Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013 Yearly Letter


Here it all is again, in case this way is easier for you.

In 2013, we had the privilege of having a new baby, a new home, and a new job!
Alice Grace was born on February 23. After having two six-pound babies, a nine-pound baby was quite a surprise!
In March, we left our beloved Cincinnati and moved to Virginia, just outside of DC, and Jeff began his new job as a contractor with the State Department, Overseas Building Operations.
Through his job, he has had trips to Zambia, Equatorial Guinea, and Laos. During which, he was able to hold a lion cub, climb Victoria Falls, and eat fried crickets!
Mimi has enjoyed her new calling as Primary Music Leader at church. She is learning how to juggle three small children at home. She continues to love to read and has loved learning more about childbirth.
Jill is 4 ¾ years old. She loves playing dress-up, singing, and dancing. She is a huge help to Mimi around the house.
Daniel is 2 (will be 3 in January). He is starting to communicate more clearly and loves making others laugh. He loves gymnastics, singing, and superheroes. He is known to somersault at any moment.
Alice is 10 months old and toying with the idea of walking. She has been our happiest baby so far (unless you had the audacity to put her in a car seat!).

This year we’ve enjoyed a Collett family reunion in Park City and a Boling family reunion in Shenandoah Valley. We also made visits to Lincoln, Cincinnati, and Detroit. We’re looking forward to new adventures in 2014 and hope you are doing well!

March 3, 2013: Alice's baby blessing and an awesome family photo.

May 22, 2013: Family picture taken at the Collett Family Reunion in Park City, Utah.
Digital rights purchased from photographer Darla Roze.

July 17, 2013: Family picture taken at the Boling Family Reunion in Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.
Digital rights purchased from photographer Peter Davis.

November 11, 2013: Family picture for our Christmas card.
Digital rights purchased from JCPenney Portrait Studios.

Here are a few other memorable shots from 2013.

Jeff holding a lion cub.

Jeff's family

My family

 My children with both sets of grandparents

I hope the majority of your 2013 was great and that we're all stronger, better people. I hope we all have a wonderful 2014!

Monday, December 23, 2013

My brother's charity

I like life in general, but I do especially love the end of the year. I really feel that for the most part people are friendlier and more kind. I love the holidays that give us extra opportunities to be grateful and to give.

There are lots of different options to serve this time of year—church service projects, charitable donations, acts of love for family members, soup kitchens, food pantries, nursing homes, and many more. I know that I have benefited from the kindness of many this holiday season.

My brother Peter feels very lucky to live in the United States, to have a roof over his head, food in his refrigerator, relative safety for his family, and a job to go to every day, and he has felt the need to help those whose lives are not as privileged as his.

Through Andy Jones, of the Africa Heartwood Project, Peter has learned about the plight of Liberians stranded in a refugee camp in Ghana, called Buduburam. Peter has helped some already, but his desire to help is greater than his personal ability to do so, and he is reaching out to his friends and acquaintances, hoping that together more people can be helped.

He has started a fundraiser to enable others to donate money to this cause. On his fundraiser page, he has listed each of the people he has come to know and whom he would like to help. You can read about their life situations, families, hopes for the future, and how much money they need to achieve those dreams.

Peter is keeping none of your money, so excepting the PayPal fee and the Western Union transfer fee, everything you donate will go to the actual people in Buduburam who need help, which is a really high percentage for a charity. (When you donate, the website will ask if you want to donate anything to them and it will suggest an amount. You have the option of making that zero if you don't wish to donate to the hosting site.) 

If this cause sounds like something you would like to be a part of, then please visit the fundraising page where you can learn a lot more information about the plight of these refugees and how my brother intends to help them.

It costs less than a family dinner in a nice restaurant or a pair of designer jeans or a new electronic gadget to end suffering for a stranger in Africa. Even if you can't donate the full amount for an entire family, any little bit helps.

Please don't feel guilty if you can't help, as my friends, I know you are all doing many wonderful things for loved ones and strangers throughout the year. :) Stay awesome, my friends!

And even if you can't donate monetarily, if you feel so inclined, it would be helpful if you could share the fundraising link through social media.

 Helping the Destitute of Buduburam
This is a photo of Anthony. He has a wife and two daughters. My brother has already helped him leave Buduburam and return to Liberia. When they arrived, they discovered their house had been damaged and no longer had a roof or doors. He is currently training to become a police officer again, and your assistance would allow him to have the funds to put a roof over his family's head.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Let Me Catch You Up to Speed

Life is crazy, right? Let me summarize some of the craziness in mine.

An FM post in Brasilia became vacant in July. In August, we were informed that Jeff was chosen to fill it. However, Jeff's contract with the government was up for rebid, so they wanted to wait to send him until after the decision was made, so he wouldn't have to fly back to fill out paperwork. Fine, the contract was to be assigned on August 15, so that didn't seem like a big deal.

The deadline passed, and instead of being assigned, the deadline was postponed.

In September, we were told that everything would be taken care of in time for Jeff to go to Brasilia on October 13. People were hoping that the contract would be done sooner, so he could go earlier. On September 9, he was told to go apply for his VISA, so he would be ready to go when it happened.

The contract was postponed again, and Jeff's date was moved to the beginning of November. The Brasilia FM responded saying that November 1 was late, and he would rather Jeff come in the middle of October.

On September 12, we contacted the other FM in Brasilia to find out whether the kids and I could go with Jeff. The contract was still not renewed, so Jeff was sent on a different trip for work and was in Laos from September 21 through October 6.

Jeff's company went ahead with an itinerary for Jeff to fly to Brasilia on October 29.

We decided to rent out our townhouse, so it wouldn't be empty for the five months we were gone. We found one tenant for November and December, and a second tenant (a family) for January, February, and March.

On September 30, we received approval for Jeff to bring his family with him to Brasilia! The contract was supposed to be renewed on October 15, and Jeff was all set to fly October 29. The kids and I were going to spend some time with my parents while Jeff got everything ready for us in Brasilia, and we would join him mid-November.

Then the government shut down on October 1 while Jeff was in Laos. The contract was supposed to be renewed by October 15, but nothing was allowed to happen during the shutdown, which ended October 16. (Although, honestly, since the contract had been postponed since August, who knows if it would have happened without the shutdown.)

A few days after returning from Laos, Jeff went to the ER with some scary symptoms. Nothing serious was found, so he was sent home to follow up with his general physician. Tests were called for, and we waited for results.

Back to work, it took a few weeks after the government "started back up" for funding to flow again, and we were sure the contract would be awarded any day. But it wasn't.

Jeff was given some medicine and started feeling better, and the tests came back with nothing serious showing up.

Our tenant was supposed to get the house on November 1, so Jeff moved in with a coworker (sleeping on a mattress on the floor), and my mom drove out from Michigan to take the rest of us to her house.

Jeff flew out to visit us at my parents' house over Veterans' Day weekend.

We learned that the house the embassy was putting us in needed a new roof, so we couldn't move into it until November 20.

We finally learned the contract was all set to be awarded, and then it was discovered that the wrong company name had been used on all the documents. That took a week or so to fix.

Then it was discovered that a form from "Diplomatic Security" was missing. That took a week or so to secure.

Jeff went to a chiropractor in hopes to alleviate some pain.

Nothing was done on the contract around the time of Thanksgiving, and then bad weather put work to a halt as well. The kids and I went down to Cincinnati to spend Thanksgiving with Jeff's parents; Jeff was able to join us, too! But while there, he started feeling worse again, so he went back to his general physician after returning to Virginia.

Then he went to a cardiologist. Then he went to a gastroenterologist. He had an MRI, echocardiogram, and endoscopy all performed. Finally, on December 13, it was discovered that he has an hiatal hernia (and, understandably, a lot of stress). It was a relief to finally understand why he has felt the way he has for the past two months.

The contract was finally officially awarded also on December 13, and we were really excited. Then we learned that the task order still needs to come through before going to Brazil, and who knows how long that will take.

So, every time we have thought the last barrier had been removed, a new one has been put in its place. It has been a little discouraging.

After December 19, Jeff would not be able to stay at his coworker's any longer. So we contacted our tenant, and some good luck finally came our way! Our tenant let us buy him out, and he found a different apartment to stay in. So, yesterday, my mom drove from Detroit to the Baltimore airport (to fly back home to Detroit), and I drove from Baltimore to our own little home, and here we were when Jeff came home from work!

So, we are together again for Christmas. Theoretically, when the task order goes through (and the meeting for issuing it is today), there is nothing else standing in our way to go to Brasilia, but based on past history, I am not holding my breath.

It would be crazy though if we came all the way to Virginia and bought out our tenant just to leave again. Our next tenant is due in January. If we're not in Brasilia, maybe they'll let us live with them . . . ?

And now you know what's been going on for the past two months. What happens next is anyone's guess.

What I do know though is that I am very grateful to have my family together again and to know what was ailing Jeff.

(Although, I am a bit frustrated at not having sent out the Christmas cards yet this year. I don't know how 2013 ends, so I'm having trouble writing the end of the yearly letter!)

While in Michigan, Jill got to be a donkey in the church nativity play 
along with her cousin Emily.

Merry Christmas!
(No Santa tears this year!)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Baby hungry

My niece and nephew came over to my parents' house today. Jill and Emily began to play with dolls. They both had a doll but decided that wasn't enough. How do you get another baby? Well, you're pregnant. Soon they were walking around talking about their pregnancies. Then they laid down on a big pillow and gave birth to twins.

During this time of labor, their younger brothers were announced to be the husbands. And apparently, husbands have pretty specific duties during childbirth.

Jill: "Husband, go kill a chicken."
Danny: "No kill chicken."
Jill: "Go kill a chicken, so I can eat turkey."
Danny: "No kill chicken. I nice."
Jill: "You just get a knife and cut it down the middle and take its head off and put it in the oven."
Danny ignores these instructions. 
Jill: "I'm having twins. Go kill a chicken!!"
Danny lies down on the big pillow next to Jill and Emily.
Danny: "Look how big my tummy is!"

I guess he decided he would rather be pregnant than kill a chicken.

Since Thanksgiving, Jill has realized that the chicken and turkey we eat are the same as the farm animals we see. I don't think Daniel has made that connection yet.

Oh, and as I was walking up the stairs to come write down this absurd exchange, I could hear the girls still.

Emily: "The baby is coming! I'm pushing!"
Jill: "I can see the bum!"

What a painful delivery that would be—bum first.


And here are two conversations from yesterday.

Me: "You know I'm not having a baby anytime soon, right?"
Jill: "Well, yeah, but . . . "
Me: "Alice is still a baby, don't you think? We can't have another baby when Alice is still such a baby."
Jill: "Well . . . you do have two boobs. You can feed two babies."


A few minutes later, she came up with this.

Jill: "You should have eighteen babies, Mommy!"
Me, laughing: "You should tell your daddy that."
Jill: "Okay. I hope I don't forget the number!"

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Still Here

Well, we are still in the States and apart. We did have the fortune to be together over Thanksgiving at Jeff's parents' house in Cincinnati, but now the kids and I are back in Detroit, and Jeff is back in Virginia. The hidden blessing in all of these delays is that Jeff has had time to look into the health issues he began having in October. He has seen his primary care physician numerous times, as well as a cardiologist and, tomorrow, a gastroenterologist. Hopefully we will figure it all out soon. And hopefully all of the documents will be in order at the right time for all of the health issues to be cleared up!

There's always a blessing to be found. :)

Like the fact, that both of my kids' grandparents have taken them to see Disney's Frozen, so I've been able to see it twice already. In a movie theatre! This is really huge for me, because other than my dad taking me to see Ender's Game earlier this month, I hadn't seen a new release in a fancy movie theater since 2010. And that is quite a change for me, because I used to go to the movie theater a lot. A lot. Like multiple times a month. Oh, being a teenager is so different from being a young mother.

True on a lot of levels. I never wore clothes back then that had bodily fluid on them.

Anyway!

One highlight from my visit with my parents was roller skating. I thought it would be easy to skate again, but I was really surprised at how difficult it was to get my balance back. Although, I am starting to wonder if perhaps I was actually never good at skating, so the problem wasn't that I had forgotten how to skate but that I remembered my skills incorrectly. In my memory, I was awesome. But going back to the rink reminded me that I never even learned how to use the brakes. Who needs brakes when there are bushes everywhere?

 Mom and Dad at the skating rink
Thanks for the memory!

 Uncle Kevin and Jess were there to celebrate Thanksgiving

My grandpa is visiting my parents right now, too, so my kids get some good time with Great-Grandpa (or Big Grandpa as they call him). 

Alice is starting to eat baby food.

Jill and her cousin in Emily in the dresses my parents got them in Germany.
They are four months apart in age. Emily is tall.

I went with Rachel to pick out a grave blanket for Tabitha. And last week, we went to decorate "Tabitha's house" with Christmas decorations. The cemetery has a cool event where you make "ornaments" that are actually made of food and covered with bird seed. Then you hang them in the trees by your loved ones' graves. So they are really pretty, and they attract cheerful birds. I missed out, because Alice and Daniel were both asleep in the car, but I got to see the finished product.

It is hard to not think of Tabitha while I am staying in this house, the last place I saw her alive, and when I have Alice with me who is close to the same size Tabitha was when she passed. She was such a happy baby. Here's a conversation I had with Emily two weeks ago.

Me: "Do you need help getting your socks on?"
Emily: "Yes, because I'm a baby pegasus, so I don't have hands."
Me: "Oh, yes. A baby pegasus only has feet."
Emily: "Four legs."
Me: "And four hooves. And two wings."
Emily: "GranB . . . "
(I thought she had called me by the wrong name, so I was about to say "No, I'm Aunt Mimi" when she continued.)
Emily: "I call GranB 'Sister.' I had a sister, but she is gone now. She stopped breathing and died, so she is gone. That is what happens when you die."
Me: "Yes, your sister was Tabitha. I miss her."
Emily: "So GranB is my sister. . . . And I call her 'Baby' if we are cooking in the kitchen."

Monday, November 18, 2013

Appearances

The other day, I was sitting by my daughter, and we had the opportunity to hear two sweet young girls sing. They were maybe . . . eight or nine years old. I was enjoying the song, wondering what I sounded like when I was that age, and wondering if any of my kids would ever want to sing like that in front of people.

Then, Jill leaned over to me and said, "That one girl is fat."

My knee-jerk response was, "Oh, she's not fat. She's just bigger." (She really wasn't fat. She just wasn't scrawny.)

Then I thought about it and added, "And we usually don't say when someone is fat."

Then I thought more and said, "There are plenty of nice things to mention about her, Jill. You could comment on her long blond hair, her beautiful smile, her bright eyes, her lovely voice, or how brave she is to sing in front of us."

And then I just stopped saying things, because I wasn't sure if I was saying the right things or just making it worse.

I am sure this will happen again though, so I need to be better prepared next time.

So, what do you think?

I don't want her to look at people and call them fat. But I also don't want to get her to stop calling people fat by making her think that being fat is something to be ashamed of or not talked about. Honestly though, she doesn't see many obese people, so perhaps she just mentioned it, because it was out of the norm and not because she wanted to make fun of the girl.

The deeper issue I worry about how to teach her is making sure she understands that body shape and size don't reflect worth. That one 5'5" woman might weigh 180 pounds, eat healthily, and exercise regularly, and another 5'5" woman might weigh 120 pounds, eat junk, and never exercise. And even then, whether you eat  junk food or healthy food, exercise or not, has nothing to do with how kind you are.

So much to teach these sweet children.

Jill is really observant. Well, maybe all four year olds are. She's my first child, so I don't know. Anyway, she is very observant.

As I've mentioned, the majority of our neighbors in Virginia are from India. About a month ago, Jill was coloring a picture of herself. There was a dot on her forehead between her eyes. She showed it to me and explained that it was "not a chicken pox—it was the Indian mark." She drew a bindi on herself.  I don't even really notice the bindis on my neighbors. They just use a small red dot, not jewels or anything big. But Jill had.

In other news, the kids and I are in Michigan staying with my parents. Jeff is still in Virginia, crashing at a coworker's house. We sublet our townhouse, because we were supposed to be gone by now. But we are not in Brazil and didn't have our house to live in. We have high hopes that we will be together in Brazil by December, but we'll see. We don't have any control over when we go, so it's just a waiting game! We've been apart since October 30. :( Jeff did come visit over Veterans' Day weekend. With all of his frequent flier miles, he only paid $5 to fly here from DC. Nice, eh? I am enjoying the time with my parents; I just wish I could have them and my husband. Ha. And the moon, please. ;)

Here are some somewhat recent pictures.

The first is a dress my parents bought while they were in Germany. 
The second is a dress Jeff bought while he was in Laos.
Looks like pink is popular no matter what country you're in!

Jill and Daniel wanted to pose as goats.
I haven't told them what the sign said. :)

Monday, October 21, 2013

I have no right to complain!

Does the title of this post just scream that I am about to complain? Sorry about it. I am.

It is really complicated to go to another country! And I am trying to not stress.

Oh woe is me, the shutdown delayed our fabulous Brazil trip. Yeah, but some people didn't have jobs or had to work without pay.

Oh boo hoo, I had to get a root canal and am almost done getting a crown. Yeah, but some people just have to get their teeth pulled and not replaced, and some people die from the infection if left untreated.

Oh wah wah, there are a lot of hoops to jump through to get children to Brazil when traveling with only one parent, and I am not looking forward to surviving the flight by myself with three kids. Yeah, but there are people who have walked for thousands of miles carrying their children, leaving behind an awful life and seeking a better one.

So, really, all of my problems are kind of pathetic. Why won't my stress listen to my reasoning?

Sigh.

My friends here are being really nice with offers to store my stuff, watch my kids, and help clean my house. And we are blessed to have found someone to sublease our place in our absence. And I get to visit family before going down to Brazil, so really everything is wonderful. I am just feeling overwhelmed by my to-do list. And a little nervous about the vaccines that Alice is too little to get and that I am ineligible for due to breastfeeding, specifically typhoid and yellow fever. (And didn't get the malaria pills either.) I have been reading pamphlets about how to make smart decisions to stay healthy down there. Is there a health benefit to drinking carbonated water over regular bottled water? The pamphlets were very pro-carbonated water, but if I remember correctly from my childhood days in Brazil, I don't really like "água com gás." Does anyone know?

In other news, since I last blogged, my mother-in-law visited, my husband ate crickets in Asia, I survived my first children's sacrament meeting program as primary music leader, Alice learned to crawl, my husband returned from Laos, the kids and I went to the beach twice (crazy warm fall!), we visited Cincinnati, we went to a pumpkin patch, we have gone to two fall festivals, and my brother Peter visited with his family. Not too shabby.

Alice in the pumpkins

Cousins: Boston, Annibelle, Daniel, Callie, Alice, and Jill

My mother-in-law made us matching outfits
(And Jill can stand on one leg . . .)

The beach: Because isn't that what you like to do in September and October?


The National Zoo with Grandma, right before it was closed.

Oh, and one of the requirements for the photo to be submitted along with my visa application is "no sunglasses or colored frames." That really is impossible, because all frames have a color, even if it is subtle like black or brown. I'm guessing my YOLO blue glasses are out.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Firsts

Did you have a nice Labor Day? I did!

I started out the day by attending an Improving Birth rally with some of my friends in Washington DC in front of the Capital Building's reflecting pool. The focus of the rally was to get women to learn more about birth. To let women know that there is a lot they may not know about labor and delivery! If you know me, or have read my blog for a while, then you know I have some strong opinions about this. I thought I had educated myself before my first and second births, but that was very shallow research compared to what I underwent with my third birth, and it made all the difference. With birth, knowledge really is power. With birth, ignorance is not bliss. With birth, if you don't know your options, then you don't have any! (I could go on all day.) 

The rally was small; it is only in its second year, but I hope it continues to grow each year! It was really fun to spend time with other moms, dads, and kids who share many of my same viewpoints. I saw lots of babywearing and got some good tips on different holds to try when I get serious about wearing Alice on my back instead of my front. I even ran into someone who used to live around the corner from me in Indiana. What a small world!

I love how pleased with herself Alice looks in this picture.
She's all, "Yeah, I gave my mommy an awesome birth."


Alice is not as pleased in this picture. Oh well!
We got the Capital Building in the background at least.

I obviously took Alice with me to the rally, but Jill and Daniel got to stay at home with their daddy. The rally itself was only two hours, but I didn't want to drive in and park, and my friends let me be in charge, so we took the bus. Well, we were supposed to take the bus. We ended up missing our bus on the way back, so for the return trip we took the metro and the bus. That made it take a lot longer than I had anticipated.

At dinner that evening, Jill and Daniel had already finished and were playing in the living room, leaving Jeff and I to talk. An absolutely gratifying moment occurred when Jeffrey turned to me and said, "How do you do that every day?" What a wonderful thing to hear. I am glad it wore him out like it wears me out!

This Labor Day, I attended a labor rally, and I also rested a bit from my regular labor of parenting three children. What a great day!

Here's a picture of my kids. 
Because I think they're cute.


This catches me up to this past weekend. I ran in the Peanut Butter Run Against Hunger here in Reston on the local Day to Serve. (Day to Serve is something the leaders of West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and DC decided to start doing last year. We're supposed to transcend our political and religious differences to serve together. For example, my local ward (congregation) did a food drive in our neighborhoods.)

The Peanut Butter Run was a first for me. You may remember I had signed up to run a 5K last year in Cincinnati, but it ended up being the same day as the BYU vs. Notre Dame game, and we randomly were given free tickets to the football game, so my family went to a park the Saturday before the 5K would have been, and I ran an unofficial 5K by myself in the park, and then during the real 5K drove to Indiana to watch the football game. So, this was my first official 5K, where I got a number and a time and everything.

There were some surprises. It was organized by a local church here, so not a running organization or something. You had two options: to run on a paved loop three times or to wind through hiking trails. I decided the hiking trails would be more interesting in comparison to running in circles, so I opted for that route. (The paved loop was specifically for younger children and for people with jogging strollers. I have never seen so many jogging strollers in my life.)

Well, the route I chose definitely was more interesting, but I was not prepared for it. I have only been running around the track at the YMCA, so on a flat surface in an air conditioned gymnasium. This was outside and humid, and it was not flat at all. There were roots, rocks, dips, hills, and a bridge or two. I tripped twice (luckily caught myself on the person in front of me!) and landed wrong on my foot once. There was a lot of up and down, sometimes even between each step. Naturally, that was very jarring to my system.

Some people give themselves pep talks as they run. This was the only thing that ran through my head over and over again: "Keep going. Don't fall. Don't pee your pants."

Sadly, all that I achieved was the "keep going" part. Women, when people advise you to do Kegel exercises, I suggest you take them seriously. My pelvic floor is not the same since giving birth three times. This gets better right? Note to self: Only run on flat surfaces from now on . . .

Jill took this picture. Didn't she do a good job?
You can thank me for cropping it. You don't want to see that.

This picture was taken by the people at the race and put on the website. Either they edited it out of the kindness of their hearts, or they caught some magical angle, because trust me, it was noticeable. Sigh.

My cheerleaders


Danny and Jill were really excited about running in their races. That morning at breakfast, the race was the big topic of conversation. Danny was convinced he was going to run super fast, because he was wearing Lightning McQueen underwear. Jill was wearing Wonder Woman underwear, and she was not sure how that would affect her performance. I interrupted and asked whether they thought Mommy was going to be fast in her race. Apparently my underwear was not up to the task of making me super fast, because Danny just looked at me and shook his head solemnly while Jill tilted her head and kindly said, "maybe."

Here is Jill's race. She was with the 4–7 year olds. She definitely can run faster than she did in the race, but she had a lot of fun (or so she claimed afterwards). During the actual race, she just seems a little unsure of things, like "what are we all doing?" "why are we running?" "I've never run with this many kids before."


Here is Danny's race. He was with the 2–3 year olds. He was pretty busy looking at the other kids, and haha wasn't ready to stop at the end.


And no, I did not have a change of clothes with me, so I was still in my stinky clothes. I tied my long sleeve shirt around my waist. Sadly, you could still see the evidence in the front, but I decided life is too short to hide in the car when my children are running in their first races! (Now that's definitely not what people have in mind when they say YOLO!)

Now I am left to ponder: Would it have been worse to have my fellow runners see me peeing in the woods or to have had the pee leak out a little bit on every bounce and jar? If only I had been wearing camouflage instead of pink . . .

My little runners!


After the race, we went into Washington DC. The Library of Congress puts on The National Book Festival every year, and it was this weekend. Obviously, that is something I could not miss. There were a lot of cool writers who I would have loved to meet and have them sign their books for me, but my kids rule my life, and they were only interested in the PBS Kids tent. Many of their favorites were there: Clifford, Curious George, Super Grover, the Cat in the Hat, Buddy, and Princess Presto. And all you had to do was wait in line, and you got to hug them!! I love all of the "free" (tax funded) stuff I can go to in DC!

Jill loves Word Girl.

Danny loves Super Why!

It started to sprinkle at the end. When we were driving home, it was really pouring. I'm glad we weren't walking in that. Here's a picture, because my husband is handsome, and my kids look cute with their Thomas and Dora umbrellas.

Alice was clearly not as excited about books as I am.
I'll just give her a few years . . .


My ward's Primary Program is next Sunday. (The Primary Program is when the children, ages 4 to 11, lead our main worship service, what we call sacrament meeting.) My current calling in church is the Primary Music Leader, so I've been helping the kids with the songs they've been studying all year long. The past two Sundays have been spent practicing the program. Last Sunday, the kids just went up to the microphone and said their names. Jill yelled her name into the microphone. That was typical of quite a few of the younger children, to yell instead of talk. The leaders tried to show them how to talk into it instead of yell.

This week, we practiced again. This time, instead of speaking into the microphone (or yelling), Jill started to cry and wouldn't walk up to it.

Then during closing exercises of Primary, Jill was supposed to give a talk. She had been working on the talk all week (she wrote it with me), and she had it memorized. But she made Jeffrey carry her up, and then she wouldn't let go of him, and she wouldn't say a word of her talk.

In the car, I made the comment, "Jill is the most outgoing shy kid I know." How strange. Jeffrey talked to Jill about how she and I could go over to the church during the week and practice talking into the mic, so she could be ready.

Later I was asking Jill about it, and she told me she didn't want to talk into the mic, because she didn't want to yell. Awww. I thought she was being shy, but I think she was afraid of getting in trouble. Poor girl. 

Below is the talk I wrote with her. We talked about what she would say, and she told me what pictures she thought would describe her ideas. The talk below that is the first talk I ever gave in Primary. My dad wrote it with me.




This is a super long post! And I'm going to make it longer. Here is what we are all working on right now.

Jill is learning how to read. I am using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, based on the DISTAR method. I am enjoying it so far. It is neat to watch the world really open up for her as she sounds out all the letters we see. She used to say "I see a J!" "There's a D!" Now she says "I know that sound! That's a tuh (T) sound!" There are some small words she can already sound out and read. She is also very hungry for "worksheets." She has told me many times she does not want to go to preschool, but she really loves "playing" school at home.

Danny is working on using the potty. He is doing really well. He will sit on the potty by himself, and he will tell me when he needs to go, and he isn't fighting me anymore when I tell him he needs to sit on it. The only area he has not accomplished yet is putting his underwear back on after going potty. I'm sure he'll figure that out soon though. I LOVE not having his diapers to change anymore. When Jeffrey went into nursery today to sit Danny on the potty, it was snack time. Jeff went and told him that he needed to go with him to sit on the potty and then he could come back to finish his snacks. Danny let Jeff pick him up and then he turned to his buddies and said, "Okay guys, I'll be right back." So cute.

Alice is working on crawling. She moves all over the place now. She will get on all fours, with her stomach in the air, and will crawl backward. Today she has started picking her hands in the front up and down like she could go forward. She definitely leans forward, and with her stomach on the ground, she scoots all over the place. I've had to rearrange some of my shelves, because I caught her eating paper twice. So now the coloring books are on the top shelf, and the stuffed animals are on the bottom shelf. I'll have to get Jill and Danny to understand the rules about when they can play with their small pieced toys, too. Wish me luck on that!

Jeff is working in Laos for the next two weeks. He's in the air right now. He has a seven-hour layover in Paris!! How lame to be in Paris for that long and spend it all in the airport. He gets home from Vientiane, Laos, on October 6. 

I am working on a book for my sister, continuing to type up my grandma Homer's life history, and primary music activities. Yay me.

Oh yeah! Daniel's punishment for peeing his pants was getting a really short cold shower to wash the pee off of him, so my hilarious husband asked the kids if I had to take a cold shower since I peed my pants.

So, lots of firsts. My first rally. My first real 5K. The first time I remember peeing my pants. (I am sure I did it when I was potty training.) My kids' first races. Jeff's first trip to Asia/Indochina. Jill's first reading. Danny's first undie-dundies (because they're not panties!). Jill's first sacrament meeting talk. Alice's first movement.

And on that note, I'd love to hear any of your embarrassing stories! :)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Smaller body or bigger family?

Jill and Daniel are really sure that our family needs a baby brother. So sure that Jill is actually pretty convinced that I am pregnant. I have told her many times that I am not pregnant, but I don't think she believed me until the other day (I hope she finally believed me, or she is going to be disappointed in a few months). I wish I had used different words to convince her though.

Jill: "Mommy, I think Orangey will like carrots."
Mimi: "Who is 'Orangey'?"
Jill: "That is what our baby brother's name is going to be."
Mimi: "Your dad and I were thinking more along the lines of Gordo or Gordie."
Jill: "Nope. Orangey."
Time passes.
Mimi: "Jill, you know I'm not pregnant, right?"
Jill: "No, you are."
Mimi: "Jill, there is no baby in my belly."
Jill: "Well, not a baby baby."
Mimi: "No, no baby at all."
Jill: "Well, you're, you know, making a baby, just growing the bones, but it is our baby brother."
Mimi: "I'm not even growing his bones; there is no baby starting to grow inside of me at all." (Thinking in my head: Is today the day I explain where babies come from?!)
Jill: "But, your tummy is big."
Mimi: "Tummies can be big without babies inside of them."
Look of complete disbelief from Jill.
Jill: "Why is your tummy big if you aren't making a baby in your belly?"
Mimi: "It just is."
Jill: "Why?"
Mimi: "Because I already have grown babies in there, so it has more room—it's bigger."
Jill: "But why is it still bigger with no baby inside?"
Mimi: "Well, it's just fat. My stomach is fat." (I said that calmly.)
Complete silence. Jill seemed stunned. She then sat up straight and looked down at her stomach.
Jill: "Mommy, is my stomach fat?"
Mimi: "No, no, Jill, your stomach is perfect!"
And then she didn't say anything else, and I was too busy worrying if I had just taught my daughter to hate her female body for the rest of her life because I used the word 'fat,' so the conversation ended.


Here is another conversation from a few days ago.
I am on the bed with Alice. Jill comes into the room, carrying my makeup. 
Jill: "Mommy, can we put make up on?"
Mimi: "Sure, if you want to."
Jill and I help each other get dolled up.
Jill: "Can I put on more?"
Mimi: "Nope, I think we're good."
Jill: "But I want to look pretty."
Mimi: "Do you think we put on makeup to look pretty?"
Jill nods.
Mimi: "Sweetie, we put on makeup because it is fun. We are already pretty without makeup. Makeup is just for fun. It's art, like painting or coloring a picture."
Jill looks at me and doesn't say anything.
Mimi: "Always remember that makeup is just for fun, and that you are beautiful no matter how you look."


Jill, you are so beautiful, because of your smile and your joy and your kindness. Because you help "babysit" Alice, and you share with your brother, and you welcome new friends into your life. Because you sing with gusto and you dance like no one's watching. Because you tackle challenges fearlessly. You are so beautiful.
And I would never trade my bigger body for a smaller family. I am so grateful that I have been blessed to "grow the bones" of four babies inside my belly, and I am so lucky to have given birth to three of them, and I am proud of my softness.


Wish me luck. I didn't expect discussions on true beauty to already begin when my daughter is four years old. I thought that would be middle school or something.

Do you have any advice on how your parents did it well or on what you are trying to do with your children?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Heartbreaker

I broke my son's heart today. I hope I never break his spirit.

We had a doctor's appointment this morning. Danny was SO brave, and all he did was whimper when he had his vaccine. I think that Alice made a big impression on Daniel and Jill when she had her first vaccine last week (I have created a delayed schedule I use). She just sort of whimper moaned and that was it. Jill looked at me with big eyes and said, "Mommy, Alice is sooo brave." I kept reminding Danny all morning of how brave Alice was, and then he handled his shot like a champ!

We arrived home after the appointment, and Danny and Jill went into the house before me. I was slower, because I had to gather Alice and my other belongings. When I entered the house, Danny looked at me with wide, sad eyes. He was standing next to his little froggy potty and was peeing his pants.

I put Alice down and helped Daniel. I put him on the potty, and asked, "Daniel, why didn't you just take your pants off and sit on the potty before you peed? Now you've peed on your Queen shoes. Should I just throw them away since you'd rather pee on them than use the potty?"

Silence.

The shock at possibly losing his Queen shoes couldn't even be met with a tantrum or tears. Just shock.

Jill, upstairs, yelled down, "But, Mom, you could just put them in the bathtub. And then you could wash them and wipe them, and they would be clean again. You don't have to throw them away."

Jill has obviously already graduated from potty training school and knows the drill.

Daniel still had no words.

Right now, as I am typing this, Danny is playing next to me with Queen and Mater. I keep hearing Queen tell Mater that he needs to go to the bathroom. Pretty cute.

Here is my sweet little boy. He is at his happiest, when he has Lightning McQueen shoes on his feet, a Mickey Mouse baseball cap on his head, a Superman shirt on his chest, and a Jake and the Neverland Pirates sword in his hand. He can conquer anything when he's equipped with those buddies.


(Queen is what we call Lightning McQueen in this household.)

Also, before I knew that Danny would handle the immunization like a champ, I threw out a bribe of slurpees/slushies. Daniel forgot about it, but Jill remembered on the ride home. "Mom, aren't we going to go get our slushy drinks?" My reply, "Oh, well, maybe that would be more fun to do tonight when Daddy gets home from work." Jill: "Well, Daddy is not at work."Me: "Oh, really? Where do you think Daddy is?" Jill: "He's not at work. He's at the store. The slushy store." She would not be convinced that her father really and truly was at work right now. Oh, four is a fun age.

Have you broken any hearts lately? Or, what "buddies" make you feel like you can conquer anything? Wearing my contacts with black eyeliner and a blue shirt makes me feel pretty confident.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Magic of Make Believe

Here are parts of conversations I've had with Jill recently. I'm not ready for her "childhood" to end.

Jill: "Mama, are mermaids real?"
Mimi: "No, sorry, sweetie. They are just a fun thing to pretend."
Jill: "Oh. . . . Are seahorses real?"
Mimi: "Yes! Those are real."
Jill: "And crabs?"
Mimi: "Yes, honey, those are real."

---------

Jill: "Mama, is Jesus just a story?"
Mimi: "No, sweetie, He is not just a story. Well, I believe in Jesus. There are people who do not believe that Jesus is our Savior, but I believe he is, sweetie, and the decisions I make every day are based on that belief. Whatever happens, know that your mommy believes."

----------

Jill: "Mama, why are those kids swimming? Don't they know it is Sunday?"
Mimi: "Well, honey, some people don't think Sunday is special like we do. Some people think Saturday is a special day."
Jill: "They think Saturday is special?"
Mimi: "Yeah. And some people don't treat any days as special, but I believe that Sunday is a day we should try to make different than other days, a day where we try to grow closer to God."

----------

Jill: "They're bad to swim on Sunday."
Mimi: "Jill, it isn't bad to swim on Sunday if you don't think Sunday is a special day. And even if you do something bad it doesn't mean you are bad. Did you hit Danny yesterday?"
Jill: "Yeah."
Mimi: "It was bad to hit Danny, but you aren't bad. And the people swimming right now aren't bad either. They just believe differently than you do."

----------

Jill: "Mama, is Bo on the Go real?"
Mimi: "No, honey. She is just pretend. But isn't it fun to use your imagination and play with her?"
Jill: "Yeah, she's a lot of fun. Even pretend. But . . . is the dragon real?"
Mimi: "Nope. He's just a fun story, too."

----------

I really hope she doesn't ask me if butterflies really are just butterflies. Right now, our story is that some of them are actually fairies, but their magic makes us unable to see them as they are.

I, haha, wouldn't actually mind if she asked me about Santa Claus. I dislike that guy getting all of the credit for my hard work. Ha. At least, I used to think that. As I've watched the magic fade from her eyes as she discovers what is and isn't real, it makes me kind of sad. But I hate lying to her, so I'm stuck.

I just hope that she is my daughter in that she ends up loving stories, imagination, and pretend even if it isn't real. I think you can learn a lot of important lessons with the fake, and that it can be a great way to cope with the real. I hope she learns to love the make believe like I do.

I wish we were back to the questions about plant and animal cells. Even though I didn't know all the correct answers, I would have preferred that to this new awareness. She loved mermaids. I hope she can still find a way to love them.

Jill, slow down! Let's keep some childhood magic alive.
These pictures were taken at the Boling family reunion at Shenandoah Crossing in July.
Our fabulous photographer was Peter Davis.

Do any of you remember when you were told that Santa Claus wasn't real? (Or any other "magical thing" of childhood that you especially loved? How did that go for you?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Six Months

Alice is six months old today. She has been such a calm, happy baby. About half of the time, she'll sleep ten to twelve hours, and the rest of the time, she only wakes up once. More than that is very rare. (After Danny who didn't sleep ten to twelve hours a night until he was around sixteen months old, this seems miraculous!) Alice is really cheerful and endures pretty well the love ("abuse") shared with her from her older brother and sister. It has been a pleasure and a delight to have Alice Grace Collett in our life.

It is impossible though to think of six months without thinking of another sweet baby. I think of her every time I see a six month old. It is said that time heals all wounds. I don't think that completely applies to having a child die, unless it doesn't call for a full recovery. As I was looking through pictures of my brother's daughter trying to choose one for this post, I found myself smiling at how happy and beautiful she was and crying because she's not here anymore and I can't help but still feel like she should be.

So while I'm so happy to have Alice and excited for her to pass this milestone of her first half birthday, six months will always remain a sad age for me.

Alice Grace Collett and her cousin, Tabitha Grace Boling


Cousins in 2011 and 2013
We miss you, Tabitha.
(Interesting how Callie ended up in the same spot for both pictures.
And some how, not a single cousin is siting by either of the same cousins as last time.)

I am so grateful for every moment I have with those I love.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Conversations

One of the reasons why I value play dates and having my husband come home after work is because adult conversations are necessary for my sanity. Jeff has been gone for a week now, and here are two examples of common conversations in my household.

Mommy: "Danny, you need to eat your dinner."
Danny: "Not eating."
Mommy: "Danny, if you don't eat, then you will have a hungry tummy when you go to bed."
Danny: "Not going to bed."
Mommy: "Danny, if you don't go to bed, you will be really tired."
Danny: "Not tired."
Mommy: "Danny, you are tired. That's why you're not eating your dinner. Come and eat."
Danny: "Not eating."

. . . and so it continues.


Jill: "Mommy, what is Jackson's plant made out of?"
Mommy: "The plant? Um. Plant cells."
Jill: "Mommy, what are Jackson's fish made out of?"
Mommy: "Ummm . . . maybe cartilage?"
Jill: "Mommy, what am I made out of?"
Mommy: "Animals cells."
Jill: "Mommy, what are animals cells?"
Mommy: "The stuff you are made out of."
Jill: "But what do they look like?"
Mommy: "Well, err, sort of like circles. Really small circles. Red and pink circles. You can only see them with a microscope, because they are so small."
Jill: "I can see them. They are all over me."

Why couldn't Jill be asking me about literature or language? Science was one of my worst subject. And now that I think about it, I don't think fish are made of cartilage. That's sharks, isn't it??


After dinner, Jill starting saying this word, but I could not figure out what it meant. I told her we would go make a video of her mystery word, and for some reason that made her start singing it. Can you figure out what she is saying?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Packin' Heat

About a month ago, my little family and I were walking to one of the playgrounds in our neighborhood. As we crossed the street to the park, I noticed a man acting really suspiciously. I felt nervous and whispered to Jeff, "Is that guy packing heat?"

(Don't ask me why I said it that way. I really do have a degree in literature and editing. Even now I wonder why my immediate expression was "packing heat" instead of "carrying a gun" or something.)

Jeff didn't hear what I said, and the kids charged onto the playground. I felt really uncomfortable, but then a police dog showed up, and it became apparent that yes, the man was packing heat, but he was not casing the joint for a future heist. He was part of a police team training a dog.

My assumption was completely incorrect even though it was derived accurately from the appearances. The man was creeping behind a building trying to not be detected. And he was carrying a weapon.

But he was a police officer, training a dog.

(The training continued throughout the neighborhood, and I got to watch a few other maneuvers while sitting at the play ground. It was pretty interesting. What a smart dog!)

This experience made me wonder how often my assumptions are incorrect.

And it made me reflect on how dangerous it can be to make judgments based on appearances.

So often though, that's all you have to go by. So I guess the key is to be as generous as possible. To initially assume the best. And to always be open to reevaluate when new information is available.


In other news, my husband is in Africa again. Specifically Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. Do you know there is an African nation whose official language is Spanish? There is. And it's Equatorial Guinea. Jeff is enjoying being in a country that speaks Spanish.

I had hoped he would get to see the volcano there, but he can't find tours to it. It seems that EQ isn't set up for tourists. The kids and I have survived three nights so far. The level of chaos in my house is high. It appears that one good thing about separation is that it increases my appreciation for having him around. I guess absence does make the heart grow fonder.


And in other, other news, here is a vignette from my household.

Wife: I can't decide which frames to buy. But you know, YOLO, right?

Husband: What?

Wife: You know—"YOLO"—You Only Live Once.

Husband: I don't think anyone who uses that expression is talking about buying bright blue glasses.

Silence. A few minutes pass.

Wife: YOOOO-LOOOOO!


Jill is working on memorizing the Articles of Faith. I love how she says the second one: "We believe that that man must be punished for his own sins and not for Adam's transgressions." She feels very strongly about "that man."

My family had a reunion last month. All of my siblings made it to celebrate my mother's birthday. The oldest grandchild is 5 1/2 years old. And there are twelve grandchildren! Yes, it was a crazy week. But very fun. :)

Here are some cousins: Hallie, Annibelle, Hanna, Jill, Emily, Daniel, and Callie.

Jill LOVES having a baby sister.

Danny walked around with his baseball and bat today but couldn't find anyone to play with.
He definitely misses his daddy.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Don't You Ever Grow Up

I feel like I am in this constant turmoil between wanting my children to grow up and never wanting them to grow up.

My kids and I were driving around, running errands, with Taylor Swift playing. Her song "Never Grow Up" was on when Jill's voice piped up behind me.

"Mommy, what does this song mean?"

"Oh, sweetie, well, you know how I don't get to live with my mommy anymore? It means that one day you'll grow up and leave me and have your own kids, and we'll visit, and I'll miss you so much."

Silence.

"Mommy, I don't want to ever leave you."

"I know. I don't want you to either, but you'll need to, and I'll miss you just like I miss my mom."

I guess that was a lot for Jill to think about, because the conversation ended there. And, honestly, I was glad she didn't have anymore questions, because I was crying.

I have trouble just imagining Jill being gone at school every day once she's in kindergarten. The idea of her (and then my other children) being old and living hours away and being hurt by people I can't protect her from and feeling joy that I can't share in is just really painful. I'm glad I still have over a decade to adjust to the idea, but I imagine it never gets easier to say goodbye to your children.


That experience was a few weeks ago. We were running a few errands today, and again the Taylor Swift CD was on.

The "Never Grow Up" song came on again. And, boy, I was not crying this time. Jill was doing something to Alice, Danny was crying for more of something, and it was just general chaos. Not a sweet, touchy-feely moment. It was one of the moments where you can't wait for them to grow up, so there won't be kids screaming in your car, and food trails throughout your house, and an audience every time you go to the bathroom.

So this time that the song came on, it made me laugh rather than cry. It was still a beautiful song, but there are definitely frustrating times along with all of the heartfelt ones. It was good though, because I needed a laugh at that moment.

It is hard work, growing humans, and I am so grateful that I get to do it!

Your little hand's wrapped around my finger,
And it's so quiet in the world tonight.
Your little eyelids flutter 'cause you're dreaming,
So I tuck you in, turn on your favorite night light.
To you everything's funny; you got nothing to regret.
And I'd give all I have, honey,
If you could stay like that.

Oh darling, don't you ever grow up.
Don't you ever grow up.
Just stay little.
Oh darling, don't you ever grow up.
Don't you ever grow up.
It could stay this simple.
—Taylor Swift