Brooklyn Is a Handful

Brooklyn had a fantastic birthday. She had been counting down the weeks, then days since Christmas.

When she woke up in the morning, she got on her new striped dress and prepared for preschool.

In the hustle and bustle of me getting lunches made, kids dressed, messes cleaned, and people fed, she interrupted with, “I’m 5. I should be able to read.”

“Yes, a lot of 5-year olds read. You are very capable of learning.”

“You should teach me right now, then.”

If only teaching somebody to read was as quick as that. I told her we could spend some time each day on reading skills, but not before driving everybody to school. That satisfied her.

On the way to preschool she asked, “Do I start Kindergarten today? Five year olds go to Kindergarten.”

I assured her that she would go to Kindergarten in August, but the first day of Kindergarten is about 7 1/2 months away. Until then, she would get to go to preschool 3 days a week, then have summer break, and then start Kindergarten.

At preschool, she got a crown and birthday bag. She also provided cute butterfly plates and napkins for snack time (Kids don’t bring birthday treats to preschool).

At home, she helped me make the birthday cake. When the big kids got home from school, she talked Andrew into swimming with her. They jumped into the cold pool water a few times, but mostly stayed in the hot tub. When the kids were outside swimming, she had another big five-year old question, “Do five-year olds pick their noses?”“Of course they don’t because they’re too grown up for that.”

As she picked her nose, she responded, “Well, I’m not actually five-years old until tonight. And I like to pick my nose, so I probably won’t obey that rule.”

The rest of the night was great. We had homemade pizza for dinner. At dinner we each shared some of our favorite things about Brooklyn. Gavin shared that he likes to play “doggies” with her. Andrew likes to read Junie B. Jones to her. Makayla likes her brutal honesty. Dad likes her hugs and smiles. After dinner, we ate cake and ice cream and opened presents. We spent the rest of the night playing with her fun presents. She got a pink karaoke microphone and a disco light–we are expecting a lot of crazy dance parties in the future.

I love having Brooklyn in our family. She is energetic, friendly, spunky and fun. She is growing out of her bossiness a little bit and is more willing to go with the flow than she used to be. She is very sweet with Gavin and they play lots of fun games together. She loves to be outside, but doesn’t like to be sweaty and hot because she doesn’t want to have a “tomato face.” I love being Brooklyn’s mom and am looking forward to all the fun things she will get to do this year because she’s finally five.


This Week’s Snapshots

The boys looked so handsome last Sunday. I didn’t get a picture of Ricky or Rick, but they looked handsome too.

Waiting for Brooklyn to get out of preschool can be entertaining.

We had so many lemons from our lemon tree! The other morning, I decided to make strawberry lemonade–delicious! I have about 40 quart size bags of lemon juice in the freezer–we will have lemonade all summer long!We had some beautiful sunsets this week. Emily sent me this cute picture of her and Avery at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. That’s about it for this week. Next week, Brooklyn turns five years old!!

Winter Break

We were busy every single day of break.

Anjee’s family spent the night on Christmas Day. When they loaded up the car to begin their drive home, Makayla and I headed to the airport to pick up her two friends from Iowa. We stopped at the Puppy Place on our way home.

Later that night we drove up Mt. Lemmon to get a giant cookie and watch the sunset at our favorite stop, Windy Point.

The next day, we went to the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum. Petting the stingray was the favorite part.

The girls also went horseback riding and enjoyed lovely warm temperatures. I felt bad that they flew home to negative temperatures.

The night before Makayla’s friends flew home, Karitza and her family arrived. I wish I had taken more pictures (I keep saying that). I love my friend Karitza and her family. She is a good, loyal friend. She is funny, thoughtful, kind, good, prayerful, and easy to talk to. I also love that she is comfortable in my kitchen. She made us so much good food! I never had the stress of worrying what to feed everybody because she just got right in there and took care of everything. I loved exploring Tucson with her family and our New Year’s Eve Fiesta was a blast.

We played Loteria.

And musical plates (instead of chairs).

We ate tamales and had a piñata, which I filled with confetti (crazy).

We lit off fireworks. Well, Rick, Ryan, Emily, and the boys did. I watched and laughed at silly things.

At midnight, we watched fireworks over the city from our bedroom porch. I’m not good enough at photography to capture a good shot of that, but there were fireworks going up all over the city.

We did some other exploring on other days–Biosphere 2, an old church, Agua Caliente Park, Park Place Mall, Sonoran Hot Dogs, Eegee’s and more. It was a great visit.

When Karitza’s family left, we continued to do fun things together as a family to take advantage of our time with Emily home.

Here are a few pictures from our trip up Mt. Lemmon with Emily:

Usually, at the end of Winter Break I am counting down the days until the kids go back to school, but we have had such a good time I haven’t felt that way yet. School looms around the corner. Emily flies back to BYU tomorrow. We will miss her. I’m not looking forward to the driving I do every day when the kids are in school. The older kids are anxious about new school schedules. The younger kids are anxious about getting up early and being out the door on time after sleeping in and staying up late. We have had a great couple of weeks together, and I’m a little sad it’s coming to an end. I love my family and have had so much fun playing, exploring, laughing, and relaxing with them these past two weeks.

Christmas Day

I didn’t take very many pictures on Christmas Day. I was very tired after a sleepless night. Christmas is a lot of work and generates a lot of garbage, but I love the magic of it all.

We opened presents, cleaned up trash and organized gifts, then spent hours putting things together. Makayla did a lot of the work. She hung Gavin’s swing in the backyard and helped with the trampoline. The weather was beautiful–maybe even a little hot.

In the afternoon, I made Thanksgiving dinner food. Anjee and Jeremy and family came for the night. We had a great time together eating, playing, and visiting.

Christmas Eve

I love Christmas/Christmas Eve on Sunday. Usually, we make the kids wait until the evening to open their Christmas pajamas from Grandma Mergenthaler, but this year we opened them at lunch time after church. The kids enjoyed wearing them the rest of the afternoon, overnight, and most of the next day.

The weather was warm and sunny, so we played games on the back porch while Rick made treats.

After delivering treats and gifts to a few families, we came home to act out the story of Jesus Christ’s birth.

This time, Gavin was Joseph and Brooklyn was Mary. They fought over Baby Jesus through most of Luke 2.

Emily was an angel, Andrew a sheep, Sean a shepherd, Ricky a donkey, and Makayla a cow.

The rest of the evening was typical for Christmas Eve at the Mergenthaler’s. Mom and Dad stayed up very late to wrap 50 presents–why do we put it off every year? After the presents were wrapped, Santa came.

Rick and I finally went to bed sometime between 1 and 2 a.m. Less than an hour later, Sean was awake. He’s so obedient. He said he thought Santa may have come, but didn’t want to go downstairs yet just in case. He went back to bed. Around 3:30 a.m., Ricky and Andrew were up rummaging around. I angrily sent them back to their room with serious threats to lock them in until 8 a.m. unless they went back to sleep right then. I think everybody rolled out of bed around 7 a.m.

Before Christmas

We spent the weeks before Christmas going to school events and Christmas parties.

Ricky had a choir concert. He did a nice job, but I miss his Iowa show choir. Ricky enjoyed singing and dancing. I hate to say it, but the kids there were more talented than here–not sure why. Maybe it’s just a larger pool of kids because this school district is much smaller. Next semester he may be able to do a little more performing because he sweet-talked his choir teacher into letting him in the Theatre class.

Andrew participated in a 5th Grade musical production. It was cute. He was a pirate.

We went to a Christmas breakfast at church. The Primary children (ages 3-12) put on a lovely program about Christmas around the world and the kids got to see Santa. They also got to wear their pajamas, so that was special.

Brooklyn joined her preschool class in a very nice Christmas performance about When Jesus was born.

Not pictured:

  • We made a little progress on painting walls and doors.
  • We made lots of treats and delivered them to families. The kids wore Santa hats and we all sang, “Joy to the World” at almost every delivery.
  • Makayla survived her first “finals week” at school.
  • We have loved having a break from soccer and basketball games on Saturdays.

Our Adventures

I made the mistake of including the web address of this blog with our Christmas cards saying, “read about our adventures.” What was I thinking?  Honestly, I was trying to get out of writing a lengthy Christmas letter.  Unfortunately, I didn’t think ahead to the fact that maybe some people would actually check out the blog.  So, to avoid disappointing my millions of readers, I’m sharing a few “adventures.”

We have a favorite park near our house. Every time we go, we discover something new. This last visit, the areas that are like mini lakes were dry, so the kids had a great time running down into the pits and up the other side. We also found a fun place to build rock towers.

So, there’s one adventure for you–sometimes we go to the park.

What else?  Sometimes we have fun wildlife sightings like yesterday morning when I looked out the back window to see two coyotes playing in our backyard.  Or the time when we ran over a rattlesnake on our drive home from youth night, and we went back and forth over it multiple times to make sure it was dead.  The next day, I walked by the murder site to verify the snake was dead.  I DID find a dead snake, but it was NOT a rattlesnake–just a plain gopher snake.  Boy, did I feel bad about that one! But not super bad because there was the time we ran over a REAL rattlesnake in the van and turned around to be sure it was dead and it was gone!

Seriously, though, isn’t every day an adventure? Just because I don’t write about all the crazy things that happen doesn’t mean they don’t happen. I just know you don’t care to read about how many times Gavin removes his diaper and poops on the back porch or how often he draws on the walls and furniture with ballpoint pens. You definitely don’t want to hear about how many times the kids get to school late or I forget important appointments. You don’t want to know about the time that I wanted to mow the lawn, but the lawn mower battery was dead, so I jumpstarted it with the van, but the mower ran out of gas, so I took our gas containers to fill at the gas station, and at the gas station the van wouldn’t start because the battery to the van was dead, so I had to ask a nice lady for help, but she had a brand new car and we couldn’t find her battery, but I am a genius and took her car all apart to get mine started and put hers back together again and sent her on her way.  Phew!!!  You see how I tricked you into reading about our dumb every day adventures??

We have fun family adventures all of the time.

Like when Gavin climbs the pantry shelves to get Nutella to snack on.

Or when Brooklyn steals my phone to play photographer on the front porch and fills my phone memory with a million pictures like this one–

Or how Gavin insists that I take his picture at the same place at Brooklyn’s preschool every time we drop her off or pick her up.

Sometimes Brooklyn joins him.  You can see, Gavin has a very photogenic smile.

Or this morning when I found Gavin sitting in a drawer in the dining room putting deodorant on his stomach.  I don’t even know where he found the deodorant OR why he had to sit in the drawer to apply it OR why he thinks his stomach is stinky.

We are looking forward to many more adventures over the next two weeks. Christmas break.  We are expecting a lot of guests starting tomorrow and overlapping until just after New Year’s.  We have 4 different groups of people coming.  I’m not counting Emily as a “guest” in this count, but it’s fun to have her home too.   In preparation for our guests, I have been doing a lot of cleaning and shopping. Because we have a large family, I could clean and shop like crazy and never be prepared for guests. My own family eats a lot of food and produces a lot of laundry and makes a lot of messes.  I washed these towels yesterday and am going to hide them in the casita so that nobody gets them dirty.

I’m hoping over the break, we can figure out what to do with these lemons from our lemon tree.  That’s a LOT of lemonade!!!  Don’t be fooled by their orange color.  They really are lemons.  I think they are called Meyer Lemons.  They taste like sour patch kids.  They’re delicious.

Merry Christmas! I hope your families enjoy many exciting adventures.


We reached the end of soccer season. Phew! Sean had some fun friends on his team.  He won the award for “Most Improved Player.”  You may think that’s not that much of a compliment, but Sean worked so hard this season.  He practiced dribbling drills in the backyard and after team practices asked his coach for tips.  His coach was such a good, kind, generous person and his teammates were positive and fun.

Andrew enjoyed soccer too, but not as much as basketball.  Saturdays were often exhausting for Andrew because of back to back games.  I don’t have pictures of Andrew or Ricky because I rarely got to go to their practices or games.  Rick helped coach both of their teams, so he was at practices.  I did get to go to Ricky’s final basketball tournament, but Gavin was horrible and I spent two hours watching him push the handicap button to open the YMCA doors or running around in the parking lot.  Ricky, Andrew, and Sean will start basketball again in January.

I started a new and exciting family history project in October.  I am writing my Grandma’s life story as a narrative.  I have done a lot of research and now have a lot of fun stories to tell.  My Grandma’s family experiences have been on my mind a lot–especially her journey to Mesa from Salt Lake City.  There are so many similarities between my family now and my Grandma’s family back then.  One cool thing–she was one of 7 children and when their family moved to Mesa, the ages of the kids were exactly the same as our family now.  Since the Mesa Temple has been on my mind a lot lately, I was surprised to find this picture in the Primary room when I went to set up chairs before church:

This is the front of the picture:

This is the description on the back:

I don’t know where the picture came from or who it belonged to, but it was pretty cool to see–especially since I have been spending a little time each day on this project.  I’m learning a lot about my ancestors and even more about what it means to be a professional writer.

Please don’t judge my writing skills by this blog–I have learned that first drafts are usually very rough and need a lot of attention before you send them out.  When I finished the first chapter of my Grandma’s story, I was pretty proud of it.  Since then, however, I have learned so much and have gone back to edit just the first chapter about 50 times.  It’s good to get the story down as it comes to you, but if you expect people to actually want to read it, “defogging” is necessary.  Blog writing is a lot different than writing a person’s story, in my opinion.  I rarely edit what I write on here.  You get my messy first drafts, and that’s OK.  But since I’m writing this story as a keepsake, I want it to be the best it can be.  I don’t plan to be published or anything, but I want it to be “publishable,” if you know what I mean.  I don’t want potential readers to have to slog through sloppy sentences, unnecessary words, or confusing plot structure to learn about my Grandma’s life.  I learned a lot of writing skills in school and know general grammar very well, but this project is pushing me to develop my skills in a way I didn’t expect.

Like I said, I actually spend very little time on this project each day, but it is on my mind a lot and I have tried to use my free time wisely like listening to audiobooks in the genre most similar to what I’m writing and reading nonfiction books about editing and memoir writing.

Most of my time, however, is spent having fun with my family or accomplishing every day family tasks-dishes, laundry, etc.

I had some funny pictures from the last time Makayla and I went shopping, but they got lost in the download.  That girl is hilarious, I tell you!

Andrew took some pictures of a neverending sunset we had last week.

This city view from my room is not nearly as good as real life.  Photography is not my talent, and my phone camera is not that spectacular.  Actually, I think my phone camera is pretty good, but I don’t know how to take quality night pictures with it.  I love to sit out on my back porch and see the sparkle of the city lights while listening to the birds, coyotes, and other wilderness noises.

Gavin is a cutie.  He got a little scrape on his chin, which he called a “band-aid.”

Makayla, Ricky, and Brooklyn had dental check ups last week.  Somehow, I had Gavin with me too when he would normally be taking a nap.  We were there two hours!!  The last hour was rough, so I devised many interesting methods of entertainment.  Surgical gloves have saved me from many doctor/dentist office break downs.

And now after all that blah, blah, blah, boring stuff, we’re at Thanksgiving!!!  We started a new Thanksgiving Day tradition–homemade lemonade.  Our lemon tree is bursting with fruit.

Dinner was delicious, if I do say so myself. I made everything except for the pies.  Makayla made a fantastic Banana Cream pie.

Emily came home for a few days.  We loved talking to her about her new BYU friends and spending time with her.  We can’t wait until Christmas!

We watched the movie, Wonder.  We all loved it.  Most of us cried.  Some of us cried through most of the movie (Emily and me).  The movie theater we went to was at the mall closest to our house.  Can you believe we have lived here almost six months and I have never set foot in that mall?!  I consider that quite an accomplishment, and I am currently congratulating myself on my online shopping skills.

On Black Friday, I took the boys shopping and to McDonald’s.  We had a good time together.  I have taken the girls shopping several times, but never just the 3 big boys without little kids or big girls.  We went to sports stores and looked at boy clothes, but their favorite part was ToysRUs.

Later in the afternoon, we all went to the temple.  The big kids went in with Rick to do baptisms while I walked around the grounds with the younger kids.

The first hour was fun, but then we got impatient and maybe a little crazy.  Look at Brooklyn’s face in this picture!

I taught the kids how to make snapdragons talk.  There may have been a few flower casualties.

Well, that’s November 2017 in a a very long, wordy, lots of pictures nutshell.

Fall Break

Fall break is a for-real thing here. It’s one full week that the kids don’t have school. A lot of people go to Disneyland or Mexico or other family trips. We didn’t go anywhere. Instead, we spent the first half of the week preparing for our  visitors come, and the second half of the week enjoying them.  The weather was still pretty warm—perfect for swimming and being outside. 

Halloween 2017–No More Bundling

We experienced nine Halloween’s in Iowa.  Most of those Halloween’s found us layering on mittens and cramming our costumes unders coats and hats to brave the frosty neighborhood in hopes of candy. We would wrap the youngest under several blankets in the stroller, or leave the baby home all together. There were one or two Halloween’s when the weather was extremely pleasant–even reaching the 70s, but this was a rare and happy experience. Usually, the weather hovered around freezing in the evening. 

Our first Halloween in Tucson was completely different. The weather was nice and cool–80 for the high and maybe in the 69s when we trick-or-treating. The sky was a little cloudy, providing relief from the sun, and there was a pleasant breeze. 

The kids went swimming after school.  Since they think the pool is too cold now (already wimpy), we have been heating the hot tub. They like to relax and warm up in the hot tub, then brave a shocking cold jump into the pool. The pool water is like 75 degrees–like I said, they’re a little wimpy now. But I can’t talk because I only get in up to my ankles. 

For actual Halloween activities, we had three main events:  a neighborhood party, a school party and a church party.

Not everybody dressed up for the neighborhood party. Brooklyn was a fairy princess. Sean was Harry Potter–same as last year because he makes a great Harry Potter.  Andrew was Barry Allen (the Flash when he’s not a super hero–like Clark Kent and Superman). I didn’t get a picture of Andrew’s Barry Allen costume, but it’s pretty much a t-shirt that has the Star Labs logo under a hoodie and athletic pants.  Gavin was Robin before we left the house, but took off his costume before getting in the car). 

The neighborhood party was a good opportunity to meet a few neighbors we haven’t met yet. Our neighborhood is mostly older couples. You should have seen their eyes pop out when they found out we have 8 children (even if we only have 6 still at home). Mostly, they are happy to have “new young energy” in the neighborhood. And we have good kids, in my opinion, so we are an asset to the community. I hope to get to know more of them soon. 

Only Sean and Brooklyn went to the school party. Andrew and Gavin were sick, Ricky had a friend party, and Makayla doesn’t do elementary school events. 

Our ward party was on Halloween at a member’s house in “the neighborhood for trick-or-treating.” I didn’t fully understand what that meant until we were there. There were cars lined up outside the neighborhood and people everywhere!  Nearly every house was decorated for Halloween. People were going around on decorate golf carts. It was crazy!  This time, Gavin was a puppy. Brooklyn and Sean stayed with their original costumes. Andrew was a zombie skate boarder. Ricky was a cereal killer, and I was a scarecrow. 

The kids had a fun night, but didn’t get a ton of candy.  Homeowners in 49ers have to plan for thousands of trick-or-treaters, so they usually buy a lot of small, cheap candy. We came home with a lot of that hard pink bubble gum and fruity tootsie rolls. Blech!  But experiencing such a lively neighborhood was fun. I am going to spend the upcoming year researching other options because I think there are probably neighborhoods where there are people who would like visitors but don’t get them and it would be more fun for the kids and for them. And there were just too many people at the other place. I was worried we’d lose a child or one of the little ones would get hit by a car or gold cart. I like a quieter experience.