Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Bonanza

Prologue: Some friends of ours invited Aaron and I to an adult Halloween costume party. Now, I like to think of myself as a fun, semi-outgoing person, but I immediately felt anxiety about this event. Aaron and I are not Halloween people. We don't hang cobwebs and creepy spiders from our front porch, we don't enjoy spooking ourselves with haunted houses (I still have nightmares from the scariest movie I've ever watched--Jurassic Park), and just don't like the dark vibe of the holiday in general. Added to that, the thought of dressing up in a goofy costume goes against my firm personal rule about avoiding embarrassing situations at all costs. Misgivings aside, I really didn't want to disappoint our friends and I knew we'd take some heat if we didn't attend. And so we stewed about it and debated about it...what should have been a really fun thing became something that we agonized over: torn between the primal instinct to avoid foolish situations and the desire to reciprocate friendship. We dragged our feet long enough that the decision to skip the party was made by default. Sitting alone in front of the tv, while a killer party was raging next door, I realized that we'd had the perfect costumes all along and never even knew it! We could come as we are, dressed in our sweat pants and hoodies, and go as anti-socials! It'd fit us perfectly! This anecdote has absolutely nothing to do with tonight's trick-or-treating bonanza, but I thought it would provide insight into our attitude towards thank-you on the creepy/tacky decorations and foolish costumes, yes please on the candy!

The boys got warmed up for trick or treating at Nana Grover's ward party, our ward party, and Nana Grover's neighborhood trunk or treat. By the time the main event rolled around, we'd already amassed an impressive amount of candy and even the little guys were getting the hang of trick or treating. 

Halloween may not be my most favorite holiday, but I did love watching the magic and wonderment as the boys raced from house to house, like slipping down the rabbit hole, where for one day you CAN dress crazy, eat whatever you want, and stay out late. 

Can you tell which candy was Ben's favorite? If someone handed him anything other than an M&M, he'd decline and hand it back.

Grover Special

You know how when you go to In N Out there are just five things on the menu? Don't ask for a mushroom Swiss burger or a bacon guacamole burger because they don't have it. Nope, they just stick to what they know and focus on doing those few things really well. If you want gourmet you have to go somewhere else. Well, that's kind of how it is with Aaron as our pumpkin carver. You've got five basic carving options: round, triangle, square, diamond, and crescent if he's feeling really creative. Other people may be ripping off ideas from Pinterest or downloading templates on Google, but Aaron just likes to crank out the tried and true jack 'o lanterns. I'm not really in a position to complain since I deemed pumpkin carving a "dad job," and the boys seemed pretty pleased with their generic pumpkin faces, so I guess I'll just order up the Grover Special and be happy.

Bottom-less Pits

And so it begins. A mere thirty minutes after finishing a hearty dinner, Max complains that he's hungry. I have a feeling I'm going to have to stock up on a lot more bread and peanut butter to fill my five bottom-less pits.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Reason #429 That I'm Glad I Have 5 Sons

If you ever want a good laugh, come on down and watch Aaron coach Max's kindergarten basketball team. This should be the stock photo under the phrase "herding cats" in the dictionary. I love it! 

School Pictures '14-15

When the boys brought home their school photos, Aaron immediately called for re-takes. I'm certainly not arguing; I don't plan to hang these pictures over the mantel. I mean, come on, they all have a dazed and confused expression on their faces with a canned cheesy smile. But, let's be real. Let's say we did go ahead and order retakes...would they turn out any differently? They will make these same goofy, cheese-ball smiles next time, too! What can I say? They get their photogenic skills from their Dad;) I'm just feeling pretty wise about deciding against ordering the platinum package of these little beauties. 


Cornbellys is to a pumpkin patch what Disneyland is to a park....they gouge you on admission, the crowds are ridiculous, but it's a blast for all ages! The best part about our excision to Cornbellys this year was that it felt like there was something for everyone--the kids each found something different that they loved. Hank liked racing the cars and navigating us out of the maze, Max liked shooting the dried corn with a cannon, Ben couldn't get enough of the slides, Joey was fascinated with the animated animal band, and Rocky was pretty easily entertained just taking it all in. With our family spanning so many different stages, it was great that one place kept everyone engaged and happy. 

Halloween Kick-off Party!

Nana Grover threw a party to kick off the Halloween season and I took away two things from the event: 1. My kids are so ridiculously lucky to have a grandmother who spoils them with her time and affection; and 2. My kids need a big lesson on gratitude. 

Nana Grover invited the boys and several cousins to her house for games, dinner, and treats. She had put a tremendous amount of time into decorating for the party, planning games, preparing favors, and providing dinner but as soon as the kids caught sight of the candy it felt like they lost all of their manners and a frenzy ensued. It's like the sugar caused their eyes to glaze over and they became rabid animals, attacking anyone and anything for more candy. By the end of the party, the ground was littered with wrappers, the kids had sticky hair from mashing donuts with their faces, and they were still raring for more! Because in their sugar-rush my boys forgot to say it, I will say now what I know they meant to say: thank you, Nana Grover, for inviting us to your Halloween party and always making us feel special.

My Baby is 1!

Rocky's birthday was everything a first birthday should be: a reflection on a special first year of life, a celebration shared with loved ones, balloons to chase and slobber on, toys wrapped in fascinating wrapping paper, and a chance to smear chocolate cake into every bodily crevice. 

We love Rocky to bits and bits. He completes our family perfectly. Happy first birthday, Rocky!

Saturday, October 11, 2014


I may have shared this before, but I have this crazy superstition about "epic" years occurring once every four years. Think about it: age 8 = baptism. Epic. Age 12 = almost a teenager, graduate from primary. Epic. Age 16 = driver's license and dating. Super Epic. You see the pattern here. Throughout my life, epic things have occurred clustered in multiple of four years...marriage, graduating college, becoming a mom, home ownership, etc. So, when year 32 rolled around, a multiple of four year, I curiously waited for what epic thing lay in store. As I prepared this collage tonight, on the eve of my littlest babe's first birthday, I realized that this may be my most epic of all years--past, present, and future--and yet nothing really monumental took place. Lots of really great things happened, but nothing milestone or headline worthy. So what about this year claims the all-time-most-epic title? Just look at the face of that gorgeous, perfect, sweet little boy in my display....I MADE him, and his four older brothers, and I bear the privilege/responsibility of watching my sons grow from fresh, squishy-nosed newborns into delightful, smart, special young men. Rocky has been a bonus; my cherry on top of a very sweet sundae. He is precious beyond words and has added an indescribable contentment to my heart. I cherish the year I've spent with my last baby boy, who won't be a baby for much longer, but look forward to watching him develop through his next stages too.  I really can't think of anything more epic than that. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

General Conference Weekend

General Conference weekend is as deep of a tradition for me as Christmas or Easter. I haven't always loved or appreciated this special opportunity to listen to the word of God as shared through His apostles and prophet. It was through consistent habit, personal experience, and purposeful preparation that General Conference has become a high-point of my entire year.

~ 1987: General conference wasn't widely available on cable TV, so we watched the broadcast at the stake center. My only have two snippets of memories from that session: the yellow legal pad notebooks that we brought to keep notes and that it seemed to be the most absolute boring two hours of my lifetime. 

~ 1992: By this time we had the great luxury of watching conference from home, so my memory involves our family gathered in the family room in pajamas with the Sunday paper sprawled across the floor, and reading the funnies while osmosis-ly listening to conference. 

~ 1995: A friend knocked on the door during conference and asked if I could play. My parents must have been tired of my constant complaining and asking, "how much longer until it's over?" because they surprisingly allowed me to play with this friend--outside. My friend and I jumped on the trampoline in the backyard and I remember feeling torn: partially a wave of excitement because I knew I was getting away with something--we were never allowed to play on Sunday--and partially guilty because I knew without having to be told that I should be listening to conference, too.

2000: Living in Hawaii while going to college, my roommates and I had the (not-so) bright idea to watch the broadcast live, rather than the taped broadcast shown on campus at 10 and 2. With the time difference, this meant that we'd watch conference live at 6 and 10 and then have the remainder of the day to hangout (or "appreciate nature" at the beach;) Naturally, we thought it made the most sense to pull an all-nighter (because waking up at 6 seemed absurd!) and bake elaborate braided bread for breakfast. 6am finally rolled around, the six of us all crowded onto the couch to eagerly watch the early morning conference session and promptly fell sound asleep...slept through the whole thing!

2008: I remember feeling so in tune with the spirit and soaking up each message as I watched conference, expecting the arrival of our third son any day and feeling a special spiritual connection with Heavenly Father as I prepared to expand my role as a mother. Just five weeks later, I never would have imagined how much strength, peace, and hope I would draw from those sacred conference addresses as I poured over them from my newborn baby's crib side in the hospital PICU where he nearly lost the fight for his life. Those conference talks seemed to speak directly and personally to be and literally sustained my aching heart. I have reread those inspired addresses several times since and still feel amazed that the topics and messages seem hand-picked just for me. 

2014: We kicked off our conference weekend with a breakfast feast of monkey bread and orange juice and then gathered to watch and listen to conference as a family. I had prepared activities for the boys--puzzles, conference bingo, a dry-erase work book, and Book of Mormon card game--compete with treats and prizes to keep them occupied and half-way attentive in hopes that Aaron and I might be able to watch the talks in semi-peace. I'd file the conference weekend under the "as-good-as-it-could-be" category. The boys enjoyed the activities, we had fun finishing the puzzle together as a family, the food was delicious, and what I was able to hear of the sessions was awesome. Unfortunately, the boys boredom resulted in several meltdowns, the level of filth of our house (puzzle pieces covering the table, breakfast dishes cluttering the kitchen, toys dragged up from the basement, etc) stressed me out, and at times it was impossible to hear the speakers over all of the yelling (the yeller(s) will remain nameless). 

Fighting, mess, and stress/claustrophobia aside, I will consider this conference weekend a success, not if the kids recall a single word that was spoken, but if they internalize the tradition that I am working so hard to build...a tradition of family time, of taking in the words of the Lord's servants into our hearts, and of setting new goals and recommitting to doing our very best to live in a way that would be pleasing to God. 

Eyes of the Beholder

I have a distinct memory from my childhood of building a snow fortress. I didn't say snow cave or snow igloo...this was a snow fortress complete with an ice slide for quick exit, windows for rapid snowball fire, and monkey bars because--well, because monkey bars were just a cool idea. I wish I had a picture of that snow fort because I have a suspicion that the vision I have of that snow fortress in my memory would be a tiny bit more grand than the snow fortress actually was in reality. Isn't that the beauty of childhood? A pile of snow roughly packed into an unimpressive mound becomes a "snow fortress" through the eyes of a five year-old. And so it is with my own boys. You and I may look at the picture below and see an overgrown empty lot. But to Hank, Max, and their partners-in-crime neighbor friends, you're looking at a "bmx bike track!" I applaud the imagination, collaborative effort, and hard work that the boys have put into clearing weeds and rocks, so even if I don't see the grand vision, I hope their bmx track is as magical to them as my snow fortress was to me.