Saturday, April 9, 2016

First Grade Field Trip

I know my kids' teachers must think I'm a deadbeat parent because whenever there is a request for classroom volunteers, I am the last to raise my hand. There is nothing I would love more than to be able to be active in my kids' classrooms, but with little ones at home, it is a challenge to find babysitting. I have promised myself that when Joey and Rocky are in school, my turn will finally come and I will get to signup for all the committees and volunteer assignments to my hearts' content. So, when Max's teacher sent out an email asking for chaperones for their class field trip to the aquarium, naturally I ignored the request and allowed the other, more available mother, to accept the opportunity. Two days before the field trip, Max made it clear that he really, really, really wanted me to be there. I couldn't say "no" to a child wanting to spend time with me and so I just made it happen. I pulled Ben out of school (his class would have ended while I was still at the field trip), and I packed up Joey and Rocky, and herded them all around the aquarium. Max was so happy to see me there and held Joey's hand the entire time. Someday he will be embarrassed having his mom tag along and wouldn't be caught holding his brothers hand, so it was a sweet moment and I'm thankful I was able to spend it with Max.

Hard Work Pays Off!

This Student of the Month certificate holds far greater significance than just a piece of paper or an empty title. For as bright of a kid as Hank is, this year we have struggled to be organized, return homework on time, and complete quality classwork. Hank prioritizes speed and efficiency over quality workmanship and some of his assignments have reflected his lack of effort. For the past few months we have really emphasized the need for Hank to slow down, do his best work, and be responsible, so when his handwork was recognized, particularly in the category of "responsibility," it was a major validation of his efforts. I know Hank is capable of great things--this just proved it!

He is Risen!

After a very dreary winter, Easter marks the start of spring, rebirth, new life, new beginnings, and a promise of things to come. Ordinarily, I enjoy the entire week leading up to Easter: preparing goodies for the Easter baskets, Easter egg hunts, and dying eggs. This year, as I spent the week prior to Easter preparing a talk for sacrament meeting, my mind was occupied with stress and felt less carefree, but my heart definitely felt more focused on the spiritual aspects of the holiday. It was a privilege to share my testimony on Easter Sunday of the ability that the gift of the atonement and resurrection gives us to realize our full celestial potential through daily repentance. I know that Jesus Christ made it possible for us to overcome our sin, weakness, and mortality through His sacrifice and I am so grateful to celebrate His victory and triumph with my family through our simple traditions.

When I was younger, it seemed I could dye eggs forever. I insisted that my mom boil several dozen eggs so that we'd have plenty to decorate, yet I detest eating hard boiled eggs! And so it is with my own kids....three dozen eggs dyed, and Aaron the only deviled egg eater. It was worth the waste to enjoy this favorite tradition together.

Our Easter bunny was pretty clever this year and substituted the cheap plastic baskets for upturned hats! Along with some baseball cards and sunflower seeds, we had a lot of excitement on Easter morning.

I live for this photo op! Five handsome boys in matching white shirts and matching ties makes my mom heart swoon.

The best we could do using the self-timer function on the cell phone camera:

Friday, April 8, 2016

Little Champ

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Max is a total stud. With as much time as I spend driving him to and from practice for his super league baseball team and the amount of money we've spent on tournament fees and spiffy uniforms, I sometimes question whether we've made the right choice to pursue Max's baseball interest at the competition level. But then I watch him play and it all feels worth it. The minute he complains about not wanting to practice or would rather do something else, we'll happily scale back his sports, but Max really is the one leading this decision. He can't get enough of sports, baseball in particular. He could play catch all day long and is in his happy place when he has a ball in his hands. Who knows what will become of Max's sports interest, but for now it's a "soccer mom's" dream come true to have five sons to cheer on.

A Grover First: broken bone

Bad luck seems to find us when we visit St. George for Max's baseball tournaments. Last time the stomach plague besieged Ben, Joey and Rocky and our entire hotel room was a contaminated with hazardous waste. This time, the boys were romping around with cousins at Adam and Heather's house when Joey's finger got smashed in the door. It was pretty clear that a trip to instacare was in order when the width of his poor little finger was reduced by more than half! In the picture, his tissue is swollen and does't look terribly irregular, but initially it was pretty gruesome! Thank heavens Aaron was near when the incident occurred because I couldn't stomach looking at it. A sucker helped Joey stay calm while an exam was performed and x-rays were taken, confirming that he broke the tip of his pointer finger. The doctor splinted his finger and referred us to an orthopedist. All things considered, Joey was remarkably tough and, like any smart three-year-old, milked that injury for everything it was worth.

Disneyland Adventures!

Aaron reminds me of a little kid: when he gets a little bit of extra money, it burns a hole in his pocket and he can't be content until its spent. After all of our expenses were paid, there was a small surplus from our bonus, and Aaron was insistent that we should spend it on a trip to Disneyland. Of course being the practical person that I am, I dragged my feet and suggested that we deposit the excess in savings for a rainy day. When Aaron became almost emotional, convincing me that our family "needed" a trip to Disneyland to have a family bonding experience, I conceded and we booked the tickets for the next month. He knows I'm a sucker for building family traditions and creating family memories.

We knew that endeavoring to cram a week's worth of clothes, bedding, and food into our car, drive 12 hours to California, and spend four days trekking around the theme parks with our five children in tow would be a major undertaking, but we decided to just do the best we could and make it work. Having three children who struggle with long distances made bringing a stroller a necessity--Aaron was a beast at maneuvering it through the park and since the stroller only accommodated two kids comfortably, I carried the odd-man-out a fair portion of the time. According to my step-counter, we averaged around ten miles a day! Since Hank and Max were the only ones tall enough to ride some of the bigger attractions, it was a juggling act to have one person take the older ones on a ride while the younger ones went on a teeny-bopper ride, and then coordinate at a meet up location later. Since our hotel was only a short walk away, we pushed as long as we could until moods were at the breaking point (not going to lie, it may have been my mood that was at the breaking point a time or two) and then walked back to the hotel for a late swim.

Now that I've documented the reality of our challenges, let's get to the fun part! Disneyland is simply magical! Every way we turned, the kids' heads were spinning, their eyes wide with excitement and jumping up and down, pointing at a character, a parade, or an attraction. We planned our trip around dates that historically had low park attendance, and between our fast passes and Benny's disability access pass, we never waited in a line for longer than a few minutes! Hank and Max think they're pretty brave and loved California Screaming and the Tower of Terror. Ben loved the Dumbo ride, Joey liked the Buzz Lightyear target shooting, and Rocky was still a little oblivious to it all.

This stroller was packed to the brim with 100+ pounds in kids, a cooler filled with sack lunches and snacks, and sweatshirts for the cooler evening temperatures. We wouldn't have survived without the stroller, but man was it a burden to push through the park.

While the older kids rode the big-kid rides, I entertained Rocky with lots of fruit snacks and popped into the little gift shops throughout the park.

Disneyland is an assault on the senses with so much commotion, bright lights and blaring sounds everywhere. I think Ben felt defensive and out of his comfort zone much of the time, but he was content to be pushed in the stroller and loved the kiddy rides.

I love that Disneyland is a place that grows with you--it is magical at every age. It is priceless to experience the wonder of The Happiest Place on Earth through the eyes of my children. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Family Love Day

My little Valentines woke up to a trail of conversation hearts leading them to a special love-day breakfast. It was fun to celebrate Valentine's Day on a Sunday this year because it felt like we were really able to focus our attention on one another without the interruption of school and work. After church we invited Nana and Papa Grover and cousin Lisa over for a romantic dinner of heart-shaped grilled cheese sandwiches and homemade tomato soup.

I'm beginning to feel the weight of the responsibility to civilize these Grover men of mine so that they'll one very, very far away ready to assume the role of the gentleman for their own Valentine. I'll just say that we have a long ways to go in our manners and etiquette department. But for now, I'm happy to be the only recipient of their Valentine affection, bare chested, sweaty boy-smelling, bad table manners and all.

FHE throwback

Our typical FHE involves an opening song (always "Families Can Be Together Forever"), an opening prayer, a lesson from the scripture stories for children, followed by a family card game. We had been reading about Lehi's vision and the Tree of Life as a family, so I thought it would be impactful to recreate a special FHE that has stuck with me since my parents prepared it when I was a kid. I roped off the basement into an obstacle course and waited quietly underneath the stairs with a plate of cookies while Aaron blind folded the kids and led them through the obstacle course in the dark, instructing them to hold onto the rope to find the treat waiting at the end. After each child had the chance to complete the obstacle course, we dunked our cookies in hot chocolate and discussed what it means to "hold to the rod." I question whether the kids take anything away from our rowdy FHE lessons, but I hope that maybe they'll remember this object lesson and feel the importance of keeping the commandments and studying the scriptures as they navigate their way through life.

All Star

I have to be careful not to brag about Max too much, but it's hard because he really is a total stud. Aaron coached Max's first grade league team and it became a little uncomfortable with how much Max stood out as an all-star. Max would have ten points when many of his teammates were still struggling to figure out which hoop belonged to which team. Max stood out so conspicuously that Aaron began having to tell Max that he wasn't allowed to shoot anymore, he had to pass. So, when Max was "recruited" to play on a 3rd grade team, we thought it would be a chance for Max to play without being stifled. Max was the youngest kid on the court, but he held his own! I have a feeling this is just the beginning for this little all-star athlete.


Max's little checkerboard grin makes me smile. His bottom teeth fell out without much interference, but his top tooth was beginning to look a little scraggly, just hanging and slightly misaligned. To speed up the process, I offered to double the tooth fairy's reward if Max pulled out his tooth that night. I really didn't intend to create pressure, but Max was determined to get that extra dollar and insisted that Aaron pull it out. That tooth was slippery and stubborn and took a fair amount of pulling to get it to come loose. I couldn't watch--I seriously had to hide in my bedroom while Aaron ripped it out. Max was a trooper and earned his extra dollar.

the Rock

I am completely smitten with this handsome little boy. He has somehow gone from darling baby to a handsome kid!

A sketch of Rocky:
- He still sleeps in his crib; the idea of climbing out hasn't occurred to him and I'm in no hurry to introduce him to the freedom of a 'big boy bed.'
- He talks in complete sentences. My favorite is the way he says "yes" with a perfect little enunciation of the 's.'
- He thinks he's big enough to follow his brothers down the street to play with the neighbors, often barefoot and grubby-faced. He loves to be outside and the cold temperatures don't slow him down at all.
- He has a sweet tooth. I limit our treats to one treat after a healthy dinner, but he manages to scrounge up suckers and candy by sneaking in the pantry whenever I'm not looking. Besides sweets, his favorites are yogurt, meat, and fruit.
- He has a fetish for chapstick and burns through them like crazy. He loves to have something of his own to take in and out of his pocket.
- He allows me to cuddle and rock with him for a few minutes each day when I wake him up in the morning.
- His favorite song is "I Love to See the Temple" and always points out the temple whenever we're nearby.