“WHY do girls care about how they look??’

“And WHY do they always have to mess with their hair? It’s annoying! And WHY are GIRLS so annoying?!?”

Lastnight my 10 year-old was bringing me up to speed on his and his big bro’s goings-on at their children’s theatre rehearsals. Things are busier than ever with performances for Peter Pan starting in two weeks, but apparently that doesn’t faze all the girls who have little crushes on them.

And Owen’s soooo sick of it.

They chase him, they tease him, they sit by him, they play Truth or Dare together and try to dare each other to hug him… “And WHY are they so buggy? They’re just SO annoying and they won’t leave me alone! They’re like possessed demons from heck and I can’t take it anymore!!”

One time he actually said that to a girl’s face — and made her cry. When Benj told on him later, we had (another) talk about how to treat girls and how to be a gentleman. We also talked (again) about how girls can act and that even if it might be annoying, you don’t be mean to them (as long as they aren’t being inappropriate or anything).

Mike told him he had to apologize to her, and the idea of it mortified him. Finally after thinking about it for a couple days, he agreed to apologize. I offered to go with him, but he had this look of horror in his eyes and said, “No, way — that’d be ten thousand times worse!”

Benjamin confirmed after play practice that day that he indeed apologized, and when I asked Owen about it, he said as soon as he was done saying, “I’m sorry I called you a possessed demon from heck,” she ran off telling all her friends about it and giggling.

He was REALLY annoyed.

But he didn’t call her mean names anymore.

A while passed and we realized that this same girl was kind of using Owen to get to Benjamin. Oh, the payback — Benj had teased Owen relentlessly (to the point of tears, naughty boy) beforehand, but now Owen was making it even. Big-time. Especially when Benj got his first note from a girl (her friend) — ohhhhhh boy.

I think they secretly kind of liked the attention, but they — especially Owen — complained about everything. One thing I really liked that he pointed out was when he was asking why girls care about how they look and why they think they have to be all perfect…so we had a discussion about image and how the world tries to tell girls they aren’t good enough or pretty enough or skinny enough, and how there are basically fake pictures all over magazines and the Internet and everything that girls think they are supposed to measure up to. He was like, “That’s dumb. Those pictures are fake — you can tell. They should just be happy with who they are and not try to be anyone else.”

BINGO.

The last bit was even better:

“I bet then they wouldn’t be so annoying.”

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Would You Rather… ?

Have you ever played that game? Well, my boys love it. And they always think of the craziest, grossest, and sometimes deadliest questions to ask you.

Things like: would you rather jump off a cliff and burst into 1,000 pieces at the bottom, or would you rather explode in the middle of a volcano’s lava?

Or: would you rather eat only live snakes for the rest of your life, or only huge-mongous cockroaches?

How about: would you rather grow nose hair down to your feet, or ear hair out of your eyes?

Well, today while we were doing the dishes together, Levi was complaining about being bored. So I suggested we play a game.

My first “would you rather” was something like would you rather be a dolphin or a whale or some such innocent thing.

HIS was this gem: “Would you rather kiss a skunk every day for a year? Or kiss 10,000 bumblebees every week for year?”

I think about it honestly, after I get rid of my initial repulsion. I say, “Well, I guess I would rather kiss the skunk.”

Levi exclaims, “What?! You would? But then you would stink like a super nasty stink bug but lots, lots worse!!”

I say, “I would rather stink than die. All those bumblebees would probably kill me!”

Levi: “Well, I wouldn’t mind that. ‘Cause then I wouldn’t have to see you kiss your boyfriend anymore — your boyfriend called The Daddy!

Wow.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised…a couple days ago we were listening to Disney songs on Pandora and I told the kids we should watch one of these movies — “I’m totally in the mood now — aren’t you guys??” Levi was the first to pipe up, “I want to watch a movie, but NOT a Disney movie ’cause they always have kissing at the end!”

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She Woke Up With Curls Today

I am trying to not get too over-excited.

I am trying to not hope for too much of myself in my little baby girl. I want her to be her own cute, little person, and not push any of myself upon her.

I imagined a miniature version of myself for so many years, and although I love my boys dearly and deeply and would never ever trade one of them for all the girls in the world, it has been such an amazing thing to have a girl come to our family, finally after all this time.

I can’t begin to count all of the dreams about a baby girl that I have had over the past 15 years of marriage. All of the lists and lists of girls names I have kept just in case we ever had one. All of the times I have walked into a store and painfully, consciously avoided the baby girl section because I couldn’t bear the thought of never being able to have one to dress up like my own real-life doll. All of the times I have been secretly so very jealous of family or friends who have had baby girl after baby girl, while I never got one to myself.

People would say, oh I am sorry you don’t have a girl. Are you going to keep trying for one? And I would say, oh, it is fine; I love my boys and I would be fine without having a girl. But I think deep down I never really believed that. Deep down I kept hoping and praying that we would someday be blessed with one in our family. Especially after having a few miscarriages along the way; painful, very challenging, and difficult to recover from and heal from. I worried that maybe those were my chances at having a girl…

We found out through ultrasounds what we were having for each of our four boys. But when I got pregnant with Bria, we decided to not find out, to be surprised when the baby was born. Because of my multiple miscarriages and other health issues, I had to have several ultrasounds with her pregnancy. Let me tell you, it was very difficult to not ever peek!!

But let me also tell you: when she was born, although there were only a few seconds of pure, absolute surprise and happiness (before the chaos of “She’s not breathing and something is wrong with her” began), the joy and gratitude of finally having my dream come true of having a little girl were so overwhelmingly amazing.

This precious little strawberry blonde/auburn haired, blue-eyed princess is one of the best things that has ever happened to me, and to our family. She is beautiful, she is sweet, she is stubborn, she is funny, she is smart, she is cuddly, she is fiery, she is adorable.

And she might — just might have curly hair like I did.

!!!

😀

Like I said, I have consciously tried to not push myself or my traits or likes or dislikes onto my kids, and I don’t want to do that with my daughter, either.

And I really still can’t believe that I can say I have a daughter. Even though she is almost 9 months old.

But when she woke up from her nap today with curls on her cute little head, it was really hard to contain my excitement. My mom always tells me that I had straight hair, like Bria, until I was a couple years old. Then I woke up from a nap one day with curls all over my head. I kept those curls until I started having kids of my own, and then my hair changed, as hair does, and it isn’t very curly anymore.

Obviously, this precious little princess of mine will always be beautiful to me, no matter what she looks like, whether she has curly hair or straight. But I am pretty much in mama heaven when I notice something in her that I can also see in me, or could see in me when I was younger.

The other day my friend Enrique told me that she looks like me. I was on cloud nine.

I love this baby in my arms so very much. I love her laughter, her bubbles, her babbles, even her cries. I love her little grabby hands, her little wave hi and goodbye, the way she leans when she wants me to hold her, the way she whips her head around when someone else is holding her so that she can still see me. I love that she loves me so much.

She will only ever love me about an ounce as much as I love her, but I love that she loves me back. I love that I have a miniature me. I love that she will be better than I ever was.

And today I loved her curls.

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Breakfast at 9 PM

Chocolate chip pancakes, fried eggs, fruit, and smoothie: Yep. Dinner for breakfast. I mean breakfast for dinner. All thanks to being completely messed up because of daylight savings. Again. Didn’t we just do this six months ago?!

Now it is 11 PM, and we just barely got all the kids to bed. Sounds like they are still going strong in there.

Tomorrow will be a Monday to remember…

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I Can’t Party Like a Teenager Anymore

So as I was saying, yesterday was Benjamin’s 13th birthday. It is finally starting to sink in that I have a teenager, although the tiredness kind of takes over any other emotion right now. Summary: I really can’t party like a 13-year-old when I am 34. Kinda sad. But I mostly kept up.

This awesome kid was looking so forward to being able to watch movies and play games that he could previously not watch or play, per our family rule. So all he wanted to do for this birthday is just that: watch movies and play games. I subtly tried (and not-so-subtly too) to get him to invite a friend over, especially since I knew Mike was going to be out of town this weekend, but he kept turning me down, saying he could just watch and play with me. Awwwww. Kind of.

Thursday evening, before Mike left, we celebrated with his choice of dinner: baked whole chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and steamed broccoli and cauliflower. Then we had his cake — lemon with two kinds of frosting, which I baked and he wanted to decorate, served with ice cream, of course (oh my sweetness overload headache).

After dinner, we played a game where the kids had to pop the balloons different ways and get the candy out of them that we had stuck inside. Then they took Benjamin around on a scavenger hunt to find his 13 presents we had hidden. And of course, while the kids were exploring the house, I snitched some candy. Ugh…bigger headache. He was really happy, though, and loved his gifts, and felt very spoiled. I was happy that he was happy; I expect and ask a lot of him, being the oldest, and it was nice to make him feel special.

After dinner, dessert, presents, and more games, it was getting pretty late, but we finally got everyone to bed. I got to bed myself around 12:30 AM after cleaning up and doing some preparations for his actual birthday, which was Friday. Two hours later, I woke back up.

See, I had this crazy idea of wanting to wake him up right when he turned 13, which was around 2:40 AM, and watch Lord of the Rings with him, which he’s been dying to see and has been on his “13th birthday schedule” for years. But even though I woke up at 2:30, the baby also woke up, teething and fussy and freaking out. It took a long time to get her back to sleep. And then I had to make popcorn, of course, and get some treats ready and make orange juice, which we love to have with our popcorn. The kitchen was still pretty messy with stuff I hadn’t finished the night before, so I worked on that while I got the food ready, the movie set up, pillows and blankets on the couch, etc.

By the time I woke Benjamin up, it was 4:30 AM. I crept into his room so I wouldn’t wake up Owen also, and softly started singing Happy Birthday in his ear. He stirred, then opened his eyes, looking really tired. He had only been asleep for about five hours. I whispered, “Time to get up and party with Lord of the Rings!”

He blinked at me, sat up, looked at his clock, looked back at me, and said, “You woke me up at 4:30 in the morning to watch a movie??” I was like HECK YES. He cracked a smile, then gave me a hug and said, “Let’s do this! Thank you!” We stumbled downstairs together, snuggled up on the couch with our comfy blankets and pillows (and all our snacks that looked really disgusting at 4:30 in the morning), and started the movie.

Let me tell you, it’s a good thing I love these movies. I was so tired, having had little sleep for several previous nights before this, but I managed to stay awake the whole time. When we finished the first half of the first movie, I was so ready to go back to bed. Even though I knew the other kids would be waking up soon, I had to at least have a little nap in order to function. Benjamin was just barely getting started, though, and really excited to start playing his new games, so I left him to it and snagged a little nap. Ahhh HEAVEN.

When everyone woke up a little while later, we made him multicolored waffles with chocolate chips in them, alongside strawberries and smoothie. He played his games a lot during the day, which was all he requested to do during his birthday, so I obliged and tried to keep the kids out of there while he played. We all did his chores for him, as we usually do for the birthday person, and had to take him and Owen to play practice for a few hours, so we stayed pretty busy.

He was having a fun day, but all I wanted to do was go to bed. After dinner and scriptures and cleaning up a little that evening once we finally got back home after play practice and running errands, I was ready to crash. But he was raring to go still. When we got the other kids to bed, it was time to play games. And if you think me being able to play games on the Wii or Playstation is a funny thing when I am fully awake and functioning, you would not believe how entertaining it can be when I am not. Let’s just say this: he beat me. Several times. Badly. Very badly. And I had no idea what I was doing. But it made for some good laughs and crazy stunts!

I was feeling pretty nasty, having had way too much food again that day, eating out for lunch on the way to play practice, getting treats to share with his fellow cast mates and of course being naughty and indulging in some of them afterward that were left over, etc. He was almost as tired as me, right? And he had eaten at least twice as much as me, of both food and treats, right? But he was not phased. I tried to remember what it was like when I was 13. What my body was like. What my mind was like. What I could and couldn’t handle. It is hard to remember that far back! But I am pretty sure I could eat whatever I wanted and stay up as late as I wanted and was able to do just fine, for at least a day or two.

After the games and myself not getting along very well, I thought for sure he would be ready to call it a night. No such luck. We had to finish the second half of the extended version of Fellowship of the Ring, right!? Sigh…and yawn. Okay. Here we go.

Two hours, more popcorn and treats, and a lot of bonding time but getting- really-tired time later, I thought for sure he was done. Nope. Time to start watching the Harry Potters he has been dying to watch. Oh goodness…shoot me with a tranquilizer now please…

I mean, it is great — super great — that he wanted to just spend so much of his birthday with me. But wow. I really cannot handle very much of this anymore. Sad realization, I know. I think I am still a kid a lot of the time. Surprised? ;D

Honestly, after half of the first Harry Potter he wanted to watch, plus big root beer floats, he finally gave in. It was just getting too late and we were both so tired and our stomachs were really grossed out. But this would definitely be a memorable birthday, I bet! At least it better be, dangit!!

With Mike out of town, I let Benjamin sleep in our bed, which he was excited about. We don’t let the kids do that very often. He slept like a baby, but I had a lot of chances to think about him since the time he was a baby, while I was up with a fussy baby again, as well as Zachary off and on. And he was a cute baby.

Once he got over his acid reflux, which was a horrible nonstop screamfest, he evolved into this happy, goofy, funny kid. He always had this flair for entertaining everyone around him, and has always been a magnet, a fun personality, and a natural leader. He has always been good at pretty much everything he tries. Sometimes this has been great for him; other times not so much, because sometimes he gets lazy and doesn’t try very hard. He has been blessed with lots and lots of talents, and is also smart, so anything that doesn’t come naturally, he can usually figure out right away. I think his biggest challenge might be humility haha! But he does pretty well with that, too.

It has been an amazing experience for me to watch him grow into this cool young man that he is now. Looking back over the years, I can definitely say that yes, it has gone by way too fast. Here I am, with my fifth baby, who is going to be nine months old in a couple of weeks. How did that happen? Wasn’t that just Benjamin??

I have tried to savor it. I have tried to focus on the good things and not get too caught up in the challenging parts about raising children. I could never have done any of it without Mike, for obvious reasons, but for not so obvious reasons as well. He is my rock and my better half. We are a team. I could not do any of this alone.

And time marches on. Today is another day…full of chores, working outside, playing with the kids, giving everyone haircuts and baths, maintaining this crazy household, etc. One day closer to my teenager’s next birthday. Before I know it, he will be dating, driving, going on a mission, going to college, getting married, and having a family of his own. Really freaky, but pretty cool to think about, as well. I just want to make sure that I am present for all of it. Really present, you know? That I don’t let days just slide by without realizing what is happening or taking advantage of the experience. It goes by so very fast.

But at least I was able to have a great — albeit exhausting birthday with my kid who, although he is now a teenager, requested to spend his birthday with our family, and with me, even down to snuggling in my bed with his mama.

All of the tiredness in the world is worth that.

I am sore. I am tired. My stomach is still nasty and I think I have gained 10 pounds this weekend. No, I may not be able to party like a teenager anymore, but I have an awesome teenager, and that makes me happy. 🙂

Now I just have to will myself to stay awake tonight for Lord of the Rings, take two: The Two Towers…

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I. Have. A. TEENAGER. !!!!!!!!!

Freaking out just a little.

I cannot believe my little boy is 13 years old today. My little boy who is not quite so little anymore…his feet are as big as mine. His hands are almost as big as mine. He is only a few inches shorter than I am, and sprouting up faster every day. How the heck did this happen?? Wasn’t he just barely born?!

More tomorrow…I’m in the middle of watching Harry Potter (the PG-13 ones) with him…and man Umbridge is SO annoying…

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“The Play-doh Box Threw Up!”

Says Zachary, my 3 year-old squirt, in response to my inquiry about why there was a lot more than one color out (as he was attempting to break the ‘One color at a time’ rule).

He’s funny. He’s at this seriously hilarious stage when half the stuff he says makes no sense and the other half is naughty because he repeats what he heard from his older brothers.

And he won’t. Stop. Talking.

Except when you want him to talk.

Today, for example, I tried striking up a conversation later on, about play-doh.

“Zachary, why do you like play-doh?”

“I don’t.”

“You don’t? I thought you did.”

“I don’t wike pway-doh. I wike potatoes.”

“You like…potatoes?? I don’t mean ‘like’ to eat — I mean to play with.”

“I onwy wike potatoes.”

Okay…

Try again:

“Hey Zachary. What do you like to build out of your play- doh?”

“I’m not talking to you wight now, Mama. You’re annoying.”

Then silence.

Wow.

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Lions and Tigers and Netflix, Oh My!

It was supposed to be someone’s temporary Christmas present. But…

Yeah. We forgot to cancel our subscription.

Again.

On the one hand, I think Netflix will be mine and my husband’s downfall, will lead to our family’s utter destruction, and will turn our kids into robots.

On the other hand, it is so dang nice to be able to turn on something whenever you want to, be it educational, informational, or purely for entertainment, stress relief, or fun — or even for gross-out factors (Food, Inc., anyone? Ughhh…).

We never used to watch any kind of TV. We never had cable or satellite. We only would watch a DVD once or twice a week, munch on popcorn, not get addicted, and call it good when the movie was over.

But then magical shows like Once Upon a Time appeared in the world of Netflix, or brutally horrible but intensely intriguing shows like Prison Break, or witty and mysterious shows like Bones.

After too many nights to count of lost sleep (“just one more episode…”), I think we’ve finally decided to stop watching shows. Yay us. We’ve moved on — a little.

But there are soooo many movies on there. We’ve seen some really great ones, and…some really not great ones. I don’t want to say it’s been a waste of time the whole time, because we do enjoy vegging together at the end of a long day, and usually it doesn’t really matter what we’re doing as long as we’re together — we enjoy it.

But. How much of our lives have we spent in front of a screen? What would we do if we suddenly had no power and had to figure out life without any of them? No TVs. No computers. No phones. Nothing.

Well, I’ll tell you, we had a little taste of that when we first moved out here to California. The place we kind of accidentally rented — which was supposed to be for just a few short months but ended up being for more than 8 — was up a canyon in an old, run-down ranch house that was falling into disrepair. Now, our time there is a long, challenging story and I’ll save most of the gritty details for another post — if you’re brave enough to hear it.

But. One thing that happened there that ended up being a blessing is this: because we were so far up in that little canyon, we had no reception and even iffy electricity. So…no computers. No phones. No Internet. We did set up our TV and DVD player and used it for an occasional movie…but the house situation was so yucky that we didn’t want to be in it if we didn’t have to.

So we spent a lot of time outside. We went into town to use the resources there to do our homeschool lessons. We went on walks all over those hills, exploring new things every time. We drove to the beach. We got out our board games. We made movies. We wrote letters to our family and friends.

Did you catch that?? We actually wrote letters.

We colored. We played. We listened to the only radio station that would come on up in that canyon: KLOVE, which plays positive, encouraging music and messages. That radio station really pulled me through some rough days, I’m telling ya.

We built forts. We played the piano. We played with legos and bionicles. We got covered in dirt. Every single day. We sang songs. We laughed. We cried. We clung to each other through a lot of challenges we were experiencing, and we cemented ourselves as a family who had to rely on each other and on God.

And we did it without the distraction of screens.

Now, I’d be lying if I tried to say we didn’t ever have access: of course Mike did at work, and when we went down into town I could usually get reception on my cell phone so I could text, make quick phone calls, briefly hop on Facebook, reply to emails, etc. And like I said, my kids were using the library’s computers to do their online school lessons.

But much of what we had grown accustomed to taking for granted in our lives was no longer readily available, and although it was hard to adjust to that, in the end, I think it saved us. We were forced to focus on each other, to be creative, to rely on our own ideas and methods for entertainment, to go back to ‘snail mail’ for a lot of our communicating.

It seemed crazy at the time. It felt like because of this change, plus with the living conditions we were in out there by ourselves, that we were living in some other country. I had nightmares, regularly. I had thought I was tough, but living there made me tougher — and I’m not just talking about being cut off cold-turkey from keeping in touch with the outside world, with my family and friends, from where we had had our life before coming here. We all got tougher. We all turned to each other, and to God.

If someone had a problem, they couldn’t just escape to an online world; they had to face the problem. If someone was bored, they couldn’t just turn on the TV; they had to find something else to do. When we felt sad or lonely or anything else — we had to deal with it, the real way. Not in some virtual way.

And we made it. And for as much complaining as I did during those long months, I said just as many thank-you prayers that we were safe, we were there together, and that we were being given this opportunity to focus on what was most important.

Yeah. I’ll admit that now, I’m once again somewhat addicted to technology, to the ease of everything Google and beyond. We just watched Red Dawn on Netflix…way too gory for my taste and neither of us liked it much. Once it was over, Mike finished playing a game on his phone and I checked a few things on the school computer that was still on before shutting it down. Heck — I’m using my smart iPhone to speech text this blog that I’ll link to Facebook after uploading a picture I just edited. I mean Wow.

Technology can be used for some really good things, too. You know what they are — I don’t have to start making that list. I think the thing is — we can get addicted and/or so distracted so very, very easily and quickly, and pulled away from what’s most important. What’s Good? What’s Better? And what’s Best? We just have to be so stinkin’ careful that we try to balance out how and why and when we are using technology, screens, etc. and make sure that we aren’t doing it too much or for the wrong reasons –and that it isn’t taking precedence over the more important things, and people, in our lives.

I still occasionally have nightmares about that falling-apart ‘cabin’ we lived in, and I wake up thinking I’m hearing animals in the walls or the ceiling, or that the police will show up with the mugshot of some criminal who escaped and they think is hiding out up where we live, and asking my kids if they’ve seen him. I still turn on the running water here and say a thank-you prayer that it IS running, that it’s not murky on an off-chance day, that we always have a way to heat it, and that we can drink clean water. I could seriously go on and on…but another time.

My point is: for all the hardships we experienced during that time, I do miss one thing:

The simple life.

The life free from the distractions and noise of the world coming at us and into our home and family through every portal possible. The reason to have to find something else to do because, sorry, there’s no computer. The fact that no one could fight over who got to use which electronic device because, sorry again, none of them work so we might as well not even turn them on. The quiet. The family time. The REAL, here and now time focusing on what matters.

Will I remember a week from now what in the world “Red Dawn” was about?

Heck no.

And yes, I got to spend two hours snuggling next to my hubby on the couch, but we could’ve totally been smarter about our movie selection and picked something a little more worthwhile if we were going to give in to the Netflix temptation.

Maybe we really will cancel it. Maybe not. But I’m determined to make wiser choices. After all, we really are only on this earth for like a split second. You know?

When I get to the end, will I be proud of how many hours I spent looking at a screen — any screen? Or will I be more proud of the hours I spent looking at my family, and sunsets?

This life really is a split second. So much matters…and so much doesn’t.

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