moved all the time and how they didn't have cell phones and calling long distance cost so much money.  They didn't have texting or email, just snail mail and keeping up with one another was difficult.  I am so thankful that I have the ability to keep up with the people that I love.  

It was a strange thing for me knowing that my friends were all together while we went to a ward activity and tried to make new friends.  I don't really know how to put what I was feeling and thinking into words.  The ward activity was not well attended, which actually, I think was good for us.  It allowed us to talk to a few people and not feel overwhelmed or too awkward.  We had a great time and the boys spent the whole time running around with new friends and laughing and being generally crazy.  The people I've met in this ward are so nice and I'm truly excited to get to know them better and hope to build strong friendships here.  

This probably sounds sad or dramatic but I had this one experience when my family moved when I was younger that was not good and it was pretty damaging to me as a youth and it's nuts to me that here I am as a 34 year old adult having some residual feelings from that time.  I sometimes feel inadequate and question if people here will really want to be my friend and my stomach just twists and turns and I feel those familiar anxious feelings in my stomach.  I kind of hate it.  I have to have those private talks to myself like, "You are a good friend and have so much to offer."  Anyway, that probably sounds pathetic but I think it's about accurate of what I'm feeling right now.  Thankfully, as mentioned, the people here have been so welcoming and nice and I feel so grateful for that.     

Aside from missing my friends it is so hot here this week.  Miserably hot.  I feel sticky and wet the majority of the time I am not in my house.  I keep repeating to myself, just wait until fall and winter.  It will get better.  Bleh.  

Other things that have been happening this week are that the boys have made friends with some boys down the road.  They seem like really nice boys and they invited my boys over for a party on Saturday.  They had so much fun and it really made me so happy to see them making friends.  We have been praying as a family that they boys could build some friendships with some kids that have good values and I feel that they are starting to do that and it makes me very happy.

Mike and I have been working out pretty consistently.  We walk together every other morning for about two to three miles.  Then I come home and do all my knee strengthening exercises.  The days we don't go walking together he goes running and I stay home with Piper and do other strengthening exercises here or Piper and I go for a walk together.  It's been one year since the knee surgery and the doctor told me at a year I could try to add running back in.  I decided to try just a short distance so I jogged (very, very slowly) the distance of four mailboxes.  It didn't hurt at all but I stopped because I was worried about doing too much too soon.  That day my knee hurt something fierce later.  I was pretty disappointed and worried but the next day it felt fine and a few days later I ran those four mailboxes again and didn't have any worse pain and I don't think it hurt as bad either.  That is good.  It's been such a difficult road for me but I'm trying to be positive about it and hopeful that if I'm patient and don't try to force things too quickly things will get better.

We both got callings this week as well.  Mike requested to be the assistant ward clerk.  He was joking when he requested it but also was hopeful about it.  I was embarrassed he put in a request but believe it or not, he was called as the assistant ward clerk.  Lucky boy.  I was called as the Relief Society Enrichment Meeting Coordinator.  I'm kind of feeling nervous about it.  I've never been a part of enrichment so it's a first for me and this ward has such a diverse group of women that it will be fun and interesting.  Wish me luck!  They are having an enrichment meeting this coming month where they are making a video about what makes life good and we all had to send in pictures of us holding signs saying what things make life good for us.  Here is mine:
 We also gave our big, old piano away before we moved.  We decided to get something smaller and less heavy since we move all the time.  The piano was given to us for free so we just returned the favor and passed it on.  This week the new one came and Piper got right to work playing it.  We looked at finding a piano teacher but they are much more expensive here (at least five more dollars if you have multiple kids, more for just one kid) so we have decided that for now, Mike will be their teacher.  They started today and Mike was so patient.  I hope it goes well because it would save us some time and money.

 Also this week, Mike and I painted Piper's room.  This week I'll actually put her pictures up.  I also have the music room mostly how I want it.  It needs some work on the bookshelves but that can come later.  Those pictures are at the very end of this post.

And finally, this week I was talking to Mike about me taking pictures and explaining why I am taking so many lately.  I think it is because I want to be happy and I want to love it here.  I am missing Colorado so much and I don't want that to get in the way of me liking Tennessee.  I know I can like them both and I don't want to compare them but rather, appreciate where I am now.  So I think that having my camera ready to take pictures allows me to see Tennessee with a careful, appreciative eye.  I think that if I take pictures of the interesting things around me it will help me feel more comfortable.  So here are a bunch of pictures I've taken this week while I've been on walks or driving about.  All of these pictures were taken minutes from my house.  These sights are so close to me and it's cool to consider that I live in such a beautiful, green place.

Look at how her hair curls here!

These cemeteries are all over the place.  Most of them are little church cemeteries but some are just small family ones

Mike won't let me go for walks on this road.  He says it's too curvy and dangerous.  He's probably right but it makes me sad.  It would be such a fun walk down this road, right?!

Ignore the phone poles.  They are everywhere.