Monday, August 31, 2009

Mom on the Edge......

Last night I made the mistake of re-reading last year's posts at this time of year. I've been feeling like I haven't had much stuff to report, so I thought I'd look back and see what was inspiring me last year.

Bad move. Instead of being inspired, I got scared. I re-read just how tough that first week of football was for Brayden last year (tears with Mom and Dad having to send him back to his team saying "you can't quit") - the rough start with teachers (and return to homework), and feeling so out of the mix with new parents on a new team. The first week ended with a rough day at a football jamboree and culminated with my father's heart attack (for those of you new to the blog he's doing very well these days). Yeah, I'd say that's a rough week.

So, maybe it was a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy that I'd wake up today in fear of the stress and end up having a day of drama. Let's see - how did it begin....hmmm..... I got through the "PetSmart" style of full-service grooming (in my own bathtub) for Sydney without major incident, but had to laugh when my friend Kristin actually came inside the TRASHED house of mine to peek in and see me - as nasty as I could possibly look scrubbing down the dog. (Apparently, she didn't get the memo that when she came by to pick up Brayden, she wasn't supposed to come inside to visit.....sorry for that horror, Kristin).

But wait, the horrors for Kristin weren't over.....two hours later, she returned with my son (who had gone to an exercise program where he learns how to run faster/more efficiently - "Speedquest"), ringing the doorbell asking if I have towels to clean up my son and her vehicle from where he had thrown up all over! Oh boy..... Mix a strenuous workout, heat, and a windy long drive - and there you go. Let's just say I'm thankful Brayden had toast and not a milk product for breakfast today. Poor Kristin was desperate for my help as she has a very weak response to the smell of such disasters - it was a bonding time for the two of us as I cleaned her floorboards.....

Brayden recovered quickly - and we proceeded with a car-full to the pool to utilize my kids' last day there (end of August). Mikayla had her buddy Kenady with her and everyone was happy. Things got a little hairy when we got home, though. I got an email from Kidsports and spiraled into a panic that my daughter was placed on the "other" soccer team - the one apart from all of her closest friends (who are the reasons she chose to play). All my protective "this isn't fair" mommy instincts went into overdrive. I was scrolling through the schools' directory to compare notes by calling other moms - and, of course, no one was home. It's a good thing - I was a little psycho. I ended up emailing the gentleman that sent the notification email. I tried to word it politely, but it was clear I meant business.

In between, Brayden and his two buddies were out back, preparing for practice by playing football in my yard. They come in the door complaining of stepping in dog doo.... let's just say my response was less than helpful to them......

Just as I was shoving all 5 kids out the door to get the kids to practice, I get a response back from my buddy at Kidsports and he nicely pointed out that the kids will all practice together from the two teams and not to worry that my daughter will be placed with her friends. Wow....a speedy, thoughtful, "good news" reply - he got a big thank you email right back.

Should have waited to send that, though, because I walked out the door to the car only to find my dog running around on her own out front. BAD NEWS. "Sydney, we don't have time for this - I have three boys that have to be at practice on time!" I tried all of my usual lures, but sadly, ended up having to leave her on the sidewalk, knowing I could be back in five minutes after dropping off the boys to try to corral her back in to the house. (It's a big game for Syd....all about the chase....which is why the boys should have KNOWN better than to leave the door open.)

But, then, upon dropping the boys off at practice, I overheard Brayden getting flack for not wearing his practice jersey. Hmmmm, is this the practice jersey that Brayden, on his own initiative, asked one of the asst. coaches for (2 practices ago) as his was not provided in his team duffle? This mom was about ready to demonstrate proper tackle techniques to this other coach for getting on my son's case when he hadn't done anything wrong and the other coach had dropped the ball....when said "other coach" stepped in and sheepishly admitted "I don't think he ever got one". I guess the tackle demo will be saved for another time, whew.....

But, you know what? In my effort to vent about all of this to girlfriend, Lisa via cellphone.... I forgot about my dog! I drove Mikayla and Kenady to Blockbuster and Costco before remembering (at the checkout) that my dog was still out roaming the neighborhood!!! I'm telling you, not functioning at full capacity today! Fortunately, right as I pulled into our street, a kind lady had Syd on a leash knocking on the door of another neighbor. God is good, I didn't even have to sweat it looking for her...(but did sweat it when the lady asked, have you been driving around looking for her? Um, yeah, in the parking lot of Costco!).

Things started calming down after that. I was even able to successfully complete my jam for the summer - three raspberry flats purchased, not one moldy. To top off the turn-around, Brayden came home reporting a very positive conversation between him and his coach - giving us vast amounts of gratitude for the improvement from last year's experience. Praise the Lord. How awesome that God's love and control over our lives is nothing like the wild randomness of my efforts as a mom......

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Those Crazy Boys

It started out as an innocent text. Something to the effect of: "Hey man, gonna be in town this weekend, you gonna be around? - Brose" This was soon followed up by, "Hey honey, do we have plans for Saturday, could I take some college guys out on the boat?" Knowing we'd originally planned an ambiguous "something" with the Whites, I said that as long as he cleared it with them, it was fine by me. Given Travis would be included in the boat trip - well then, it was fine by them.

As John sought to spread the word among the guys, there became a crazy proposal by some of the guys to camp in the Riley's backyard. While I love these college guys (they are a ton of fun), the idea of entertaining a troupe of them (when I'd rather be snuggly with a book in pj's) started weighing me down. But, hey, part of ministry, right?

Then, Michele called, and started whining about what she would do to entertain her girls on Friday night when Michael accompanied Traig on a middle school (agh, must I admit that's where my nephew is headed this year?!) church camp-out event. She said, "Hey, you should come up with Mikayla!" - And thus, an ideal arrangement was worked out that made everyone happy (and I even got to sleep in Michael and Michele's comfy bed....usually a mat on the floor is my option when sleeping over).

Before leaving on Friday, though - I did my best to do my wifely hospitality (and "den mother") duties. Two pans of brownies, two batches of Rice Krispie Treats, two bags of Tostitos, a giant container of salsa, a bag of licorice, 4 cans of cinnamon rolls to make in the morning - and cantaloupe and bread laid out for lunch on the boat. I guess it was all a hit, as, when I returned, only about half a pan of brownies and some Tostitos remained. (Including no mess - what a wonderful husband I have to do all the clean up for me).

Apparently the guys had fun playing on the Wii until about midnight, three of them sacked out on our couches and Mikayla's bed - and six of them joined John, Travis, and Brayden on the boat Saturday morning. While the morning was overcast, the lake temperature was 73 degrees. (Which is why we love Cottage Grove Lake).

What follows are some pictures taken of their morning - proving their craziness and why it was much more peaceful for Mikayla and I to retreat to Michele's - content with good books, a Disney movie premiere night, and plenty of Russian Tea.......

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Special Treatment for Friends

These are garage doors on the house my dad has been working on down in Coronado (San Diego). He completely remodeled the house a couple of years ago, but when the owners caught sight of some similar garage doors he recently completed here in Eugene area, they asked if he would "do his magic" on doors for them.

The garage doors have really been an eye catcher, apparently. Several people driving through the neighborhood have stopped, admired, and asked if he would consider doing custom doors for them. And, when I say "custom", I mean it. Each board on those doors have been cut and crafted to all fit together - the beveling, tongue & groove, etc. Not just something you order from Home Depot.

To each person who's stopped by to inquire about the doors, he's given the same response. "No, I can't do this for you, I actually live in Eugene and am only doing this down here because these folks are very good friends of mine."

One day, however, a couple of weeks ago, a black Mercedes with tinted windows cruised up - looking as though it had a superstar inside. Sure enough, the car slowed and stopped to approach Dad, and wouldn't you know, but the window rolls down and it is a thirty-something "bombshell". She proceeded to ask if he could build some custom garage doors for her and he gave her the same spiel about being "close friends with the owners". But, this time, instead of acknowledging that information and moving on, the lady pulled her sunglasses down and said, "Well, I can be your friend......." I still haven't gotten the full story as to what his response was..... =)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Not Cutting It As Suzy Homemaker

This morning was a bit of a defeating day in terms of achieving my "Stepford Wife" aspirations. Not that I claim to be any sort of Betty Crocker or Martha Stewart, but I'm usually not a total failure either.

So, last night, I had purchased some raspberries to make jam and before getting started, checked my remaining supply to see how much I needed to make.

Much to my domestic horror, at least 10 jars had to be dumped because they practically exploded as soon as I loosened the screw top lid (think carbonated pop that has been shaken). I don't know what I did wrong. The lids were all securely "caved in" to indicate they had sealed when I stored the jars.....who knows. But, obviously, I'd done something wrong. Bad news...

Oh well, off to make the new batch, but oh look - HALF of the berries from the 4 boxes I'd gotten from Costco had to be thrown out. Nice job picking those out, Steph. Good thing, because I only had enough sugar for two batches of jam anyway. Nice prep, Steph.

To add insult to injury, as I walked out to dump the moldy berries, I was able to peer through the fence to our neighbors side yard and what do I see, but a big old green/orange pumpkin. Growing happily in their mini-garden. Mmmhmmm, that mini-garden I've got going on the other side of the fence has produced, as far as I can find, one walnut size bulb thus far. I can't figure out what the problem is - the water has been on a timer - every day... I struck out as a gardener this summer too!

Thank God these are way, way down on the list of credentials my husband values in a good wife. And that grocery stores are available to fill in my gaps.... =)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dog-Tired from Camping All Weekend

We got back from camping around 1:00, and this pic of Sydney pretty much sums up the energy level of the whole family right now. I've gotten about 4 loads of laundry moved through the washer and dryer - about 4 more to go.....definitely the downside of camping!

Right before we left, I facebooked that I was off to enjoy the campfire, starry nights, and glassy water. We absolutely succeeded in appreciating each of those - check out this glass! Saturday morning was spectacular - I've never seen Hills Creek that placid. It was a skiier/wakerboarders' paradise - and well worth it for John, Michele, Travis, and I to consider it worthy to get up early.

Apparently, we weren't the only family out enjoying the water.....

With runs that early in the morning - it was COLD!!! This picture was taken Friday morning when Michael was out with us. He was my boating buddy that morning - it wasn't the first time that we were in close proximity to share body heat...(hmmm, that other experience was also on a camping trip, apparently that's when we choose to really bond!).

On Saturday morning, Dennis brought the kids out and we had them out on the boat. They were all super great sports.....

Check out this "Wild Child"! She just couldn't wait to have Uncle John pull her up on the wakeboard. This time her daddy was on board so he could see her in action and take the pictures.

And, let's n0t forget Nati's mad-skills on the wakeboard. She was the most tenacious of all the kids to practice her talents.

While Brayden did take a turn on the wakeboard - it was short. They enjoyed more the group activities - including driving with Daddy.

And, then, of course, there was us adults. On the primo morning with the ultimate glass, we didn't have the camera with us - which left John and Travis out of the pics. They both had amazing runs. Here's a pic of Travis with his two "pseudo older sisters". The running joke from the time Travis went home on Saturday was how Michele was trying to replace him in being the ultimate "boat helper". While her and Michael together made a pretty good package deal (Michael was able to pull down the trailer while Michele mastered much of the rope and board/ski storage details) Travis is pretty irreplaceable - and not just for his boat talents....
I had more fun on the wakeboard this weekend than I've had in a while. I'm trying to risk a little more, but worrying about wiping out and hurting my neck makes me pretty timid.

Taken this morning - Michele, in her "happy place".

Dennis, giving the wakeboard a try. Adam must have been looking at his dad wondering what kind of fool would consider jumping in a cold lake at nine in the morning.

Apart from the board and ski, we had the tube. Traig and Brayden caught some pretty good air on this run. For Dave and his son, Logan (who joined us Friday to Saturday), they opted to take it a tad slower.

We weren't the only ones of the group with a boat. Mom and Dad had theirs - the girls, especially, enjoyed tubing with them.

And, for the ultimate "catching air" experience, you had to catch a ride with the Zenkes on their boat with this contraption - "The Molecule".

While I enjoy the boat - and especially the group size on board and opportunity for laughter and more intimate conversation (at times, a bit too intimate - lots of silly conversations this year!) - it's not really "camping" unless you are back on land. This year was record-breaking in how efficient our set-up and take-down was making John and I much more pleased with the "un-overwheming workload". Good news for Brayden as he's been begging for more camping opportunities next year.

The food was phenomenal. In this picture, Michael grilled up some monster steaks for the guys:

And, the necessary campfire. At risk of sounding like I'm glad more of our friends didn't make it, (which isn't the case!) the size of the crowd was really quite perfect this year in terms of the campfire circle. It didn't get so big that we couldn't appreciate the warmth of the fire or be able to talk across.

Given that it was Sydney's 4th birthday, she got some extra special treatment on this camping trip - including pretending she was a lap dog.

On Friday night in particular, the kids had the time of their life. Madison - the oldest of the kids (the sort of daughter we all pray we'll have at that age!), organized a hide-and-seek/flashlight tag game that they all participated in. It's those sorts of activities that have you feeling really great about getting your kids together in the great outdoors - having so much fun. Also on deck for entertainment (beyond making s'mores, eating, and talking) was lots of card games. Phase 10 was what these gentlemen were playing.

A little father-daughter quality time between Dad and Michele......

Because the mountain sky was so spectacular, and Mars was supposed to be in view, Mom, Dad, Michele, her kids, Mikayla, and the Quig-kids walked down to the lake to see if we could get a better view. Along the way, Sydney found a special friend.

Without fear, Michele picked the bullfrog up to show the kids - what she didn't expect was it peeing all over her hand and pants.... Hence the bullfrog got released quickly!

My camera wasn't able to capture the stars of the night sky - but it was a marvel to behold. Anytime you are able to see the fuzzy outline of the Milky Way and the stars reach all the way to the horizon - wow! We all laid on the dock a bit just to check it all out......

This morning, the girls were invited to partake in breakfast in Grandpa and Grandma's camper. They were thrilled and gave a fine review of their culinary skills. It's always such a gift to have Mom and Dad with us on this annual camping retreat.

This was the last "big hurrah" of the summer. In the past, this camping trip has always taken place in July, but because of availability at this campground, we settled on August. I kind of like it better in August. It is a nice way to "go out". Brayden declared that they have 16 days before school begins. While I know many kids are already back, and that sounds like a lot of time, I think we are already mentally gearing up. His practice begins tomorrow and Mikayla's next week. I'm going to admit publicly - for the sake of accountability - that I'm quite sure I've never weighed more (outside of pregnancy) than I do right now. Way too much celebratory "happy eating" going on - so for that matter, it is definitely a good thing for me that we are at the time to hit routine again.

But, as for these last four days - they were GOOD TIMES. It seems like every year - prior to the event - I always wonder if it's worth it trying to organize a group outing - wondering if I want to field everyone's opinions or reasons for going or not. This year was kind of a deal-sealer in that it proved that it doesn't have to be a big group to have it be ideal. All involved had a wonderful time, there were lots of smiles and very few mishaps. Packard Creek Campground - we'll see you next year!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Camping Prep

It's definitely been a dry period with posting lately. Not a lot of interesting things to take pictures of or report. However, tomorrow, we take off for our annual group camping trip. We're off to Hills Creek Reservoir - hopeful for some water like glass, starry nights (I've been told to keep your eye out for Mars - it's passing closer to Earth in an unprecedented way this month), and of course, hearty campfires. It won't include computer time, though - so I'll fill you all in on Sunday evening or Monday morning.

Before we leave though, I thought I'd show off a few nifty things that I'm rather impressed with when it comes to camping.

This first item was a gift I've received twice this year - once, for Christmas from Uncle Jeff and Aunt Laura - and again from Amy for my birthday (obviously, it's no secret that I like camping). It's a duffel bag that has four different independent zipper bags that can be removed. My biggest quandary was trying to figure out just what would get the honor of being organized this go-around. In a stroke of brilliance, I decided it would be ideal for storing the boat towels and blankets. We need about three sets of four towels on this trip, and this way, while the others are drying, we can snag a new bag to take out on the boat each morning - and even better, the bag will keep the towels dry until they are needed. The other duffel set is being used for swim clothes for our family members. I love how you can just slip in a label to use however you want. Very cool. Thanks Jeff, Laura, and Amy!

My other strong camping suggestion is this little baby. I purchased this about 5 years ago and have loved it ever since. It's a camping oven and it has completely revolutionized the way we consider food choices for our menus. Cinnamon rolls, marionberry cobbler, brownies, lasagna, pizza - all possibilities and choices we've made in the past (and present). It works off of a propane bottle - fits 2 sets of 8x8 pans (simultaneously) and adjusts temperature with a dial. I love it and have strongly recommended it to everyone....

Alright, enough product recommendations. This year my organization and preparation has been so random - I'm set to go to bed with the house still a disaster, kind of pathetic - but most everything has been packed. It never fails to surprise me just how much prep it takes to organize a 4 day camping trip. But, every year, at the end of it all, I'm set to plan the next one - which seems to prove it is all worth it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Our Future MVP's

If you are going to comment, PLEASE do not tell me how big/old my kids look in this picture. I see it, I know it - it's a slow ache inside of me (but also, a great source of pride - but this is stuff of another blog post).

So, yeah, I think we are a little off with the title - but who knows? This year, the opportunities have been thrown open wide for these two. Brayden will be a year older within the same football league (thus size won't be as hard of an issue, and he'll have more experience). Much more significant, however, is that he has a new coach. We didn't exactly see eye to eye with the situation last year, but based on the parent letter and first impressions, we are much more hopeful with the leadership this year. Brayden LOVES football, I just want him to have a positive enough experience that his desire stays intact and hopefully increases (as well as his skills). This morning, he was headed to a morning football camp hosted by the local high school, next week practices officially begin.

Mikayla is not opting to sit on the sidelines this year either. For whatever reason, she showed no interest in group sports last year. That fit our schedule just fine, but by spring soccer with all of her classmates on the same team, she decided she'd change her tune by the time fall soccer came around. At this point, she's very excited to take part, especially with the addition of a fun practice outfit to her wardrobe which she posed for in the picture. The plan today was to drop off Brayden at his camp and take her to the elementary school and work with her on a little soccer skills.

The truth is, though, she schooled me! That girl really does have more skill than me. I worked with her on passing drills, reinforced a few tips from the little I know, and then we marked out some goals to try a one-on-one game. The first run of it, I decided to go a little easy to not have her be so discouraged. After she scored her first goal, I started really trying - and she scored again - and again! She beat me 5-2. Yes, this points out that I'm really bad, but I think it also says something for some potential natural talent. I was really impressed with her ball control and speed. Hmmmm, we'll just have to see. At any rate, I don't think she'll join her team feeling too behind from having lost a year - it ought to be fun to see how it all unfolds. (Mikayla played indoor soccer a couple years ago - apparently the skills she was taught there stuck!)

So, here we go- it is such a hard struggle within this school community to not actively participate in every extra curricular activity out there. Mikayla started piano lessons this summer and seems eager to learn. Well, in that case, we ought to continue that. She wants to be on Sheldon's dance/drill team someday, so learning the beat and grace in dancing would be good to do - not to mention how much I love the Hosanna Dance program itself. So, that's good to keep doing once a week once school begins. And - now soccer. For Brayden, it's pretty much just football, but he really wants to learn guitar with his Dad. Let's not forget our collegiate ministry once a week events....and now look at us - we are becoming THAT family! The idea makes me anxious and yet, if the kids are both happy, then we can deal with it. I'm hopeful this upcoming school year will be a big victory for both of the kids. But, we've made it through adversity before and it taught us all some very good lessons. One way or another, the roller coaster is starting in motion.....hang on tight!

Friday, August 14, 2009

While the Kids Are Away, How We Play......

This week, Mikayla headed back to day camp at Harlow. Because Jackson and Christina (one of her BFF's) weren't able to be there in July, and because her BFF from Gilham, Kenady, had chosen this week, we decided it was worth it for her to go for an additional week.
In addition, Brayden is at Camp Tadmor - since Wednesday evening through tomorrow morning. Andrew, Traig, and Jack joined him for this brand new adventure of testing out Tadmor as a new "camping" experience on their own. I hope they come back with rave reviews. (Although, that will probably mean a desire on their part for even longer weeks at both venues.....we need to start saving now!)

With all of this in mind, Michele decided to put her two girls into Harlow for just today - so they would be able to participate in a little fun too - and even more significant - so Michele and I would have a WHOLE DAY to ourselves! to spend it, how to spend it? Actually, as it is nearly 5pm and the girls will be joining us in about a half hour - I have to say, I think we did an excellent job with our choices for the day. After dropping off the girls, we took Sydney with us to the Shotgun Creek Recreation Area. The actual park was closed until 10, so we hiked along some of the vast array of trails in that area designated for off road vehicles. Syd was in heaven......
Following our hike, we made a detour to our Mohawk General Store. It would have been awkward to take pictures, but it delighted me that there were three older gentlemen out front, just shooting the breeze - giving us such a fondness for this cozy community. This was the store we grew up with, about a mile form our home, that we would frequent for missing ingredient items or candy treats. It was comforting to see that even though some of the interior layout has changed (as well as the owners) it still serves as a mascot for the Mohawk valley.

We then did some "Power Shopping". Between the 30% off everything already on sale or on clearance at Kohls - and the deals you can always get at Ross - we made a haul on back-to-school kids' clothing. It's days like today when I recognize one of the many reasons I feel so blessed to have John as my husband. When I showed him all of the clothing, he was not only supportive, but majorly impressed. Yeah, I love that man.

Finally, we have spent the last couple of hours, "resting" with good books in a quiet house. Currently, pre-season NFL football is on (with our very own Kellen Clemmens looking pretty good with the Jets) - is good. We might even have some Dutch Babies for dinner just to top the whole day off. It's days like today that I will remember with great fondness once this summer is over.