Sunday, June 30, 2013

conversations with my daughter.

I have to say, I am not the mom who worries about the distant future. I'm the mom who worries about why my kids are so hard to get to sleep, why they don't say more words, if they are getting enough vegetables, if they are watching too much tv. But this week I've been worried, almost more than my heart can bear, about the world my kids will grow up in. When I was a kid, I walked to and from elementary school every day with my friends. I don't ever see a time when I'd let my kids do that. I worry my children will not have the same sweet simple innocent childhood I had. I worry about the way they will be treated because of their beliefs. The world is changing rapidly, and people with certain beliefs and opinions, even when filled with love for their fellow men, are labeled bigots and haters. I dream of a world where my daughter can say she believes in this and this, and someone else can say they believe in that and that, and they will respect and love each other despite their differences. But as I watch everything unfold, I worry my children will face so much more adversity than I did, their faith will be challenged and they will be scorned for their beliefs. My heart aches for them, and I pray I can give them a strong enough foundation to face the storms that will surely come.

In that context, I've been reflecting a lot on my firstborn. She is smart and perceptive. She is wise beyond her nearly-four years. She picks up on things, she grasps things. She says so many funny things, but it is the deeper conversations I find myself having with her that have brought me comfort this week.

A few excerpts.

When kids are doing something I have told Carly not to do, I tell her, "No one told them not to do it. I am your mommy, not their mommy, and I am telling you not to do it." She gets that. I've slowly started introducing the concept of modesty to her, like keeping her dress down, wearing sleeves at church, and not showing our tummy in swim suits. We were looking at her Disney Princess book:

"Why is Jasmine's tummy showing?" she asked.
"I'm not sure," I answered. "But it would be good to cover up her tummy, huh?"
"Yeah. I think no one ever told her to cover her tummy."


I was putting make-up on and she said she wanted to put make-up on "so I can look pretty at church." The last thing I want is for her to think beauty comes from make-up. I told her that I don't wear make-up to look pretty. "Why do you wear make-up then?" she asked. Isn't that a question? "Its just how mommies get all the way ready to go, just like you brush your hair and put on your shoes." Just then Chris was coming up the stairs. I said, "I bet daddy thinks I look just as beautiful with no make-up on as when I have make-up on. Should we ask him?" She smiled excitedly and agreed. Chris came in and, bless him, didn't miss a beat. I asked and he stressed how beautiful we both were without make-up and Carly had the biggest smile. And on the days where I don't manage to get make-up on (there are a lot of them) and she asks why, I tell her I don't need it all the time. Its ok to not always wear it. I want her to remember that.


Carly has been noticing differences in people more and more. There have been embarrassing moments, like when she saw a large person at the grocery store and commented loudly on her "really big tummy!" Oh, dear. Another time at the grocery store, we saw a little boy with only one arm. She was starting to point at him so I pulled her away. I knelt down to face her and she asked, "Why did that boy only have one arm?" 
"Heavenly Father makes everyone different," I told her. "He made you with yellow hair and me with red hair. He made you with two arms and that little boy with one." 
"But why would He do that? You need two arms."
I was caught off guard by this. What a question. Why, indeed, do people experience the challenges that they do in in life?
"He knew that boy could do things just as good with one arm," I said. "And He will help him."

I was trying some clothes on in a dressing room, and out of the blue Carly asked, "Why did Jesus get nails in his hands when he died?" I had no idea where it came from, but it was one of those times you don't give a quick answer in the rush of a shopping trip. I sat down and had her sit on my lap. I explained there were mean people who didn't know how special Jesus was, so they put nails in His hands. I told her the nails left marks on His hands, just like an owie, so when people meet Him now, they can look at His hands and know it is really Jesus. "When you die, will you get nails in your hands?" she asked. "No, just Jesus," I answered. "Because He is special and He loves us so much. But then, the nails came out and what happened?"
Her face lit up. "He got resurrected! And you will too."

These conversations seem small, but these conversations mean everything. Listen to her. She is smart and logical. She is figuring things out. She is learning important principles like valuing herself as a daughter of God, loving and accepting others, and faith in her Savior. She has a perfect faith, but even at three years old it is not a blind faith. It is an observant faith.

Some day, someone is going to tease her for not dating until she is 16. She is going to be pressured to give up her virtue. She is going to be challenged because of her standards. She is going to be called ignorant because of her faith. It is these conversations and the thousands more to come that remind me of her goodness. They remind me that if we continue to teach her, if we continue to help her feel the spirit and live close to her Heavenly Father, she will be comforted even in her loneliest hours and she will be strong enough to be a shining example to those around her. 

In all my motherly worrying this week, I look at her sparkling little spirit, her innocence, her goodness, her love, her faith, and I hear the prophet's voice reminding me: "Her future is as bright as her faith."

Saturday, June 22, 2013

welcome, summer.

I have to admit, we've been waiting for June 2013 for quite some time. It has always been an oasis, a month of respite in Chris's doctorate journey. It has been a party. Along with our trips, we've been having all sorts of fun as we have welcomed in the summer.

The babies got a crack at their first popsicles (thought I'm pretty sure this was in May). Quinn inherited her mother's sweet tooth, and LOVES sweets. She was a big fan. Poor John, he wasn't prepared for the cold. After one bite, he was out. So Quinn double fisted it and the girls enjoyed while John went on playing with sticks.

The past week alone has been hopping. It looked something like this:

A girl in our ward had a kid-friendly afternoon graduation party, with pools and bubbles and a slip n' slide. This was our kids' introduction to the slip n' slide. Carly liked it well enough, Quinn was not a fan, and John loved it. If I had had to place bets, that is exactly how I would have bet. John went over and over. Carly watched and cheered. Quinn accessorized.

The next day, Carly was signed up to do her first running race. It was a 1 mile race at the zoo called the Wild Mile. She has quite the memory, and woke up excited for her medal since she remembered me getting a medal at my 10K in October. Thank goodness she got a medal! She was painfully cute in her little running shorts and shoes with that number pinned on stretching just like daddy. Painful, I tell you. Chris said she was hilarious during the race, talking nonstop. At the beginning she was looking around at everyone's running shoes, saying "Oh, cute shoes!" Sounds like her mother. At one point she started to slow down and said "I'm tired" but then spotted the camels and sprinted off the course to get a closer look. Priorities. They came in around 15 minutes, got her medal and some fruit snacks, and we were off to look at some animals. It was such a fun event and I have since discovered they have a whole series of kid mile races, so we'll have to do it again.

The following day we celebrated our favorite person ever. It was Fathers Day. Fathers Day can't pass without a manly gift basket (because men love gift baskets!) of manly stuff. I also had Carly answer a daddy survey. She was so sweet, and she knows her dad pretty well (except his age, of course). The cutest part was the end, when I asked her favorite thing about her dad. She named one thing, then another, and then paused and held her arms open and said "I like to do all the stuff with my daddy!" It was a simple day of walks and burgers and corn on the cob and chocolate chip cookies. These kids sure love their daddy.

The next day, Chris held down the fort with the duo while Carly and I headed to the lake with some friends (even though two babies at the beach at nap time would have been SOO fun). I love the chances I get to do fun things like this with her one-on-one. We played in the water and went clear out to the rope. She has no fear in the water, a really fishy. She walked all the way to the rope without my help, and then I watched from the grass as she did it with friends. This girl, growing so fast. After we played, she started playing with friends and you know what I did? Sat and did nothing but feel the sun on my skin. Bliss. And naturally, after a hot day in the sun we had to get "drinks from the drive thru!", one of her favorite things.

 Two days later we headed to a ward member's house to pick strawberries. He is kind enough to offer the berries for free. The patch was just the right size for us, since my posse didn't give me too much picking time. John was not in the mood, and Quinn enjoyed raiding the bag to chow down, nevermind her muddy hands. And Carly, sweet Carly, wanted her bucket full without actually having to pick the strawberries herself. What are moms for?

The next day we made our first trip to the local splash pad for playgroup. C family historical precedent says the first trip to the splash pad is not particularly successful, and this held true. While we avoided any breakdowns, John nailed his head repeatedly on the pool chairs, Quinn walked around begging food from strangers, and Carly wouldn't go near the water until the end. We did snap some cute pictures though. And the sweetest thing: I think Quinn could sense Carly's apprehension as Carly sat nervously watching the spraying water. Quinn kept bending down in Carly's face and giving her a big smile, almost like she was checking on her. These kids. Sometimes they are too much.

That brings us to yesterday, the summer solstice. All this summer fun and it was finally time to officially ring in the season of sun. I decided to make a day out of it, since Chris was taking the day off. We started off the morning at the pool. Our pool is not heated, and therefore you can't really enjoy a swim until August, but Carly was determined. Did I mention she's a fishy? The babies also got turns with daddy (mommy doesn't go in freezing pools. What are dads for?). John was shivering wildly, but kept wanting to go back in. Quinn, poor Quinn. Chris pulled her in and she gasped and thrashed and wanted nothing to do with it. She was very interested by the concept, just not the the experience itself. Every time Chris came near her again, she ran 15 feet in the other direction. She did scare the daylight out of me though, as at one point she was standing on the stairs and slipped face first in the water. Thankfully I was right there and pulled her out instantly, before she could fill her lungs with water. These kids. Sometimes they are too much.

After the pool we had a picnic lunch on our living room floor, and while the babies napped, Carly and I headed out to get ice cream. We just love our favorite local spot, where you get sprinkles and eyes and a smile and a little umbrella. That evening Chris had been hired out to conduct a survey for the Summer Solstice Jazz Festival, so we joined him. It was a fun atmosphere. Jim and Linda were kind enough to come help him, and Carly went off with Linda and came back with all sorts of fun stuff. We got free dinner and headed home too late. It was a perfect summer solstice.

Its only the second day of summer, and between our trips and our fun at home, we have already had quite the time of it. But that is what June is for. Chris starts teaching again the first week of July, and with that comes full(er) days prepping his dissertation for a proposal in early fall. It will be hard to have him gone more, but it will be good to ease our way back in before fall arrives. And we still have a lot of fun planned this summer, including a 4th of July trip to Chris's extended family in Chicago, a family vacation here in Michigan with Chris's family, and a visit from my parents and Uncle Brady. Yes, folks, Uncle Brady is coming to Michigan. We can't wait to see them. And I think someone is turning 4 at the end of the summer? Heaven help me.

Needless to say, life is good in the C House. This summer is drastically different from last summer. Last summer was so dang hard. So this year, even though we're crazy, we're just going to live it up.

Oh, and what would summer be without ice cream?
We eat a lot of it.
From the store, Dairy Dan, MSU Dairy.
We don't discriminate.


Monday, June 17, 2013


If you read that title as the word "up" then you are a regular person.
If you read it as the letters "U" and "P", you most likely are a Michigander.
A few weeks ago I saw the word "up" in a headline and read it as "U" "P".
It was a rite of passage.

When we arrived in Michigan, we made a "Michigan Bucket List", listing all the things we wanted to do in our 4-ish years here. Also around the time we arrived in Michigan, we looked at the schooling that awaited us and I decided we would go on a little kidless getaway after Chris finished comps. Then we had two more kids and I REALLY decided we'd go on a getaway after he finished comps. And voila . . . three years later here we are. 

We had been planning on going to downtown Chicago for our trip, but my Penguins made it to the Eastern Conference finals and we made a new plan to go to Pittsburgh and watch games 6 and 7 on the outdoor big screen and soak up the atmosphere. I was SO excited. Alas, the Pens got swept in 4 games, so we reverted to our Chicago plan B. But thanks to the Chicago Blackhawks also being in the NHL playoffs, there were literally no (affordable) hotels available. Not to mention the city would have been more expensive and complicated than we were totally thrilled with. So with a few days to go, we reevaluated, and went back to our bucket list. The Upper Peninsula stuck out to me, and as it was 6 hours away, we figured it was something that would be hard with kids. A few conversations and advice from native Michigander friends . . . and we had a vacation.

Fact: Six hours in a car with no kids is WAY BETTER than two hours with kids.
We had a beautiful drive north through the Mitten and crossed Mackinaw Bridge to the UP.

We headed to the north side of the UP on Lake Superior. Our first item of business was a sight-seeing cruise to see Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. I was prepared for a slight chill, but it was freezing and rainy. It worked to our advantage though, because the rain chased some people below deck so when the sun came out shortly after, we had moved into prime seats. I didn't even know Pictured Rocks existed until a friend mentioned it at church a few days before. I'm really glad she did. It was incredibly gorgeous. And our "three hour tour" (literally . . . it was three hours) was amazing. Our tour guide Leo totally made the experience, filling the hours with interesting facts and truly awful jokes. My favorite fact: at 100 feet down, Lake Superior is the same cold temperature year around. Since it is so cold, when a ship sinks (as ships have several times in the past) the cold water preserves the bodies. Since the bodies don't decay, they are never light enough to float to the surface. Therefore, Superior is known for "never giving up her dead", or as Leo said, "When you go down, you stay down." Isn't that totally cheery?

And now I'm going to bore you with scenic pictures from my big camera. The water was such an amazing color. I wish I could really capture the beauty. But of course, this doesn't come close.

The Grand Portal was good to us.

After our cruise we hopped back in the car another hour east along the Lake Superior shore to the town of Marquette, where we stayed the remainder of the time. We frequented Donckers, a chocolate, soda, and candy shop. We spent entirely too much money on chocolate, but I'm not even mad about it. We also ate at Aubree's, a pizza and sub place that had a ton of GF options. I wish we would have gone there 5 times.

The evening of our arrival was so foggy. Our hotel was right on the lake, and you couldn't see anything out the back windows. We went to Donkers that evening and the girl working informed us that was not the norm. The next morning we woke up to an incredibly beautiful view. Our one full day was warm and sunny and we could have not ordered something more perfect.

There was a massive structure behind our hotel, and after some research we learned it was a no-longer-functioning ore dock. I initially found it a bit too industrial, but by the time we were set to leave it had a special place in my heart and I thought it was pretty dang beautiful.

The nice thing about not having kids on a vacation is you can go go go without catering to naps or moods or meals or snacks. So our full day was packed with about 3 days worth of activities. A whole week of activities if we had our kids.

It started with a hike to see some waterfalls. It was way shorter than expected, but it was fun to find the falls. But it happened to be some sort of breeding ground for mosquitoes, especially thanks to the hot day. We only had a few minutes to enjoy the views before we were forced to retreat.

Next we headed back to town and rented two 21-speed bikes. We biked 5 miles up the trail on the lake shore from our hotel to Presque Isle. At the risk of repeating myself, it was so beautiful. You can see a new functioning ore dock from the Isle, and we watched a ship move out from it. Then we headed up the hill to more incredible views and aqua blue water. Then we journeyed the 5 miles back. It was quite the work out but so much fun. I love biking and we just don't get to very much right now. It was the perfect morning. We headed back to the hotel totally exhausted.

After power naps and getting cleaned up, we headed out on the "town", checking out the local bookstore, a little Michigan themed shop (ornament time, of course!), getting more Donkers chocolate, and enjoying a barbecue dinner.

Then it was back to the hotel to change into comfy clothes. During our bike ride we scoped out a place to watch the sunset and watch the stars come out. We walked along the shore toward McCarty Cove, and found some big black rocks to sit on. And there we sat, for two hours watching the sunset and eating Donkers chocolate and talking. I mean talking. There is a lot of organization, planning, chit chat, and discussion that goes on as we run this crazy family of ours, but real talking often falls to the wayside. This was one of the best conversations I have ever had with my husband. In all the fun we had on our trip, that two hours with the sunset to our left, the lake to our right, and the little red lighthouse blinking behind us . . . that was unanimously voted the best part of the trip.

We checked my phone to find it was nearly 11 o'clock.
And the sun had still not completely set. 
A hazard of being so far north we had not considered.
Public parking ended at 11, so our stargazing wasn't in the cards.
But that was perfectly ok.

We slept in the next morning and packed up to make the trek home.

Our trip was just the right medicine. As I gathered stuff in the hotel, I thought about Chicago and Pittsburgh and what those trips would have been like. They would have been lots of fun, but they would have been noisy, busy, and hectic. We have a lot of noise in our life, a lot of busyness. And while I don't think Heavenly Father micromanages every second of our lives, I do know He places blessings and opportunities before us, and I think this trip was exactly that.

We needed quiet. We needed peace. We needed to see the beauty of the world and we needed to be reminded that life can be simple, that life should be simple. We needed to reconnect. We needed to explore together. We needed to talk.

As far as trips go, this was an absolutely perfect one.
Thank you, Superior.
You'll always have a special place in my heart.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

hoosier escape.

At the end of every May, Chris has a national conference. I'm not particularly good at 5 straight days on my own with the triple threat, and his conference this year happened to be in Indianapolis, so we packed up the crew and headed to grandma and papa's house for the week. It was a party.

My kids are awful travelers. Seriously, you can't take them anywhere. The way there we made it without stopping. They way home we weren't as lucky. Isn't the way home always worse? Luckily, Michigan has bizarrely beautiful rest stops to stretch our legs.

We had lots of fun at grandma's house, having campfires and s'mores, playing outside, playing inside, visiting a little zoo (where Carly almost got eaten by a goat: "Get away goat, I'm not your food!"), and checking out grandma and papa's chickens (which we'll probably be eating next time we visit). Indiana life is a good life. After Quinn experienced some initial fear, the kids also loved the doggy, Sammie, and the poor pup was the recipient of a whole lot of love. Lucky for her, she got a whole lot of dropped food in return. We missed daddy, but had a lot of help and fun distraction to help us enjoy the week without him.

One of the days we headed to Indianapolis to the big Children's Museum. Aunts Becky and Sarah joined us. It was a lot of fun, but it happened to be end-of-the-year field trip season so it was a bit too busy. Carly loved the carousel, but Quinn was totally unsure about it. John gave the Nile croc some love, Carly loved exploring and building Terracotta Warriors, Quinn gave big hugs to dino eggs, and we all enjoyed lunch.

On Saturday I headed to Indianapolis to pick Chris up. We decided to have a little day date and it ended up being most of the day. He was kind enough to let me indulge my inner history nerd, and we visited the war memorials, the Indiana War Museum, and the Capital building (which sadly closed an hour before we got there!). We also went to the Indianapolis Colts Grille, where Chris got a burger with two grilled cheese sandwiches as a bun, and stopped by the Chocolate Cafe so I could get a dark chocolate turtle as big as my face. 

I was in heaven in the museum. See the flag with all those spots? An actual flag carried by an Indiana regiment in the Civil War. All those spots are covering bullet holes. And the Hitler head? Found by an Indiana soldier in Hitler's offices after the end of World War II. It had a bullet hole under the eye when found, meaning an angry German shot it after everything fell apart. Also see Chris looking at all the military patches. He has a thing for patches. Looks like I'm not the only nerd around here. #boyscoutproblems

It was the perfect week. I'm so grateful for my fabulous in-laws who so willingly take this crazy mom in and take care of my kids and turn a week without our man into a total party.

Long live the Hoosier State.

Monday, June 10, 2013

don't you ever grow up. 15 months young.

Fifteen months young.
Wasn't their birthday like yesterday?

At 15 months, Quinn . . .

*says "dada" and "dahee" (doggy) and mama. While she doesn't say very many words, she jabbers her own little language constantly, breaking out these long eloquently spoken sentences and then looks at you like you should know what she's saying. Her little voice is the cutest.

*points. She points at animals (especially dahees!). She points at what she wants. She points to show you something, and then jabbers about it in her language. Her little pointing finger is the cutest.

*mimics very well. She does most of the actions of "Popcorn Popping" and "Itsy Bitsy Spider". She watches her sisters every move, especially. Carly likes to blow dandelions, so Quinn picked up the habit of walking up to plants and blowing on them. Trees, bushes, flowers, you name it. Its adorable. She also picks "flowers" and brings them to me, just like her big sis. I have quite the bouquet going after every visit to the park.

*when she wants you to do something, like open a box or bag or make a toy go or something like them, she will being it too you and bounce excitedly and clap. And then you have no choice but to do it.

*has a love for animals, and like her sister before her, loves stuffed animals. She has a green monkey and a blue bear that is the same brand as Carly's Red Baron that she sleeps with and requires to come with her after bedtime. She also recently started loving on a dalmatian from Carly's collection. It is about as big as she is, and last night Chris was rocking her before bed and she clung to it the entire time. She actually dropped it and pointed after it and said "dahee!" It was the cutest. (I'm sensing a trend).

*loves accessories: necklaces, bracelets, sunglasses. And she loves shoes. When you tell her to go get shoes, she'll run right over to the closet and pic out hers. She has a pair of green crocs that she  has a little obsession with, and some mornings she'll bring them right over to you to put on her feet, still in her jammies. The other day, Chris told her to get her shoes and she went digging in the closet. We got distracted and quite a while later she emerged with a matching pair.

*has recently started to run, which is really good news for her already constantly skinned knees.


At 15 months, John . . .

*is spouting out the words: kiss (diss), Jesus (de-diss), neigh, dada, amen (nen!). After a prayer he says "nen!" and when he sees a picture of Jesus he can correctly identify Him. He will say "neigh" when I ask what a horsey says, and the other day he pulled a toy horse out of the toy box and declared "neigh!"

*has finally started walking! He is crazy wobbly, but getting better and better. He walks too much on his toes, but when he falls down he pops right back up. He is so proud of himself, and walks across the room squealing with a huge smile on his face, and claps for himself when he reaches his destination. It was getting tricks, because he would stand up and fall, and I'd shake me head and say "noooo" to try to teach him to stay standing and walk. Well, he took this as a game, and for a long time and sometimes even now he'll fall on purpose and start shaking his head no and laughing.

*is a snuggle bug. This is nothing new. But when he wakes in the morning or from naps he is so snuggly. I rock him for a while and he wraps his arms around my neck and just lays there. It is sweet, as Quinn rarely does that at all.

*is a little Casanova. The boy LOVES kisses. BIG kisses. He is very affecitonate, and leaves big wet ones on his sisters and his dad, though his mom is his favorite target.

*is such a boy. He loves getting dirty, pushing trucks around on his hands and knees, stacking things, and wrestling with his daddy. The other day I caught him trying to build a tower out of Carly's little princess toys and whining in frustration when they didn't stack quite as well as his blocks.

*loves books. He watches with wide interested eyes while I read. And he will sit and flip through the pages and jabber on like he is reading.

The duo has begun a new phase in the last few months. They play with each other more, making each other giggle and working together for good or for bad. One favorite game is where Quinn climbs up on the couch and John goes behind the couch and they play peek-a-boo. So sweet to hear them giggling. They also both know where the power button is on the tv, and enjoy taking turns turning it on and off. And at grandma's house the figured that Quinn likes to ride the push toy and John likes to push it, so they were quite the team. But with the camaraderie has come the fighting. And oh, boy, are they good at the fighting. Because even if there are 20 toys in a room, sometimes you just want the exact toy your twin has and sometimes you just want to sit in the exact spot your twin is sitting. Some days they drive me absolutely nuts with the way they make each other scream.

The continue to grow, and are healthy and delicious.

John has for reals almost all his teeth. He has been teething non stop since he started, and is now only missing four in the front and his four very back molars. He is currently cutting 4 of the middle teeth (oh, man, I don't know what they are all called.) He cut 4 molars back to back and it was totally awesome. Not. He does not sleep through the night yet, and this is pretty much why. Every night around 3 you can count on John's piercing pained scream. Poor kid.

Quinn has 8 teeth, and I recently spotted a little white poking through there in the middle. She gets grumpy, but isn't nearly the horrible teether John is.

Quinn is 21 lbs 4 oz and 30.5 inches tall.
John is 25 lbs 8 oz and 32 inches tall.
The difference in weight is substantial when you have one in each arm.

Fifteen months is such a good age. 
They are so much fun. 
They are so funny. 
And while they are wild, the joy they bring is at a whole new level. 

I remember just loving this age with Carly and my heart already aches thinking in no time at all they will grow past it. Can't they just not grow up? Please babies, don't you ever grow up.

We love them a lot.